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

Leading the News

Snyder Says He Will Drink Flint Water For 30 Days.

The Detroit Free Press  (4/18, Egan) reports that Gov. Rick Snyder “said he visited a Flint home on Monday and drank filtered water out of the family’s kitchen tap, adding that he plans to continue drinking filtered Flint tap water for the next 30 days to show it is safe.” The Free Press adds that “Snyder’s comments drew immediate criticism from some Flint residents as a public relations exercise.” The Detroit News  (4/18, Karah), however, notes that “Bishop Roger Jones of Greater Holy Temple ministries said it’s ‘very gratifying’ to have the governor visit the city,” and “asked whether Snyder is taking the water crisis seriously enough,” he said, “I think so now. … I believe now that he’s working to bring this to a resolution.”

The Huffington Post  (4/18, Abbey-Lambertz), meanwhile, reported that “one-fifth of Michigan residents polled blame…Snyder…for the avoidable lead poisoning emergency in the city of Flint, according to” Michigan State University’s “latest State of the State Survey.” Moreover, the poll found “Snyder’s approval rating dropped sharply after the extent of the crisis came to light.” While “41.8 percent of Michigan residents polled called his performance ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ in the fall, only one-quarter felt that way in the most recent poll.”

Higher Education

Accrediting Council For Independent Colleges And Schools Replaces CEO.

The Washington Post  (4/18, Douglas-Gabriel) reports on a “shake up in leadership” at the American Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, calling the accreditor “the gatekeeper between colleges and billions of dollars in federal financial aid, which is facing scrutiny from federal and state authorities for its evaluation of for-profit institutions.” The group announced Monday that CEO Albert Gray is resigning, but “declined to discuss whether that decision was made under pressure from the board of directors.” The Post reports that the accreditor “gained notoriety for claiming Corinthian Colleges…was in good enough standing to continue to receive billions of dollars in taxpayer funds” and “renewed two of the company’s campuses and authorized a new campus a few months before the Department of Education forced Corinthian to close or sell its 120 locations.”

Inside Higher Ed  (4/18) reports that Gray led the organization for seven years, noting that last year, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) “grilled” Gray “criticizing his organization’s decision to approve campuses owned by Corinthian Colleges right up until that company’s collapse.” The piece notes that ED, “which has publicly criticized the accreditor for its approval of Corinthian Colleges and vowed to crack down on the performance of all accreditors, will decide this summer whether to continue to recognize ACICS.”

Maryland’s Washington College Giving Graduating Seniors Grants To Repay Student Debt.

The Washington Post  (4/18, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland is giving some graduating seniors this year “a memorable graduation gift: money to pay off student debt.” The gift will total $313,933 and is “part of the college’s Dam the Debt program” which was launched by President Sheila Bair.

More Employers Offering College Loan Repayment Benefits.

The Hechinger Report  (4/18, Ostashevsky) has a feature on college loan repayment benefits offered by employers. The “perk” is currently only offered to about three percent of all US employees, but it is “growing fast.” Tim DeMello, CEO of Gradifi, a company that administers such programs for employers, said, “It’s kind of like paying a 401(k). The money comes to us and we channel it to the loan agencies. … My education was worth my debt, but I knew that for a long time all my money would be going toward paying it off.”

Fire Investigators Say University Of Hawaii Lab Explosion Was An Accident.

The AP  (4/18, McAvoy) reports the Honolulu Fire Department has determined that a laboratory explosion at the University of Hawaii in March was an accident. Investigators said “compressed hydrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen detonated inside an air tank in the laboratory,” causing the explosion.

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

Three ASEE Members Presented with Gordon Prize
Arthur Heinricher, Richard Vaz, and Kristin Wobbe of WPI join their colelague Diran Apelian in accpeting the prestigious award from the National Academy of Engineering. The Gordon Prize is awarded annually by the NAE to recognize new modalities and experiments in education that develop effective engineering leaders.

Research and Development

Researchers Working On Chip-based Quantum Physics.

Relying on information in the Oklahoma Journal Record  (4/8, Brus), the AP  (4/18, Brus) reports that University of Oklahoma physicist James Shaffer and colleagues have been “focused on chip-based atomic physics, believing it holds the promise of a second quantum revolution: engineering quantum matter with arbitrary precision.” Shaffer’s work, “supported by…the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, with a grant through the U.S. Army Research Office, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation,” aims to find ways around the problem interference from tiny electrical fields.

Engineer Develops Gyroscope Tech For Use In Smaller Spacecraft.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (4/18, Robinson-Avila) reports New Mexico State University electrical engineer Taylor Burgett is developing the work of two Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department researchers who “greatly simplified the design of control-moment gyroscopes, which are used to stabilize or control the orientation of things.” Gyroscopes are “difficult and expensive to make for smaller craft,” although “typically used on large spacecraft.” Yet, the research purports to allow gyroscopes to be scaled “down for use in things like nano satellites,” and ultimately for use in cars or drones. Burgett will “seek $50,000 from the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps.”

Adaptive Headlight Systems May Be Introduced To US Roadways Soon.

The Detroit News  (4/18, Wayland) reports that starting as early as next year, “Advanced headlight systems with adaptive driving beams are expected to light US roadways, possibly in the next year.” The article explains that the “glare-free high-beam systems” will be able to automatically spotlight specific parts of the road, while avoiding the glare on rear and oncoming cars. NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas said “Both (U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony) Foxx and (NHTSA Administrator Mark) Rosekind have spoken out about the need to identify and remove potential regulatory hurdles to safety improvements.” Thomas added, “To that end, the agency has conducted research on adaptive headlighting and is moving to take actions to permit this innovative safety technology.”


House Passes Bill Renaming Program To Recruit Women To Science Jobs.

The Hill  (4/18, Marcos) reports in its “Floor Action” blog that six “House Republicans opposed legislation on Monday to rename an Agriculture Department program that recruits women and minorities for science careers after the first woman elected to Congress,” Jeannette Rankin. The all-male opposition cited Rankin’s lone votes against participation in both World Wars. Yet, the House passed the measure 377-6. The Hill says “about 39 percent of chemists, 16 percent of chemical engineers, 12 percent of civil engineers and 28 percent of environmental scientists are women,” with women holding “less than 25 percent of jobs in STEM fields.”

Slack Hires Ex-Twitter Engineer Who Challenged Diversity Hiring.

USA Today  (4/18, Guynn) reports Slack hired former Twitter engineer Leslie Miley as director of engineering for its growth team, despite debate surrounding Miley’s challenge to Twitter’s “commitment to advancing diversity.” Yet, the article notes that in February when Slack won the “Crunchie” award for “fastest rising start-up,” its “team of engineers, all women of color, accepted” the award.

Global Developments

NTNU Researchers, Statoil, & Kongsberg Partner On Maritime Robot Snakes.

Maritime Executive  (4/19) reports Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) researchers, Statoil, and Kongsberg are developing “swimming robotic snakes” to use “for inspection and light intervention jobs on the seabed” such as adjusting valves and chokes. Kongsberg Maritime VP Bjørn Jalving is quoted saying the snakes are “a new tool that will enable operators to realize large scale cost savings by introducing new ways of conducting routine tasks and helping to prevent unscheduled shutdowns by reacting instantly when required.”

Marine Log  (4/19) provides video footage of one of the snakes swimming underwater.

Industry News

Lockheed’s Space Business “Took Center Stage” At DC Science And Engineering Festival.

The Washington Business Journal  (4/19, Bach, Subscription Publication) reports in its “Fedbiz Daily” blog that Lockheed Martin’s space business “took center stage” at Friday’s USA Science and Engineering Festival in DC. Lockheed announced its Generation Beyond initiative to teach students about deep space, and displayed models of its Orion spacecraft and InSight lander. The Business Journal reports on a conversation with former astronaut and current Lockheed director of operations for space systems Stephen Frick, who discussed some of the technical challenges of a Mars mission, and said the Orion will be “an integral part of whatever architecture we come up with.”

Report: Apple Car Being Developed In “Secret Lab” In Berlin.

According to Business Insider  (4/18, Shead), Frankfurter Allgemeine reported Monday that it “learned from informed sources that Apple is running a secret laboratory for the development of an automobile…in the middle of Berlin.” The report added that the company may also plan to build the Apple Car in Vienna, Austria, in partnership with “vehicle engineering and contract manufacturing firm Magna.” 9 to 5 Mac  (4/18, Lovejoy) and The Drive  (4/18, Tannert) offer similar coverage.

Study Finds Manufacturing Sector Lags Behind In Cybersecurity.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (4/18, Barrett) details a study by Sikich LLP that found “only 33% of the manufacturers surveyed…did annual computer network penetration tests, which many in the cyber security field consider essential.” The Journal Sentinel reports Sikich’s research found that the manufacturing sector lagged behind sectors such as financial and health in cybersecurity because of a lack of industry standards. According to the Sentinel, “some of the worst cyber security breaches have come from thumb drives,” and says “even IBM” was caught in a thumb-drive scandal, when it gave out free drives at a trade show that, unbeknownst to them, were infected with a virus.

Engineering and Public Policy

GSA Puts Out Cybersecurity Acquisition Research Survey, DoD Selects Vendors For DTIC Cyber Contract.

The E-Commerce Times  (4/18, Higgins) reports on developments in federal IT solutions acquisition. The General Service Administration has put out a “research survey” on how to expedite acquisition of cybersecurity products and services, to be used to help agencies develop contract vehicles to “procure both proactive and reactive cybersecurity services, such as penetration testing, incident response and security engineering to include post-incident or post-assessment remediation,” according to Federal Acquisition Service for Strategic Solutions and Security Services director Shon Lyublanovits. E-Commerce Times also reports DoD has “selected vendors” for its $5 billion Cyber Security and Information Systems Technical Area Tasks contract for the Defense Technical Information Center, or DTIC.

Study Finds Manufacturing Sector Lags Behind In Cybersecurity. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (4/18, Barrett) details a study by Sikich LLP that found “only 33% of the manufacturers surveyed…did annual computer network penetration tests, which many in the cyber security field consider essential.” The Journal Sentinel reports Sikich’s research found that the manufacturing sector lagged behind sectors such as financial and health in cybersecurity because of a lack of industry standards. The Journal Sentinel adds that “some business owners believe their company is too small to be the target of a cyber attack, but the offenders don’t necessarily see it that way.”

High Lead, Copper Levels Found At Some Schools In Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

The Detroit News  (4/18, Williams) reports Grosse Pointe Public Schools Superintendent Gary Niehaus emailed parents Monday informing them that elevated lead and copper levels were found in six classroom buildings in the district. Niehaus said water fountains have been disconnected at those locations, which include “Defer, Kerby and Maire elementary schools, the Barnes Early Childhood Center and at Brownell and Pierce Elementary schools.”

Senate Hopes To Finish Bipartisan Energy Bill This Week.

E&E Publishing  (4/18, Subscription Publication) reports that “after two months of talks to clear out roadblocks” leaders in the Senate “are looking to wrap up the bipartisan energy bill (S. 2012) this week.” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski “said last week the exact timing is up to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.” The “breakthrough” came after Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow decided “to lift her hold backed by fellow Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters; the pair have been angling to use the bill as a vehicle for steering aid to the residents of Flint, Mich.” In an interview on Friday with Boston’s WBUR “Here & Now” program, “Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the administration is ‘very encouraged’ by the bill, which he said contains ‘many positive elements.’” Moniz praised “the bill’s provisions to modernize the electric grid.” Moniz said, “What we see is a collection of risks that we need to get together for resilience of the grid in the 21st century. … We need to address this technologically.”

Administration To Push Emissions Reporting, Cutting For Transportation Projects.

Politico  (4/18, Grunwald) reports that Obama Administration officials told POLITICO they are about to propose rules “that could force recipients of federal transportation dollars to track transportation-related emissions and set goals for cutting them.” Without Federal targets or penalties, the hope is that making state and regional infrastructure planners take climate impacts into consideration “will encourage smarter growth, mass transit, electric vehicles and other emissions reduction strategies, while discouraging sprawl-inducing exurban roads to nowhere.” The Department of Transportation will seek comment on whether and how to establish performance measures for climate-related pollution. The Administration hopes to finalize the rule before the end of the year.

EPA Clean Power Rule Challengers File New Briefs Opposing Plan.

E&E Publishing  (4/18, Subscription Publication) reports that more than 150-petitioners opposed to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule filed briefs last Friday renewing “previous arguments that the rule is both beyond EPA’s jurisdiction and procedurally flawed.” Meanwhile, the rule’s supporters “shrugged at the challengers’ latest arguments, instead focusing on growing support for the rule.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Geneva, Illinois Middle School Students Build Skyscrapers.

The Aurora (IL) Beacon-News  (4/18) reports students at Geneva Middle School North in Geneva, Illinois “were tasked with building their own skyscraper” after studying urban growth. There were “two towers this year that beat the old record of 22 feet, 3 inches set back in 2014. The new record is now 29 feet tall.”

District Of Columbia Group Introducing Students To STEM.

WRC-TV  Washington (4/17, Cook) reported on its website that “what appear to be props for a forensic crime show are real-life tools for a group of students” at National Collegiate Preparatory Public Charter High School in the District of Columbia. The 100 Black Men of Greater Washington, D.C.’s “STEM The 100 Way” program introduced students to STEM “in the hopes they will pursue science, engineering, technology or math in their future careers.”

Florida Students Participate In VEX Worlds.

The Tampa Bay (FL) Times  (4/18, Sokol) reports on VEX Worlds, “an Olympics of sorts for kids who spend their spare hours designing, building and programming robots to get intricate motion out of a lot of spare parts.” There are about 1,000 teams from around the world participating in the event. Students at Brandon, Florida’s McLane Middle School are building robots for the event.

Monday’s Lead Stories

University Of Arizona Engineers Test Connected Vehicle Technology.
Shell Fuel-Economy Car Contest Returns To Detroit.
North Carolina Engineer Develops Metal Foam To Enhance Body Armor.
EPA Amends Air Pollution Rules For Power Plants.
WPost Profiles 9-Year-Old Driven To Become First White House Child Science Adviser.

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