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

Leading the News

DOJ Opens Criminal Probe Of VW’s Cheating On Emissions Tests.

In its lead story, the CBS Evening News (9/21, lead story, 2:10, Pelley) reported the DOJ “is opening a criminal investigation into a scheme by the world’s largest car company to rig its vehicles to cheat on US emissions tests.” While Volkswagen’s CEO apologized, “sorry didn’t cut it with investors, VW’s stock dove off a cliff, down more than 17 percent in the US.” ABC World News (9/21, story 9, 0:25, Muir) reported that Volkswagen is facing a “possible” $18 billion fine “and perhaps criminal charges.”

USA Today  (9/22, Bomey, Johnson, Woodyard) reports that the DOJ has opened a “criminal probe” into Volkswagen’s “admission” that it “rigged” 482,000 diesel vehicles in order to “beat emissions tests.” Disclosure comes after Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn “offered an apology Sunday for cheating on emissions tests.” In addition, the House Energy Committee’s “oversight subcommittee announced it plans to hold a hearing on the Volkswagen case in coming weeks.” The Wall Street Journal  (9/22, Viswanatha, Subscription Publication) reports that according to those familiar with the matter, the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division is conducting the probe. Volkswagen is also under investigation by the EPA and is facing questions over the issue from the German government.

The Washington Post  (9/22, Horwitz) reports that in the lab, VW cars “met emission standards, according to the EPA. On the road, regulators say, they emitted nitrogen oxide at up to 40 times federal standards.” The New York Times  (9/22, Ewing, Subscription Publication) reports that “for more than a year,” Volkswagen executives told the EPA that “discrepancies between the formal air-quality tests on its diesel cars and the much higher pollution levels out on the road were the result of technical issues, not a deliberate attempt to deceive Washington officials.”

In an editorial, USA Today  (9/22) says that the “simple word for the accusation against VW is cheating, and on a grand scale.” The company “has sold more than 480,000 ‘clean diesel’ cars with 2-liter engines to US consumers since 2009.”

Higher Education

California Board For Community Colleges Sends Report To ED Requesting Changes To Accreditation.

The San Francisco Examiner  (9/22, Dudnick) reports the California Community Colleges Board of Governors voted to send the 2015 Task Force on Accreditation report with a cover letter summarizing it to ED. The report was prompted in part by criticism of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges for being too harsh on community colleges in the state, especially the City College of San Francisco. The California board for community colleges wants the current accreditor to “provide a more streamlined, consistent and transparent path for schools to retain their accreditation” and also wants the ED to approve a new accreditor.

Consumer Bankers Association CEO Proposes Reforms For Student Loan Programs.

In a piece for CNBC  (9/22), president and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, Richard Hunt, says that the US must enact two reforms “to better protect students and their families from insurmountable” student loan debt burdens. First, he says, the government “should be held to the same high standards private lenders are by improving consumer disclosures,” citing the requirements in the Truth in Lending Act as an example of disclosures that allow consumers the chance to make better choices. Second, there should be increased transparency related to student loan performance data. “Since the Treasury Department bears the ultimate responsibility for managing the DL portfolio, it should be charged with providing information related to loan performance and taxpayer risks,” Hunt says. “Clear and honest reporting to the public is critically important. If federal programs are going to improve, taxpayers and policymakers must understand the problem.”

NSF Awards $3 Million Grant To Montana State University For Nanotechnology Research.

The AP  (9/22) reports the National Science Foundation awarded a $3 million grant to Montana State University to expand its nanotechnology research center. The grant will allow multiple labs engaged in related research to move together into one shared space, and also purchase new and improved equipment.

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Research and Development

NSF Gives Kentucky Universities Grant For Nanotech Center.

The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal  (9/21) reports that the National Science Foundation has given the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky a “highly competitive” $3.76 million grant to collaborate on “a national center of excellence in micro/nanotechnology.” The schools “are joining a new national network that is intended to make university facilities, tools and expertise in nanoscale science, engineering and technology available to outside users.”

The Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader  (9/21) reports that the grant was “just one of 16 awarded by the National Science Foundation,” noting that the center “will be part of a national network to make university facilities, tools and expertise in nanoscale science, engineering and technology available to outside users.” The center will bring together “eight key nanotechnology and advanced-manufacturing facilities at UK and U of L,” and the grant “will be used to upgrade advanced manufacturing equipment at UK and U of L research centers, add staff to help train and support as many as 500 additional external users, provide seed money for new manufacturing research areas, and engage more minorities and women in nanoscale science, engineering and technology.”

Louisville (KY) Business First  (9/21, Subscription Publication), WLKY-TV  Louisville, KY (9/22), WHAS-TV  Louisville, KY (9/21), and WAVE-TV  Louisville, KY (9/22) also cover this story.

Massachusetts Engineering Student Wins Mobile Defense Challenge.

The Brookline (MA) Patch  (9/22) reports that Shadi Emam of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, a doctoral candidate at Northeastern University’s College of Engineering, “was on the winning team of Finjan Holdings, Inc.’s Mobile Defense Challenge 2015,” explaining that the challenge is “a student cybersecurity mobile application competition to promote innovation, cybersecurity education, and the entrepreneurial spirit in a combined effort to identify next generation consumer privacy and data protection technologies for mobile platforms.”

Northeastern Professor Wins Nanorod Patent.

The Natick (MA) Patch  (9/22) reports that Northeastern University engineering professor Sivasubramanian “Siva” Somu “was recently awarded a patent for his project, ‘Nanoscale interconnects fabricated by electrical field directed assembly of nanoelements.’” Somu’s invention “provides a fast, scalable, room temperature process for fabricating metallic nanorods from nanoparticles or fabricating metallic or semiconducting nanorods from carbon nanotubes suspended in an aqueous solution.”

Researchers Publish Findings On Stealth Cloaking For Drones.

Engadget  (9/21) reports University of California San Diego professors have published findings on “dielectric metasurface cloak” technology that could be used to provide drones stealth capability. Professor Boubacar Kante and his team will submit a report on the technology to Department of Defense later this month after outlining their progress in the journal Progress In Electromagnetics Research. The technology, “a thin layer of Teflon studded with ceramic particles” capable of modulating wavelengths, “isn’t exactly new” – with research stretching back to 2006 – “but it is a heck of a lot better than what the DoD has access to now,” Engadget says. The main advantage is stealth capability with only one layer of material, not the multiple layers required by other technologies, the researchers said.

US Naval Air Warfare Center Awards $63.5 Million To CACI International.

Washington Technology  (9/21, Hoover) reports that the Naval Air Warfare Center awarded CACI International with a $63.5 million contract to support its Aircraft Division’s Special Communications Mission Solutions division with research, development, and testing of, in the words of Washington Technology, “all US Navy and Marine Corps air vehicle systems and trainers.” CACI will offer “command, control, computers, communications, intelligence electronic systems and interoperability” under the terms of the contract.

Avionics Magazine  (9/21) adds that the award is a “bridge contract” and that the contract will last 20 months and cover all developmental stages.


Expert: Factories Are Home To Lucrative High-Tech Careers.

Forbes  (9/21) contributor Nicholas Wyman cites a study commissioned by the NAM-supported Manufacturing Institute in which 90% of respondents said “a robust manufacturing base” is crucial to the US economy. The same study, however, shows “that very few Americans want to work in manufacturing themselves,” writes Wyman, CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation. He attributes this “disconnect” to the influence of popular culture, the media, and school counselors, with the result that manufacturing as a career option ranks “dead last” among Americans aged 19 to 33. “Wrong” perceptions aside, the fact is that modern manufacturing “requires smart people,” with factory workers specializing in “engineering, electronics, information technology, robotics, mechatronics, design, and research and development.” For this they’re paid about 20% more than what other industries provide. Wyman says the path to a modern manufacturing job requires “some post-secondary education, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree” – an apprenticeship, certification program, or associate’s degree that melds “practical experience with relevant academic study.”

Industry News

ATA Aerospace Lands $500M NASA Contract.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (9/22) reports that Albuquerque-based ATA Aerospace received “a five-year contract this month worth up to $505 million with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to provide payload integration services for satellites.” The R&D work conducted under the contract will include “mechanical engineering and related services, such as design, development and fabrication of hardware and software systems, as well as testing, verification and operation of spaceflight and ground systems.” The Journal goes on to carry some background information on ATA, noting that it is “housed at a 41,000-square-foot facility at the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Report: Electric Vehicles Could Cut Emissions By 64 Percent.

In continuing coverage, CleanTechnica  (9/22, Ayre) reports on a study from the Electric Power Research Institute and the National Resources Defense Council finds that widespread adoption of electric transportation may lead to “substantial reductions” in carbon emissions, improving air quality. The report examines scenarios where the electric sector adopts varying degrees of cleaner-burning energy and finds that the more expensive carbon emissions are, the faster industry will deploy low-emission technology. Ted Craver, chairman, president and CEO of Edison International, commented that the study “underscores the important role utilities can play nationally in accelerating the market through efforts such as investing in infrastructure to support public and workplace charging stations and incorporating EVs into our own fleets.”

Democrats, Tech Firms File Briefs Backing Net Neutrality.

The Huffington Post  (9/21, Liebelson) reports that “tech giants and Democratic lawmakers” this week filed briefs defending the Administration’s tough net neutrality rules with a court hearing a challenge to the regulation. For example, Sen. Bernie Sanders and House Minority Leader Pelosi filed supportive statements. The suit, brought by big telecom firms and Internet service providers, argues that the FCC overstepped its authority by reclassifying wired and wireless broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

Bryce: Emissions Cuts Could Lower Standards Of Living.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (9/22, Subscription Publication), Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute argues that the essence of the climate-change agendas of many Democrats, particularly California Gov. Jerry Brown, is a drive to push US emissions down to levels only seen in third-world countries. He argues that the only way to do this is to cut US living standards dramatically.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Cybersecurity Competition Aims To Spread Awareness Among High School Students.

THE Journal  (9/16) reports that the 12th annual Cybersecurity Awareness Week will be held at the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering in Brooklyn from November 12-14, noting that the event “is expanding the opportunities for high school students to get involved with webinars in advance and self-guided online education modules that they can use to prepare for the High School Forensics Challenge, one of six contests for college and high school students to participate in.” The piece notes that “nearly 20,000 students from around the world will have participated in preliminary online contests in an effort to reach the finals, which will be attended by hundreds of students.”

Huffman Students Designing More Efficient Humvee For Shell Eco-Marathon.

The Lake Houston Observer  (9/21, Costa) reports that some Engineering Design students at Hargrave High School in Huffman are working to build a more efficient Army Humvee for Shell’s Eco-marathon, “an annual contest the gas company uses to discover new and innovative ways to increase fuel range in the automotive industry.” The Shell Eco-marathon is schedule for April 2016 in Michigan.

Arizona Group Awards 12 Scholarships To Students To Pursue STEM Careers.

The Arizona Republic  (9/21) reports the East Valley Chamber of Commerce will award 12 scholarships to students in Mesa, Arizona and the surrounding region who wish to pursue STEM careers. The scholarships will be given to the students at a formal dinner this Friday at the Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes.

National Program Teaches Girls How To Code, Pursue STEM Careers In New Jersey.

The North Jersey (NJ) Media Group  (9/21, Redmond) reports Girls Who Code offered a 300-hour summer program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. The program teaches high school girls how to program computers with the aim of closing the gender gap in STEM careers.

Pennsylvania Announces High School STEM Contest.

Central Penn Business Journal (PA)  (9/21) reports Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera “announced the opening of the Governor’s 2016 STEM Competition and invited Pennsylvania’s high school students to participate.” Students compete by creating a project using STEM skills that aligns with this year’s theme of “Improving Pennsylvania Through STEM.” Students from about 170 schools are expected to participate.

North Carolina School Boards Aim To Launch Magnet STEM Elementary School.

The Gaston (NC) Gazette  (9/21, Wildstein) reports the school board in Gaston, North Carolina is working to create a new magnet school with a STEM curriculum for students from third to fifth grade. The board hopes the school will open next fall.

Monday’s Lead Stories

Federal And State Officials Celebrate Approval Of FEIS For Southeast High-Speed Rail.
Duncan Wraps Up Bus Tour With STEM Event At Carnegie Mellon.
Nevada’s Desert Research Institute Honors Drone Researcher.
Volkswagen Shares Drop More Than 20% After The Automaker Admits Cheating On US Emissions Tests.
Pentagon Invests In Renewable Energy Projects.
New Alabama Standards Require Climate Change, Evolution Instruction.

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