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

Leading the News

Appeals Court Allows EPA Mercury Pollution Rules To Stay In Effect.

Reuters  (12/16, Hurley) reports the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury rules can remain in effect while the EPA revises the regulations.

The AP  (12/16, Hananel) explains the decision “is a win for the Obama administration, which is working to quickly fix legal problems with the rule” that were raised by the Supreme Court in June. In a 1,427-word analysis, E&E Publishing  (12/16, Bravender, Reilly) adds that while the ruling is “a major victory” for the Administration, “the legal battle over the rule isn’t done yet.” The article says “legal experts predict it won’t be long until the rule is again under attack in court.”

Shell Moves To Preserve Arctic Drilling Rights.

In a bid to “preserve US drilling rights in the Arctic,” Royal Dutch Shell has filed a notice of appeal challenging the Interior Department’s rejection of its request “to stop the clock on Arctic oil and gas leases that otherwise expire between 2017 and 2020,” Bloomberg Politics  (12/15, Dlouhy) reports. Shell’s move “comes as other companies have abandoned Arctic oil exploration that is bitterly opposed” by environmental groups and as the Administration “has backed away from selling new leases, canceling two planned auctions, citing low industry interest.” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said, “We believe suspensions are warranted for reasons outlined in our original request. … The appeal does not affect our recent decision to stop exploration offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future.”

Higher Education

Senators Reach Deal To Revive Perkins Loan Program With New Restrictions.

The Washington Post  (12/16, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the Senate reached a deal on Tuesday extending the Federal Perkins Loan Program for two years. However, the deal “comes with restrictions that could ultimately limit its effectiveness.” To gain the support of Senate Health Education Chair Lamar Alexander, lawmakers agreed to require students to max out on Stafford loans before being awarded a Perkins loan and to disqualify new graduate students from eligibility. An Alexander aide said the deal “closes down the program in a responsible way, while Congress can work together to find a long-term solution for students that makes it simpler and easier to apply for aid and afford college.”

Texas A&M Holds “Hour Of Code” Event For College Students.

THE Journal  (12/15, Meyer) reports the colleges of education and engineering at Texas A&M University partnered together to host an “Hour of Code” event last week during Computer Science Education Week. More than 50 college students participated in the program by completing tutorials “designed to demystify computer programming.” created the tutorials with themes from popular movies and video games.

National STEM Collaborative Aims To Increase Diversity In STEM Fields, University Of Maryland Baltimore County Participating.

US News & World Report  (12/15, Golod) reports the National STEM Collaborative is working to increase diversity in STEM fields at US colleges and universities. The project was announced at a White House Champions of Change event in September and is sponsored by 27 institutions of higher education and nonprofits. The article highlights the work of the initiative at University of Maryland Baltimore County where the STEM BUILD program has recruited 20 students to increase diversity in STEM majors.

Virginia Governor Lays Out Proposal For $100 Million Higher Education Spending Plan.

The Washington Post  (12/16, Vozzella) reports Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is proposing a $100 billion state spending plan on higher education, $48 million of which would be used to increase financial aid for college students. McAuliffe is also proposing spending $100,000 to study whether the state should remove the investigation of sexual assault from college officials. On its website, WVIR-TV  Charlottesville, VA (12/16, Austin) reports McAuliffe presented his plan at Reynolds Community College near Richmond saying, “A skilled workforce provides a competitive advantage for any company looking to grow, and I want Virginia to lead the nation.”

Twin Sisters Graduate With Engineering Degrees From University Of New Mexico.

The AP  (12/16) reports twin sisters Athena and Maya Combs-Hurtado from Albuquerque have both graduated with degrees in mechanical engineering this fall from the University of New Mexico. The sisters are planning to travel to Europe together and then explore their future options, including grad school.

November Prism Now Online
Cover story: Industrial RX for Healthcare. Systems engineers are out to show they can make medical practice cheaper while improving quality.

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This weekly newsletter keeps our members informed of important developments in Congress and federal agencies affecting engineering education and research.

Research and Development

US Army Awards Contract To Utah University To Provide And Advance Spider Silk Technology.

The Ogden (UT) Standard-Examiner  (12/15) reports the Department of Defense’s Army Research Office has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research contract to Utah State and Technology Holding LLC to “provide the Army with multiple lengths of fiber made from synthetic spider silk while testing and analyzing the manufacturing process.” Utah State University Professor Randy Lewis said spider silk is one of the strongest and most elastic materials known so it has “almost infinite applications” for defense.

Private-Public Partnership Awards Grant To University Of Michigan Researchers To Develop Better Safety Gear For Athletes.

Crain’s Detroit Business  (12/15, Premack) reports the Head Health Initiative, a public-private partnership to improve helmets and other safety gear for athletes, awarded a $250,000 grant to University of Michigan researchers to “continue development of an advanced material designed to protect athletes and soldiers.” The initiative is sponsored by the National Football League, Under Armour Inc., General Electric Co., and a branch of the US Department of Commerce. The initiative is currently sponsoring research on materials that could better absorb or dissipate physical impact.

University Of Nevada Professor Developing Robotic Glove To Help Visually Impaired.

The Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal  (12/15) reports the National Institutes of Health awarded an $820,000 grant to University of Nevada Reno Professor Yantao Shen to develop a “hand-worn robotic device” that will help blind and visually impaired people navigate the world by audibly describing objects in their vicinity and giving other information to the wearers about their surroundings. The device will use a variety of sensors to gather information that can be passed on to the wearer.

Historic Atlanta Building Rebranded As New Technology Center With Microsoft, Incubator, And Startups Moving In.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (12/15, Trubey) reports Atlanta’s historic Flatiron Building has been renamed FlatironCity and will house established technology companies, startups, and rental space “by the desk, room or floor.” The building will house a Microsoft Innovation Center, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, and other technology organizations and firms. The Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative will sponsor an incubator space in the building, which will start off housing 15 female entrepreneurs. The building’s rebranding has been described as a signal that Atlanta “is the center of technology in the Southeast.”

Researchers May Have Found Alternative Material To Make Smartphone Screens Cheaper, Thinner.

Fortune  (12/15, Brueck) reports that researchers at Penn State University, lead by assistant professor of materials science and engineering Roman Engel-Herbert, have developed an alternative material to power the screens electronic devices that they claim “could make displays more efficient and affordable within the next three years.” Fortune adds that “the next step in the research will be to increase the size of the thin prototypes…by perfecting the technique for putting the film on surfaces like touchscreen glass.”

US Army Threat Management Office Demonstrates Electronic Jammers.

C4ISR & Networks  (12/15, Peck) reports that the US Army Threat Management Office held a demonstration of its electronic inject jammers earlier in the month. TMSO electronic engineer Curtis Leslie said that FAA and FCC approvals often require jamming to be limited to late night and early morning hours. New technologies have shrunk the size and power requirements for jammers, “making them ideal for use on military training centers where getting clearance for very congested environments in the wireless spectrum may be problematic.”

Global Developments

Arab Universities Growing Aerospace Engineering Programs, Forming Connections With US Universities And Companies.

US News & World Report  (12/15, Durrani) reports several universities in the Arab world have launched aerospace engineering programs to meet a growing demand. The article highlights Adnan Saeed, a Yemeni who has earned a Bachelor of Science and is now pursuing a Master of Science in the field, both from Khalifa University in the United Arab Emirates. Some of the programs have ties with their counterparts in the US. Saeed competed in an aerospace engineering competition sponsored by American aerospace companies. A Moroccan university with such a program has established ties with the Georgia Institute of Technology and Mississippi State University.

Industry News

FedEx Engineers Design Better Boxes For Shipping.

KOLR-TV  Springfield, MO (12/15) reports CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang toured FedEx’s packaging lab in Memphis to show “how the study of boxes helps protect your presents.” FedEx engineers experiment on boxes to ensure they remain intact “for almost every situation.” These tests include a compression test “to see how much weight a package can hold before its crushed” and a vibration test “to figure out how trips by air, land, and sea impact a package.” The engineers are responsible for designing better boxes for online retailers. FedEx mechanical engineer David Nelson said, “A lot of times you’re analyzing the interaction of the package with that product.”

Engineering and Public Policy

White House Launches Water Conservation Effort.

Saying it is “critical for the country to better manage water supplies that are under increasing pressures from climate change,” the White House on Tuesday launched a strategy known as a “moonshot for water,” an “ambitious effort to enlist the private sector in its efforts to reclaim and conserve water,” USA Today  (12/16, Korte, James) reports. Interior Secretary Jewell “announced the creation of a new Natural Resource Investment Center to help coordinate research and investment on water conservation and water rights management,” saying, “Water is a huge challenge in this country, and I think we all know that. … It’s important we have all hands on deck.” Jewell “also announced a Water Summit to be held at the White House on March 22, which is World Water Day.”

San Diego Commits To 100 Percent Renewable Energy By 2035.

The New York Times  (12/16, Richtel, Subscription Publication) reports that the San Diego City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to transition to using 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. This could include transferring power management from the local utility to the city. It would also require a shift of “half of the city’s fleet to electric vehicles by 2020 and recycle 98 percent of the methane produced by sewage and water treatment plants.” While many details have yet to be determined, Mayor Kevin Faulconer “said the key first step” is to set a goal “and hold to it.”

WPost: Drone Requirements Needed For Safe Airspace.

The Washington Post  (12/16) editorializes that with drones presenting “real safety hazards for the country’s airspace,” the FAA’s announcement on Monday requiring recreational drone users to register their devices “should only be the starting point.” The Post also recommends that Congress “require, or allow the FAA to require,” that drones come with “transponders that make them visible to conventional radar.” However, the Post adds that the FAA should allow businesses “more leeway to make good” on the “tantalizing possibilities” that commercial drones offer.

Elementary/Secondary Education

New Technology High School Set To Open Next Year In Phoenix.

The Arizona Republic  (12/15, Worthington) reports Phoenix Coding Academy in Phoenix, Arizona aims to prepare students for entry-level jobs in technology after high school. The school is scheduled to open next year and is the first public high school in the state focused on technology.

Alabama Superintendent Praises City’s STEM Center To Improve STEM Education.

The Columbus (GA) Ledger-Enquirer  (12/15, Rice) reports Alabama Superintendent Tommy Bice toured the construction site for the Dyer Family STEM Center at Phenix City Intermediate School and praised the site’s development. Bice told his entourage, “I’m telling you, there’s not another one of these – anywhere, literally.” Phenix City Superintendent Randy Wilkes responded, “Well, we thought it was a pretty good idea.” The new facility aims to improve STEM education for local students and get more of them interested in future STEM careers.

White House Planning Computer Science Education Initiative.

Politico  (12/16, Rifkin) reports the White House is planning to announce “a broad set of new commitments” to computer science education as early as January according to a blog post published during last week’s Computer Science Education Week.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

FAA Announces Drone Registration Rules.
Research Finds Interactive Exercises More Effective Way To Learn Than Reading Or Lectures.
Musk Invests $1B To Curb AI Dangers.
India State Minister Defends Safety Of Nuclear Power Plants.
Morgan Stanley: iPhone Sales To Decline For First Time In 2016.
GAO: EPA’s Social Media Push For Clean Water Rule Broke Law.
Florida High School Student Wins Grand Prize, College Scholarship At STEM Competition For Discovery That Cleans Up Water.

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