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

Leading the News

FAA Announces Drone Registration Rules.

Tom Costello reported on NBC Nightly News (12/14, story 9, 1:45, Holt) that the FAA released new rules to take effect Dec. 21 that will require all drone owners 13 years and older to register their drones online, “including name, address, and email.” Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation: “We think this is not just about registering. This is also about educating and providing folks with the information they need to do this safely.” Other rules include flying below 400 feet and at least five miles from airports. Each offense carries a potential $1,100 fine.

The CBS Evening News (12/14, story 7, 1:40, Pelley) reported that when the registration website goes live next Monday, those who already own drones will have two months to register, and those who purchase drones after Dec. 21 must register before operating the aircraft. Scott Brenner, a former FAA assistant administrator, said the new website “will allow us to do a tremendous amount of education.”

The New York Times  (12/15, Kang, Subscription Publication) adds that registration will be free for 30 days, and then a $5 fee will be required for a three-year certificate of registration after that period. Those who purchase drones before Dec. 21 have until Feb. 19, 2016 to register, while those purchasing after Dec. 21 must register before their first flight.

Higher Education

Research Finds Interactive Exercises More Effective Way To Learn Than Reading Or Lectures.

The Hechinger Report  (12/15, Haycock) reports Carnegie Mellon University Ken Koedinger researched how effective different learning methods were for teaching students. His research found that students learned the most by completing interactive exercises rather than reading or listening to a recorded lecture as judged by their performance on quizzes. The research contributes to an ongoing debate about the efficacy of traditional college lectures.

Report: Michigan Needs To Spend Over $500 Million Per Year To Meet Workforce Needs By Improving Postsecondary Education.

MLive (MI)  (12/15, Dawsey) reports the Michigan Postsecondary Credential Attainment Workgroup produced a report called “Reaching for Opportunity: An action plan to increase Michigan’s postsecondary credential attainment.” The report found Michigan will need to spend over $500 million per year in order to help an additional 779,000 students earn a post-secondary credential of some kind by 2025 in order to the meet the state’s economic needs and to make the state one of the 10 most educated states in the US. The report shows “a stark vision of Michigan’s low educational attainment and job prospects for the future compared with other states” and highlights the fact that Michigan currently ranks 38th in the US in personal income and that real income has fallen during the past 10 years.

University Of Missouri Teaching Waivers For Faculty Are Under Scrutiny.

The AP  (12/15) reports the University of Missouri prepared a report at the request of a state lawmaker that found nearly 40% of the university’s tenure-track faculty are allowed to lower their teaching load during the final years of their career through waivers. State legislators have criticized the waiver rate as too high, and one state senator has introduced a bill to cap the waiver rate at 30%. The Faculty Council chair Ben Trachtenberg at the university said the high rate benefits the university by attracting professors who want to do important research.

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Research and Development

Musk Invests $1B To Curb AI Dangers.

CBS News  (12/14, Kraft) reports that Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, joined technology experts and invested $1 billion to form OpenAI, a non-profit group. The group’s funding also comes from “Paypal Co-founder Peter Thiel, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and Jessica Livingston, author and founding partner of Y Combinator, who have committed a total of $1 billion to the project.” The group’s goal is to conduct research and development into AI in a way that safely benefits humanity.

Boeing Phantom Works President Stays “Tight-Lipped” On T-X, Fighter Projects.

Flightglobal  (12/14, Drew) reports that Boeing Phantom Works president Darryl Davis “is refusing to take Northrop’s bait by disclosing new information about his advanced research and design unit’s secretive ‘T-X’ and future fighter projects.” Northrop Grumman recently released information about a “slightly outdated” T-X model. Davis “stayed tight-lipped” about the program when interviewed this week. Davis said the company is researching new technologies, including sensors, planes, weapons, electronics, and cyber technologies.

Industrialist Who Set Record For Donation To Public University Has Passed Away.

The New York Times  (12/13, Roberts, Subscription Publication) reports Henry M. Rowan, the founder of Inductotherm Group, died on Wednesday in Bucks County, Pennsylvania at the age of 92. In 1992, Rowan donated $100 million to Glassboro State College in New Jersey, which at the time it was given was the largest individual cash gift to a public university. Glassboro was then renamed Rowan University and Rowan’s donation was used to create an engineering school, new professorships, and scholarships.

National Science Foundation Funds Construction Of 3D-Scanner Room At University Of Maryland Baltimore County.

The Baltimore  (12/14, Babcock) reports a National Science Foundation grant funded the construction of a 3D-scanner room by Direct Dimensions in Owing Mills, Maryland. The device has now been transported to the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, which plans to build an “immersive virtual reality environment”, possibly adjacent to the 3D-scanner room. The technology has been used to create special effects in Hollywood films, but the university envisions it could be used to create games, prosthetics, or capture historic artifacts. UMBC Professor Marc Olano says, “Being able to capture a 3D model is just a priceless ability.” Direct Dimensions President Michael Raphael says he hopes the installation of the device in Baltimore could make the city a hub for the new technology. Raphael says, “My goal is to lure a national manufacturing institute dedicated to 3D scanning to Maryland.”

Four Representatives Visit Mine For Subcommittee Hearing On Need For More Mining Engineers.

The AP  (12/15, Elliott) reports four members of the House Natural Resources Committee held a meeting inside a mine in Colorado about the need to train more mining engineers as many are expected to retire soon. The representatives said the toxic waste spill that occurred earlier this year at Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado underscored the need for new mining engineers.

Global Developments

India State Minister Defends Safety Of Nuclear Power Plants.

The Indian Express (IND)  (12/15, Rao) reports that India’s Minister of State Jitendra Singh asserted during the discussion over the passage of the Atomic Energy Bill that safety would not be an issue. Singh said, “If it was actually hazardous, you would agree with me that over the last 60 years not a single scientist has been affected by nuclear radiation. Many scientists have spent most of their lifetime inside Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, but nothing happened to them… There have been hardly about 20-odd unnatural deaths and most have happened because of accidents, suicides, poisoning etc, but none of them due to nuclear radiation.” Singh asserted the Fukushima incident could not occur in India, saying that at the Japanese plant “there were certain inherent defects… It was, in the first place, wrongly located in a seismic zone. When the earthquake took place, there was a huge inflow of water… and this water choked everything else, even the outlets.”

Industry News

Morgan Stanley: iPhone Sales To Decline For First Time In 2016.

BGR  (12/14, Heisler) discusses a research note from Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty predicting that iPhone sales will decline for the first time in 2016. Huberty predicts that iPhone sales will decline by six percent next year, with Apple selling 218 million iPhones in fiscal year 2016, down from 231.11 million units in 2015, a decline of 5.7 percent. In her note, Huberty attributes the 2016 decline in iPhone sales to “higher prices in international markets (ex-China)” and the fact that “maturing smartphone penetration in developed markets weighs on upgrades and new user growth.”

Phone Arena  (12/14) adds that Huberty acknowledges that her estimates represent a “worst case scenario” and are influenced partly by a 10 percent drop in component orders by Apple driven by high iPhone inventory.

CNBC  (12/15) also reports.

Interview: Bloomberg Asks If Analysts iPhone Forecast Cuts Should Be Worrisome. In an interview with Emily Chang on Bloomberg Business  (12/14), Forrester vice president and analyst Julie Ask and Techonomy CEO David Kirkpatrick discusses consider why analysts have lowered iPhone forecasts. Ask asserts that she isn’t “worried” by the forecasts, citing the three billion people who have mobile phones that are not smart phones. According to Kirkpatrick, Apple is “an incredible company” with an “absolutely unique position in the most important technology sector in the world,” adding that the company’s opportunity remains “gigantic.”

Apple Shares Fall On Concerns About Maturing Smartphone Market. USA Today  (12/14, Krantz) reports that Apple stocks were down 2.3 percent on Monday, falling “below $110 for the first time since October” amid concerns over “slipping smartphones sales as the market matures.”

Engineering and Public Policy

GAO: EPA’s Social Media Push For Clean Water Rule Broke Law.

The New York Times  (12/15, A1, Lipton, Shear, Subscription Publication) reports that the GAO has concluded that the EPA “engaged in ‘covert propaganda’ in violation of federal law when it blitzed social media” to encourage public support for the President’s “controversial rule intended to better protect the nation’s streams and surface waters.” The ruling “emerged as Republican leaders moved to block the so-called Waters of the United States clean-water rule through an amendment to the enormous spending bill expected to pass in Congress this week.”

Politico  (12/15, Snider) noted that the GAO report “comes as lawmakers are considering blocking the rule through a policy rider in the end-of-year spending deal.” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe said in a statement, “EPA’s illegal attempts to manufacture public support for its Waters of the United States rule and sway Congressional opinion regarding legislation to address that rule have undermined the integrity of the rulemaking process and demonstrated how baseless this unprecedented expansion of EPA regulatory authority really is.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Florida High School Student Wins Grand Prize, College Scholarship At STEM Competition For Discovery That Cleans Up Water.

US News & World Report  (12/14, Pannoni) reports Maria Elena Grimmett, a senior at Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches in Florida, won the grand prize at the 2015 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology for her work discovering a new way to remove sulfamethazine, an antibiotic commonly given to livestock, from ground water. Grimmett was personally motivated to complete the project, because when she was a child her family living in a house that had water contaminated with the substance. Grimmett was awarded a $100,000 college scholarship as the grand prize winner.

Arkansas School District Offers New STEM Courses.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette  (12/14) reports Fayetteville School District in Arkansas is offering new STEM courses to its students. The curriculum for the new courses was developed by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit provider of STEM curriculum for all grade levels. The new courses include a robotics course for all fifth-graders, a “medical detectives” course for all sixth-graders that teaches students how to diagnose diseases and study crime scenes, and several optional courses for seventh-graders.

Opinion: DC Schools Need To Teach Coding Sooner.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post  (12/14, Wexler) DC Charter Schools board member Natalie Wexler encourages DC schools to begin teaching coding sooner to help get low-income students interested in computer science careers. Wexler is critical of recent efforts to encourage students to study computer science in college, because she says if students were exposed to coding early on and were given a chance to develop their skills throughout their elementary and secondary education, then they could potentially start a career in computer science without going to college. Wexler clarifies that she is not against students going to college to study computer science, but if DC schools pushed students to begin their learning earlier on, then a greater number of students could pursue careers in the field regardless of whether they end up attending college.

Also in the News

NASA Opens Up Applications For Next Astronaut Class.

In a press release on its website, NASA  (12/15) announced on Monday that its “astronaut candidate application website now is live and accepting.” According to the release, the space agency intends to announce the finalist candidates in mid-2017, with those selected able to fly on “any of four different U.S. spacecraft during their careers,” including the International Space Station; the Orion deep-space exploration vehicle; as well as the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon commercial spacecraft currently under development. In a statement, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “NASA is on an ambitious journey to Mars and we’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to help get us there,” adding, “This group will launch to space from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft and blaze the trail on our journey to the Red Planet.”

International Business Times  (12/15) notes that to be eligible to apply, candidates “must have a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics,” as well as three years of relevant experience, “along with promotions showing increased responsibility.”

The Orlando (FL) Sentinel  (12/14) specifies that the selected astronauts will travel to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center using the Boeing and SpaceX vehicles, which will “allow NASA to add a seventh crew member to each station mission.” In addition, the astronauts will also liftoff from KSC aboard “the Orion spacecraft, launched on the agency’s Space Launch System rocket, to missions in lunar orbit.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

Big Names Put $1 Billion Behind Open-Source AI.
Former EDMC Students Criticize Settlement.
Scientists Introducing Sense Of Touch To Prosthetics.
Google Holds Meetings With UK Government About Driverless Cars.
NYTimes Analysis: Volkswagen Corporate Culture Enabled Unlawful Behavior.
Pumped Water Storage Is Growing Renewable Energy Source.
Students Across Country Continue “Hour Of Code” Initiatives As Part Of Computer Science Education Week.

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