Leading the News
TransCanada Starts Two Legal Actions To Challenge Administration On Keystone.
The Hill (1/10, Cama) reports on two actions by Keystone XL’s developer, TransCanada Corp., that “could end up being a big headache for President Obama.” The first was a “dispute” filed under the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the second was a lawsuit filed in US federal court. Both seek to challenge “Obama’s rejection of a cross-border permit.” According to “experts,” the NAFTA dispute is “more likely…to succeed.” In that, TransCanada is seeking $15 billion “to compensate for losses from the cancellation.” TransCanada argues that the decision was “politically-driven, directly contrary to the findings of the administration’s own studies, and not based on the merits of Keystone’s application.”
WSJournal Thinks Suits May Succeed. The Wall Street Journal (1/11, A14, Subscription Publication) in an editorial points out that while the Administration decided against Keystone XL, it has supported PowerAfrika, an oil pipeline project in Kenya. The Journal argues that TransCanada may win its NAFTA dispute, because the Administration rejected the pipeline despite US government reviews finding no environmental harm from the project. The Journal also argues that TransCanada’s case in federal court, which claims that the President exceeded his authority, is reasonable.
Scholar: TransCanada Could Win Keystone XL Pipeline Lawsuit Against US. In a Washington Post (1/9, Tucker) op-ed, Todd Tucker, a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge, asserts TransCanada “has a decent legal claim” alleging that the US rejection of its application to build the Keystone XL pipeline violates the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) even though the US “has never lost a NAFTA case.” However, Tucker acknowledges “The State Department’s defense lawyers are widely regarded as the best in the business. … and can be expected to use every available defense.”
For-Profit Sector Makes Overtures To King.
US News & World Report (1/8, Camera) reports that the for-profit college sector is hoping that Education Secretary John King will “take a different – and perhaps less punishing – tack” toward the industry than did former Education Secretary Arne Duncan. To this end, Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities chief Steve Gunderson “suggested in a letter this week [to King] that he take a more cooperative approach to the department’s interaction with for-profits.”
Engineering Students To Transform Camaro In DOE, GM Powertrain Efficiency Contest.
The AP (1/11, Enoch) reports that on Tuesday, the University of Alabama’s EcoCAR3 team officially unveiled the Camaro that they will spend the next two years re-engineering as part of a nationwide contest sponsored by the Department of Energy and General Motors. Sixteen teams of university students will design, develop, and integrate powertrains into a Camaro that will allow it to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining the performance and safety. The contest is the latest in a series of DOE Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions “aimed at developing the next generation of automotive engineers.”
US Department Of Labor Awards Grant To Virginia Community Colleges To Retain Former Coal Industry Workers.
On its website, WSLS-TV Roanoke, VA (1/9) reports Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the state’s community college system received an almost $2 million grant from the US Department of Labor to help retrain people who previously worked in the coal industry. The grant is expected to help almost 210 workers who were laid off by Alpha Natural Resources in Bristol.
College Student In Missouri Researching Environmental Cleanup With Drone.
The AP (1/11, Kennedy) reports Kush Bhakta, a student at Missouri Southern State University studying mechanical engineering, is using a drone to monitor the Tri-State Mining District. There are ongoing clean-up efforts in the area where Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma meet, and Bhakta has taken photos and recorded videos of the area while working with Albert Yeboah-Forson, a professor of geophysics at the university. Professor Yeboah-Forson and Bhakta want to keep track of the environmental remediation that is ongoing in the area.
Two College Students In Connecticut Plan To Launch Robotic Monkey Into Space.
The AP (1/11, Lambeck) reports Phillip Carroll and Joshua Hauge, students at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut studying industrial design, are working to launch a robotic money, known as High Altitude Monkey (“HAM”) 100,000 feet above the surface of the Earth in a balloon later this year. After being launched, HAM is designed to fly the balloon and come back to Earth in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Massachusetts. The students want to reignite interest in space exploration with their project.
University Of Central Missouri Plans To Offer Master’s Degree In Cybersecurity.
The AP (1/11) reports the University of Central Missouri began offering a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity last year and now wants to offer a master’s degree in cybersecurity pending approval from the state’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education. The university says the programs are in high demand because many companies want to increase their cybersecurity, but few people have expertise in the area.
Research and Development
3-D Printing Increasingly Being Used In Surgery.
Crain’s New York Business (1/10) describes a surgical operation at NYU Langone Medical Center in which an 18-month series of operations to replace damaged jawbones has been replaced by “a new approach” that uses 3-D printing. The center’s Institute for Reconstructive Plastic Surgery “is one of a growing number of New York hospital departments that have embraced the use of 3-D printing, in which materials such as plastic or titanium powder are exuded, layer by layer, to create objects: jewelry, kitchen utensils or, say, a new trachea.”
LLNL Researchers Investigate Ability To 3D Model Central Nervous System.
Machine Design (1/8, Scully) reports that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers “are investigating the ability to tissue-engineer compact 3D structures in order to accurately model the function of the central and peripheral nervous systems, the blood-brain barrier, the heart, and other human-body systems.” Such “in vitro Chip-based Human Investigational Platforms,” or iCHIPs, will “provide a renewable source of human tissue for accurate and customizable in-vitro testing, replacing less-reliable test models such as animals.” In the “LLNL team’s most recent milestone, Monica Moya and Elizabeth Wheeler reveal a ‘bio-ink’ that includes all of the necessary components to enable 3D-printed tissue to generate its own capillaries.”
Terrestrial Energy’s Molten Salt Reactor Design Gains $8 Million In New Funding.
Greentech Media (1/8, Subscription Publication) reports, “Small Modular Reactor (SMR) startup, Terrestrial Energy, just closed $8 million in funding from undisclosed sources for its Integral Molten Salt Reactor design (IMSR), according to SEC documents.” Terrestrial Energy’s SMRs “are intended for industrial process heat markets with target market deployment ‘in the 2020s.’” The piece adds that last year, “Oak Ridge National Laboratory…entered a collaboration” with TEI, a Canadian firm, “to develop the firm’s IMSR technology to the engineering blueprint stage – and perhaps to regain some North American technological leadership in advanced nuclear power.”
Scientists Devise Alternative For ITO That Could Lower Smartphone Costs.
Forbes (1/8, Kundu) reported that researchers at Penn State Materials Research Institute have devised a “cheaper alternative” to Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) that could help bring down the price of smartphones. According to Forbes, the scientists have “developed a new group of materials known as correlated metals” that offers “both high optical transparency and conductivity of such magnitude that it is comparable to that of many metals.”
Turkey Looks To Build Indigenous Satellite.
Defense News (1/8, Bekdil) reported that Turkey plans to build its first indigenous satellite. The target date for the satellite is 2019. The article added that local players in the program will include, “military electronics specialist Aselsan, Turkey’s biggest defense firm; Tubitak Uzay, the state scientific research Tubitak’s space department; Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI); and CTech, a software concern.” A procurement officer on the project said, “Foreign players will be expected to cooperate with local contractors, prime and sub.”
VW CEO Begins Campaign To Win Back Americans’ Confidence.
The New York Times (1/11, Vlasic, Chapman, Subscription Publication) reports that Volkswagen has begun a campaign to win back consumers at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit following a “nosedive” in sales after admitting to cheating on diesel emissions tests in the US in September. The campaign began with the first public appearance in the US since the scandal by VW chief executive Mattias Müller, who apologized to “customers, the responsible government bodies, and the general public” on Sunday, adding, “We are totally committed to making things right.”
USA Today (1/11, Bomey, Snavely) reports that Mueller, who is set to meet EPA administrator Gina McCarthy on Wednesday to discuss when VW will fix the 600,000 US vehicles with equipped with the faulty equipment, said in Detroit “that he believes the solution is satisfactory and that the company has made ‘huge progress’ in the talks.” Meanwhile, Mueller reiterated that VW will stand by plans to spend $900 million to expand its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, which will add 2,000 jobs.
Apps Can Help Drivers Keep Eyes Off Phones.
Washington Post Magazine (1/5, Chang) reports that the NHTSA says that “about 10 percent of the 32,675 traffic fatalities in 2014 involved distracted driving” and a 2015 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety did found that 12 percent of serious accidents involving teenage driers were caused by cellphone use. The Magazine says that “parents seeking to discourage such behavior might consider Cellcontrol, a Bluetooth-powered device to block calls and texts on both Apple and Android phones.” The report goes on to discuss other devices and apps that promise similar results, including DriveSafe Mode and LifeSaver.
CEO Says Smartphones Can Save Lives. Sascha Simon, Founder and CEO of Driversiti, writes at Quartz (1/8) that “distracted driving is rapidly overtaking alcohol as the top cause of accidents, especially among young people.” She says that smartphones should be used as a means to prevent accidents and save lives rather than as a cause of distracted driving accidents. Simon explains that “Driversiti smartphone software can understand whom within the vehicle is using the device” and “can automatically flag distracted driving behavior based on the car’s movement and situational factors.” She says that cellular service carriers should be brought into the process and points out that Professor Larry Burns, a veteran auto industry engineer and Driversiti advisor who consults with Google on their driverless car program, says that the NHTSA “is already doing studies to require manufacturers to implement vehicle to vehicle safety technology. … How is it any different from requiring carriers to include safety technology in their devices?”
Nissan Plans Incremental Approach To Self-Driving Cars, Tests Electric LEAF.
Fortune (1/8, Fehrenbacher) reported that Nissan’s unveiled its self-driving electric LEAF, which uses “a combination of 12 cameras, four side-panel laser scanners, a trunk full of computing power and access to detailed mapping data” to navigate autonomously, at a press event at its Silicon Valley Research Center on Thursday. The article added that the company is planning a “much more cautious, methodical” approach toward self-driving cars than Google by “[adding] incremental autonomous features to ten vehicle models over the next four years.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Climate Concerns Sparks Effort To Develop Next-gen Energy.
USA Today (1/9, Eller) reports that the “growing” concern over climate changes has sparked “a massive effort to develop new energy technologies that are dramatically cleaner than fossil fuels, which make up most of the world’s energy portfolio.” USA Today says the “world’s leading nations — and some of its richest business leaders — propose investing billions of dollars to find technology that can transform how we power our countries.”
NYTimes: FAA Should Prioritize Safety And Privacy In Drafting Drone Regulations.
The New York Times (1/10, Subscription Publication) editorializes “the task for” the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulators “is how to protect privacy and promote safety without infringing on the First Amendment rights of citizens and businesses that wish to use drones for legitimates purposes, like photography or news gathering.”
NASA Opens Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
The Washington Times (1/10, Harper) reports NASA on Friday announced its “Planetary Defense Coordination Office is now open for business, tasked with a succinct mission: to track and characterizing all asteroids and comets that veer too close to Earth – and figure out a response to ‘potential impact threats.’” According to Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson, “The agency is committed to perform a leadership role in national and international efforts for detection of these natural impact hazards, and to be engaged in planning if there is a need for planetary defense.”
Students In Pennsylvania District Explore Digital Fabrication Lab.
The AP (1/9, Andren) reports on the “Fab Lab,” or digital fabrication lab in Redstone, Pennsylvania, which was funded with a $1.2 million Chevron grant. At the facility, students create computer-assisted designs and “plug them into computers connected to the machines throughout the room that will make parts of their product,” such as 3-D printers, a laser cutter, and other fabrication devices. The AP describes the lab within the context of the national trend of increasing career-oriented technical education.
Public-Private Partnership Building New STEAM Center Attached To Baltimore School.
The Technical.ly Baltimore (1/8, Babcock) reports Baltimore City Schools, University of Maryland Baltimore County, and the Northrop Grumman Foundation have partnered together to build a new STEAM center at Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore. The new facility will have science labors, a makerspace with 3D printers, a sound studio, and a community kitchen to teach students, teachers, and community members new skills. Northrop Grumman COO Gloria Flach said the new center will also house wraparound services to provide support to students and their families to help improve learning including a food pantry. The article mentions that former Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited the school in December.
Texas School District Building New Arts/STEM Academy.
The Fort Worth (TX) Business Press (1/9, Dillard) reports Forth Worth Independent School District in Texas is building a new $73.3 million Visual and Performing Arts Academy (VPA) combined with a STEM Academy at the location of the I.M. Terrell School, what was once the city’s oldest black high school. The new school will combine existing buildings with new facilities. The school is expected to enroll an initial class of 800 students with more students attending the VPA than the STEM part of the school.
North Carolina County Holds Regional Science Fair.
The Gaston (NC) Gazette (1/9, Wildstein) reports 297 students entered the Gaston Regional Science and Engineering Fair at the Schiele Museum in Gaston County, North Carolina. The article highlights some of the students’ projects who researched coffee stains, tornadoes, fingerprints, and many other subjects.
Missouri District Expanding Career Education “Shadowing” Program.
The Springfield (MO) News-Leader (1/10, Riley) reports Springfield, Missouri is planning to expand its job shadowing program at the Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies. Currently, high school students enrolled in the program can follow healthcare professionals, engineers, and entrepreneurs throughout their workdays, and the program is working to add more professions in technology-driven fields. Students also complete internships, which include real business projects. School officials will be holding open houses so parents and students can learn more about the program and explore the different tracks available.
University Of Arizona Medical School Hosts STEM Fair For Kids And Families.
The Arizona Republic (1/9, Woodworth) reports the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix hosted the second annual Connect2STEM fair as part of the 2016 Arizona SciTech Festival. Almost 4,000 families, students, and children explored the campus playing with robots, examining animal parts, and learning about STEM fields and careers. The medical school and Cox Communications partnered together to hold the event aimed at getting kids excited about STEM. The article quotes parents, educators, and others who said kids got excited about STEM participating in activities at the fair.
High School Robotics Teams Around The World Learn Challenge For This Year’s Tournament.
The AP (1/9) reports teenagers from around the world learned on Saturday what they will have to do to compete in this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition. Teams from around the world will have six weeks to complete the challenge unveiled on Saturday and then compete in a “March-Madness style” competition against each other and the championship will take place in April.
Students Compete At Lego Robotics Tournament In Ohio.
The Toledo (OH) Blade (1/11, Sigov) reports more than 300 students competed on 18 teams in the First Lego League robotics tournament at Bowling Green State University, which was sponsored in part by the nonprofit Sylvania STEM Center in Ohio. Students learned about robotics, engineering, and team work by preparing for and competing in the tournament. The tournament’s theme was “Trash Trek” so students had to build robots to complete tasks such as disposing of garbage and sorting recycled materials. One of four teams from the Sylvania STEM Center won the tournament winning the title of grand champion.
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Wide Range Of Companies Shows Off New Technologies And Products At CES.