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

Leading the News

In SOTU, Obama Praises “Economic Success Story” Of Renewable Energy.

The Washington Post  (1/13, Warrick) reports President Obama during his final State of the Union “took credit…for surging growth in solar and wind power during his seven years in office, while hinting of new efforts to limit pollution from oil and gas operations.” According to the Post, Obama “framed the expansion of renewable energy as an economic success story, but one that happens to pay dividends for the health of the planet.” The Post added Obama also “called for stepping up investment in communities hurt by the decline of fossil fuels, alluding to plans announced last year to expand jobs and training in coal states.”

However, Washington Examiner  (1/13) Energy and Environment Correspondent John Siciliano says that while Obama “lauded” low gasoline prices, he did so “ignoring the fact that it is a global oil glut that is to credit for the drop. A glut that is hurting U.S. jobs in the oil and gas sector.” According to Siciliano, “Obama did not address the global situation, but continued by saying that the country should now transition away from ‘dirtier’ forms of energy to a clean energy future” and calling on Americans “to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy.”

Meanwhile, Reuters  (1/13, Rampton) reports Obama said that the Federal government should charge fossil fuel companies for leases based on their impact on climate change.

The Hill  (1/13, Cama) reports Obama said he intended “to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.” According to The Hill, “Obama presented the proposal as a way to accelerate the ongoing transition toward clean energy sources like wind and solar and ‘away from old, dirtier energy sources.’” In a statement, Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, hailed the proposal as “encouraging,” while Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, praised Obama for having “shined a bright flashlight into the forgotten corners of the federal coal and oil programs, where loopholes and subsidies are costing taxpayers and local communities millions of dollars in lost revenue every year.”

Higher Education

“In The Red” Campaign Aims To Raise Awareness, Take Action On College Affordability.

Roll Call  (1/12, Gangitano) reports a new campaign called “In the Red” aims to raise awareness about the increasing amount of student debt. The article reports a division of the Center for American Progress organized the campaign and that several Democratic Senators intended to show their support by wearing pins to the State of the Union with the hashtag “#InTheRed.” Several of the senators also tweeted messages about student debt using the hashtag. On its website, WWMT-TV  Grand Rapids, MI (1/13) reported that Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) started the campaign and that she would be joined by a Michigan State University student with lots of student debt at the State of the Union speech. The Macomb (MI) Daily  (1/12) reports Sen. Stabenow plans to introduce bills in 2016 that would allow student borrowers to refinance their students loans at a lower interest rate, create new partnerships to make community college free for certain students, and allow Pell grants to increase with inflation.

Three Georgia Colleges Ranked In Top 50 For Online Degree Programs.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (1/13, Davis) reports three colleges in Georgia, the University of Georgia, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and Georgia College and State University, were all ranked in the top 50 for their online degree programs by US News and World Report. University of Georgia’s online education program was ranked third, which President Jere Morehead attributes to the institution’s dedication to delivering a world-class learning experience on campus or online.

Obama Calls For Making College More Affordable.

On its website, PBS NewsHour  (1/12, Baxter) reports that President Barack Obama said, “We have to make college affordable for every American” during his final State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Obama also said that making community college free would be “one of the best ways to do that.”

From ASEE
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.

Research and Development

Michigan Tech Develops UAV-Catcher.

NBC News  (1/12, Wagstaff) reports that UAVs will one day patrol the skies to detect rogue UAVs and use nets to capture them, explaining that researchers with the HIRoLab at Michigan Technological University “have created a ‘drone-catcher’ that ensnares rogue unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by shooting out a net,” similar to a system currently used in Tokyo. Mo Rastgaar, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Michigan Technological University, remarked, “I thought, ‘If the threat is a drone, you really don’t want to shoot it down – it might contain explosives and blow up.’”

The Guardian (UK)  (1/13, Gibbs) also reports on the HIRoLab drone-catcher.

Textron Looks At Additional Roles For CUSV.

Seapower Magazine  (1/12, Burgess) reports that Wayne Prender, vice president for Control & Surface Systems at Textron, said that the company’s Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) for the Navy’s Unmanned Influence Sweep System (IUSS) “has the potential for mine-hunting, security, long-range hailing and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and can be deployed on a variety of platforms.” Prender said the water entry of the engineering development model is scheduled for mid-2016 and delivery to the Navy is scheduled for late 2016 or early 2017.

Toyota, Kymeta Partner For Satellite Connectivity Project.

The Detroit Free Press  (1/12, Gardner) reports that Toyota announced Tuesday that it is partnering with Kymeta to enable drivers to access “vast amounts of data and programming to a car via satellite.” The article adds that “Toyota is investing $5 million in Kymeta,” which is working to “deliver all the processing power of a obtrusive satellite dish in a flat antenna.” Kymeta CEO and President Nathan Kundtz “estimated that the technology could be market ready between 2020 and 2025.” According to the article, the tech could also be used to “update 3-dimensional maps needed for fully autonomous vehicles to navigate.” Digital Trends  (1/12, Branman) reports that the company debuted the technology at the Detroit Auto Show in “its Mirai-based research vehicle.” The article adds that the “satellite antennas use software and liquid crystals” instead of traditional “mechanical components to electronically track and steer themselves towards satellites” and can be installed in the factory or after-market. Business Wire  (1/12), GeekWire  (1/12, Boyle), and PC Magazine  (1/12, Reisinger) also offer coverage of the announcement.

Navy, Penn State Successfully Tests UAV Data Sharing.

C4ISR & Networks  (1/12, Peck) reports that the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and Pennsylvania State University partnered to successfully test “sustained unmanned, powerless flight of two UAV sailplanes during testing of the solar-soaring and cooperative soaring algorithm-based concepts” in September and October of 2015. “The tests, conducted within restricted airspace at Phillips Army Airfield, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, culminated with two ‘powered’ sailplanes sharing telemetry data and cooperatively and autonomously soaring at altitudes in excess of one kilometer and for flight durations of over five hours,” said a news release from NRL.

Industry News

Corning’s “Lighter But Stronger” Windshield Highlighted.

BreatheCast  (1/12, Magdaong) reported that the Ford GT has “something new to offer with its super windshield” developed by Corning Inc. and called the “Gorilla Glass Hybrid Windshield.” The article refers to Corning as “one of the most trusted science innovators” and adds that the hybrid windshield is “far lighter but stronger than the conventional glass.” The article quotes Ford engineer Paul Lindel as saying “During development, we tried different glass variations before we found a combination that provided both weight savings and the durability needed for exterior automotive glass.”

CNET News  (1/13) reports in an online video on the Ford GT and it’s Gorilla Glass windshield, saying that Corning is taking the technology to cars “to make your windshield stronger.” CNET reports that the windshield will “save about 10 pounds of weight” and offers a “pure optical white” in visual quality. The video then tests out Gorilla Glass vs soda lime and strengthened soda lime glass, showing the greater strength of Gorilla Glass via a smash test, before showing how much thinner a Gorilla Glass windshield is than a regular one. The video closes with a demonstration set up by Corning at the Detroit Auto Show showing a Gorilla Glass panel withstanding a “golf ball-sized” piece of hail fired at it at 50 miles per hour. The Journal-News (OH)  (1/13) also carries the CNET video.

WKBN-TV  Youngstown, OH (1/12, Grimley) reports that Ford has partnered with Corning to use “Gorilla Glass, a stronger, lighter, glass that significantly reduces windshield cracks.” The article includes a video similar to the CNET video demonstrating the strength and thinness of the Gorilla Glass windshield. WYTV-TV Youngstown, OH (1/12, 11:29 p.m. EST) also carried a segment on Gorilla Glass at the Detroit Auto Show.

Report: Apple Accounted For More Than 50 Percent Of Smartwatches Shipped In 2015.

Mashable  (1/12, Strange) discusses a report released Tuesday by Juniper Research indicating that Apple shipped 51.5 percent of 17.1 million smartwatches sold worldwide in 2015. The article adds a note of caution about Juniper’s findings, clarifying that the 51.5 percent figure “only refers to devices shipped, a number that doesn’t necessary correlate to how many Apple Watch devices consumers purchased last year” and noting that the figures in the report do not include devices shipped by wearables makers such as Fitbit.

CNBC  (1/12, Clinch) quotes the report as finding that the Apple Watch’s “popularity far eclipsed that of rival vendors, with (Samsung) Android Wear shipments comprising less than 10 percent of sales for the year” and that “Most other smartwatch sales are currently coming from cheaper, simpler devices from a range of smaller players, such as Martian, X and Razer, the latter with the recently-announced Nabu Watch.” The report also concludes that there have been no “great leaps forward” in the smartwatch category, saying that “newer devices have offered more polished looks and subtly different functions, but no large changes in device capabilities or usage…with smartwatch functions established, it is now up to consumers to decide if they want them, rather than technology companies providing more reasons.”

Phone Arena  (1/12) and Digital Trends  (1/12, Chang) also report.

VW Undertakes “Apology Tour” At Detroit Auto Show.

The Washington Post  (1/13, Frankel) reports that instead of showcasing new vehicles at the National American International Auto Show in Detroit, Volkswagen officials were “on an apology tour,” to make amends for the automaker’s emissions-cheating scandal. VW chief executive said the company had “made much progress in the last couple of weeks” in talks with US regulators, adding, “We’re confident we’ll figure out solutions” in the US.

California Regulators: VW’s Recall Plan Not Approved. The New York Times  (1/13, Mouawad, Subscription Publication) reports the California Air Resources Board on Tuesday formally rejected VW’s plan to fix its defective diesel engines, stating that the automaker’s recall plan presented in November and December was “incomplete, substantially deficient and falls far short of meeting the legal requirements” to be approved. The EPA in a statement said it agreed with California that VW “has not submitted an approvable recall plan to bring the vehicles into compliance and reduce pollution.” VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan “acknowledged the shortfalls” of the recall plan and “suggested” that the company has had “constructive conversations” with California regulators.

Engineering and Public Policy

House Panel Advances Nuclear Power Research Measure.

Greenwire  (1/12, Koss, Subscription Publication) reports that the House Science, Space and Technology Committee advanced legislation to boost nuclear research and development at the Department of Energy. Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) sponsored the measure that “aims to hand policy direction to DOE on nuclear research” and was approved by voice vote, with members of “both parties expressing support.” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said the bill would help the US maintain “technological leadership” and “harnesses the strengths of the national labs, universities and private sector” to breathe “new life into America’s research and technology communities.” Rep. Weber “said the measure would provide ‘statutory direction’ to DOE to utilize its vast supercomputing network to help model advanced reactor designs.”

The Hill  (1/13, Henry) adds that the measure “directs the Department of Energy to prioritize nuclear energy research that utilizes private sector funding.” The bill would “allow private firms to partner with federally-run national labs to research nuclear reactor technologies and allow Energy Department researchers to use the national labs’ supercomputers in their nuclear energy studies.” The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (H.R. 4084) “will help private investors demonstrate novel reactor concepts and designs such as molten-salt or pebble-bed reactors,” the Daily Caller  (1/13, Follett) reports.

Nevada Employing “All-Of-The Above” Energy Approach.

In an article about the “all-of-the-above” energy strategy being employed in Nevada, National Journal  (1/13, Subscription Publication) reports “it would be hard to find a better example of an all-of-the-above energy state than Nevada.” There is “Hoover dam (hydro), there’s geothermal energy, coal, biomass and other renewable sources,” and the “approach also is reflected technology-wise, with Tesla Motors’ sprawling lithium ion ‘Gigafactory,’ now under construction in the desert near Sparks, placing Nevada on the frontier of the advanced battery storage industry.” The Journal adds that “the federal government, largely through grants distributed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-e), supports research whose goals include making batteries more affordable and portable.” According to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, battery storage is a “huge deal.” In an interview with Politico, Moniz said, “[S]torage has always been talked about as one of the major game changers. … Now, we still need to keep working on cost reductions to keep driving things down before there’s big market penetration. But that’s what we are constantly doing.”

Florida Bill Pushes Back Against Clean Power Plan.

Politico  (1/13, McCaskill) reports Florida “may be moving toward becoming another ‘just say no’ state on the Clean Power Plan.” Legislation “moved through committee yesterday that would allow the state to wait for a federal court to rule on [the] Clean Power plan before the state has to submit a compliance plan.”

Squirrels Said To Be Greater Enemy Than Hackers.

The Washington Post  (1/13, Peterson) reports on the relative threat posed to American infrastructure from squirrels as opposed to cyberattack following last month’s hacker-caused outage in Ukraine. The “furrier threat,” researchers say, is responsible for more outages and is tracked by the American Public Power Association’s “Squirrel Index.” The rodents have become a symbol among some security experts of what they call an “alarmist tone” in policy discussions on the threat from cyber. One such anonymous individual operates CyberSquirrel1.com, a humorous take on “unclassified” reports of “squirrel operations” that affect the grid.

The Washington Post ’s (1/13, Ingraham) WonkBlog carries a post featuring CyberSquirrel’s work.

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Elementary/Secondary Education

BAE Systems Assists School With STEM Program.

Hawaii Business Magazine  (1/12, Gelber) interviews Perry Martin, president of Maryknoll School and the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, on “the future of education.” Maryknoll’s Mx Scholar Program for STEM & Aerospace, according to Martin, “touches on science, math and engineering” and was created in partnership with BAE Systems “to create a realistic aviation and aeronautics-themed school.”

Arizona Governor Promises More Funding For CTE District.

The Arizona Daily Star  (1/13) reports Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday “vowed to increase funding for career and technical education,” discussing “plans to add funding into Joint Technological Education District.” The state cut funding to the district last year amid a billion dollar deficit, but Ducey says that a current surplus will allow the state to “change the trend line” for the district’s funding.

Virginia Governor Wants High Schools Overhauled To Increase CTE Focus.

The AP  (1/13) reports that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe “wants an overhaul of the state’s high schools so that they are geared toward hands-on learning and helping students get jobs in advanced fields, like cyber security and biotechnology.” McAuliffe “outlined a series of education and workforce development legislative proposals” ahead of the coming legislative session, including “a proposal allowing schools to hire industry experts as temporary career or technical education teachers.”

The Newport News (VA) Daily Press  (1/12, Subscription Publication) reports that McAuliffe “took a first step Tuesday in a process that could revamp high school curriculums around the state, shifting more focus to career readiness.” McAuliffe’s proposals “would require the Virginia Board of Education to redesign the high school experience,” the Daily Press reports, saying the governor “wants to change the way graduation credits are earned, with more emphasis on hands-on learning, early college courses and industry credentials.”

California Students Testing Raytheon AI-Based Tutoring System.

The Los Angeles Daily Breeze  (1/12) reports physics students at Los Angeles’ El Segundo High School are testing “a new artificial intelligence-based tutoring system developed by The Raytheon Co.” The BBN Learning Platform “walks students through complex problems, measuring how long they take to solve them, identifying where they get stuck and providing feedback in real-time.” The system, which Raytheon will release for free this week, “gives teachers a better understanding of each student’s learning strengths and weaknesses.”

Google Testing Technology To Help Students Learn Geography.

The AP  (1/12) reports that Google is testing a project called the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program with elementary students in Franklin, Indiana. Students “hold a phone in a Google Cardboard viewer up to their eyes, which acts as a first-person camera.” Students are able to “look up and down, and spin to get a 360-degree view of a location, as if they were visiting in person.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

US Regulators, Automakers To Reveal Safety Agreement Friday.
University Of Tennessee To Add Automotive Engineering Concentration.
Purdue To Launch $250 Million Life Sciences Initiative.
Volkswagen CEO To Present Emissions Scandal Fixes To EPA.
Planetary Defense Office To Track Asteroids Passing Near Earth.
Ohio Students Take Part In FIRST Lego Competition.
IBM Engineer Builds “Star Wars” Droid That Can Be Controlled With The Mind.

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