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

Leading the News

Volkswagen To Recall 8.5 Million Diesel Vehicles In Europe After Germany Rejects Plan.

The Washington Post  (10/16) reports that Volkswagen “will embark on one of the biggest recalls in European automotive history, affecting 8.5 million diesel vehicles, after German authorities threw out the carmaker’s proposal for voluntary repairs.” The German Federal Motor Transport Authority “demanded a recall of 2.4 million cars in Germany after reviewing proposals Volkswagen filed last week to fix vehicles fitted with software designed to cheat on pollution tests,” it was announced on Thursday. USA Today  (10/15, Bomey) reports that Volkswagen “said it would notify vehicle owners directly about the fixes that must be made to their vehicles. The free repairs will start in January for European car owners.”

The New York Times  (10/16, Eddy, Subscription Publication) says that while “a broad recall has been expected, the move reflects the difficulty that Volkswagen faces in fixing the 11 million vehicles worldwide that contain a so-called defeat device, which effectively lowered emissions for testing purposes.” Volkswagen “is indicating that the repairs may stretch beyond the end of 2016.”

Meanwhile, Reuters  (10/15, Schwartz, Cremer) reports that new Volkswagen CEO Matthais Mueller said that his company can rebound from the current scandal. Speaking to company managers, Mueller said, “We have a good chance of shining again in two to three years.”

The Hill  (10/16, Cama) also reports.

Volkswagen Suspends Key Engineer. Reuters  (10/15) reports that Volkswagen has suspended Falko Rudolph, the head of one of its main transmission plants, as it continues to investigate the diesel issue. Rudolph oversaw the development of diesel engines between 2006 and 2010. The Wall Street Journal  (10/16, Boston, Houston-Waesch, Subscription Publication) also notes the suspension.

Minister Says That Germany Could Scrap Tax Breaks For Diesels. Reuters  (10/15, Nienaber) reports that on Thursday, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said that her government should consider ending tax breaks for diesel vehicles and instead focus on electric vehicles.

Higher Education

New York Professors Want To Build A Student Army To Fight Cybercrime.

The Rochester (NY) Business Journal  (10/16, Gable) reports the National Science Foundation and National Security Agency have awarded two grants totaling $840,000 to fund cybersecurity research at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The researchers have named their project ASSERT, which stands for Attack Strategy Synthesis and Ensemble Predictions of Threats. WXXI-TV  Rochester, NY (10/12, Faust) adds that the researchers are aiming to “teach students how to better protect online data” in order to create “an army of students to combat cyberattacks.”

CFPB Seeking Information On For-Profit Colleges From Accreditor.

Inside Higher Ed  (10/15, Fain) reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is seeking information from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools “about the for-profit colleges it oversees, which include several controversial chains.” The piece notes that it is uncertain whether the accreditor “is the target of an investigation, or whether the request is linked to another probe.”

Critics Say College Scorecard Omits Many Schools.

The Washington Post  (10/16, Svrluga) reports that while “many welcomed the launch” of an Education Department website “designed to simplify higher education decisions by offering information” last month, some critics say that “while thousands of colleges are included, the site leaves out many schools which might be good options for students.”

University Of Texas Launches Free Online Courses.

The Houston Chronicle  (10/16, Baddour) reports that the University of Texas has announced that it will “offer free college-quality courses for open enrollment online, designed for high school students to get a head start on college.” The UT system this month “wrapped up five massive open online courses (MOOCs), collectively with nearly 100,000 enrollees,” and notes that the system “hopes to give high school seniors a chance to knock out basic college courses ahead of university enrollment, speeding their graduation and cutting their costs.”

NSF Grant To Fund Women In STEM At California Colleges.

KCLU-AM  Santa Barbara, CA (10/14) reports online that the National Science Foundation has given a grant worth $750,000 to UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Channel Islands, UC Merced, and San Diego State as part of “a new push to help women advance in engineering, math, and science.” The schools “will create a collaborative research and training center for female scientists and faculty members, with a special emphasis on minority women.”

Commentary: Colleges Failing To Prepare Students For Lack Of Structure In Workplace.

In a piece for the Washington Post  (10/16) “Grade Point” blog, author Jeffrey J. Selingo writes that colleges are failing to prepare students for the workplace because while “college is very task-based,” the “working world is unstructured, with competing priorities and decisions that need to be made on the fly.” He writes that this “fails to prepare students to be engaged in their academic lives today or in their work lives in the future.” Selingo describes efforts at Lehigh University to “teach students how to think for themselves in an environment that emphasizes teamwork and hands-on learning.”

From ASEE
The Best Part of ASEE Membership
Members weigh in in this short video from the Annual Conference.

Transforming Undergraduate Eduction in Engineering
Read the first report of this multi-phase project.

Research and Development

Researchers Develop Method For Improving Quantum Dot Biocompatibility.

Chemical & Engineering News  (10/16, Madhusoodanan) reports that quantum dots “can improve imaging technologies and drug targeting for cancers,” but they “can be unstable in the body and are often made from highly toxic semiconductor materials such as cadmium.” Now, scientist have developed a way to “coat quantum dots with a polymer to make them more stable and safer for biomedical uses.”

NASA Selects 11 Firms For $400M Langley Research Center Contract.

GovCon Wire  (10/16, Hoffman) reports NASA has awarded 11 companies positions on its potential five-year, $400 million contract “to perform technology basic and applied research, development, analysis, integration and demonstration services for Langley Research Center” in Virginia. The companies selected by NASA’s Basic and Applied Aerospace Technology R&D program are, in alphabetical order: Alliant Techsystems Operations; Analytical Services & Materials; Aurora Flight Sciences; Boeing; Engility; Honeywell; Lockheed Martin; Northrop Grumman; Rockwell Collins; Saab Sensis; and Vigyan.

Research At California University State Grows Nearly 5% Since Last Year.

The Los Angeles Daily News  (10/15) reports that California University State Northridge “has served as its intellectual, economic and cultural heart.” The institution has “kept a relentless eye” on serving its students and holds partnerships with over “100 academic institutions in 22 countries around the world.” Moreover, research at the university has grown nearly five percent within the last year to $32.3 million in research grants. The National Institutes of Health has awarded $22 million “for biomedical research conducted by traditionally underrepresented students” this year.

UK “Catapult” Innovation Centers Helping New Businesses.

The Science Business  (10/16, Kelly) reports the UK has create nine “Catapults”, research and technology organizations that help turn research into marketable products and services. A 2010 report entitled “The Current and Future Role of Technology and Innovation Centres in the UK” recommended the creation of such innovation centers to help new companies navigate the so-called “valley of the death”, the gap between public funding for research and private investment. The new innovation centers are focused in different fields including cell therapy, future transportation, and precision medicine.

Global Developments

Southern Co., Korea Power Will Study Clean Coal.

The Biloxi (MS) Sun Herald  (10/16) reports that “Southern Company Services has signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea Electric Power Corp. to jointly study” clean coal and carbon capture technologies, in which the companies “will explore opportunities” for applying the technologies “in the U.S., the Republic of Korea and in developing nations where the environmentally acceptable [use] of coal could strengthen energy security.” One of the options that the partnership plans to focus on is the “transport-integrated gasification” technology being implemented at the Kemper County plant. The article mentions that the memorandum is Southern Company’s “fifth such agreement with a leading international energy company.”

Fuel Fix (TX)  (10/15) reports that in a statement announcing the agreement, Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning said, “With a shared focus on delivering real energy solutions through innovation, Southern Company and KEPCO can help address the world’s energy challenges through this partnership.” The article adds that “Southern Company and KBR are already jointly marketing the transport integrated gasification technology to energy companies globally.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Range Resources Accused Of Not Disclosing Fracking-Related Well Contamination.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  (10/16, Hopey) reports that a motion filed Wednesday in Commonwealth Court is accusing Range Resources of using tracers composed of chemical and low-grade radioactive isotopes for research on fracking in an Armwell gas well in 2009 while not informing nearby Washington County property owners about the contaminated water wells. Attorneys for property owner Loren “Buzz” Kiskadden “are tracking those recently revealed tracers as they try to map a hydrogeologic link between Mr. Kiskadden’s water well and Range’s Yeager gas well and an adjacent, leaky 13.5-million gallon fracking wastewater impoundment.”

White House Announces Measures To Reduce Hydrofluorocarbon Use.

Reuters  (10/16, Volcovici) reports the White House said Thursday that new measures and pledges from the private sector to reduce hydrofluorocarbon use will reduce consumption by the equivalent of one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2025. The EPA will propose a new rule to improve refrigeration management practices as part of the effort.

Critics See Hypocrisy In US Shipment Of Powder River Basin Coal Abroad. The Washington Post  (10/16, A1, Warrick) reports on its front page the Administration “is seeking to curb” US use of coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, “which scientists say must remain mostly in the ground to prevent a disastrous warming of the planet.” But every year, “nearly half a billion tons of this US-owned fuel are hauled from the region’s vast strip mines and millions of tons are shipped overseas.” These shipments highlight “what critics describe as a hypocrisy underlying US climate policy: While boasting of pollution cuts at home, the United States is facilitating the sale of large quantities of government-owned coal abroad.”

California Congressmen Call For Federal Investigation Into ExxonMobil’s Climate Policy.

The Los Angeles Times  (10/15, Phillis, Rust) reports that two California congressmen are “asking the Department of Justice to investigate whether ExxonMobil violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act known as RICO, as well as consumer protection, truth in advertising, public health, shareholder protection or other laws.” Richard Keil, a spokesman for ExxonMobil, said the company “unequivocally reject[s] allegations” put forth by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek), and that “suggestions that ExxonMobil suppressed its climate research are completely without merit.”

Exxon’s Climate Denial Criticized. An editorial in the Los Angeles Times  (10/15) is critical of Exxon’s decision not to disclose its “high-quality research” that “concluded in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s that climate change was real, would transform the Earth’s landscape and was driven by human activity,” to the scientific community. Instead, the Times accuses the company of “publicly cast[ing] doubt on the very existence of global warming,” while using its research to expand drilling operations in Arctic Seas.

Rep. Johnson: EPA Right To Target Methane.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) writes for The Hill  (10/16, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (d-Texas)) in its “Congress Blog” blog that the EPA’s recent proposal to reduce methane emissions “will not only benefit our public health and environment, but they will be a boon for industry” by encouraging the oil and gas industry to “capture and sell more of its own product.” Johnson writes that tackling methane pollution “will also create high-quality jobs” linked to sectors “supporting common sense and cost effective methane control technologies.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Illinois Middle School Students Build Hot Air Balloons In Science Class.

The Hinsdale (IL) News  (10/15) reports eighth-grade students at Hinsdale Middle School in Illinois worked for a week to create hot air balloons in science class. Students learned about mass, volume, and density while working on the team projects.

New York High School Students Compete In “Engineering Day” Challenge.

The Greater Binghamton (NY) Press & Sun-Bulletin  (10/15) reports about 50 high school students participated in “Engineering Day” at a school gymnasium in Binghamton, New York by competing in a challenge to light an LED bulb with the most complex machine possible constructed out of household objects. Local school districts sent teams to compete in the event which was held at Broom Tioga Board Of Co-Op Educational Services (BOCES).

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Justices Divided Over Federal Rule Aimed At Cutting Electricity Demand.
ED Pilot Will Allow Federal Student Aid For “Boot Camps,” Other Nontraditional Training.
Harvard Bioengineering Research Funded By NIH, NSF, ONR Spun Out To New Company.
Israeli Designer Develops Concept For Grounded Parcel Delivery Drone.
Boeing, Lockheed Martin Showcase Anti-UAV Systems At AUSA.
Critical Infrastructure Cyberattacks Discussed.
Study: Math Test Results Show Unequal Access To Math Education.

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