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

Leading the News

Chip Implant In Brain Allows Paralyzed Patient To Regain Some Complex Hand Movements.

ABC World News Tonight (4/13, story 12, 0:25, Muir) reported that in a “major medical breakthrough ” reported in the journal Nature, a “completely paralyzed patient” has regained “complex hand movements, thanks to a microchip implanted in his brain.”

The CBS Evening News (4/13, story 10, 0:30, Pelley) reported that a man “paralyzed below his shoulders, is now able to play video games, swipe a credit card and play the guitar.” Scientists “at Ohio State implanted a chip in his brain that transmits his thoughts directly to his hand muscles, bypassing his damaged nerves.”

On NBC Nightly News (4/13, story 7, 2:00, Holt), correspondent Joe Fryer said, “It’s still early, but the research holds promise for those with stroke and traumatic brain injuries, groundbreaking technology reconnecting the brain with the body.”

In a 1,200-word story on its front page, the New York Times  (4/14, A1, Carey, Subscription Publication) points out, however, that “the new technology is not a cure for paralysis.” The patient “could use his hand only when connected to computers in the lab, and the researchers said there was much work to do before the system could provide significant mobile independence.” Nevertheless, “the field of neural engineering is advancing quickly,” and the current study “demonstrates that the bypass approach can restore critical skills to limbs no longer directly connected to the brain.”

Also covering the story are the Washington Post  (4/13, Cha), the Los Angeles Times  (4/13, Healy), the Wall Street Journal  (4/13, Marcus, Subscription Publication), Reuters  (4/13, Dunham), the AP  (4/14, Ritter), the ABC News  (4/13, Tan) website, the NBC News  (4/13, Fox) website, CNN  (4/13, Drash), the NPR  (4/13, Hamilton) “Shots” blog and “All Things Considered” program, Science Magazine  (4/13, Rogers), STAT  (4/13, Joseph), and HealthDay  (4/13, Reinberg).

Higher Education

Center For American Progress Report Faults ED’s Oversight Of Colleges.

Inside Higher Ed  (4/13) reports in continuing coverage that a new report from the Center for American Progress says that ED’s “system for monitoring colleges for fraud and other problems is inadequate and needs to be retooled.” The report says that ED’s “efforts to see whether colleges are following existing laws and regulations are not useful in capturing systemic fraud or misconduct, especially at for-profit colleges.”

Texas A&M To Consider Campus Carry Proposals.

The Dallas Morning News  (4/13, McGaughy) reports Texas A&M University’s board of regents will consider proposals for campus carry at an April 27 meeting, saying only that no one has proposed anything that “prohibits a licensed holder from carrying a concealed handgun in classrooms or residential facilities owned and operated, or leased and operated, by the institution.” Faculty and staff may “petition their campus presidents to ban guns” in faculty offices if they can show a substantial risk. The proposals are in response to a state law effective August 1. Under the law those “with a license-to-carry to tote concealed handguns” will be able to do so “in most buildings on campuses” rather than current law under which they are “allowed only in public spaces like sidewalks and quads.” University presidents may “ban guns in certain areas, depending on that school’s unique security needs.”

From ASEE
SPECIAL SECTION: Prism Magazine on Whistleblowing
ASEE’s Prism magazine features engineering educators using their expertise to challenge authority when needed.

Research and Development

Tech Entrepreneur To Grant $250M For Immunotherapy Research.

STAT  (4/13, Begley) reports that “tech entrepreneur Sean Parker,” who “helped found Facebook and Napster, plans to spend $250 million to build teams of researchers who aim to harness the immune system to attack cancer.” Parker said immunology “is a legitimately promising approach, having spawned drugs that are already in use, as well as many medications and therapeutic vaccines moving through the R&D pipeline.” One focus of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, he said, will be for researchers to “compare responders and nonresponders to see if they can improve the rates of lasting responses and extend the use of these immunotherapies to more types of cancer.”

Cyber Attack Study: Collaboration Key To CNI Resilience.

In continuing coverage, Computer Weekly  (4/13) reports on research from Lockheed Martin and the Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies at the University of Cambridge that looked into possible economic effects of cyberattacks in the UK. According to the report, collaboration on Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) security will be key to minimizing economic effects of an attack. Lockheed VP Justin Walker said that as CNI becomes increasingly interconnected, risk and cost of attacks increase.

Cyber Experts Named To New Cybersecurity Commission.

Reuters  (4/13, Rampton) reports appointments to the Obama Administration’s new Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity to be co-chaired by former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano and former national security adviser Tom Donilon. Members will include former NSA director Keith Alexander, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, and Microsoft Research VP Peter Lee, among others.

Industry News

EV Firm Faraday Breaks Ground On Nevada Plant.

The AP  (4/13) reports Faraday Future, an “upstart” electric car firm, “hopes to have its first vehicles rolling off the assembly line in 2018, a company executive said Wednesday, as officials marked the start of construction on a planned $1 billion Las Vegas-area production plant.” In a statement, Dag Reckhorn, Faraday Future global manufacturing vice president, said, “Our aim is to complete a program that would normally take four years and do it in half the time, while still doing it right.” The state of Nevada “has pledged up to up to $335 million worth of incentives toward the project, which Gardena, California-based Faraday promises will employ some 4,500 people over the next decade.” According to the Wall Street Journal  (4/13, Ramsey, Subscription Publication), Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said, “This is special. … This is a great opportunity for us to work together for a new beginning.”

According to Business Insider  (4/13, Logan), Faraday Future R&D and Engineering SVP Nick Sampson said the company is “testing both mechanical and software systems, and before the end of this year, we’ll have full prototypes that represent our production cars.” Faraday Future representative Stacy Morris said last week that the “cars will have industry-leading range, and the connectivity and the streaming technology will be the unique selling point of the Faraday brand.” Fortune  (4/13, Korosec) also reports.

Engineering and Public Policy

Interior Set To Release Final Offshore Drilling Rules.

The Wall Street Journal  (4/13, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that on Thursday, the Interior Department is set to release final rules aimed at preventing a situation similar to the explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig six years ago, leading to the largest oil spill in US history. The new regulations will impose standards on equipment used to control wells and require real-time monitoring for some deepwater or high pressure drilling. The Journal says that according to a government document it viewed in February, the regulations will likely be slightly more favorable to the industry than a proposal that was issued last year. Bloomberg News  (4/13, Dlouhy) reports that Chevron, Exxon, Anadarko, “and other oil companies have lobbied against the mandates, warning they will impose potentially $32 billion in new costs over the next decade and threaten to slash drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for about 17 percent of U.S. crude production.” The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement estimated the price tag of the new regulations at about $1 billion. The Hill  (4/13, Cama) adds that “A report commissioned by the industry and completed by Wood Mackenzie earlier this year predicted that up to 190,000 jobs would be at risk due to the rule by 2030,” and cause oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico to drop by as much as 35 percent by 2030.

Exxon Says New Regulations To Cost $25 Billion Over 10 Years. Bloomberg News  (4/13, Carroll) reports that Exxon Mobil “said [the new regulations] will cost $25 billion over 10 years and render many offshore discoveries worthless” amid the industry’s worst slump in a generation. Chevron and ConocoPhillips “have already abandoned some Gulf prospects because they wouldn’t be profitable at current prices.” In a closed-door meeting with White House and Interior Department officials on March 7, Exxon argued the rules “would increase the danger of a blowout by wresting decision-making from on-site engineers with decades of experience.” Chevron and Shell were among “other explorers, rig operators and equipment makers who sought and conducted closed-door meetings with bureau personnel…according to attendance logs published on the government website.” An API-funded study “estimated extra costs over 10 years at $31.8 billion and…the loss of the equivalent of 500,000 barrels of crude a day by 2030.”

Senate, House Subcommittees Pass Competing Energy, Water Funding Bills.

The Hill  (4/13, Cama) reports a Senate subcommittee “decided to avoid hot-button issues” in approving a $37.5 billion bipartisan funding bill for the federal government’s energy and water development programs. The bill would boost funding by $355 million over 2016 levels, “with a $1.163 billion increase for the Department of Energy’s defense-related programs and an $808 million decrease for the non-defense portions of the bill, which include DOE and the Army Corps of Engineers.” Appropriations Subcommittee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said “it’s the kind of bill that ought to be able to go to committee tomorrow and go to the majority leader and let him put it on the floor.” Alexander also “emphasized how much the bill does for nuclear power.” Ranking minority member Sen. Dianne Feinstein said the bill contains some compromises for Democrats, “but she is happy with it nonetheless.”

According to E&E Daily  (4/13, Subscription Publication), Alexander “signaled yesterday that the Department of Energy’s Office of Science will be a top funding priority in the fiscal 2017 energy-water development spending bill.” He cited funding for the Office of Science and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), nuclear waste efforts, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood and waterways maintenance project as the panel’s top priorities.

The Hill  (4/13, Cama) adds a House Appropriations Committee panel approved a $37.4 billion bill to fund the Department of Energy and federal water programs for fiscal 2017. Rep. Mike Simpsons (R-ID) said the bill represents a responsible proposal that prioritizes defense and nuclear weapons priorities and fossil fuel research and development while reducing President Obama’s clean energy agenda. Simpson explained the bill places more funds into fossil fuel energy and less into renewables “to ensure the nation is utilizing its abundant fossil fuel energy resources as efficiently and safely as possible.” Democrats objected to some of the bill’s proposed funding cuts “and to additional policy riders, including one that would stop the administration’s rule defining Clean Water Act jurisdiction for pollution purposes.”

EPA Seeks More Careful Review Of Dakota Access Oil Pipeline.

The AP  (4/13, Pitt) reports that in March the EPA, the Interior Department, and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation wrote to the US Army Corps of Engineers asking it to “more carefully review and revise its preliminary plan for the Dakota Access oil pipeline,” expressing concern for “the impact a spill would have on drinking water for Native American tribes.” EPA NEPA Director NEPA Program Director Philip Strobel “said the corps should better assess the potential impact of a pipeline leak to drinking water.” Strobel pointed out that in the event of a pipeline leak near the Missouri River, “There would be very little time to determine if a spill or leak affecting surface waters is occurring, to notify water treatment plants and to have treatment plant staff on site to shut down the water intakes.”

Failing Infrastructure Harming US Competitiveness.

MarketWatch  (4/13, Short) reports the poor state of transportation infrastructure in the US is causing the country to lose its competitive margin and its reliability. The article reports the US “is investing half of what it spent on transportation infrastructure more than 50 years ago as a percentage of the economy – close to 1.5% of GDP now compared with nearly 3% of GDP in 1962.” The article adds, “The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the nation’s infrastructure a D+,” and “estimates the US needs to spend $1.7 trillion by 2020 just to upgrade our surface transportation of roads, bridges and rail.” Current spending it $850 billion short.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Obama Touts Importance Of Science At White House Science Fair.

Media coverage of President Obama’s final White House science fair was limited, with most coverage focusing on his interaction with the participating students. The CBS Evening News (4/13, story 9, 0:20, Pelley) reported Obama “met budding inventors” at the event, which the AP  (4/13, Freking) says is “an annual opportunity to show off the nation’s budding inventors, engineers, astronauts and researchers – and to impress the nation’s science fan-in-chief.” CNET News  (4/13, Mack) reports on its website the event involved more than 140 “young scientists from 30 US states.”

The Washington Post  (4/13, Balingit) reports Obama “made his way through a maze of posterboard and robotic contraptions, pausing to quiz the young scientists and inventors.” The Post says Obama “learned about a process to turn foam cups into glue, a special vacuum cleaner for a subway and a balloon ‘spacecraft’ that two little girls used to launch a photo of their late cat, Loki, to the edge of space.” ABC News  (4/13, Chadbourn, Marshall) reports on its website that Obama “heralded the projects prepared by the more than 130 participants – who came from elementary, middle and high schools – and said he saw ingenuity, curiosity and teamwork involved in what each of the students prepared.” According to ABC, “Participants also were acknowledged for leadership in education, business and the nonprofit world.”

The New York Times  (4/13, Davis, Subscription Publication) reports Obama said “some of the best moments” of his presidency “have involved science and our annual science fair.” USA Today  (4/13, Korte) reports the President “touted the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, and also addressed what he said were ‘structural biases that exist in science.’” Obama said, “A lot of them are unconscious. But the fact is, is that we’ve got to get more of our young women and minorities into science and technology, engineering and math, and computer science.” Obama, according USA Today, “not[ed] an increasing number of girls” at the event, saying, “We’re not going to succeed if we’ve got half the team on the bench, especially when it’s the smarter half of the team.” PBS NewsHour  (4/13) and the Goshen (IN) News  (4/13) also cover this story.

Providence Mayor Issues Report On CTE Task Force.

The Providence (RI) Business News  (4/13, Gowdey-Backus) reports Wednesday, Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza issued the report of a task force on Career and Technical Education. The task force, in addition to producing a report on the importance of CTE, has been promoting “awareness of career development at a young age, created apprenticeships,” and “established partnerships between schools and area companies.” Mayor Elorza is working to add “career development programs” to the city’s middle schools in an effort to make students aware of “the important link between applying yourself at school and succeeding in a future career.”

University Of Georgia Hosts State’s FIRST Robotics Championship.

The Athens (GA) Banner-Herald  (4/13) reports the University of Georgia College of Engineering is hosting the 2016 FIRST Robotics Peachtree District State Championship from Thursday to Saturday for “the best high school robotics teams” in Georgia. All told, there will be about 1,200 students in 45 teams. The teams “have six weeks to build a robot from a common kit of parts.” In this year’s competition, titled “FIRST Stronghold,” two alliances of three teams attempt “to breach their opponents’ defenses and capture their castle tower.”

Students May Learn More In Morning Math Classes.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (4/13, Downey) reports on a study published in The Review of Economics and Statistics conducted by University of Chicago researcher Nolan G. Pope finding that students who took math classes in the morning had better results in both GPAs and standardized test scores than did students who took math in the afternoon. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (4/13) “Get Schooled” blog reports the study covered “nearly 2 million students enrolled in grades 6 through 11 in the Los Angeles Unified School District.” It found the average math score on the California Standards Test was 309.8 for those who took math in the first or second periods, but 304.5 for those who were in math in the final two periods of the day. Pope concluded that math classes and “more important” classes should be moved to the morning periods.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Carlin Urges Auto Industry To Help Curb Cyberattacks.
UNC-Chapel Hill Has Highest Percentage Of Women In Graduate Engineering Programs.
Student Inventors Awarded Lemelson-MIT Prize.
Report: Gender Pay Gap Grows As Tech Companies Expand.
Ford Reveals $1.2 Billion Redevelopment Plan In Dearborn, Michigan.
Legal Challenge To Obama’s Clean Power Plan Examined.
“Hot Wheels” Curriculum Proves Successful In Los Angeles Schools.

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