ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

New Horizons’ Stern: Pluto Flyby Will “Knock Your Socks Off.”

The New Horizon spacecraft received intense media coverage over the weekend, most of it focusing on the upcoming flyby of Pluto. The AP  (7/13, Dunn) reports that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly by Pluto on Tuesday, and “the curtain hasn’t been pulled back like this since NASA’s Voyager 2 shed light on Neptune in 1989.” Principal scientist Alan Stern said, “We’re going to knock your socks off.” Scientists are seeking information on the surfaces and chemical composition of Pluto and Charon, as well as “the temperature and pressure in Pluto’s nitrogen-rich atmosphere and…how much gas is escaping into space.”

Florida Today  (7/11, Dean) reports Stern said, “We’re going to write the book on the Pluto system.” The Wall Street Journal  (7/10, Hotz, Subscription Publication) reported that it will take 16 months for New Horizons to send back all the data it will collect during the flyby.

The New York Times  (7/12, Chang, Subscription Publication) reports that “mission managers are confident that they have aimed precisely enough that the spacecraft, traveling 31,000 miles an hour, will pass through a rectangle just 60 miles by 90 miles at its closest approach to Pluto.” Two teams calculate the probe’s navigation and compare results, which should avoid mistakes like the metric-imperial unit mixup that put NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter off course.

The Space News  (7/13, Subscription Publication) reports Glen Fountain, the New Horizons mission manager at the Applied Physics Laboratory, said, “Everything’s going great.”

The Washington Post  (7/11, Feltman) reported that Christopher T. Russell, principal investigator of NASA’s Dawn mission, “pointed out that alien worlds can teach us a lot about things back home.” He said, “If you look at water running down a hillside and compare it with, say, liquid nitrogen running down a hillside, you might learn something new about erosion for example, because the properties of the material are different, so just the basic process is the same.”

Higher Education

ED Proposes Expanding Student Loan Relief Program.

The Washington Post  (7/10, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ED is proposing to expand its Pay as You Earn program, which “caps borrowers’ monthly bills to 10% of their income and forgives the debt after 20 years of payment.” The Post reports that this could impact an additional 6 million student loan consumers, explaining that while the program currently only serves low income borrowers, the new plan would “expand the program to anyone with an existing federal loan, regardless of their income.” The Post reports that the plan is expected to cost $15.3 billion over the next decade, and that Republicans in Congress “have already criticized the rising price tag of the administration’s loan repayment plans.”


Short VIDEO highlights – Maria Klawe’s plenary talk at the ASEE Annual Conference
The President of Harvey Mudd addressed diversity issues.

VIDEO Interview with President Joe Rencis
The new ASEE President discusses the next Society year.

Coverage of Boeing CTO John Tracy’s talk on Geekwire
What I look for in hiring recent grads.”

Accreditation and Professional Development

Scientists Call For Mission Launching Space Weather Early Warning System.

USA Today  (7/11, Kostigen) reported that scientists are proposing a new space mission to launch an early warning system for severe space weather that could negatively impact Earth’s weather and technology. The mission, called Carrington L-5, would allow a five-day forecast of space weather by monitoring activity on the sun’s surface and would be launched no earlier than 2020. Scientists fear that a severe solar storm, like the one in 1989, could knock out telecommunications technology on a large scale, causing large physical and financial losses.

Research and Development

NASA Researchers Examining Engine Health Management Technologies.

KCAL-TV  Los Angeles (7/11, Kamlet) reported on its website on the VIPR (Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research) project at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, “a series of tests to evaluate health management technologies on commercial engines.” Principal investigator John Lekki of NASA’s Glenn Research Center said, “We’re looking at technologies that will be able to identify aircraft engine faults at the beginning stages.” By implementing environmental fault scenarios, “researchers are learning more about engine health through new sensors, and are able to asses advances in engine diagnostics.” The next issue the researchers will be examining is volcanic ash.

Engineering and Public Policy

Coal Utilities Tell White House Power Plant Cuts Are Too Much.

The Washington (DC) Examiner  (7/13, Boland) reports that utilities operating coal-fired power plants are urging the Administration to relax the Clean Power Plan’s deadlines for cutting carbon emissions for existing facilities. Melissa McHenry, director of communications for American Electric Power, said that the deadlines are “too much too soon.” The article says that “other industry advisers say they are convinced that nothing will change based on the discussions the Obama administration is holding before finalizing the rules, and that the EPA and the White House codified the basic regulations months ago with perhaps minor changes.”

White House Hears Last-Minute Arguments On Clean Power Plan. Environment & Energy Publishing  (7/13, Holden, Kuckro) reported Friday that the Administration is holding final meetings with organizations interested in the final shape of the Clean Power Plan. On Tuesday, senior staff will meet with state environmental regulators to discuss the details of the rules. A participant in the Administration’s meeting with the National Climate Coalition said that such meetings are “one last shot to lobby…on what your keys issues are and what you’d like to see in the final rule and why.” The article discusses the process by which the meetings are conducted and lists the companies, trade groups, and advocacy organizations who have requested them.

GOP Governors Consider Clean Power Plan Noncompliance. The Hill  (7/12, Cama) reports that the conservative governors in several states are considering willful defiance of upcoming EPA regulations for climate issues. Following urging from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Governors Mike Pence of Indiana, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Greg Abbott of Texas, and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana have all indicated that they may resist implementation.

Pence Threatens To Ignore Clean Power Plan. In continuing coverage, Platts  (7/13) reports on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s indication that he may refuse to implement the Clean Power Plan over concerns for the economic welfare of his state. Dan Schmidt, the governor’s policy director for energy and the environment, said that “Governor Pence believes the best improvement in the rule would be its complete withdrawal, and he will pursue all legal means at his disposal to oppose the rule.”

Experts: OPM Breach Highlights Need For Cybersecurity Improvements.

On NBC’s Meet the Press (7/12), retired Major General Brett Williams, who last summer served as director of the US Cyber Command, said of the recent cyberbreach of OPM, “I think what this says is that we haven’t all realized we’re past the wake-up call stage. The wake-up call has occurred.” He called the latest breach “standard espionage” that needs to be put “in the context of our national security policy.” Commenting on the resignation of OPM Director Katherine Archuleta this week, Williams said, “I do think the leader of an organization at that level is accountable given what I read in the media about the warning flags and reports and that sort of thing.” However, he warned the breach shows deeper issues of “poor risk assessment” coupled with “a lack of will to do what needs to be done.”

Speaking on ABC’s This Week (7/12), former White House homeland security adviser Richard Clarke said, “We need to take the job of cybersecurity away from 50, 60 small government agencies like OPM who clearly can’t handle it and create one authority in the federal government that has the mandate and the money to secure cyber space.”

McConnell: “Total Incompetence” At OPM. In comments on Fox News Sunday (7/12, Wallace), Senate Majority Leader McConnell said the recent cyberattack against the OPM shows “complete and total incompetence and resignation of the head of OPM is just the beginning. This is a total mess.” McConnell said, “This is an administrative disaster that the President needs to get a hold of and get straightened out soon.”

Study: Subsidies Building Solar Power Bubble.

The Washington Times  (7/13, Wolfgang) reports that a new study from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance argues that “heavy government subsidies for solar power,” including that from the President’s 2009 stimulus package, “have distorted the market and led to an artificial demand for solar energy across the country.” Following on that, financial institutions have made investments based on the subsidies, creating a “bubble” that will “burst when federal and state backing begins to dry up, the study claims.”

Iberdrola Announces Construction Will Begin On North Carolina Wind Farm.

The AP  (7/13, Dearen) reports that Iberdrola Renewables announced that it will begin construction next month on a large wind farm outside Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The “$600 million project…will put 102 turbines on 22,000 acres” in what will be the “first large onshore wind farm” in the South. The turbines will be taller than previous standards to take advantage of faster top winds. “If you go higher, the wind is better,” said Jose Zayas, director of the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office at the Department of Energy. “The question is how you get there responsibly and economically.”

DOE Study Says US Southeast Could Be Good Location For Wind Farms. The AP  (7/13, Subscription Publication) reports the Energy Department “wants 20 percent of the nation’s energy to come from wind power in the next 15 years, up from the 5 percent wind generates now.” A new report from the agency “finds that wind technology featuring taller towers and larger turbines may get the nation to that goal by opening up areas to wind farm development that were previously dead zones.” New data that is “based on wind resources at higher elevations show that the Southeast, which currently has no commercial wind farms, could be a viable location.” The top three states in “amount of max-capacity wind energy installed” are Texas, California and Iowa. States with no wind energy installations include Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi.

Elementary/Secondary Education

University Of Wisconsin Conference Explores Classroom Gaming.

The Madison (WI) Capital Times  (7/13) reports that the University of Wisconsin-Madison Games+Learning+Society department recently hosted its 11th annual gaming conference, at which “participants were able to take a look at how games are used as a teaching tool.” Participants in the conference discussed turning students’ screen time into educational time, and the importance of “teachers getting involved in the games themselves to help motivate students.” The article notes that President Obama and ED have both discussed the power of using games in the classroom, noting that ED recently “hosted its first-ever Games for Learning Summit in New York City.”

Also in the News

NASA Engineer Profiled.

The Natchez (MS) Democrat  (7/12, Carpenter) profiled Elizabeth Robertson, a liquid propulsion systems engineer at NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center who heads the advanced manufacturing demonstration engine project, “which recently won an award for its work in 3-D printing and testing engine parts, also known as additive manufacturing technology.” She said, “There are a lot of questions about whether” parts made by additive manufacturing are “as strong as what we would normally use,” but she thinks they are.

Friday’s Lead Stories

IBM Reports Breakthrough In Chip Technology.
University Of Illinois Set To Open Medical Simulation Center.
Cal Poly Researchers Examining Pool Cover Efficiency.
Tech Policy Fellowship Program Discussed.
Chinese Market For Industrial Robots Surging.
Congressional Caucus Promotes Maker Technology.
Utilities Lobby Top Obama Officials To Roll Back Climate Rule Provisions.

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