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

Leading the News

New Horizons’ Hi-Res Images Reveal Geologically Active Pluto.

ABC World News (7/15, story 15, 0:20, Muir) continued coverage of the New Horizons mission by noting that the latest images “surprised” scientists by revealing Pluto mountains “11,000 feet high” and “relatively young at just 100 million years old.” NBC Nightly News (7/15, story 10, 0:25, Holt) notes that the images are “the very first high resolution images” of Pluto and “the clearest image” so far of Charon.

The CBS Evening News (7/15, story 7, 3:20, Pelley) broadcast that the mission is “amazing.” Reporter Chip Reid said that the mission’s costs have “raised eyebrows among some,” but principal investigator Alan Stern said that the science coming back is well-worth the money spent. Reid added that New Horizons will be sending back data “for years to come.” The AP  (7/16, Dunn) reports that the Pluto’s “total absence of impact craters” is “astonishing” scientists, indicating that it may even be geologically active today with an internal heat source. John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute said that these findings may be “a game-changer” for how researchers view the Kuiper belt.

According to the USA Today  (7/15, Watson, Pager), the images have “a permanent place in scientific history.” Stern added that scientists were engaging in “something close to bedlam” trying to explain all the new features. Cathy Olkin of the Southwest Research Institute added that the images of Charon “blew our socks off” because of deep chasms and cliffs spotted.

The New York Times  (7/16, Chang, Subscription Publication) reports that Pluto has become “a dynamic world with varied geography.” John M. Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for the science mission directorate, said, “This is truly a hallmark in human history.” According to the article, images of the moon Hydra were “interesting” as well, even though they only entailed “a few pixels.” The article notes that the spacecraft currently is in “perfect health, with no problems cropping up.” The New York Times  (7/15, Corum, Subscription Publication) also has an interactive gallery of the images.

The Los Angeles Times  (7/15, Netburn) “Science Now” website reports that Hal Weaver, New Horizons’ project scientist, said the newly discovered fact that Pluto has hard water ice “is just blowing my mind. … We had such a hard time finding evidence for water ice on the surface of Pluto, but that is the only way to get those mountains.”

The Washington Post  (7/15, Feltman) “Speaking of Science” blog reports that NASA expects to release “an equally detailed portrait of an entire face” of Pluto on Friday. Mission operations manager Alice Bowman said that there was also “so much interesting science” in just the first image of Charon.

According to the Christian Science Monitor  (7/15, Spotts), New Horizons revealed that Pluto and Charon are “complex worlds with spectacular surface features that rival anything found elsewhere in the solar system but with their own unique twists.”

Higher Education

Engineering Students Competing At International Submarine Robot Contest Next Week.

KXLY-TV  Spokane, WA (7/15) reported engineering students from Washington State University and the University of Idaho will compete next week at RoboSub, an international submarine robot contest in San Diego, California. The competition requires teams to create an autonomous underwater vehicle and run it through an obstacle course.

Baltimore Preparing Proposal To Fund College Scholarships For All Students.

The Baltimore Sun  (7/15) reports Baltimore is preparing a proposal to submit to Say Yes to Education, an organization that helps cities provide college scholarships to students who graduate from high school. In its proposal, Baltimore will have to outline how it would help students prepare for college and also come up with $40 million as part of the initial funding. If accepted by the organization, Baltimore would joint Syracuse and Buffalo, New York in “covering tuition for all students, regardless of income, to attend the state’s public universities.”

Survey: More Millennials Say College Is Worth It Than Generation X.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (7/16, Davis) reported a survey of college graduates found that Millennials, born between 1981 and 2004, valued college education more than Generation X, born between 1964 and 1980. The survey found that 76% of Millennials believed that college was worth the costs, compared to 68% of Generation X.

Scott, Booker Press For Free Community College Bill.

The Afro American (DC)  (7/16) reports that Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have sponsored legislation to allow “qualified students to attend community college for free.” The piece notes that Scott and Booker are both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and reports that the bill “would allow community college students to pay no tuition if they maintain a certain grade point average and are making progress toward an associate degree or certificate.”

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Research and Development

Researchers Confirm Buckyballs Were Observed In Space.

The Science Magazine  (7/15, Croswell) “ScienceShot” website reports that scientists have determined that “buckyballs—complex molecules with 60 carbon atoms arranged into what look like the geodesic domes –” can survive in interstellar space. The prove the possibility, researchers “cooled gaseous buckyballs in the laboratory to frigid interstellar temperatures.” The researchers determined that the observed wavelengths matched “interstellar spectral lines at near-infrared wavelengths” that were discovered decades ago,

Nature  (7/15, Gibney) notes that the study provides the first explanation for some “diffuse interstellar bands (DIB).” Harry Kroto, one of the people who discovered buckminsterfullerene, which earned him a Nobel Prize, said this was “the scientific paper of the year.”

New Research Suggests Upcoming Decrease In Solar Activity.

CNN  (7/15) reports that according to a model of the sun’s “heartbeat” – or cycle of activity – developed by scientists at Northumbria University in northeast England, the sun could be entering a period of relative cooling for the next 15 years, similar to previous cooling events recorded in Britain around 1900. CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said that while the findings were intriguing, they had yet to be peer reviewed and that “our ability to forecast the specifics of a solar cycle is incredibly poor.” Doug Biesecker, who works at the Space Weather Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado agreed with Miller and said, “It’s a very complicated issue.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Obama Announces Low-Priced Broadband For Public Housing Residents.

The New York Times  (7/16, Searcey, Baker, Subscription Publication) reports that on Wednesday, the Administration announced a new program to “connect thousands of public housing residents across the nation to the Internet at low prices or free, part of a broader effort to close the so-called digital divide and help low-income Americans succeed in a technology-driven society.” Appearing at a Choctaw Nation school in Durant, Oklahoma, the President “said it was unacceptable for young people not to have access to the same technological resources in their homes that their wealthier counterparts do.” The Times says that overall, “275,000 households, including 200,000 children, will be eligible for free Internet connections or, in some areas, broadband hookups that cost as little as $9.95 a month.”

The Washington Post  (7/16, Zezima) reports in its “Post Politics” blog that the ConnectHome program “will partner with Internet service providers, nonprofit groups and private companies to provide faster Internet in the communities and tribal nation,” which were chosen by HUD “based on criteria including local commitment to providing fast Internet.”

The Durant (OK) Daily Democrat  (7/16) reports that the President, “citing examples of the need of the Internet in modern society, such as how it is used to pay bills and apply for jobs, said it is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, and that it will provide opportunities for people to take online educational classes.” Obama also “said the United States can’t reverse a history of broken treaties and promises to American Indians, but can still work to improve economic opportunities for tribal children.”

Politico  (7/16, Wheaton) focuses on two issues – the President’s gentle rebuke of those too focused on their devices and his desire to bring assistance to the poor on tribal lands.

House Votes 312-119 To Fund Transportation To December 18.

Reuters  (7/16, Lawder) reports that the House on Wednesday voted 312-119  to approve funding for transportation to December 18. Speaking from the floor of the House, Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan said that his intention was to have a longer-term bill, but that the extension was needed to cover the time necessary for negotiating a long-term bill. The House bill did not include a provision to reauthorize the Export-Import bank, which the Senate may include.

The Wall Street Journal  (7/16, McKinnon, Subscription Publication) reports that the Senate may vote on a measure to extend highway funding for two or more years, but may instead take the House bill and add the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization. Ryan urged the Senate to vote on an extension without any unrelated measures.

The Washington Post  (7/16, Halsey, Snell) reports that the House “admitted failure once more,” and “descended into the partisan bickering that has characterized the discussion.”

Roll Call  (7/15, Dumain) says House Democrats had voted for an extension to the Highway Trust Fund in May, but said they would not do so again in July, and on Wednesday, they again “came to the floor and railed against the GOP’s proverbial can-kicking,” but 132 of them voted for the extension. The Hill  (7/15, Laing) reports that “Democrats complained bitterly about the temporary extension.” It also says that the Senate is expected to attach a reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank to the transportation bill.

McClatchy  (7/16) reports that Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday said that he is “willing to use any and all procedural tools to stop” a Senate move to include reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank in the transportation bill. Sen. Mike Lee echoed Cruz in promising to “use any and all procedural tools at our disposal in order to oppose it.”

Natural Resources Defense Council: EPA To Boost Clean Power Plan.

The US News & World Report  (7/16, Neuhauser) reports that Natural Resources Defense Council President Rhea Suh said during a press briefing Wednesday that the NRDC is “very optimistic and confident that” the Clean Power Plan “will be stronger, in particular in the areas of renewables and efficiencies,” than initially proposed. The EPA declined to confirm or deny Suh’s assertion. David Konisky, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University, noted that the EPA doesn’t have a political reason to dial down the proposal. “There is absolutely no downside for the agency in coming up with a more ambitious proposal for this time” because those in favor or opposition will be so “regardless of the details.”

Murkowski Hopes To Break Losing Streak On Energy Bill Passage.

The National Journal  (7/16, Plautz, Subscription Publication) reports that Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) are hoping to buck the conventional knowledge that passing energy reform “is just a cursed venture.” When asked about the trend, Murkowski answered that “No, no, I don’t think it’s cursed. I think for a period of time, our committees weren’t working like we needed to. You’re kind of taking on headwinds there. But I think we’re doing well as a committee right now and you’ll see a product…where we’re going to be able to demonstrate that we can put together a bipartisan energy bill and move it.” The article goes on to profile several past attempts at passing energy legislation that failed due to ideologically-driven amendments.

Group Proposes Rival Solar Amendment And Opponents Accuse Them Of Attempting To Deceive.

In its Florida politics blog, the Tampa Bay (FL) Times  (7/16, Klas) reports that a newly formed group called “Consumers For Smart Solar” will begin gathering signatures for a solar energy ballot initiative that will “rival” the one backed by Floridians For Solar Choice. The Smart Solar group “warns that by allowing rooftop solar, customers who don’t take advantage of the solar will subsidize those who do.” The article says that the group’s “effort was blasted by supporters of the Solar Choice amendment as an attempt to undercut their proposal,” which would allow individuals and businesses to sell up to two MW of solar power. The article notes that the Solar Choice measure “is opposed by Florida’s public and private utility monopolies,” including Gulf Power, “who want to control the sale of all solar power Florida.”

FAA Clears Use Of UAV To Make Sorties During RAM Clinic Event.

The WCYB-TV  Bristol, VA (7/15, Cohen) website that earlier this week, the FAA cleared the use of a UAV operated by the Langley Research Center and Flirtey “to make a series of short sorties” during Friday’s Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic. Flirtey CEO Matthew Sweeney said this was “a Kitty Hawk moment” for the UAV industry. According to the article, the test will demonstrate “the challenges of delivering basic health care in rural areas and spotlight Wise County’s role in developing a technology that is expected to grow into a billion dollar industry.”

The Kingsport (TN) Times-News  (7/16, Igo) notes that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, observers from the UN, and “a whole lot of people around the world” will be monitoring the flight.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Arizona College Holds STEM Camp For Elementary School Girls.

The Prescott (AZ) Daily Courier  (7/16, Efrein) reports Yavapai College’s Career and Technical Education Campus has launched Girls Exploring Engineering Kamp (GEEK), a new program to help girls between 8 and 12 years old explore STEM fields. The four day camp is taking place this week at the college’s campus. In one exercise, the girls reverse engineered a bottle rocket.

Idaho Businesses Seek Increased Critical Thinking And Problem-solving Skills In Curricula.

The Idaho Business Review  (7/15) reports that, in “an industry-led effort to develop a more skilled work force,” the Idaho business community “is instigating an effort to change curriculum in order to produce graduates with improved critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

Free Robotics Camp Profiled.

The Lincoln (WV) Journal  (7/16, Sanders) reports on a free robotics camp, funded by a 21st Century Grant, for fifth and eighth graders, The goal is to share “the fundamentals of robotics in a classroom setting so that the children would be able to learn and have a fun experience.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

New Horizons Sends Back Signal Of Its “Triumph” At Pluto.
University Of Tennessee, Knoxville Quarterback A “Star” Student As An Aerospace Engineer Major.
University Of New Mexico, Sandia Sign Agreement.
SCE Issues RFO For Renewable Energy Under Solar Photovoltaic Program.
Arizona District Implementing ED-Funded Summer Math Class.

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