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

Leading the News

FAA Says 181,000 UAVs Registered Since December 21.

The Washington Post  (1/6, Fung) reports that according FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, more than 181,000 UAVs have been registered with the federal government since the agency enacted the registry on December 21. Speaking at a panel during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Huerta said, “We’re encouraged by the registration numbers we’re seeing so far,” adding that “this is just the beginning.” The article notes that UAV owners have until January 20 to register their devices for free without a charge, adding that violators could face civil fines of up to $27,500, as well as potential criminal charges.

In its Bits Blog, the New York Times  (1/7, Kang) reports that at a CES news conference, Huerta “indicated that many users had not registered their drones,” saying, “Now that we have set up the registration system, our challenge is to make sure everyone is aware of the requirement and registers.” Commenting on the prospects of commercial UAV operations by companies such as Amazon and Google, Huerta “said commercial rules would be completed by late spring and would most likely allow people like farmers and real estate agents to fly drones with some restrictions.” Huerta explained that despite the public focus on recreational UAVs, the FAA has “also been working on a rule that will allow routine, safe commercial and other nonhobby operations of small unmanned aircraft.”

The Hill  (1/7, Laing) adds that Huerta said in a speech on Wednesday that the UAV registration requirement is “a key opportunity to educate the new generation of airspace users,” and to allow them to “become part of the safety culture that has been deeply embedded in traditional aviation for more than a century.” He added that therefore, “when necessary, registration will help us track down people who operate unsafely.”

USA Today  (1/7, Jansen) reports that on Wednesday, the FAA also released Apple smart-phone app B4UFLY, part of an FAA educational program called Know Before You Fly, that informs UAV owners about local no-fly zones. Meanwhile, the Android version of app is currently undergoing testing “but can be downloaded from Google.” As such, despite the safety concerns surrounding the mass proliferation of recreational UAVs, Huerta remarked, “I am confident that, working together with our partners in safety, we will succeed.” According to the Consumer Technology Association, 400,000 UAVs were sold over the holidays, with an additional one million expected to be sold in 2016.

Mashable  (1/6) and CNN  (1/6) also report on the story.

Higher Education

Massachusetts School Wins NAE Engineering Education Award.

The Boston Globe  (1/7, Rosen) reports that the National Academy of Engineering has given Massachusetts’ Worcester Polytechnic Institute its 2016 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education, “a prestigious award for engineering and technology education.” The Globe reports that the prize emphasizes “the school’s practically focused and interdisciplinary approach to training.”

New Law Temporarily Extends Perkins Loan Program.

US News & World Report  (1/6) reports that late last year President Obama signed a law “to extend the recently expired Perkins loan program,” which will keep the program “breathing – at least for now.” The article calls the law “a mixed bag,” saying it “extends the program for many students for two more years,” but mandates that “no new Perkins loans will be issued” after that time.

Study: Male STEM Faculty Less Likely To Believe Gender Bias Research Than Peers.

US News & World Report  (1/6, Cook) reports a group of researchers led by Ian Hadley at Montana State University found that male STEM faculty are less likely to believe in the conclusions of gender bias research than their female peers or non-STEM male faculty. Hadley posits, “How can we successfully broadened the participation of women and minorities in STEM when the very research underscoring the need for this initiative is less values by the majority group who dominate and maintain the culture of STEM?” The study was carried out by asking adults of both sexes in different positions to evaluate the credibility of different abstracts related to gender bias.

California University Launching New Program Guaranteeing Bachelor’s Degrees For Community College Graduates Who Pursue STEM Degrees.

The Fresno (CA) Bee  (1/7, Webster) reports Fresno Pacific University is launching a new 2-year “graduation guarantee program” this Fall for community college students who plan to get a bachelor’s degree in STEM fields. “Supporting Transfers in Reaching Education Aspirations in Math and Science” (STREAMs) will guarantee that students who graduate from a local community college with an associate’s degree will earn a bachelor’s degree in two years if they make “satisfactory academic progress.” The program aims to increase diversity in STEM fields by targeting students who are the first in their family to go to college or who are part of groups that are underrepresented in STEM fields. The National Science Foundation is funding the program and associated scholarships.

More Colleges Adopting Competency-Based Education Programs.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (1/7) reports almost 600 colleges and universities are offering or developing competency-based education programs, which measure students’ mastery of material rather than how much time they spend in class. The programs are more popular at public institutions than private institutions.

International Association of Continuing Engineering Education
Call for papers for May 17-20 conference in Porto, Portugal. January 31 deadline.

Surmounting the Barriers
The joint NAE-ASEE report makes recommendations for breaking down long-identified barriers to diversity in higher education.

Job Posting

The NSF is seeking qualified candidates for a permanent full-time Program Director position in the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE), Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), Arlington, VA. The ideal candidate will have expertise in engineering education research, engineering and undergraduate education. For more information please review:

For nominations and questions please contact Gül Kremer at

Research and Development

Drone Rodeo Showcases Latest Drone Tech.

USA Today  (1/6, Graham) reports on the Drone Rodeo exhibit as part of CES 2016, which showcased the latest drone technology in the desert away from the Las Vegas convention center. More than 100 drones, including both commercial and consumer, were on display at the event, and Yuneec showed off its Typhoon H drone in a separate location. The Typhoon H uses Intel’s Real Sense technology to detect and avoid obstacles.

NRL Researchers Develop Algorithm For Sustained Unmanned Sailplane Flight.

Phys (UK)  (1/7) reports that researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory and the Air Vehicle Intelligence and Autonomy Lab at Pennsylvania State University have developed “cooperative autonomous soaring algorithms used to keep unmanned sailplanes aloft for sustained flight durations—demonstrating the concept of shared soaring data between two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in flight.” The article describes the team’s research, explaining that UAVs “demonstrated a robust autonomous soaring capability during the two weeks of testing.”

L’Oreal Announces UV Detecting Wearable.

The New York Times  (1/7, Friedman, Subscription Publication) reports L’Oreal unveiled a new wearable at CES, that looks like “a temporary tattoo” in the shape of a heart. The My UV Patch is a “stretchable sensor” that can be “worn on the skin pretty much anywhere,” and is designed to work with a phone app showing the user how much UV exposure a person is receiving. The Times notes that the Patch lasts five days, and is the first of an expected 10 wearables from L’Oreal.

Gizmodo  (1/7, Condliffe) reports that MC10 worked with L’Oreal on the UV Patch, but also announced its own wearable devices as well, the BioStamp Research Connect. The wearable is able to track health data and movement and “is intended for use by health researchers.” It has a 36 hour charge and “beams data to researchers via Bluetooth.”

Arizona State Developing Carbon Absorbing Technology.

The Washington Post  (1/7, Mcfarland) reports that the Arizona State’s Center for Negative Carbon Emissions is developing technology to remove carbon from open air that it says is 1,000 times as effective as trees, per unit of biomass. They expect to remove a ton of carbon dioxide for about $100 a ton once the technology is fully built out, with a long-term goal of less than $30 per ton. The center’s chief strategist Christophe Jospe says, “Find me $100 million and I’ll tell you how to put it to a very aggressive research and development agenda, and five years later you can see some exciting technologies that start to show on the market.”


Report: “Middle-Skill” STEM Jobs Could Boost Baltimore Middle Class.

The Baltimore Sun  (1/6, Mirabella) reports that according to a new report from the Greater Baltimore Committee and Associated Black Charities, “low-skilled workers in Baltimore are missing growing opportunities for careers in science, technology, engineering and math because of limited access to” training at or below the associate’s degree level. The report “recommends ways to boost the pipeline of workers in such ‘middle skill’ occupations.” The report says that “thousands of unemployed and underemployed Baltimore City residents” could gain from having access to low levels of training for STEM jobs.

Industry News

Oculus Begins Taking Rift Pre-Orders For $599.

USA Today  (1/6, Molina) reports that Oculus VR confirmed via “a pre-order page on Oculus’ website” that its VR headset, Oculus Rift, will begin shipping on March 28 for $599 with pre-orders beginning Wednesday. According to a tweet from founder Palmer Luckey, the company is “experiencing [an] insanely high load” of pre-orders, while CEO Brendan Iribe confirmed that the company received “a huge amount of excitement and interest in the product.” The company will start offering “bundles packaging the Rift and a ‘Oculus ready’ PC starting at $1,499” in February and retail sales are scheduled to begin in April, USA Today adds. CNBC  (1/6, Balakrishnan) reports that the “deluge of online traffic Wednesday morning” on the company’s website temporarily prevented some users for placing pre-orders, though Iribe said the company was “getting through those issues.” CBS News  (1/6), MIT Technology Review  (1/6, Metz), and TIME  (1/6, Eadicicco) offer similar coverage.

The Telegraph (UK)  (1/6, Williams) reports that “the headsets sold out just 14 minutes after being made available” and “initial orders will not come with the system’s Touch controllers” but rather will contain Xbox One controllers. The company expects the new models of its redesigned controllers to “become available in the second half of the year.” Mashable’s  (1/6, Wong) Raymond Wong reviews the Touch controllers and advises buyers to wait for the next Oculus model, which includes the Touch controllers, while CNET News  (1/6, Hollister) adds that the company “claims there will be over 100 VR titles available for the Rift by the end of 2016, including Minecraft, Rock Band, Edge of Nowhere (by the developers of Uncharted), and The Climb (by the developers of Crysis).”

While coverage is generally positive, many reports explain that the price of the device outstrips analyst estimates by a significant amount. For example, Tech Insider’s  (1/6) Antonio Villas-Boas reports that co-founder and VP of product at Oculus, Nate Mitchell, agreed that the price is “a higher price point than we [and the community] would love to be at” but “The reality is that this first generation of VR is going to be more expensive” as a result of “custom components” and systems that are more expensive to manufacture. However, as the product becomes more mainstream, prices will go down. According to Villas-Boas, building a computer that could run Oculus Rift would cost “around $1,000,” but the company has partnered “with Asus, Dell, and Alienware” to build and sell “Oculus-ready computers” for $1,499. Bloomberg News  (1/6, Frier) reports that “most analysts with estimates for the Rift expect sales in the low hundred-thousands” and some “said sales may top 1 million,” but “the majority declined to estimate” because they think “the device isn’t a big deal for Facebook.” Venture Beat  (1/6, Grubb) alternatively reports that Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told GamesBeat that Rift makes “[VR] very viable” because “The price is much lower than I thought it would be.” The article clarifies that the device is “[sold] out through the first two months” and pre-orders made now “will ship in May instead of March.” GameSpot  (1/6) staff offer their own commentary on the price, and the Los Angeles (CA) Times  (1/6, Dave) reports that the “higher price tag could cause some price-conscious gamers to skip the Rift for now.” Variety  (1/6, Roettgers) also reports on the device’s price.

NBC News  (1/6, Coldewey) explores the reasons behind Facebook’s decision to acquire Oculus and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s insistence that the technology is “really powerful,” while the San Jose (CA) Mercury News  (1/6, Wong) reports that estimates from Juniper Research indicate that VR headset shipments will increase “from more than 3 million this year to 30 million globally by 2020,” though the industry will have to work to convince the average consumer to make the purchase. The New York Times  (1/6, Chen) “Bits Blog” offers a summary of other devices set for launch this year, including HTC’s Vive and Samsung’s Gear VR.

Northrop Grumman Awarded $93.1 Million Contract To Equip Navy Ships With Drones.

CNN  (1/7, Browne) reports that the DoD plans to invest millions in new technology that “will enable drones on hundreds of Navy ships to provide air support to operations around the globe.” The $93.1 million contract for the program was awarded by DARPA to Northrop Grumman. According to Ralph Starace, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems’ director of advanced design, the system will provide “highly flexible, robust and affordable unmanned intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike capability.”

IBM’s “Software Guru” To Retire After 43 Years.

Fortune  (1/6, Darrow) reports that IBM’s long-time “software guru,” Steve Mills will be retiring after being with the company for 43 years. The article adds that Mills was recently promoted to be executive vice president for IBM Software and Systems. The article adds that “critics would note that IBM let Amazon Web Services take an uncontested lead in cloud computing starting in 2006.” Critics have also said the company was more focused on financial engineering, which “Mills, who headed the software group for so long, bears some responsibility for.”

Heavy Truck Sales Down As Demand For Hauling Freight Wanes.

The Wall Street Journal  (1/7, Baskin, Subscription Publication) reports data from the industry research firm FTR shows that orders of heavy-duty trucks fell 37% in December compared to the same month in 2014. According to the Journal, the low demand for hauling freights has caused trucking companies to purchase fewer trucks, leading equipment manufacturers to cut jobs as inventories lay stagnant. For 2016, the FTR is predicting 260,000 new US truck sales, a prediction that is 30,000 less than it had been three months ago.

Engineering and Public Policy

Malhotra To Head DOE Clean Energy Investment Center.

The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico  (1/7) reports Sanjiv Malhotra will head the Department of Energy’s Clean Energy Investment Center, “an office folded into an effort by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz aimed at improving how the agency and its labs interface with the private sector.” Created early last year, the center was “to be the access point for investors seeking to connect with the agency’s technical experts who may be wary of the many-headed DOE bureaucracy.” Malhotra, who is a biochemical engineer, “will be its first director.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Chicago Changing High Schools And Colleges To Meet Need For Better Career And Technical Education.

The Chicago Tribune  (1/6) reports Chicago Public Schools is introducing more career education programs throughout the district, but change is slow. The article quotes University of Chicago’s Urban Labs Director Timothy Knowles who says it is taking a long time to change the city’s education system since people were able to get stable jobs without a high school diploma for so long. The article highlights efforts by different groups to increase career education at the city’s public schools. Some high schools are being redesigned to train students who want to enter particular industries, such as healthcare or advanced manufacturing, that have a large presence in the city. In an over 3,000 word article, The Chicago Tribune  (1/6) outlines many examples of career and technical education programs in the US and abroad that Chicago is looking to for guidance as it works to redesign its high schools and colleges to better prepare students for careers in growing fields. The article shares the example of Dalton High School in Georgia, which offers engineering courses and other classes to train students in growing fields. Dalton is one of many high schools across the country that have increased career and technical education courses to better prepare their students for life after graduation. The article also notes the example of German and Swiss apprenticeships, which can start when students are as young as 13 and allow them to work in businesses, hospitals, and other workplaces. Chicago’s City Colleges are being “recast as labor pipelines tailored to local industries” similar to a number of Chicago high schools that are being redesigned to train people for specific career fields.

Albuquerque Student Group Teaches Classmates, Teachers About Technology.

On its website, KRQE-TV  Albuquerque, NM (1/5, Burkhart) reports Albuquerque Public Schools is working to incorporate more technology into education with their GenYes program. One part of that program is Students Who Advance Technology (“SWAT”), a group of students at Petroglyph Elementary, who help other students and teachers use technology. They help younger students use their iPads and help teachers with software updates and troubleshooting computer problems.

California High Schools Competing In Solar Boat Competition.

The Los Angeles Times  (1/7, Kandil) reports a team of students at Coast High School in Huntington Beach, California is building a boat powered by solar panels to compete in the Solar Cup, a competition between 40 high schools scheduled for May. This will be the second year that the high school is participating in the competition and the students have identified several components they want to focus on improving. The Solar Cup is sponsored by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Michigan Leaders Tour Career Education Facility.

MLive (MI)  (1/7, Kildee) reports state and local leaders toured the Saginaw Career Complex in Saginaw, Michigan. The center’s administrator led a tour through the complex’s classrooms where students learn about the culinary arts, engineering, welding, and other career fields. The Michigan Talent Investment Agency Director Stephanie Comai said that such programs are “hidden jewels” and the state needs to do more to increase their visibility.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Toyota Leads Charge In Development Of Self-Driving Cars.
ED Increases Colleges Under Heightened Cash Monitoring.
DARPA Awards Northrop Phase 3 Of Tern UAS Program.
Lockheed To Co-host STEM Conference Focusing On Diversity.
Keyless Vehicles Contain Possibly Deadly “Design Defect.”
Volkswagen Faces Up To $48 Billion In US Fines For Environmental Violations.
Verizon Donates Money To Maryland School For STEM Education.

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