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

Leading the News

Texas A&M Building New Research Campus.

The Dallas Morning News  (5/2) reports that Texas A&M University is building a new research and development campus at a former military base in Bryan, Texas. The $150 million facility will be devoted to studying “several new technologies, including driverless and connected cars, robotics and smart power grids and water systems.” Chancellor John Sharp said the campus “will serve as both a development hub for private companies and an institution that offers four-year degrees, continuing education classes and short courses.”

The Houston Chronicle  (5/2, Wermund) reports that the school will convert “an abandoned, 2,000-acre air base near its campus in a “transformative” move to foster product innovation and recruit thousands of undergraduates to new degree programs.” Companies drawn to the campus “would collaborate with three state agencies, which are part of the A&M system, on research in engineering, transportation and related cybersecurity.” The Austin (TX) American Statesman  (5/3, Subscription Publication) also covers this story.

Higher Education

USC Hosts Virtual Reality Festival.

USA Today  (5/2, Buckley) reports on the University of Southern California Virtual Reality Club’s first-annual Virtual Reality Festival and Demo Day, “a showcase of projects and panels with The Walt Disney Company as its title sponsor.” Students from a variety of colleges attended the festival to compete for prizes across four categories: 360 Live-Action Videos, 360 Animation, Interactive VR Games and Immersive Technology/Augmented Reality (AR).

Northeastern Engineering Students Suggest Traffic, Infrastructure Improvements For Mansfield.

The Attleboro (MA) Sun Chronicle  (5/3, Foster) reports that seven senior engineering students at Northeastern University recently presented Mansfield, Massachusetts selectmen “with a detailed presentation on how the town could beautify the North Main Street area, simplify traffic patterns and make downtown more attractive and accessible to businesses and shoppers.” This year marks the fourth time students in the Northeastern’s Capstone program, led by professor Dan Dulaski, “have spent several weeks in town to come up with ideas on traffic and infrastructure improvements.” In fact, “many of the ideas from last year’s group were incorporated into a state grant application that produced $2.4 million in MassWorks funding to reconfigure traffic in the North End.”

Texas University Students Struggle To Get Dual-Credit Courses Accepted.

The AP  (5/2, Chang) reports that Texas university students are increasingly finding that their dual-credit courses “count only as electives, and universities might not accept the classes to fulfill a specific degree requirement,” which has forced some students to spend more time in college, “and more money on tuition, than they expected.”

Snapchat Funds Programming Classes For Low-Income Women.

Christian Science Monitor  (5/2, Margolin) reports that as part of its efforts to “help women get into tech,” Snapchat is funding “programming classes for low-income women at St. Joseph Center, a service agency in Venice, Calif., nearby the five-year-old startup’s offices.” The article notes that “women comprise only about a quarter of the tech workforce, and in the past 30 years, the number of women has declined from about 37 percent of computer science graduates to 18 percent today.”

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

Scientists Looking To Recycle CO2 Waste.

The New York Times  (5/2, Fountain, Subscription Publication) reports scientists are increasingly looking for ways to recycle CO2 instead of throwing it away. The X Prize Foundation has created an incentive to do just that with a $20 million prize for teams that come up with such technologies by 2020. The ultimate goal would be to turn “the waste product of fuel-burning into new fuel.” California Institute of Technology materials scientist Harry Atwater, who heads the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, leads a team that is trying to mimic plants by taking CO2 and water “and, using only sunlight, turn it into fuel.” However, Atwater is “realistic about the challenges,” and says the “energy and catalysis problems of humanity will not have been resolved five years from now.” The center, started with a grant from the Energy Department, has labs at the Lawerence Berkley National Laboratory and Caltech.

DARPA, Raytheon Developing “Immortal” Software.

Seeking Alpha  (5/2, Minkoff) reports a Raytheon BBN Technologies team “is developing methods to make mobile applications viable for up to 100 years,” surviving changes in hardware, operating systems, and supporting services. Raytheon scientist Partha Pal is quoted saying, “Mobile apps are pervasive in the military, but frequent operating system upgrades, new devices and changing missions and environments require manual software engineering that is expensive and causes unacceptable delays.” The project is being developed through a $7.8 million USAF contract under DARPA’s Building Resource Adaptive Software Systems program.

Engineering and Public Policy

Michigan Governor’s Office Releases Key Engineering Report On Flint Water Treatment Plant That Was Previously Said To Be Lost.

The Detroit Free Press  (5/2, Egan) highlights a 2013 report prepared by Lockwood, Andrews & Newman, an engineering firm based in Houston, on how the Flint Water Treatment Plant could properly treat water from the Flint River. The report was prepared by the firm in anticipation of the city switching its water source and did not recommend the use of corrosion control chemicals. The report is referenced in communications between officials before the city switched its water, but officials previously said it had been lost until it was released by the governor’s office with the latest batch of emails from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Michigan Governor Resumes Drinking Flint Water After Trip To Europe. MLive (MI)  (5/2, Acosta) reports Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has resumed drinking water from Flint after returning from Europe. Snyder pledged to drink the city’s water for 30 days, but that was put on hold while he traveled in Europe last week promoting trade with Michigan.

Colorado Supreme Court Strikes Down Local Bans On Fracking.

The New York Times  (5/2, Wines, Subscription Publication) reports Monday, Colorado’s state Supreme Court “struck down local government prohibitions on hydraulic fracturing,” ruling that the limits “were invalid because state law pre-empted them.” The rulings confirmed lower court decisions. The rulings specifically applied to limits by Longmont and Fort Collins, but other city’s actions “presumably are affected.” The rulings are expected to have a small effect in the short term, because of low oil prices. There are also “signature-collecting efforts for three fracking-related ballot initiatives” which would “reinstate local control over fracking” or “outlaw fracking within 2,500 feet of occupied buildings, waterways and public open spaces.” The Wall Street Journal  (5/2, Frosch, Subscription Publication) reports the court found that the limits imposed in Fort Collins and Longmont “were preempted by state law and, therefore… invalid and unenforceable.” Fort Collins had adopted a five-year moratorium on fracking in 2011, and Longmont voted to ban fracking in 2012.

WSJournal Approves Of Ruling. The Wall Street Journal  (5/2, Subscription Publication) in an editorial, praises the decision as correct and rational, and argues that uniform rules within a state are preferable to varying rules from town to town.

EPA Rejects Challenges To Power Plant Rules.

E&E Publishing  (5/3, Bravender, Subscription Publication) reports that the EPA has rejected five petitions requesting the agency “reconsider its rules to clamp down on greenhouse gas emissions from new, modified, and reconstructed power plants.” The agency’s reasoning for denying the petitions was accompanied by a signed notice from Administrator Gina McCarthy asserting that “Carbon capture and sequestration is a proven technology, with a history of reliable use at coal-fired plants and other industrial sources.”

EPA Releases Fact Sheet To Help Electric Utilities Understand Chemical Reporting Duties.

Bloomberg BNA  (5/2, Rizzuto) reports that the EPA “released a fact sheet to help electric utilities understand their obligations to report details on chemicals they manufacture.” Carolyn Slaughter, director of environmental policy for the American Public Power Association, praised the fact sheet, stating that “any guidance EPA offers is helpful to the industry.”

Climate Change Destroying South Florida Reefs Faster Than Expected.

The Miami Herald  (5/3, Staletovich) reports a study published Monday in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles found that climate-related coral erosion in South Florida – projected to begin between 2050 and 2060 – has already started near Miami. Lead author Chris Langdon, a University of Miami marine biologist, said the findings show “we really need to get serious about the carbon solution.” The reefs are considered a $7.6 billion asset believed to have created 7,000 jobs. The Herald says Langdon’s report comes just days after the National Marine Fisheries Service concluded a study which found that the government’s work on PortMiami stirred up sediment and “killed many of the coral near the Government Cut channel.”

Maryland Near To Meeting Federal Air Pollution Limits.

The Baltimore Sun  (5/2) reports that Maryland is “very close” to meeting all Federal air quality standards, state officials said Monday. The EPA’s tightening of what it considers unhealthy ozone levels from 75 ppb to 70 ppb, “could mean an uptick in ‘Code Orange’ air quality days this summer,” the Sun reports. Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said in a statement, “More needs to be done, within the state and beyond in upwind states, to consistently improve and maintain Maryland’s air quality.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Florida Third Graders Learn About Robotics, Programming.

Florida Today  (5/2, Kowarski) reports a third grade class at the Divine Mercy Catholic Academy of Merritt Island learned how to assemble and program robots that “look and move like space rovers.” Class sponsors and parents helped the third graders write “computer code that made the robots move in a figure-eight pattern.” Don Stacy, whose daughter Amielle attends Divine Mercy, said, “I got involved because I wanted my daughter to have more advanced knowledge. … At such a young age, they are so impressionable, so this is really the time to teach them.” School principal Lourdes Wyatt said the robot project wants to make learning fun for students, “and they have found that robots intrigue students who might otherwise be uninterested in math or computers.”

Mississippi Introducing More Computer Science Training.

The AP  (5/2, Amy) reports Mississippi superintendents are excited about a new state effort to boost computer science instruction in schools. 34 districts will send 167 elementary school and 68 high school teachers for training this summer, “in the first phase of a plan to increase learning about computers in all grades.” Greene County School Superintendent Charles Breland, “We see the need for so many tech-related jobs out there that aren’t filled. I look as it as future economic development for not only Greene County but the state of Mississippi.” The state Department of Education and Mississippi State University announced last week they are partnering on the effort. MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit “also will train teachers to fold some computer instruction into fifth-grade classes, aiming for roughly an hour of instruction per week.”

Co-Creator Interviewed About STEM Achievement In Baltimore Elementary Schools.

US News & World Report  (5/2, Golod) interviews Michael Falk, a John Hopkins University professor who was inspired to start STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools (SABES), a program funded by the National Science Foundation that strives improve STEM curriculum and delivery for Baltimore third-through-fifth graders. Falk said he and other SABES officials decided on the age range because it is when kids decide, “This is cool or this is interesting.” SABES differs from other STEM-focused programming because they were asked by the NSF to think about the student’s life and community in addition to “what’s going on in a classroom” or after-school. The “most exciting events are the STEM Showcases,” Falk said, “because the students get to show off what they did so they get to be the authority.”

Wyoming Science Education Project Drawing National Attention.

The AP  (5/2) reports Campbell County, Wyoming’s science program, “now in the fourth year of a federal grant that will ultimately revamp the way science is taught in the school district,” is attracting national attention after John Tulenko and a film crew from “Education Week/PBS News Hour” was dispatched to “report on the groundbreaking efforts to teach science.” As part of the experiment to revamp Campbell County School District’s science courses, trustees set a minimum time limit for teachers to use science reading or kit-based lessons. “Teachers have told me that kids are a lot more interested in science,” Tulenko said, adding that “there’s a lot more hands-on” activities in classrooms than he’s seen before. The next step for Campbell County’s full program is testing and assessment to confirm student improvement.

Monday’s Lead Stories

Government, Scientists, Industry Working To Determine Autonomous Vehicle Regulation.
SRNS Offers Funds For USC Engineering Professor Endowment.
Washington State University Student Gets Fellowship To Study Soft Robotics.
IBM’s Millennial Corps Discusses What Young Workers Need From Supervisors.
Chinese Companies Push Into EV Market In Uncertain Times.
New York Nonprofit Aims To Promote Tech Industry.
Utah Regulators Call For Delay In EPA’s New Ozone Standards.

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