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

Leading the News

Preemption Of Local Drone Rules By FAA Angers City, State Officials.

The New York Times  (12/28, Kang, Subscription Publication) reports that the Federal Aviation Administration’s Dec. 17 fact-sheet introducing new recreational drone rules included a list of federal laws that would pre-empt local rules. This intervention is now “frustrating” state and city officials who are defending their own regulations against what they think are weak FAA rules. However, the FAA says that because it was given authority by Congress, many local or state drone rules “would not stand up to a legal challenge.” The FAA also said that variability in rules around the nation would create more danger. The Times says that any rollback of local regulations by the FAA would benefit tech companies that lobbied heavily to aviation committees in Washington last year, pushing for a “light touch by regulators to help give their drone efforts the widest possible latitude.”

Estimated One Million Drones Bought For Christmas Season. ABC World News (12/27, story 8, 1:45, Vega) reported that the FAA estimates that roughly one million drones were bought for Christmas this year. Because of the potential risks, the FAA requires all drones over half a pound to be registered, and anyone who fails to do so “could face up to a $27,500 civil fine.” Risks associated with the unmanned vehicles have also led to drone schools “popping up nationwide.”

National Parks Are No-Fly Zones For Drones. NBC Nightly News (12/26, story 10, 2:45, Welker) said that while drone sales “soared this holiday season,” many new “owners may be surprised to learn of another big restriction – our national parks.” Tom Costello reported “fines for flying a drone in a national park can range from less than $100 to more than $1,000 depending on whether any wildlife is disturbed and whether the park sustains any damage.”

Higher Education

ED Report: Many Student Loan Collection Agencies Garnishing Wages.

The Washington Post  (12/23, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that according to data in a quarterly ED report about student loan default recovery, “private collection agencies the government uses to recoup past-due student loans are recovering the most money through a program that helps people exit default and repair their credit, but some companies still rely heavily on garnishing wages.” The report, made mandatory through President Obama’s Student Aid Bill of Rights, “offers a look at how government contractors are engaging struggling borrowers.”

College Board Looking To Reclaim Top Spot From ACT.

The Washington Post  (12/24, Anderson) reports that in recent years, the ACT has toppled the once-dominant SAT college admission exam, and “the SAT’s owner, the College Board, has mounted a comeback in its bid to regain supremacy as a new version of the venerable test is about to be rolled out nationwide in March.” The Posts describes efforts in several states to give the SAT to 11th graders free of charge.

University of California System Divests $30 Million In Assets Linked To Prisons.

The Los Angeles Times  (12/27, Song) reports the University of California system has responded to student protests by selling “about $30 million of its holdings in companies that operate private prisons.” According to the Times, students and alumni “say it is significant, at least symbolically” because they have also been “pushing administrators to sell interests in fossil fuels and companies that aid Israeli occupation of the West Bank.”

Virginia Governor’s Plan Would Reverse Years Of Higher Education Funding Cuts.

The Washington Post  (12/24, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that Virginia’s state aid for it’s “lauded public higher education” system has fallen to be “among the lowest in the nation,” leading to “tuition hikes and an increase in the average amount of student debt. Now Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is trying to reverse that trend with an injection of $240 million.” McAuliffe’s plan would “be the most significant investment Virginia has made in its college and universities in well over a decade.”

South Dakota School Participating In Innovation Program Based At Stanford.

The Rapid City (SD) Journal  (12/26, Anderson) reports the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is one of 14 colleges that will participate in Stanford University’s Pathways to Innovation program that aims to teach participants how to innovate. The school hopes the program will make their engineering graduates more attractive job candidates with innovative thinking and experience. Representatives from the school’s engineering department will attend a training session in Phoenix to learn more about the program, which is not rigidly defined. The National Science Foundation funds Epicenter, which funds the Pathways to Innovation program.

State Bills Would Allow Concealed Weapons On College Campuses.

In the wake of this year’s mass shootings, “many states now are pushing legislation to allow concealed weapons to be carried on campuses so that students and faculty can defend themselves,” the Washington Times  (12/28, Sherfinski) reports. The Time calls Texas, “the most high-profile example,” noting that “lawmakers passed a bill that will allow people to carry guns on public university campuses starting Aug. 1, 2016, with some exceptions and carve-outs.” However, bills to “allow for concealed weapons on public school campuses” were introduced in more than a dozen states. The only state to adopt the policy was Texas, “and the issue is still pending in Ohio.” Meanwhile, California “pushed the other way” as Gov. Jerry Brown “signed a bill to ban concealed weapons at elementary, secondary and college campuses.”

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Research and Development

UVA engineer designing more resilient wind turbines.

The Culpeper (VA) Star Exponent  (12/24, Quizon) reported last week on efforts by UVA Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering chairperson Eric Loth to design a new wind turbine that can be positioned offshore and withstand hurricane-force winds. Loth and his associates are working with Dominion to help with the utility’s offshore wind power lease off of Hampton Roads. They plan to reduce the amount of material in the turbine blades and increase their output. “If we can pull this off, it would be transformative,” Loth said.

Arkansas State University Professor Awarded $1.2M To Study Power-Plant Ash.

The AP  (12/27, Bahn) reports that South Korean Doosan Heavy Industries has awarded Arkansas State University mechanical engineering professor Kwangkook “David” Jeong a $1.2 million grant to lead a research team that will investigate “how power-plant efficiency is affected by the varying degrees of ash produced when burning high-, medium- and poor-quality coal individually or in combination.” Jeong said, “They have a really serious problem. … They are, in some cases, using low-quality coal or a mix of quality in new plants.” The project will “focus on developing a software system that will help the company reduce the pollution generated by Doosan’s fossil-fuel plants.”

3D Printed Drugs Allow Customizability Of Medication.

In an article for Venture Beat  (12/27, Badgujar), Hitesh Badgujar, a technology and patent research analyst at Aranca, reports that 3D printing has allowed doctors to create “high-dose rapid-dissipation pills,” customizing “the speed and strength of delivered dosage” to patients’ needs. Badgujar adds that the technology could transform the manufacturing and distribution processes, allowing “hospitals and pharmacies [to] manufacture prescriptions on their own premises” and “eliminating the need to stock vast quantities of generics.”

Industry News

Electric Vehicles A Growing Trend In Florida.

The CBS Evening News (12/26, story 10, 2:25, Axelrod) reported on the growing use of electric golf carts in the villages area of Florida, which caters to retirees and individuals 55 and older. Golf carts have become a major form of transportation in the villages, with more than 60,000 of them sharing the roads with cars. CBS indicated that cities like Los Angeles and New York are also “on the fast track’” to allowing them, “where politicians believe the future is slower.”

Smartphones Moving To AMOLED, IHS Speculates Apple May Be Next.

Investor’s Business Daily  (12/23, Seitz) reported that “AMOLED displays made up 18% of all smartphone display unit shipments” in Q3 2015, increasing from 10% in the same period in 2014, according to IHS. Samsung has been using AMOLED panels for six years but “2015 will be a banner year for AMOLED as the technology will soon be included in high-end smartphones from many other companies,” IHS analyst David Hsieh said in a statement, adding that “The simpler structure and better picture performance of AMOLED screens may even encourage Apple to consider adopting the technology in the future.” According to IBD, “Gionee, Huawei Technologies, Lenovo, Meizu Technology, Oppo Electronics and Vivo Electronics” and “Alphabet’s Google Nexus 6P, Microsoft’s Lumia 950XL and the recently announced BlackBerry Priv” have adopted AMOLED displays.

Sumitomo Chemical Reacts To Market, To Boost Manufacturing Capacity For OLED. The Nikkei Asian Review  (12/26) reported that Sumitomo Chemical is investing about “20 billion yen ($165 million)” to increase its “capacity to produce touchscreens for smartphones with OLED displays in South Korea” by about 40% by October, 2016. According to Nikkei, Sumitomo is “responding to what looks to be a rapid expansion of the market” for OLED touchscreens, mentioning that Apple “plans to use these next-generation screens” and Samsung is a leader in the use of OLEDs in smartphones. The article added that LG Display is reportedly “building a factory that reportedly will supply” Apple for an iPhone expected in 2018. Nikkei reported that the market for OLED panels reached $13 billion in 2015 and is expected to “almost double to $25.1 billion by 2020, U.S. market research company IHS Technology says.”

Engineering and Public Policy

EPA Seeking To Designate Abandoned Nevada Mine A Superfund Site.

The AP  (12/27, Press) reports the EPA is moving to designate a WWII-era abandoned copper mine in Nevada “that has leaked toxic chemicals for decades” as a Superfund site. In a letter to Gov. Brian Sandoval, the EPA “announc[ed] its intention to place the mine on the list of the nation’s most polluted sites to ‘mitigate exposures that are a substantial threat to the public health or welfare or the environment.’” The AP indicates Nevada has resisted the Superfund designation for the mine, “fearing an effect on property values and any precedent that could be set by federal intervention in the mining-friendly state, the world’s sixth-biggest producer of gold.”

US Chamber To Challenge EPA Ozone Rule In Court.

The Washington Times  (12/24, Sherfinski) reports that the US Chamber Of Commerce is filing a lawsuit this week challenging the EPA’s “recently announced rule governing ground-level ozone standards — marking another item on President Obama’s agenda that has ended up in the courts.” The Chamber’s William Kovacs said, “The EPA set an unattainable mandate with this new ozone standard that will slow economic growth opportunities.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

DOE Contractor Volunteers Encourage Local Students To Pursue STEM.

The Paducah (KY) Sun  (12/28) reports that the cleanup contractor at DOE’s Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Fluor Federal Services, is encouraging local students to study science, technology, engineering and math, giving public middle school students from three counties “practical science lessons on groundwater, sampling, and aquifers, and discussing possible careers.”

New Program Gives STEM Majors Stipends To Become Teachers Rather Than Researchers.

The Lower Hudson Valley (NY) Journal News  (12/23, Tumulty) reports Vassar College Professor Charles Steinhorn is leading a program to groom more STEM majors into future teachers. The program is funded by a National Science Foundation grant and awards stipends to students who agree to spend their summers learning about pedagogy rather than doing research. The program is currently available to students at 61 liberal arts colleges. The program is part of a broader effort announced by President Barack Obama a few years ago to increase the number of qualified STEM teachers across the US.

Google Funds Program At Minnesota University So Teachers Can Learn More About Engineering.

Twin Cities (MN) Business Magazine  (12/23, Turtinen) reports Google donated $100,000 to the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota so that educators in the Twin Cities area can take free engineering courses at the university during the spring and summer. The courses are aimed to help teachers become familiar with engineering concepts that they can then share with their students. The article mentions that ED is working to increase the number of qualified STEM educators.

Students Will Compete In Rocketry Competition.

The Jefferson City (TN) Standard Banner  (12/28) reports the Team America Rocketry Challenge will award $100,000 to students who can “design, build and fly a rocket carrying two raw eggs to an altitude of 850 feet and return them to the ground without cracking within 44 to 46 seconds.” The article mentions that according to ED, “this country has developed as a global leader, in large part, through the genius and hard work of its scientists, engineers and innovators”, and President Barack Obama has said that STEM research is critical to engaging with and changing the world.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Northrop Grumman Receives $53 Million Contract From US Navy For Laser Weapon System.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Names New Engineering Dean.
Researchers Working On Inexpensive, Non-Toxic LEDs.
Ford Patent Filings Up By 36 Percent In 2015 As CEO Pushes For Innovation.
Massachusetts Fines National Grid Over Safety Violations.
Michigan District Changes Science Curriculum To Meet New State Requirements.

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