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

Leading the News

Green Groups Move To Intervene In Defense Of Clean Power Plan.

The Hill  (10/28, Cama) reports that nine environmental and health groups led by the Environmental Defense Fund “petitioned the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Tuesday to be designated as interveners” in the lawsuits filed by 24 conservative states and several business interests against the Clean Power Plan. The Hill adds that a “coalition of liberal states and cities, led by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, is planning to petition to intervene on the EPA’s behalf” as well.

Brown Plans To Defend Clean Power Plan. The Los Angeles Times  (10/28, Megerian) reports that California Gov. Jerry Brown is planning legal action to defend the EPA’s Clean Power Plan which faces a “tenacious opposition from Republicans in Congress.” The governor’s comments on Tuesday at a global warming summit hosted by the University of California follow his statement Friday pledging to do “everything in my power to fight this pernicious lawsuit.” The San Diego Union-Tribune  (10/27, Megerian) adds that Brown criticized politicians who deny the human causes of climate change, singling out leading Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson to whom he sent climate research. Brown said, “We are up against very powerful opposition” to climate targets and new innovations in transportation will be needed.

University Of California Plans To Cut Carbon Footprint. The AP  (10/28, Watson) reports that University of California President Janet Napolitano on Tuesday “vowed to turn the system’s 10 campuses into a living laboratory for solutions that can be scaled up to state, national and global levels.” Napolitano said that addressing climate change challenges “is a moral imperative,” and added that the university system is on track to meet its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025. The AP reports that the university will present a blueprint for carbon reduction at the UN summit in Paris. The AP adds that the university has reached an agreement to buy 80 megawatts of solar power, “the largest such purchase by any U.S. university.”

The Los Angeles Times  (10/27) adds that Gov. Jerry Brown also spoke at the University of California event.

Higher Education

ED Releases New College Consumer Protection Rules.

The Washington Post  (10/28, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the Administration has “finalized two separate rules to prevent college students from ending up in financial trouble while they’re in school and once they leave.” Next year colleges will be barred from requiring that students’ financial aid dispersals be in the form of debit cards “that charge fees for overdrawing the accounts.” Colleges now will have to give students an array of options. Meanwhile, ED “completed regulation that expands the most generous student loan repayment plan to an estimated five million more Americans.” The Pay as You Earn program “caps borrowers’ monthly bills to 10 percent of their income and forgives the debt after 20 years of payment.”

The AP  (10/28, Leff) reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that this “two-pronged approach builds on the administration’s work to reduce the amount of debt college students accrue and make it easier for them to repay their loans once they graduate.” The piece quotes Duncan saying, “These regulations will help make sure student loan debt is affordable for all borrowers and bring overdue reforms to campus cards, a sector that too often puts taxpayer dollars and student consumers at risk.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (10/28, Thomason) reports that the new Pay as You Earn program “appears similar to the one negotiators settled on earlier this year,” noting that it “comes more than a year after President Obama ordered the department to make it available to borrowers who took out loans before October 2007 or who stopped borrowing by October 2011.”

The Wall Street Journal  (10/28, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) reports that borrowers who qualify for the PAYE program often see their student loan payments go down by hundreds of dollars. CBS Money Watch  (10/28, O’Shaughnessy) also covers this story.

Survey: Strong Support For Historically Black Colleges’ From Institutions’ Alumni.

The Wall Street Journal  (10/27, Belkin, Subscription Publication) reports the results of a study by Gallup Education which sought to assess the value of college based on feedback from alumni on the basis of such metrics as their financial security, engagement at work, and physical well-being. According to the findings, approximately two-thirds of African American students who matriculate at a historically black college or university expressed that those schools better prepare them for post-college life than do non-NBCUs. Commenting on the benefits provided by HBCUs, Marybeth Gasman, a professor at University of Pennsylvania, stated that “there is considerable research that shows that HBCUs provide an empowering environment free of white racism” and added that “this is very meaningful in today’s society.”

October Prism Now Online – Members Only
Cover story – A sprawling telescope array has made South Africa a world leader in radio astronomy and produced a pipeline of specialized engineers.

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

Author: DARPA Working Towards Artificial Intelligence And Humanity Preparedness.

In a piece for TIME  (10/28, Jacobsen), Annie Jacobsen, author of Pentagon’s Brain, discusses the convergence of the “two technologies that play key roles in advancing artificial intelligence” for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – computing and neuroscience – and the advance that have been made towards creating artificial brains as “intelligent, self-aware and creative as humans.” Jacobson writes about her recent visit to Los Alamos national Laboratory to speak with the Dr. Garrett T. Keynon about his work on “synthetic cognition” and its roll in the DARPA as well as her visit to Dr. Susan V. Bryant and Dr. David M. Gardiner at the University of California, who are working on “limb regeneration” DARPA. Jacobsen opines on whether humanity is ready for artificial intelligence, which Keynon believes is not far away, commenting “The question is, who will be the Columbus here?”

Carnegie Mellon Researching How To 3-D Print Artificial Organs.

US News & World Report  (10/27, Boyer) reports a group of Carnegie Mellon University researchers are experimenting with the use of 3-D printers to create artificial organs that can be used as transplants. The researchers are developing new methods to manipulate the soft materials needed to create artificial organs, because traditional 3-D printing does not work well with soft gels or similar materials.

Scientists Create Tractor Beam That Can Lift Small Objects.

The Christian Science Monitor  (10/28, Botkin-Kowacki) reports scientists have created a tractor beam that can “actually lift small objects.” The tractor beam uses sound waves to create holographic hands that can manipulate objects.

MIT Professor Bringing Device That Can See Through Walls To Market.

The Boston Globe  (10/28, Bray) reports Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Dina Katabi and her colleagues have created a new device called Emerald that allows users to see through walls. Katabi plans to bring the device to market as a tool to help people “keep tabs on elderly relatives or small children.” Katabi said, “Our main interest is really elderly care,” but in the future the device may also be used as a baby monitor. The device works by emitting “an extremely low-powered radio signal” to locate people.

Kansas State University Builds Drone Testing Area.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (10/28, Mayerowitz) reports Kansas State University built a “very big cage” to test drones near its campus in Salina. The university is prohibited from testing drones on campus because it falls within five miles of an airport, but the new facility is far enough away so that testing there is allowed.


Web Site Says Atlanta Is Best City For Engineering Jobs.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (10/27) reports that according to SpareFoot, a website that helps users find self-storage spaces, listed Atlanta as the best city for engineering jobs in the US. SpareFoot compared engineering jobs in different cities based on “job availability, median salary, median home price and median annual rent.”

Industry News

Northrop Grumman Wins Bid To Build Next Generation Bombers.

The New York Times  (10/27, Cooper, Subscription Publication) reports that the Pentagon said on Tuesday that Northrop Grumman beat out a team from Boeing and Lockheed Martin to build the next-generation Long Range Strike Bomber. The initial $21.4 billion contract value is the largest from the Pentagon in more than a decade, and it could increase to $80 billion if the Air Force purchases all 100 bombers that are planned. Reuters  (10/27, Shalal) reports that Boeing and Lockheed released a joint statement saying they want to know how the bids were scored regarding terms of price – each plane will cost an average of $564 million in fiscal 2016 dollars – and risk. They will have further discussions with the Air Force “before determining our next steps.”

The Wall Street Journal  (10/28, Cameron, Subscription Publication) also reports that analysts say the award will likely be protested by Boeing and Lockheed. The bombers, which will be capable of firing conventional and nuclear weapons, will join submarines and land-based ballistic missiles as the third leg of the nuclear triad. The first 21 jets are expected to enter service and begin replacing aging B-52 and B-1 fighter planes around 2025. The Pentagon didn’t mention other suppliers involved in the bids, including companies that could build the bomber’s engines and radars.

The Washington Post  (10/28, Davenport) reports that Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the program is a “technological leap” that will allow the US to “remain dominant.” He added that the bomber is a “strategic investment for the next 50 years.” The planes will be capable of penetrating “deep into enemy territory, undetected, to unleash massive amounts of ordnance.” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, military deputy to William LaPlante, the Air Force’s top acquisition official, stated, “We want to strike any target, at any time, and that’s what this platform is designed to do.” The Stars And Stripes (DC)  (10/28, Copp) notes that Carter said the new bombers would serve as the “backbone of the Air Force’s future strike and deterrence capabilities.” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James similarly added that the planned jets “will allow the Air Force to operate in tomorrow’s high end threat environment.” After the initial 21 bombers are fielded, the Air Force will purchase the remaining aircraft on a “fixed-price contract.”

The Washington Business Journal  (10/28, Bach, Subscription Publication) reports in its “Fedbiz Daily” blog that Loren Thompson, chief operating officer at the Lexington Institute, an Arlington-based defense think tank, said Northrop’s win is an “amazing upset” and means the company will be “a prime contractor of military aircraft for decades to come.”

Northrop Win Expected To Bring Jobs To Southern California, Florida. The Los Angeles Times  (10/27, Hennigan) reports that with analysts expected that “much of the…bomber” will be manufactured at Northrop’s plant in Palmdale, the project is “likely to create thousands of jobs in Southern California.” Florida Today  (10/27, Kowarski) similarly says the contract decision is a “big financial victory for Brevard County,” Florida, because it is expected to result in Northrop adding 1,500 local engineering and program management positions in the next four years. Those positions are expected to have an average salary of $100,000. Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Center for Economic Competitiveness, said the influx of high-paid professionals “would have a ripple effect in nearly every economic sector” in Brevard. In contrast, the St. Louis Business Journal  (10/27, Wilhelm, Subscription Publication) reports that Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s failed bid means the St. Louis and Puget Sound areas “won’t win work on what will be the last big military aircraft contract for many years.”

Engineering and Public Policy

House Approves Transportation Measure With Rail Safety Extension.

Reuters  (10/28) reports that the House has approved a transportation bill to continue funding for road and bridge construction projects through late November and extend the deadline for railroads to implement positive train control safety technology to the end of 2018. The measure, which passed by voice vote, gives the House three more weeks to pass a six-year measure with bipartisan support which would enable highway funding to keep up with inflation but provide no new money for infrastructure. The AP  (10/28, Lowy) says the bill gives railroads until Dec. 31, 2018 to implement the PTC technology, but railroads would be able to seek a waiver for an additional two years if needed.

The New York Times  (10/28, Nixon, Subscription Publication) reports that the extension was “long sought” by the rail industry, citing “technical and bureaucratic obstacles to installing the costly system,” but notes that critics “say railroads should not be given relief from installing lifesaving technology.” The Washington Post  (10/28, Laris) says the railroads said last week “that all freight and commuter rail lines would face a shutdown at the end of the year unless an extension was granted,” warning of a “‘transportation crisis’ unless Congress acted this week.”

Energy Firm Sues Administration Over Ozone Standards.

Ohio-based energy company Murray Energy Corp. is suing the Administration “over new ozone standards it says will harm the coal industry,” the Washington Times  (10/28, Sherfinski) reports. According to the company, the new standards “set the levels so that even some of the country’s national parks will be out of compliance.” Murray chairman, president, and CEO Robert Murray said, “For the past seven years, the Obama Administration has waged a regulatory rampage against the United States coal industry, and the thousands of high paying, well-benefited jobs which it provides. … This Ozone Rule is yet another illegal and destructive action aimed at killing these jobs.”

Forty-nine Senators Challenge Clean Power Plan.

Reuters  (10/27, Volcovici) reports that 49 senators backed a resolution introduced by Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp disapproving of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Even if passed, the measure would face a veto by President Obama, Reuters adds. The Huffington Post  (10/28) adds that the senators are using the Congressional Review Act, “a little-used provision that allows Congress to overturn executive branch regulations within 60 days of their publication in the Federal Register.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “acknowledged Tuesday that Obama would likely veto the senators’ attempt.”

The Hill  (10/28, Henry) also provides coverage of this story.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Iowa Task Force Recommends Improvements To Technical Education Programs.

The Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette  (10/26, Murphy) reported the recommendations of an Iowa task force concerning suggested improvement of the state’s career and technical education programs. Among the recommendations made to the state’s department of education: stronger career guidance, student access to work-based experiences, better specialized training, and expanding access to licensure training. According to Department of Education Director Ryan Wise, “These recommendations have the potential to revitalize (career and technical education programs) so that Iowa students have access to high-quality, globally competitive programs that lead to rewarding careers” and added that the recommendations, “are in line with several efforts already underway to reduce a shortage of skilled workers and boost economic growth.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Congressional Republicans Move To Set Up Votes Against Clean Power Plan.
Federal Government Receiving Comments About Proposal To Extend Foreign Student Visas For STEM Research.
Office Of Naval Research Awards Large Contract To Northrop Grumman To Continue Development Of Laser Weapons.
Attorneys Jostle For Lead Position In Volkswagen Diesel Lawsuits.
WPost: Announced Drone Rules Don’t Go Far Enough.
NSF Awards $2 Million Grant To University Of Rochester STEM Teacher Training Program.

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