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

Leading the News

Editor’s Note
In yesterday’s First Bell, a headline in the Research and Development section mistakenly stated that a student who had won a research award attends Northwestern University. That student attends Northeastern University. We apologize for the inaccuracy.

EPA’s Ozone Pollution Rules Displease Both Industry, Environmentalists.

The EPA on Thursday issued stricter limits on smog-causing ozone production, and media reporting universally indicates that neither industry groups or environmental and medical organization were satisfied with them. Some analyses go even further, concluding that although the rules will cost industry more money, they represent a victory for business because the standards are not as tough as the Administration previously considered.

USA Today  (10/2, Jackson) reports the Administration on Thursday placed “new restrictions on smog-causing ozone production.” EPA Administrator McCarthy said the rules are intended to “protect people’s health as well as the environment.” The Los Angeles Times  (10/2, Barboza) reports the new rules “will force states to reduce emissions and improve respiratory health for millions” over the next ten years “while bringing billions in pollution-control costs to industry.” McCarthy issued a standard for ground-level ozone of 70 parts per billion (ppb), which the Times notes was “the weakest limit under consideration,” but “replace a previous limit of 75” set by the George W. Bush Administration.

The Washington Times  (10/2, Wolfgang) reports the EPA believes that reducing the amount of ozone in the air will significantly improve Americans’ health and reduce the number of asthma cases. McCarthy said in a statement that ozone pollution “means it hurts to breathe for those most vulnerable: our kids, our elderly and those suffering from heart and lung ailments.”

The Huffington Post  (10/1, Sheppard) reported the “contentious and long-awaited new limit” is “not likely to mark the end of the argument.” According to McClatchy  (10/2, Adams), the new rules disappointed organizations on both sides of the debate over environmental standards. The decision “came after strong opposition from industry groups,” but also met with disapproval from “some environmental and medical groups, who wanted the limit dropped even more.” Industry groups’ “vociferous objections,” according to the Washington Post  (10/1, Eilperin, Warrick), came from concerns over “severe economic damage and job losses” as a result of the new standards. Meanwhile, the Post notes environmental and medical groups claim the 70 ppb standard still leaves at risk individuals subject to negative health consequences.

IBM Announces Carbon Nanotube Transistor Breakthrough.

In what media outlets cast as a major breakthrough for computing technology, IBM researchers announced in the journal Science on Thursday that they have discovered a new method for making transistors using carbon nanotubes, potentially providing a way to free chips from the limits of silicon.

The New York Times  (10/2, Markoff, Subscription Publication) reports the research provides “the industry…a new reason for optimism” that computing performance will continue to accelerate at an historical pace. IBM physicist Wilfried Haensch, an author of the study, explained that by “swapping carbon nanotube transistors for conventional ones in a simulated IBM microprocessor, they were able to increase speeds by a factor of seven, or, alternatively, achieve power savings almost as significant.”

TIME  (10/2) reports the technology “could pave the way for more powerful, energy efficient computers.” Chipmakers have long ran into problems with electrical resistance in contacts of carbon resistors, but IBM said it has “overcome that hurdle” through “microscopic welding,” allowing for much smaller processors without sacrificing performance. “This is really a 10 in importance,” said IBM’s Haensch.

Wired  (10/1) reports the research represents a “major step” toward preserving Moore’s Law – the half-century-old “notion that the number of transistors packed into a computer chip will double every 18 months” – by allowing semiconductors to work “beyond the limits of silicon,” explained Envisioneering director Richard Doherty. The law has recently come under threat from scientists approaching a “wall” in the number of transistors they could effectively squeeze onto silicon chips.

Higher Education

US Petroleum Engineering Degree Program Enrollment Down.

Reuters  (10/2, McAllister) reports enrollment in US petroleum engineering degree programs is down for the first time in 13 years, according to data provided to Reuters by 21 petroleum engineering departments. The departments estimate a further decline of seven percent next year, due to declining oil prices making the field seem less lucrative in the near future. Reuters notes that major oil companies including Chevron have cut the number of internships offered.

College Scorecard Lacks Information On Graduates’ Earnings.

The New York Times  (10/2, Stewart, Subscription Publication) reports that while ED’s new College Scorecard gives “potentially valuable information” to “students, parents and educators increasingly obsessed with college rankings,” it “suffers from many of the same flaws that afflict nearly every other college ranking system: There is no way to know what, if any, impact a particular college has on its graduates’ earnings, or life for that matter.”

Coding School Raises $70 Million From Investors.

The Wall Street Journal  (9/30, MacMillan) reports programming school General Assembly raised $70 million from investors. General Assembly students learn how to program through courses lasting a few months launching new careers in software design and other technical fields.

Columbia University Professors Writes Paper Criticizing Community Colleges For Offering Too Many Courses Overwhelming Students And Decreasing Graduation Rates.

The Washington Post  (10/2, Mathews) reports a recent paper entitled, “The Shapeless River: Does a Lack of Structure Inhibit Students’ Progress at Community Colleges?” by Columbia University professor Judith Scott-Clayton concludes that community colleges may be giving students too many options. The paper explains that many students enter community college without a clear path to graduation decreasing the graduation rate. Professor Scott-Clayton and other education experts say that “huge selection in the community college catalog is part of the reason why students find is so hard to get where they want to go.”

Movement In Progress To Help Students Learn More About Different Colleges Before Making Final Decision.

The Christian Science Monitor  (10/1, Mendoza) reports the federal government, nonprofits, and others are working to increase high school students’ awareness of their options before choosing to where to go to college. Many students decide where they will attend because of financial and informational barriers that some groups are trying to overcome. The White House’s College Scorecard is intended to “help prospective college students identify which schools maximize tuition price.” The nonprofit National College Access Network launched a website to help prospective students compare costs between colleges for students eligible for financial aid. There are also efforts to simply the process to apply for financial aid.

Bennett, Rubio Introduce Legislation To Create Alternative Accreditor.

Inside Higher Ed  (10/1) reports Sens. Michael Bennett (D-CO) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill that would create a new alternative “outcomes-based” accreditation system for colleges and universities. The legislation would allow educational institutions to be eligible for federal financial aid if they meet high standards for student outcomes such as “student learning, completion and return on investment.” If an institution passed the alternative accreditation system, then they could enter a contract with the ED to receive federal financial aid.

September Prism Now Online
Cover: Chile overhauls 10 top engineering schools in a bid to join the world’s advanced economies.

This 3-minute video what makes ASEE unique, impactful, and member-driven.

Research and Development

Boeing, Carnegie Mellon To Establish Aerospace Data Analytics Lab.

The AP  (10/2) reports Boeing will invest $7.5 million over three years “as part of a joint venture” with Carnegie Mellon University to develop an aerospace data analytics lab. Boeing and Carnegie Mellon officials said Thursday that the lab will “analyze complex data collected” from Boeing’s aircraft and technologies with the goal of “improv[ing] design, construction, maintenance and operation of modern planes.”

MIT Researchers Develop Robot Hand That Can Determine Which Objects It Grasps.

The Christian Science Monitor  (10/1) reports researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) “recently revealed a robot hand, or gripper, capable of determining which objects it grasps.” Researchers indicate the newly developed “soft” hand is different from “hard” hands, because its “compliance allows it to pick up objects that a rigid hand is not easily capable of without extensive manipulation planning.” The Monitor explains the significance of the development by saying robots will only “one day have the ability to assume most” human tasks if they have “hands similar to those of humans, capable of acute recognition and detection.”

Researchers Developing “Sustainable Domestic Supply” Of Rare Earth Elements.

UPI  (9/30) reports that researchers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts “are in the process of developing a sustainable domestic supply of rare earth elements.” Engineers have created “a technique for recovering rare earth elements from the engines of junked electric and hybrid cars,” which could provide a less expensive and more environmental friendly “alternative” to the US’ “reliance on China for rare earth metals.”

Clemson Auto Research Center Receives Funding To Develop Lighter Doors.

GSA Business  (10/2) reported the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research received $5.8 million “to help develop a lighter weight door for automakers” who must comply with new Federal fuel economy standards. The Department of Energy will provide $2.24 million of the funding. Researchers indicated the project “will use carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites to make a driver’s side front-door assembly for an unnamed automotive manufacturer.”

The Greenville (SC) News  (9/29) quotes Professor Srikanth Pilla, the lead investigator for the project, as saying researchers must balance the needs of a light material, low cost, and safety. Pilla said that that once the doors are created, the same technology can be applied to the rest of the vehicle.


IT, Engineering Top “10 Toughest Jobs to Fill In 2016” Survey.

The Examiner  (10/2) reports that “not surprisingly,” four spots in the recently-released list of the “10 Toughest Jobs to Fill in 2016” were IT and Engineering positions like Data Scientist and Information Security Analyst. The survey was conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management and The Examiner explains that in response to the growing demand for STEM talent, the government and companies including IBM and Raytheon have “taken many steps to drive students” into the field.

Industry News

Boeing Receives Five-Year Contract Extension To Support ISS.

Spaceflight Insider  (10/2, Richardson) reports Boeing received a $1.18 billion, five-year extension of its contract to “sustain engineering support, resources, and personnel for” the International Space Station. The contract, which is extended through Sept. 30, 2020, requires Boeing to “maintain engineering, software, and hardware support of the United States Orbital Segment (USOS) of the space station, as well as for common components available to the 16 international partner nations.” The extension will also require Boeing to “assess the feasibility of extending the life of primary structural hardware of the orbital outpost through the end of 2028.”

Debate Over Vehicle Software Availability To Public Rages On.

Ars Technica  (10/2) reports that the US DOT “says security researchers tinkering with vehicle software shouldn’t be allowed to go public with their findings.” The agency “is concerned that there may be circumstances in which security researchers may not fully appreciate the potential safety ramifications” if their findings are released in the wild, according to a DOT letter to Federal IP regulators. Known as “technological protection measures” (TPMs), automakers “employ this type of copyright scheme in a bid to make it a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violation to examine or tinker with the code in onboard vehicle software,” the article reports. Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others are pushing to obtain authorization for such tinkering and have submitted a proposal in that regard to the US Copyright Office.

Engineering and Public Policy

Smart Cities Would Require Massive Bandwith.

In an op-ed for Alabama Live  (10/1), Abhishek Dubey, a research scientist in the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering, writes that he is working with a team to develop “Smart City” technology. However, he warns that the cost of such system would be massive demand for internet bandwidth.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Houston Eighth Graders Tour Steel Plant On Manufacturing Day.

The Houston Chronicle  (10/2, Sixel) reports 200 eighth grade students from Southwest Middle and High School in Houston toured a steel processing plant owned by Steel and Pipe Supply. Rick Hargrove, the vice president of operations and general manager of a division of the firm, helped organize the tour because he wants to encourage young people to consider careers in manufacturing. Almost 2,200 factories and plants are hosting tours and visits this week in honor of Manufacturing Day.

Michigan School District Improving STEM Curriculum For Students.

The Southgate (MI) News Herald  (10/1, Kasuba) reports Riverview Community Schools in Michigan is working to improve its STEM education. Superintendent Russell Pickell said kindergarten through eighth grade students will keep using the Eureka Math curriculum, which is based on a program called Engage NY that encourages students to develop problem-solving skills. The district is also offering Lego robotics kits to students and has developed a STEM lab.

Illinois Middle School Opens Second STEM Lab.

The Lake Forester (IL)  (10/1) reports Deer Path Middle School in Lake Forest, Illinois has opened a second STEM lab for students. The classroom will let fifth-grade and sixth-grade students work on projects using 3D printing, mobile phone apps, and other advanced technologies. Students will be able to chose between 30 different projects and then receive online instructions on how to complete them.

Expert: Preschools, Early Childhood Programs Need Help Teaching STEM.

The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate  (9/30, Lussier) reports Heising-Simons Foundation program officer Kimberly Brenneman told a Baton Rouge audience on Wednesday that preschools and early childhood programs are not emphasizing math and science. Brenneman said educators want to teach the subjects, but need assistance. She said, “They believe in the power of STEM. They just want help to do it well.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Panel Highlights Competing Interests Between Generation, Transmission Owners.
ED: Federal Student Loan Default Rate Down.
CU-Boulder To Receive $1.9M Grant For Drone Project.
Smith: Work Permit Application Change A “Coup” For Tech Industry.
Chinese Firms Using 3D-Printing For Construction.
EPA Imposes New Discharge Regulations On Steam Electric Power Plants.
Chief Technical Officer Of US Says Parents Can Use Activities To Get Children Excited About STEM.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.