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

Leading the News

Amazon Releases Video Showing Prime Air Prototype In Action.

Amazon’s online video  demonstrating a Prime Air delivery drone prototype has received heavy coverage from online tech media since it was released Sunday afternoon. There is little television coverage so far, and minimal coverage from print and wire media. But the coverage is all largely favorable, portraying the delivery system as a feasible realization of a concept that attracted considerable skepticism when Amazon first announced it two years ago. Most of the negative reaction focuses on the regulatory hurdles Amazon faces, not whether the company can develop the capacity to execute such deliveries.

CNN (11/29, 5:35 p.m. EST) reported, “It won’t be ready in time for the Cyber Monday shopping day, but Amazon showing off its latest vision for Amazon Prime Air. … In a new ad, Jeremy Clarkson, former host of ‘Top Gear,’ walks us through how the new technology will work, and it’s supposed to deliver products to its customers within half an hour. In the ad, he calls the delivery system ‘a miracle of modern technology.’”

WISH-TV Indianapolis (11/29, 6:12 p.m. EST) reported, “Check out what Amazon thinks is the future of package delivery. … We’re talking about a drone; the company releasing new video today of what a drone delivering a package will actually look like. In the video posted today on YouTube, the company shows actual flight footage of its newly designed drone dropping off a package. How about that? Amazon says it will start using the drones when it gets federal approval.”

There was some coverage in print and wire media, though most came from online tech publications. Reuters  (11/30, Krishnan) reports that the video shows a family receiving a drone delivery of replacement soccer shoes after their dog chews up the original pair. Clarkson said, “In time, there will be a whole family of Amazon drones. Different designs for different environments.” USA Today  (11/30, Molina) reports that Amazon says the drones “weigh 55 pounds and can carry packages weighing up to 5 pounds. The drones fly under 400 feet and use ‘sense and deploy’ technology to dodge potential obstacles en route to its delivery destination.”

The Wall Street Journal  (11/29, Bensinger) reports in blog post that this is the first new prototype Amazon has shown publicly since it announced its drone plans in 2013. That announcement also came on the day before Cyber Monday.

The Seattle Times  (11/30, Greene) reports Amazon released the video “just in time to grab headlines for Cyber Monday.” The video “shows an entirely new look for the vehicles. They look a bit more like an airplane than a helicopter. Small parcels fit inside the body of the vehicle, which are then flown to customer homes for delivery.”

Popular Science  (11/29) writes on its website that “as far-fetched as it sounds, the era of drones delivering packages is about to begin, according to Amazon.”

Higher Education

Higher Education Groups Pushing Congress To Resurrect Perkins Loans.

The Street  (11/30) reports that a coalition of over 500 colleges and over 50 student groups are calling on Congress to “attach the Perkins Loan Program to the government funding bill.” Though the House has approved a one-year reprieve for the mothballed program, “the Senate failed to act on the measure after Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, said that didn’t jibe with his plan to ‘streamline and simplify’ the nation’s variegated student loan, grant and work study programs.”

Writer Criticizes Federal Student Loan Policies As Too Welcoming To High-Risk Borrowers.

In an op-ed in the New York Times  (11/27, Subscription Publication), Kevin Carey, director of the education policy program at New America, writes about the plight of student borrowers who owe unusually large amounts, as much as $150,000 or $200,000. Carey writes that this situation indicates that “the federal government has become the biggest, nicest and meanest student lender in the world.” Carey writes that students – particularly at the postgraduate level – find it too easy to take out overly large loans that they may not wind up being able to pay back, and suggests that Federal laws and ED polices do not have borrowers’ best interests at heart.

Donation Boosts University Of Wisconsin-Madison Computer Sciences Department.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (11/27, Herzog, Gallagher) reported that Milwaukee philanthropists Sheldon and Marianne Lubar gifted $7 million to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for two chairs, two professors, and an endowed discretionary fund for the Department of Computer Sciences. Computer Sciences Department chairman Mark Hill stated that the donation, which was enhanced in part by alumni John and Tashia Morgridge, will help accommodate the department’s “explosion in enrollment” and broaden the department’s accessibility to non-majors.

NSF Awards Grant To Wofford College Professor To Teach Hacking As Way To Improve Cybersecurity.

The Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal  (11/29, Fox) reports the National Science Foundation awarded an almost $300,000 grant to Wofford College Professor Polyxeni Mountrouidou to teach her computer science students how to “use their hacking skills for good.” Professor Mountrouidou is a cybersecurity expert and uses hacking as a way to test and improve the security of computer systems. She aims to pass on her skills and motivations to her students.

Editorial: ED Should Cut Off Money To Predatory For-Profit Schools.

The Des Moines (IA) Register  (11/29) editorializes that the efforts made by different federal agencies to crack down on predatory practices by for-profit schools like ITT Educational Services are insufficient. The editorial board praises ED for their recent decision to offer federal loan forgiveness to more debtors who attended Corinthian Colleges, but then argues that the only way to shut down such predatory institutions is to cut off all federal funding to ITT, Corinthian, and other for-profit companies and schools that engage in deceptive practices. The editorial concludes, “the fraud and deception will stop only when the flow of federal money stops.”

Tuition-Free Community College Being Tested By Chicago And Some States Could Create Models For Other Cities, States, Or Federal Government To Follow.

The AP  (11/27, Tareen) reported Chicago and Tennessee are currently offering tuition-free community college to students meeting certain requirements, and Oregon will soon follow. President Barack Obama and several presidential candidates from both parties have endorsed the idea of offering free community college. The current programs differ in size, financing, and motivation so they could offer insights into the best approaches for other cities, states, or the federal government.

From ASEE
Adrienne Minerick on Diversity in Chemical Engineering
ASEE’s Diversity Committee chair is interviewed by AIChE.

ASEE Membership Benefits
Our members say why ASEE membership is important to them professionally.

Research and Development

LLNL The Recipient Of Three R&D Awards For Industrial Inventions.

The Livermore (CA) Independent  (11/30) reports that LLNL researchers have taken home three of R&D Magazine’s 100 annual awards for industrial inventions, announced Friday in Las Vegas. The three “are the Large-Area Projection Micro-Stereolithography (LAPμSL), a 3D printing device; Zero-order Reaction Kinetics, a computing code; and the High-power Intelligent Laser Diode System (HILADS).” Commenting was LLNL Director Bill Goldstein, who said, “I am extremely pleased that the Laboratory has received this recognition through the R&D 100 awards this year. The Laboratory has again succeeded in receiving this noteworthy acclaim in a broad range of research areas that benefit the nation.”

Bethesda Nonprofit Trying To Bridge Government And Start-Up Community.

The Washington Post  (11/28, Gregg) reported that former investment banker Rosemarie Truman has created the Bethesda-based Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) in an effort to bridge the gap between government and the startup community by connecting “promising research with entrepreneurs willing to bring the ideas to market.” The article mentions a treatment originally developed by the National Cancer Institute that is “designed to direct chemotherapy chemicals more closely toward cancerous cells and away form healthy cells, lessening the side effects.”

Scientists Built A Graphene Microphone 32X More Sensitive Than Nickel Mics.

According to Gizmodo  (11/28, Stone), new research from University of Belgrade in Serbia found that graphene, which is an “ultra-strong, highly conductive carbon lattice,” is also “extraordinarily good at detecting faint and high frequency sound waves.” University researchers have built “built the world’s first graphene-based condenser microphone” prototype, which is “roughly 32 times more sensitive than garden-variety nickel mics over a range of audible frequencies” and may someday “be able to pick up sound well beyond the range of human hearing.” However, Marko Spasenovic, a co-author on the paper published this week in 2D materials, said that that “several obstacles” remain to “making cheap graphene, so our microphone should be considered more a proof of concept.”

Technological Innovations Will Transform How Older Americans Retire.

The Wall Street Journal  (11/30, Coughlin, Subscription Publication) reports that technological innovations will transform the way that next-generation retirees will face the challenges of retirement. The Journal reports that evolving technologies can help retirees stay in the workforce, a goal that, according to AARP research, four out of ten baby boomers have. The Journal also reports that technological innovations driven by the Internet of Things will help retirees communicate, monitor their health, date, stay organized, and live independently. The Journal states that technological innovations introduce affordability and privacy issues, but can significantly improve quality of life in old age.

Workforce

Silicon Valley Firms Offering More Elaborate Perks To Employees.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News  (11/27, May) reported Silicon Valley firms are offering their employees an increasingly wide range of elaborate and luxurious benefits and perks to attract and retain talent. The article lists many examples of the benefits and perks being offered by established firms and startups including buffets, massages, relaxation rooms, mindfulness lectures, financial skills training, trips around the world, overnight shipping of breast milk, maternity clothing, and gasoline discounts. The race to offer better perks than competitors has become so intense that it’s created a new industry: firms that sell perks to other firms.

Commentary: Missouri Firm Taps NAM Program To Draw Young People To Manufacturing.

In a commentary for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch  (11/26), Wes Woods, general manager at Missouri-based Toyota Bodine Manufacturing, wrote about the emphasis shift from labor to technology at his company, one of the world’s biggest makers of aluminum casting. But despite the anticipated opening of 3.5 million good-paying jobs in the industry over the next decade, the “downside” is that about 2 million of those slots could go unfilled due to a lack of skilled workers, Woods said, citing a study by the NAM-backed Manufacturing Institute. He went on to describe his company’s efforts to reverse this trend through programs including Dream It, Do It, which the NAM and the Manufacturing Institute developed “to showcase the incredible opportunities available in manufacturing to youth.”

Industry Collaboration Helps Revitalize Manufacturing Education. Hometown Focus (MN)  (11/27, Hinsz) also cited the Manufacturing Institute’s forecast of unfilled manufacturing jobs in reporting on classes in manufacturing technology at Mesabi East High School in Aurora, Minnesota. The school is part of the Applied Learning Institute, or ALI, which aims to train “a new generation of learner-workers” through “a partnership that connects five colleges of the Northeast Higher Education District,” 22 northeastern Minnesota high schools, and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. Students taking ALI courses study “engineering applications, transportation, fundamentals of industrial design, and healthcare,” with high school, college, and industry partners collaborating on the design and implementation of each ALI program.

Engineering and Public Policy

House Rail Subcommittee To Hold Bullet Train Hearings.

The Los Angeles Times  (11/27, Vartabedian) reports that Rep. Jeff Denham, chairman of the House rail subcommittee, plans to call hearings early next year on the Los Angeles to San Francisco bullet train regarding the project’s costs and California’s failure to disclose significant cost increases. Kristin Olsen, leader of the California Assembly Republicans, said, “The lack of transparency involving money on a project this large is very disturbing. Certainly before we start tunneling through mountains and destroying homes we need to know what the project is going to cost.” The main management contractor projected a 31 percent increase in cost last month, but the California High-Speed Rail Authority has rejected the projection.

Penn Professor: Nuclear Power Part Of Solution To Climate Change.

In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  (11/30, Klevans) op-ed, professor of nuclear engineering at Penn State University Edward H. Klevans argues that the US will not be able to meet its carbon reduction goals if it does not increase its nuclear power capacity as it is “the best source of zero-carbon base-load electricity.” He also argues that internationally nuclear power will remain an important “part of the solution to climate change.”

Clinton Outlines Plan For $275 Billion In New Infrastructure Spending.

The Boston Globe  (11/30, Pindell) reported that Hillary Clinton on Sunday made a campaign stop in Boston, where the Democratic presidential frontrunner “unveiled a new national infrastructure platform aimed at improving roads and bridges.” Clinton’s “five-year $275 billion plan” includes “$250 billion in direct investment from the federal government,” while “an additional $25 billion would establish a national infrastructure bank, providing loans to cities and states for local projects.” According to the Clinton camp, the spending “would be paid for through unspecified ‘business tax reform.’”

Bloomberg Politics  (11/29, Epstein) reports that over the next month, Clinton is planning to outline “what her campaign is calling her ‘jobs agenda,’ including ideas for upping federal support for research and manufacturing.” According to her campaign, Clinton’s “jobs proposals will add up to the most expensive set of policy ideas she’ll offer up throughout her” 2016 run for president.

The AP  (11/30, Lerer) reports that Clinton’s “infrastructure proposals,” according to her campaign, “would exceed the $350 billion she’s already proposed for a college affordability plan. Along with the $275 billion in infrastructure funds, she plans to call for new investments in manufacturing and research in the coming weeks.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Former Resident Of Small Alaska Town Returns To Host Hackathon For Kids.

Alaska Dispatch News  (11/28, Oliver) reports children in Kotzebue, Alaska participated in the first ArcTech Community Hackathon by using their electronic devices to control robots moving around Chukchi College. The event was sponsored in part by Community Church in Seattle. One of Community Church’s members, Han Lee, grew up in Kotzebue and helped organize the event because he wanted to help children in the town learn more about the world and how technology can have an impact on themselves and others.

Arkansas Counties Leaders Working To Increase Career And Technical Education Opportunities.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette  (11/29, Bernet) reports leaders in Benton County and Washington County in Arkansas are working to increase the number of high school students in career and technical education programs. Lots of high schools offer a variety of courses, but in rural areas schools struggle to pay for the specialized teachers and equipment needed for such courses.

Minnesota Middle School Will Compete In State Robotics Tournament.

The Austin (MN) Daily Herald  (11/30, Hackensmith) reports the Ellis Middle School robotics team from Austin, Minnesota will compete in this year’s VEX Robotics state tournament on January 16 at Austin High School. Riverland Community College will host the event, which will feature 36 teams from across the state.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Blue Origin Launches, Lands Fully Reusable Rocket In Industry Breakthrough.
Massachusetts AG Reaches Settlement With Student Debt Consolidation Firms.
Companies Developing Wireless Power Devices.
Electric Car Sales Lower Than Predicted For Many Reasons.
Analysis: Derailments Expected Every Other Year If Oil Train Terminal Is Built.
Massachusetts Governor Lays Out Plan To Expand And Improve Career Education.

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