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

Leading the News

Amazon Announces Drone Air Traffic Control Plans At NASA Conference.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News  (7/29, O’Brien) reports that the goal of “orderly, multi-tiered highways in the sky” where UAS will operate in “a buzzing symphony as complex and coordinated as a bee colony,” as opposed to swooping “haphazardly over U.S. cities, occasionally colliding with other drones and careening to the streets below,” is on the horizon as NASA, Amazon, and Google work together to design some sort of “an automated air traffic control system for unmanned aircraft.” Parimal Kopardekar of the Ames Research Center, who organized the UTM Convention at Ames on Tuesday, said, “Maybe in 10 years every home will have a drone and every home will act as an airport. … We need to have a system in place before the volume builds.” According to the article, the FAA and the NTSB “are increasingly planning for a drone-filled future,” but as NTSB investigator Bill English points out, “Eventually there will probably be some kind of major UAS…accident event.”

The Guardian (UK)  (7/28) reports that Amazon unveiled its plan for deliveries by UAS at the conference, envisioning “a pristine slice of airspace above the world’s cities and suburbs” where only those vehicles would fly. Amazon Prime Air VP Gur Kimchi told the conference, “The way we guarantee the greatest safety is by requiring that as the level of complexity of the airspace increases, so does the level of sophistication of the vehicle.” According to the article, before this plan could begin, Amazon or others would need “to assuage the doubts of privacy activists” and regulators.

Higher Education

ED To Pilot Giving Pell Grants To Inmates.

The AP  (7/29, Kerr) reports that the Education Department is planning to conduct a pilot program in which some state and federal inmates to get access to Pell grants for college courses during their incarceration. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch are scheduled to visit the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, Maryland on Friday to formally unveil the program. Duncan said Monday that the plan is to “develop ‘experimental sites that will make Pell grants available’ to inmates to help them get job training and secure a productive life after they are released.” Neither Duncan nor ED spokeswoman Dorie Nolt with – further details of the plan, which uses the experimental sites section of the Higher Education Act to circumvent a 1994 congressional ban on student aid to inmates.

Inside Higher Ed  (7/28) reports that the “experiment” will “allow some prisoners to receive Pell grants.” The piece reports that on Monday, Duncan “came close to dropping the details” for the plan. The piece notes that when reporters asked Duncan for more details, he said, “Stay tuned.”

TIME  (7/29) reports that Duncan “hinted” Monday that ED “is ‘developing experimental sites’ that would, among other things, make Pell Grants available to ‘incarcerated adults seeking an independent, productive life after they get out of jail.’” The Latin Post  (7/29) also covers this story.

ED To Publish Data On Colleges’ Students’ Earnings.

The Huffington Post  (7/29) reports that in the coming weeks the Obama Administration plans to release a proposal under which prospective college students “would be able to examine how much a college’s graduates earn and how often its students receive a degree,” noting that this is the latest facet of President Obama’s evolving college rating plan. The piece notes the overall goal of this project is to reduce college costs and student debt levels. The article points out that ED’s plans could change, and reports that department officials declined to comment.

Judge: Corinthian Students, ED Can Vote On Bankruptcy Plan.

The Wall Street Journal  (7/29, Fitzgerald, Subscription Publication) reports that US Bankruptcy Judge Kevin J Carey on Monday said that former Corinthian colleges students, ED, and other creditors can vote on the firm’s liquidation plan. The piece explains the terms of Corinthian’s Chapter 11 plan, but notes that it remains unclear how much it will have to pay its former students.

Coding Schools Attract Career Changers Looking For Higher Salaries, Opportunity.

The New York Times  (7/29, Lohr, Subscription Publication) reports on coding schools and the fortunes of those who enroll seeking better pay and better jobs. The Obama Administration itself has drawn attention to coding schools in order to “rapidly train workers for a well-paying job.” Those who study the coding schools have found that typically they enroll people in their late 20’s seeking a new career. The story notes that a way to fill jobs “would be to attract more women,” and it reports that while in colleges and universities women make up only about 18 percent of computer science majors, they are about 36 percent of those enrolled in the much shorter coding schools. The graduates of these programs mentioned in the article all found jobs quickly that paid much more than their previous work.

Universities Differ In Response To Turmoil In Countries Where They Have Study Programs.

The AP  (7/29, Binkley) reports that while other schools are avoiding Ukraine as a destination for study abroad programs, Tufts University “is drawn to the turmoil.” Tufts professor Peter Levine said that American universities should be helping Ukraine to address its problems. Other schools, like Michigan State University, typically cease study programs in countries if the State Department issues a warning.

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Research and Development

US Lawmakers, Defense Officials Prepare For Directed Energy, Railgun Weapons.

Reuters  (7/28, Shalal) reports that several US lawmakers and armed forces officials said at a Tuesday conference that laser weapons could soon enter into widespread usage. Continental US North American Aerospace Defense Command Region Commander Lieutenant General William Etter said that the technology “brings the dawn of an entirely new era in defense,” in which weapon costs would be lowered, responses would be quicker, and civilian deaths would be reduced. Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall indicated that funding would remain around $300 million per year, with major demonstrations to follow around 2020. The US Navy will release a large-scale plan for its implementation of laser weapons in the fall, with a major purchase possible by 2018.

Breaking Defense  (7/28, Freedberg Jr.) reports that Congressional Directed Energy Caucus co-chair Rep. Jim Langevin said that lawmakers’ support of the program is “mixed” but is “getting stronger as the technologies mature.” Langevin also said that “it’s not the easiest thing in the world to explain” and that the “biggest enemy” is that laser weapons have been “oversold and under-realized” for decades. The Caucus’ other co-chair, Rep. Doug Lamborn, said that the systems are “at an exciting transition point where we can actually meet [combatant commander] requirements in the near- and mid-term.” The Navy, which already operates a 30 kilowatt laser on the USS Ponce, intends to test a 100 to 150 kilowatt laser by 2018.

The Air Force Times  (7/28, Swarts) reports that the technology could “vastly increase the options that war fighters have available to them,” including both lethal and nonlethal options. Technological issues remain, however, including range and collateral damage.

Tesla’s Batteries Profiled.

Power Engineering  (7/29) discusses in its “Generating Interest” blog the differences between Tesla’s several battery technologies and their applications. Southern California Edison is mentioned as a partner with Tesla for deploying its largest product across the utility industry.

Global Developments

Ireland, Portugal, Spain, And UK Have Largest Technology Skills Gaps In Europe.

The Computer Business Review  (7/28, Lima) reported the Institution of Engineering and Technology found that the UK had the fourth biggest gap between jobs demanding technology skills and people with those skills in Europe. Ireland, Portugal, and Spain had even larger skills gaps.

Engineering and Public Policy

Administration To Extend Deadline For States To Comply With Climate Plan.

The New York Times  (7/29, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports that the “final version” of the President’s climate plan is “expected to extend an earlier timeline for states to significantly cut planet-warming pollution from power plants,” according to those familiar with it. The final version is “expected to be unveiled as soon as Monday,” and if enacted, “could stand as the most significant action ever taken by an American president to curb global warming.” However, “some environmental groups” have warned that an extended deadline “could make it tougher” for the US to meet the President’s “climate change pledges on the world stage.”

The Washington Post  (7/29, Warrick) reports that the EPA will “give states an additional two years — until 2022 — to begin phasing in pollution cuts, even as the agency toughens the standards that many states will ultimately have to meet.” The EPA will also “offer new inducements for states to switch to renewable energy.”

Appeals Court Orders Changes To Cross-State Pollution Rules. The Washington Times  (7/29, Wolfgang) reports that the President’s green agenda “suffered another loss in court Tuesday when a federal appeals panel ordered the administration to rewrite rules limiting cross-state pollution.” The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, but the judges “said the EPA’s limits on 13 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, were far too strict and must be redone.”

Senate To Take Up Short-Term Highway Bill.

The Washington Times  (7/29, Howell) reports that the Senate is “set to embrace a three-month highway bill from the House this week,” which offers “a way out of a standoff that exposed a rift between Republican leaders” ahead of a Friday funding deadline. The bill, expected to be voted on in the House on Wednesday, “would fund highway projects through Oct. 29 and fills a $3.3 billion budget hole at the Veterans Administration, so it does it not have to close hospitals and clinics.” Meanwhile, both chambers are expected to continue to work on a long-term funding bill.

Clinton Won’t Reveal Stance On Keystone Pipeline.

The AP  (7/29, Lerer, Thomas) reports that during a Tuesday town hall event, Hillary Clinton “dodged questions” relating to her stance on “the Keystone XL pipeline, telling a New Hampshire voter that if the future of the project” is still “undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.” Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is battling Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, quickly seized on the former secretary of state’s response, telling the AP, “It is hard for me to imagine how you can be serious about climate change and not oppose the Keystone pipeline.” The AP notes that Clinton on Tuesday “also declined” to say whether she supports “the Trans-Pacific Partnership, noting her early work to lay the groundwork for the trade deal that labor unions and liberals oppose.”

Politico  (7/28, Debenedetti) further quoted Clinton as saying of her decision not to share her stance on the Keystone pipeline, “This is President Obama’s decision, and I am not going to second-guess him.” Clinton went on to say “that while she helped start the process of reviewing the pipeline during her tenure as secretary of state, she doesn’t want to interfere with the White House or current Secretary of State John Kerry.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Wisconsin Science Teacher Takes Part In Space Camp.

WITI-TV  Milwaukee (7/28, Langemo) reports online that Michelle Zazula, a middle school science teacher in Wisconsin’s Kenosha Unified School District, joined “more than 200 teachers from 24 countries and 39 states…at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama,” where she took part in training similar to what astronauts go through. It says Zazula also “learned about activities in the field of science, technology, engineering, and math that she can bring back to the classroom.”

Kentucky Science Center To Host Space Camp In January.

The WDRB-TV  Louisville, KY (7/29, Kircher) website reports that the “Leesburg, Virginia-based non-profit Higher Orbits” will hold a three-day space camp at the Kentucky Science Center in January. The “Go For Launch!” program “uses space exploration as a platform to” engage students in STEM subjects. WDRB reports that the middle- and high-school students who attend will hear “an astronaut and space professional” speak, as well as Twyman Clements, president and CEO of Space Tango.

Piedmont Natural Gas Partners With Teachers For STEM Initiative.

In an online video, the Charlotte (NC) Observer  (7/29) reports that “fifty teachers from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools visited Piedmont Natural Gas as part of the school district’s “STEMersion” training program,” which provides educators with “hands-on experience” with how science, technology, engineering, and math are used in the workplace.

Lego Program Teachers Children, Parents, And Teachers About Robotics.

The Boston Globe  (7/28, Hoban) reported an international program known as FIRST Lego League is teaching children, parents, and teachers how to build robots. The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center hosted a workshop sponsored by the program that “aims to familiarize parents and educators with concepts in computer programming.”

Black Girls Code Teaching Students How To Make Social Justice Apps.

The Huffington Post  (7/28, Klein) reported the organization Black Girls Code is teaching black female students how to program. Some of the program’s students created apps “focused on social justice.” One team created an app to help students study together and another team created an app to help children who have been bullied.

New Career And Technical Education Center In Oregon Opening This Fall.

The Salem (OR) Statesman Journal  (7/28, Johnson) reported the Career and Technical Education Center in Salem, Oregon will open this fall to teach high school juniors and seniors. The center will offer two courses this fall in residential construction and commercial manufacturing, and education officials hope to add more courses in the future. The center was created in partnership with the Salem-Keizer School District and the Mountain West Career Technical Institute.

FIU Study Finds Students Need Encouragement To Pursue Math Careers.

The Miami Herald  (7/28, Lepri) reported a Florida International University study found that students need encouragement to pursue math-related careers. The study interviewed college math students and found that a large percentage of them were “acknowledged for their math skills or they found it fascinating.”

Girls Who Code Teaches Robotics Class To High School Students At Florida International University.

The Miami Herald  (7/28, Lambert) reported Florida International University hosted a seven-week summer robotics class for female high school students. The class was taught by the national organization Girls Who Code, which aims to increase the number of women who pursue careers in technology.

Minority Male Makers Program Teaches Minority Middle School Students STEM, Business Skills.

The Baltimore Sun  (7/28, Jedra) reported Morgan State University in Baltimore hosted the Minority Male Makers program that “gives middle school boys from minority groups free, hands-on experience” with STEM projects. The program teaches participants STEM and business skills. The end of the program requires participants to pitch projects to their peers. Minority Male Makers is funded by the Verizon Foundation and hosted at four historically black universities like Morgan State University.

White House Honors Virginia Environmental Science Teacher.

The Washington Post  (7/29, Balingit) profiles Liam McGranaghan, and environmental science teacher at Loudoun Valley High School in Loudoun County, Virginia, who “gets his teen students into the wild as much as possible.” The piece notes that McGranaghan is among the winners of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. The piece describes McGranaghan’s efforts to make his students aware of their surroundings while teaching them about local plants and animals.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Rochester To Serve As Photonics Research Hub.
Duncan Lays Out Administration’s Higher Education Priorities.
Innovative Brain Imaging Combines Sound And Light.
First Off-Shore US Wind Farm Begins Construction.
Arizona Teen Takes Part In NASA Aviation Challenge.
Scientists Take AAAS To Task For Perpetuating Stereotypes.

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