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

Leading the News

Documents Confirm Apple Is Building A Self-Driving Car.

The Guardian (UK)  (8/14, Harris) reported that based on correspondence it had obtained under a public-records request, “Apple is building a self-driving car” in California’s Silicon Valley, and that its effort, code-named Project Titan, “appears to be further along than many suspected.” The tech giant is “scouting for secure locations” in and around San Francisco for testing the vehicle, the Guardian added. An Apple engineer, Frank Fearon, wrote in one of the documents obtained that the company wanted “to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].” Apple declined to comment to the Guardian, however.

The AP  (8/15, Bailey) cites “local officials” in the San Francisco Bay Area as “adding fuel to rumors” about Apple’s plans for a car by saying engineers for the company recently inquired about the status of a 5,000-acre former Navy base in Concord, California, that has been made into a testing facility for self-driving cars and other high-tech vehicles. “We don’t know. They haven’t said what they want to test,” said Jack Hall, program manager for connected vehicles and autonomous vehicles the Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s GoMentum Station. Apple has “shown interest” in GoMentum, where Honda currently has a testing program for autonomous vehicles, but it hasn’t reached any agreement for testing there, Hall said.

Higher Education

ED To Stop Giving Colleges FAFSA Lists.

Inside Higher Ed  (8/14) reports that ED has announced that next year it plans to stop giving colleges “the entire list of institutions that a student submits when filling out” their FAFSA, noting that ED spokeswoman Denise Horn wrote in an email last week that ED officials “believed that some colleges used the information ‘in a manner that is not appropriate. For example, some colleges use that information in their admissions decision process – looking to see if any of their competitors were listed. Similarly, some use the information to determine if and how much institutional aid to provide – why spend money if the student would likely come to my school anyway.” The piece explains that some schools’ admissions officers “have found that information to be valuable because they can glean students’ relative interest in enrolling at different colleges – and essentially, in some cases, use that information against the students’ interests.” The article notes that the National Association for College Admission Counseling had sought the change.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (8/17) also covers this story in its “Ticker” blog, noting that under the proposed change, state grant agencies will still have access to the data. ED is soliciting public comments on the proposed change through October 13. iSchoolGuide  (8/14) also covers this story.

Hampton University Seeking To Increase Minority Representation In STEM Subjects.

The Hampton Roads (VA) Daily Press  (8/17, Subscription Publication) reports that Hampton University is seeking to make “the fields of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — fun, and familiarizing students with the career possibilities.” HU’s computer science department received a number of grants to help under-represented minority students. A $5 million grant from NASA to create the Center for Atmospheric Research and Education “will create research opportunities for under-represented student groups.” A five-year $622,480 grant from the National Science Foundation will “support undergraduate education and research in computer science and to increase the number of minorities and women who pursue advanced degrees and careers in computing.” Also, the HU First in the World Partnership, which seeks “to increase access to and affordability of a university education in STEM for underrepresented and/or low-income students,” received $3.5 million from the US Department of Education last September.

North Carolina CC Holds 3-D Printing Demonstration.

The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer  (8/17) reports that North Carolina’s Wake Technical Community College recently hosted an event to demonstrate 3-D printing “to help publicize the more than $825,000 grant it received last year from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program.” The school is using the funding to offer six courses related to 3-D printing, mostly in the engineering fields.

From ASEE
UPDATE – Deans Pledge Diversity Efforts
Over 130 deans of engineering signed a letter pledging support for diversity initiatives. The letter was presented by University of Southern California Dean Yannis Yortsos at the first-ever White House Demo Day.


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Research and Development

NASA Funds Next Round Of Projects That Could Improve Energy Storage.

Tech Times  (8/15, Arce) reported that NASA’s Game Changing Development (GCD) program has given a second round of grants “to awardees whose proposals aim to develop next-generation energy storage technologies.” Space Technology Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said, “Technology drives exploration, and battery technology is a critical element of that drive. … The development effort will focus on delivering safe, low mass batteries to enable longer missions deeper into space.” The article notes that battery technology is one of the areas “highlighted in NASA’s strategic investments and technology roadmaps.”

Global Developments

Indian Engineering College Will Launch Student Satellite In Four Years.

The New Indian Express  (8/17, Manu) reports that India’s Trinity College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram wants to develop and launch the Trinity Adrak Student Satellite (TASSAT) four years from now. To learn what this will entail, a team has traveled to Nanyang Technological University in Singapore to learn from their satellite research program.

Industry News

Engineer Discusses Potential OF Invisible App Market.

TechCrunch  (8/16) contributor Omar Bohsali says the “invisible app” market, with its many challenges, “could be classified as a passing trend, but it might also be the beginning of a significant multi-year shift in how we transact when we’re away from our computers.” He touts invisible apps as being faster than native applications or mobile websites. He also detailing how such apps reduce decision fatigue by providing less options, which drives costs down and is “especially beneficial” to users when they know what they want. Bohsali says that if invisible apps can deliver “on the user experience and keep a rock-solid, secure foundation,” they will have a good chance “at being the top-of-funnel for mobile, and I predict the winner will become very successful.” TechCrunch lists some of the various channels through which invisible apps function, including: China’s WeChat, China Telecom, China Unicom, Siri, Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Echo, and Apple Watch.

Engineering and Public Policy

EPA Tightens Standards For GHG Emissions At Landfills.

The AP  (8/14) reported that standards have been “tightened” by the Environmental Protection Agency “for the nation’s landfills to reduce emissions of methane and other harmful air pollutants.” The agency “estimates the new rules announced Friday as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan will reduce methane from decomposing household waste by about 480,000 tons a year by 2025.” Landfills are “the third-largest human-related source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming at 25 times the rate of an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.”

The Washington Times  (8/14, Wolfgang) reported that the agency said in a statement, “Under today’s proposals, new, modified and existing landfills would begin collecting and controlling landfill gas at emission levels nearly a third lower than current requirements.”

AP Analysis: California Measure Failing To Create Green Jobs.

The AP  (8/17) reports that three years after voters in California approved “a ballot measure to raise taxes on corporations and generate clean energy jobs by funding energy-efficiency projects in schools, barely one-tenth of the promised jobs have been created, and the state has no comprehensive list to show how much work has been done or how much energy has been saved.” Money is coming in “at a slower-than-anticipated rate,” and over “half of the $297 million given to schools so far has gone to consultants and energy auditors.” The board that was “created to oversee the project and submit annual progress reports to the Legislature has never met, according to” an Associated Press review. The Legislature said the bill would “generate more than 11,000 jobs each year.” But “only 1,700 jobs have been created in three years, raising concerns about whether the money is accomplishing what voters were promised.”

Report: US Wind Power Lags Behind Europe.

Houston Chronicle  (8/14, Blum) reported in its “Fuel Fix” blog about a report released on Friday by US Energy Information Administration about US wind energy. According to the report, the US has “more abundant and affordable onshore wind resources” in comparison to western Europe, which is currently the global leader in offshore wind energy. The report notes that onshore installations tend to be cheaper and easier to maintain than offshore projects. However the Chronicle points out that the first offshore wind project in the US, which is now under construction off the coast of Road Island, may lead to a rise in offshore projects in the future.

Debate Rages Over Furnace Efficiency Rule.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (8/17) reports “the complex task of coming up with a federal rule that achieves meaningful efficiency gains in residential natural gas furnaces while fitting into consumers’ budgets shows how hard it can be to regulate such a ubiquitous household appliance.” Earlier this year, the Energy Department “proposed raising the efficiency of furnaces to 92% by 2021, the first significant increase since 1992.” The change “is slated to be finalized next year, and manufacturers would have a five-year period to comply.” The idea was “strongly denounced” by industry groups “during the comment period…promising the costs of complying with the rules would be passed on to consumers and disproportionately to low-income families.” DOE “used an ‘imbalanced and unfair’ analysis that ‘systematically overstates benefits and understates costs’ to manufacturers, wrote the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute.” Consumer groups responded, “claiming that consumers already have lost billions of dollars due to inefficient furnaces” as DOE “has wrestled with how to update its standard.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Teachers Take Part In STEM-PACT Project At Challenger Learning Center.

The KSDK-TV  St. Louis (8/14) website reported that teachers are at the Challenger Learning Center in Ferguson “learning new techniques to bring concepts like chemistry and density to life.” The teachers are taking part in the public-private STEM-PACT project “that helps teachers make things like science, technology, engineering, and math a part of their career path.” The article noted that the region’s “biggest companies” are funding the project because they are investing in the “local workforce in the future.”

Technical Institute Coming To Long Beach, California.

The Long Beach (CA) Gazette Newspapers  (8/16, Thornton) reported that Long Beach, California’s Universal Technical Institute will start classes in mid-August. If will offer courses on “automotive, diesel, collision repair, as well as auto and diesel combined.” Larry Hohl, president of the new campus, said that the area’s proximity to busy ports creates a “strong demand for trained workers in the automotive, diesel and collision repair specialties.”

Nonprofit Seeks To Expand Coding Instruction In Schools.

The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch  (8/17, McKinnon) reports that the nonprofit CodeVA “is dedicated to expanding access to computer science education in Virginia by instructing teachers and students.” The article profiles CodeVA’s summer camp, the Eureka Workshop, which “hosted a girls-only computer programming camp” for middle schoolers. However, co-founder Chris Dovi “wants coding to become as integral to public schools as reading and writing,” so “CodeVA trains teachers to implement coding into their curriculum.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

Fifteen States Ask Court To Block EPA’s Carbon Emissions Rules.
Columnist Pans Trigger Warning Trend On College Campuses.
UMass Research Gets $1 Million For Robotics Research.
EPA Says That Colorado River Now Safe.
Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program Profiled.

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