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

Leading the News

Aerial Fire Robots Tested At Homestead National Monument.

The Lincoln (NE) Journal Star  (4/24) reports that “new technology that may keep firefighters out of harm’s way during controlled burns was tested at Homestead National Monument of America Friday.” According to the article, “starting controlled burns has relied on firefighters armed with torches, but this year, an unmanned drone took to the skies over the prairie to spread the fire.” Friday was “the first public test of the drone developed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers Carrick Detweiler and Sebastian Elbaum.”

Additional coverage was provided by US News & World Report  (4/22), the Washington (DC) Times  (4/22, Schulte), the Washington (DC) Post  (4/22, Grant Schulte |, Ap), the Daily Mail  (4/22, Press), and various other smaller outlets.

University Of Texas To Test Drones For Austin First Responder Use. KXAN-TV  Austin, TX (4/22, Ricke) reported on its website that the Austin, Texas city council has approved the use of drones “in support of fire and water search and rescue incidents. … Drones would be used to assist first responders during weather events; like floods, tornadoes and even structure fires.” Drone testing “will be conducted by the University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering to determine if drones would be practical for the fire department.”

Higher Education

Illinois Legislature Passes $600 Million Higher Education Funding Bill.

The Chicago Sun-Times  (4/22, Sfondeles) reports the creation of a new specialized education fund, derived from “income tax revenue,” has made it possible for the Illinois legislature to vote almost unanimously to approve a bill that continues to fund the state’s universities and community colleges. The bill provides $600 million in funding to “stem the financial crisis” within the state’s higher education system, as well as “$160 million in tuition grants for low-income students.” Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno said, “Every bit of spending in this bill is paid for – both Higher Ed and Human Services. That is the model we are trying to achieve. That is the sort of reset in budgeting we need for this state.”

Washington State Colleges Step Up Computer Science Programs.

The Seattle Times  (4/23, Long) reported Washington State colleges “are finding it hard to keep up with a fast-growing appetite for computer-science courses” and are stepping up their programs. At Western Washington University, “the clamor for computer-science classes is so strong that the school this month sent a letter to 150 potential transfer students, warning them they may have to wait a year before they can start taking courses in the subject.” Bellevue College is also likely to add a computer science major.

Students Compete In Shell Eco-Marathon In Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press  (4/24, Bethencourt) reports the Shell Eco-Marathon took place in Detroit Sunday, with “more than 1,000 students from 100 universities and high schools across North and South America” competing to “see whose vehicle could use the least amount of energy while also maintaining a minimum speed.” WXYZ-TV  Detroit (4/25) also covers this story.

Washington State Legislature Said To Be Underfunding Community And Technical Colleges.

In a Seattle Times  (4/24) op-ed, Marty Brown of the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and Amy Morrison Goings of Lake Washington Institute of Technology write, “For 386,000 Washington state students, the place to become career ready is at our community and technical colleges. Yet the Legislature has failed to adequately fund them.” Students “receive an excellent education at these 34 colleges without paying a premium price. … What other public-education system provides as a high of a return on taxpayer investment?”

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

Online Workshop
Applying Evidence-Based Teaching Practices in Computing Education will show how such practices can be effectively used when teaching graduate and undergraduate students. The workshop will be held June 1 and lasts for 3 hours. Registration is $50.

Research and Development

Driverless Cars Not Yet Ready For City Travel.

The Wall Street Journal  (4/22, Petroski, Subscription Publication) wrote that while driverless car technology is advancing, cities are not yet ready. In a cross-country test run last year, a driverless Audi could handle 99% of the trip – but not the complex traffic and frequent construction of an urban environment. The Journal explores some of the changes cities will have to make to adapt to the new technology.

OSIRIS-REx Mission Scheduled For September Launch.

The Arizona Daily Star  (4/24, Beal) reports that NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, “conceived and run by a team at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory,” is set to launch in early September. Its mission is “to grab a couple ounces of sand and gravel from a near-Earth asteroid and return them to Earth.”

Ex-Oculus Chief Scientist Speaks At Chicago Venture Summit.

The Chicago Tribune  (4/22, Elahi) reported on former Oculus chief scientist Steve LaValle’s appearance at the Chicago Venture Summit Thursday, where Lavalle, now a University of Illinois professor, discussed the early days of virtual reality.


Public Urged To Change Attitudes Regarding Women In Architecture.

In a Los Angeles Times  (4/22, Stratigakos) op-ed, University at Buffalo interim chair of architecture Despina Stratigakos writes, “Architecture remains a tough profession for women to crack.” While “nearly half of architecture school graduates are women, only 18% of licensed practitioners are women. Confronted with lower salaries, given fewer career-building opportunities and lacking mentors, female architects leave the field in disturbingly high numbers.” The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture “has an important role to play” in improving this, and “public attitudes also need to change.”

Energy Job Opportunities For Women Expected To Grow.

The Houston Chronicle  (4/22, Sweeten) reports that 1.3 million new job opportunities are projected to be created in the oil, natural gas, and petrochemical industries by 2030, with women expected to fill 185,000 of those positions, according to Of these, women will fill 70,000 “engineering, management, and other professional roles.” The Women’s Energy Network, through a partnership with the American Petroleum Institute, has seen a increase in college students majoring in STEM-related fields. Still, “economic projections indicate 2.4 million STEM jobs could be unfilled by 2018.”

Industry News

Facebook’s Antenna Technology Could Reach 97 Percent Of The World.

Wired  (4/22, Metz) reported on Facebook’s new wireless antenna systems, noting that its ARIES is capable of beaming “signals to rural areas from cities up to two dozen miles away,” which could hit 97 percent of the world’s population according to the company. However, Wired noted that Ericsson’s Erik Ekudden believes existing wireless technology will be able to reach 90 percent of the world’s population by 2020, though Ekudden also said the company is “building technology quite similar to Facebook’s wide-range antenna.” Wired also noted that Terragraf, Facebook’s other new system, is focused on improving Internet in cities through the use of unlicensed airwaves.

The New York Times  (4/24, Hardy, Isaac, Subscription Publication) reported on Facebook’s ambitions to get Internet, and it’s platform, to more users through telecommunications projects. The Times quotes Jay Parik, a VP for engineering at Facebook as saying “Our rule is 10 times faster or 10 times cheaper or both. We want to get a full Facebook experience to every end user, whether that is video, or eventually virtual reality.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative Has Drawn $600 Million In Private Funds.

The Washington Post  (4/22, Brown) reports that in its second year, My Brother’s Keeper, President Obama’s “initiative to improve the lives and prospects of boys and young men of color” has “helped galvanize $600 million in private donations, according to a progress report the administration released Friday.” The program has enlisted over “240 communities, including one in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Puerto Rico,” establishing “local teams to identify opportunity gaps for males of color and come up with plans to address them.” Administration officials “say they believe that the work of My Brother’s Keeper will outlive the Obama presidency.” Education Secretary John King said in an interview, “I think we’ll continue to see progress in the next administration to try to create better alternatives to the pattern of mass incarceration that we’ve seen.”

McCain Calls For DOJ Investigation Into EPA.

The Hill  (4/23, Neidig) “Ballot Box” blog cites the AP in reporting Sen. John McCain is calling for a “criminal investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a hazardous mine spill last summer.” During a hearing in Phoenix on Friday, McCain said, “What is clear now is that not enough has been done … I’ve come to the conclusion that a [Justice Department] criminal investigation is merited and must now occur.”

Pipeline Coalition Urges President Obama To Allow Pipeline To Proceed.

A Des Moines (IA) Register  (4/23, Wiederstein) opinion piece from chairman of the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN) Coalition Ed Wiederstein argued tactics from environmental groups opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline “is not new,” and that they are seeking to derail the final permitting process by “attempt[ing] to throw up roadblocks in the form of protests and calling into question the validity of environmental reviews completed by the individual states and project.” Wiederstein indicated MAIN coalition members sent a letter to President Obama “to urge his administration to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete their duties to fully review and issue a decision on the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

Texas Congress Members Ask EPA To Reject Texas Smog Plan.

The Dallas Morning News  (4/22) reported that two Texas lawmakers are asking the EPA “to reject the state’s current plan for reducing smog-causing and health-damaging ozone,” claiming that it does little to address those issues. “If the state will not negotiate in good faith,” the elected officials and a coalition of environmental groups have asked the EPA to implement a federal plan. The article notes that the Dallas area has been out of compliance with ozone standards since 1991, and that “although ozone pollution has declined, it hasn’t kept up with increasingly lower federal standards and research has shown that ozone exacerbates respiratory problems at smaller concentrations.”

Michigan Senators Urge EPA To Intervene On Air Quality Issues.

The Detroit Free Press  (4/22, Spangler) reports that Michigan’s US Senators issued a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy “asking her agency to implement a plan for reducing sulfur dioxide and other pollutants in Wayne County if the state of Michigan does not do so in the next two months.” Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow said the EPA must intervene because “the crisis in Flint has damaged trust in the state agency.” The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says it plans to submit a plan to the EPA next month.

Loveless: Solar Industry, Utilities Can Partner In Changing Power Sector.

Bill Loveless writes for USA Today  (4/24) on a deal between New York utilities and SolarCity, SunPower, and SunEdison “that would make them partners rather than rivals in the changing power sector.” The Solar Progress Partnership was a result of discussions among the participants and state officials facilitated by the nonprofit Advanced Energy Economy Institute. Loveless quotes SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive as saying of the debate between the solar industry and the utility industry, “The biggest cause of the debate is not recognizing a lot of the benefits that solar provides to the grid.”

New York Town Plans Wind Farm Restrictions.

The Buffalo (NY) News  (4/24, Prohaska) reports that the Yates Town Board in New York “is likely to pass a law restricting construction of wind power projects.” In surveys, area landowners “have shown solid opposition” to Apex Clean Energy’s proposed wind projects in Somerset and Yates. The Yates measure is modeled on one passed in Somerset two months ago and “prohibits wind power development in the waterfront revitalization area near the lakeshore and requires developers to reimburse property owners who sell their homes because of the wind project if they can’t obtain a sale price equal to the value set by an appraiser.” A vote is expected Friday.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Enzi, Casey Working On Perkins Act Reauthorization.

The Politico  (4/24) “Morning Education” blog reports that Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) are drafting a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, “which sets policy on career and technical education.” The piece suggests that the law may gain traction in an election year because “it’s small enough that legislators could avoid the heated election-year blowups that sink bills.” Moreover, it “addresses an attractive policy area — skills training” and “could even be spun as a jobs bill.”

Indiana Launches Elementary School Robotics Program.

The AP  (4/24) reported Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and the state Department of Workforce Development announced an elementary school robotics program in partnership with NASA, TechPoint Foundation for Youth and other entities. Four hundred schools will be selected to participate in the program starting in the fall. The initiative “aims to shepherd students in fourth and fifth grades into career paths related to science, technology, engineering and math.”

Federal Court Rejects Kansas Group’s Bid To Block Science Curriculum.

Yahoo! Tech  (4/24, Chang) reports the tenth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver rejected a claim by the Citizens for Objective Public Education, a religiously oriented group, to block Kansas from implementing the Next Generation Sciences Standards (NGSS), which it said constitutes a form of “religious indoctrination.” COPE said NGSS’s “failure to include a religious basis for the origins of life and the universe makes the curriculum unsuitable for the classroom.” The court concluded the organization failed to “offer any facts to support the conclusion that the Standards condemn any religion or send a message of endorsement.” The ruling therefore upheld a lower court’s ruling on the case.

Father And Son Volunteer As FIRST Employee Mentors For Connecticut High School.

The New Britain (CT) Herald  (4/24, Wayne) reports on Ted and Andrew Hall, a father and son who have worked at Pratt & Whitney as a respective turbine project manager and support equipment fleet manager, became employee mentors for their local school’s FIRST robotics team. When he was young, Andrew Hall learned about the robot development process and using computer-aided design software. He continued working with the team “throughout his high school career, learning more about” technologies. His father served as an employee mentor to his son’s team, and 14 years later, Andrew Hall “became an employee mentor with FIRST.” Both Halls volunteer with the Berlin High School Techno Nuts and have helped them make “it through a number of qualifying events” to compete in the FIRST Robotics New England District Championship.

Ypsilanti Robotics Team Headed To FIRST World Championship.

MLive (MI)  (4/23, Slagter) reported Ypsilanti STEMM Middle College’s Team 66 of the Grizzly robotics program won the Chairman’s Award at the FIRST state championship on April 16, guaranteeing the team a spot in the FIRST world championship in St. Louis on April 27 to 30. Winning the Chairman’s Award, the highest award that embodies “the purpose and goals of FIRST,” recognizes the “schoolwide turnaround the team has contributed to since Ypsilanti Schools merged with Willow Run and restructured its high schools in 2013-14.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

Volkswagen Reaches Settlement With US Over Emissions Cheating.
Federal Judge: CFPB Has No Authority To Investigate For-Profit Accreditors.
University Of Oregon Hosting Annual Cyber Security Day.
Daimler Launches Internal Emissions Probe At US DOJ Request.
Senate Democrats Block Effort To Stop Clean Water Rule.
White House Joins Push For Pre-K STEM Instruction.

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