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

Leading the News

FAA Signs UAS Detection Tech Research Agreements.

The Hill  (5/10, Zanona) reports the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signed three Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRDAs) with companies this week to “evaluate procedures and technologies that can identify unauthorized drone operations” in and around US airports, as part of its “Pathfinder Initiative” to explore how UAS can be integrated into US airspace. The companies’ UAS detection systems will be evaluated by the FAA and the Department of Homeland Security for effectiveness and workability. Homeland Security Today  (5/10, Vicinanzo) reports the CRDAs were signed with Gryphon Sensors, Liteye Systems Inc., and Sensofusion, and says in that February, “the FAA partnered with DHS and CACI International on similar research” to explore UAS detection technology. The AVweb  (5/10, Grady) reports “other federal agencies participating in the effort include the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the US Secret Service, and the FBI.” Aviation Week  (5/10, Warwick) and ExecutiveBiz  (5/10, Edwards) provide additional coverage.

FAA Solicits Public Input On System For Suspicious Drone Reporting. In a Forbes  (5/10) column, John Goglia reports “the FAA is asking for public comment” on its planned web-based system for public reporting of “drone behavior that they consider suspicious or illegal.” The system is being developed in response to direction from Congress to the FAA to “assess the flight behavior of [drones] and enable the reporting of [drone] sightings that cause public concern for safety, national security, and/or privacy.” The FAA is soliciting public input on: “(a) whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for FAA’s performance; (b) the accuracy of the estimated burden; (c) ways for FAA to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information collection; and (d) ways that the burden could be minimized without reducing the quality of the collected information.”

Higher Education

Darryl Butt Names New Dean For The College Of Mines And Earth Sciences.

The Deseret (UT) News  (5/10) reports “Darryl P. Butt, associate director of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls and distinguished professor of materials science and engineering at Boise State University, will be the next dean of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences at the University of Utah.” Butt has also held positions with LLNL and University of Florida after earning is doctorate in materials science from Pennsylvania State University.

Solar Decathlon House Takes On New University Of Louisville Role.

The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal  (5/10, Bruggers) reports the Phoenix House’s inspiration “came from the devastation wreaked by the tornadoes that tore through Southern Indiana and Eastern Kentucky in March 2012.” Some of the team members that are building the “experimental, award-winning energy efficient homes that won an award at a national competition in Los Angeles had friends and family affected by the storms.” The Phoenix House is now “rising again on the University of Louisville campus as the administrative office for the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research and a living laboratory for studying renewable energy and energy efficiency prototype technologies in conjunction with industry.” The Courier-Journal adds “the solar-powered and super energy efficient Phoenix House was built as the U of L and Ball State University entry into the 2013 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition, where it won the affordability challenge.”

Education Department Eases Student Loan Default Rate Concerns For Small Colleges.

The Street  (5/10, Sandman) reports that although the Department of Education “can withhold loan and aid money from students at schools with default rates over 30% for three consecutive years or 40% for a single year,” last month the Education Department allowed an adjustment for 21 schools that have low headcounts in order to keep federal money flowing to these schools, and to keep them from facing shutdown. The Street says the Department “has been criticized” for this move, but continues to defend the policy.

Study: 17.8% Of Young High School Graduates Unemployed.

The New York Times  (5/10, Cohen, Subscription Publication) reports a new study by the Economic Policy Institute found that “only 10 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds have a college or advanced degree,” and “for young high school graduates, the unemployment rate is disturbingly high: 17.8 percent.” When “those who are underemployed” are added in, “the share jumps to more than 33 percent.”

Colleges Placing Increasing Importance On Civic Engagement.

In a more than 1,100-word analysis, Inside Higher Ed  (5/10, New) reports on the trend of colleges placing increased importance on civic engagement programs, such as UCLA’s recently added general education degree requirement of two courses in civic learning. The article cites a 2012 Education Department report “that urged colleges to make civic learning and democratic engagement ‘an animating national priority’ in order to help the country emerge from what it called a ‘civic recession,’” adding that the report inspired universities to promote civic engagement. The 2016 American Freshman Survey found nine percent of freshmen “said they have a ‘very good chance’ of participating in student protests while in college, an increase of 2.9 percentage points from last year’s survey.”

From ASEE
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

Hyperloop One Attracts Funding, Backers.

The San Francisco Chronicle  (5/10, Baker) reports Elon Musk’s “hyperloop” raised $80 million and built partnerships with engineering firms. The company’s name was also changed from Hyperloop Technologies to Hyperloop One. Co-founder and Executive Chairman Shervin Pishevar said, “The overwhelming response we’ve had already confirms what we’ve always known, that Hyperloop One is at the forefront of a movement to solve one of the planet’s most pressing problems.” He added, “The brightest minds are coming together at the right time to eliminate the distances and borders that separate economies and cultures.” London’s Arup Group chairman Gregory Hodkinson said, “Hyperloop has the potential to solve many of today’s most complex long-distance transport issues.” He added, “If railways helped enable the first industrial revolution, Hyperloop has the potential to do the same for the information economy, overcoming distances and creating connections between people, places, ideas and opportunities.”

Coverage was also provided by USA Today  (5/10, Cava) and Reuters  (5/10, Carroll).

Sandia’s Additive Manufactured Wind Blade Design to Be Showcased At Windpower 2016.

The Windpower Engineering & Development  (5/10, Dvorak) reports Sandia National Laboratories has designed a wind blade as part of the initial phase of “the DOE-funded additive manufactured blade mold demonstration project,” with the new mold to be displayed at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) 2016 Windpower Conference and Exhibition. Oak Ridge National Laboratory will use the blade design to “creat[e] the molds by additive manufacturing.”

IBM Partnering With Eight Universities To Train “Watson” For Cybersecurity.

The Washington Post  (5/10, Peterson) reports IBM will be partnering with eight universities to train its “computer brain,” Watson, to handle cybersecurity. The Post says the “end goal is a big data approach to cybersecurity that will have Watson automatically scour vast troves of security research at a rate human operators couldn’t possibly manage to investigate when something fishy hits a victim’s computer systems.” IBM says the system will not be designed to replace cybersecurity staffers, but “the system could help them prioritize the almost never-ending flow of alerts heading their way.” ZDNet  (5/10, Dignan) reports the research program to create “Watson for Cyber Security” is scheduled to last a year.

Industry News

GM Reiterates EV Priority, Adds To Lineup Of 40-MPG Cars.

The Detroit News  (5/10, Burden) reports that GM said in its 2015 Sustainability Report released Tuesday that “it is ahead of its goal to double the number of U.S. vehicles that generate 40 miles per gallon or more highway fuel economy by 2017” and is on track to “meet U.S. corporate average fuel economy fleet compliance through 2016 based on its product plans.” GM reported “196,861 vehicles on U.S. roads powered in some way by electrification” in 2015, compared to “180,834 in 2014 and 153,034 in 2013.” GM sustainability director David Tulauskas said, “We see lower gasoline prices as a temporary phenomenon, and if history teaches us anything, it’s that energy market fluctuations…are unpredictable. Moreover, the price of gas is not cheap everywhere, and in markets like Europe and China it’s still quite expensive. So our commitment is unchanged, and we’re focused on designing, engineering and marketing EVs that will resonate with customers.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Madison, Wisconsin Replaces All 8,000 Lead Pipes.

The Washington Post  (5/10, Fears, Dennis) reports about how the city of Madison, Wisconsin dealt with the issue of lead contamination in its water. The city is now being called by some the “anti-Flint,” as the city decided to replace all 8,000 of its lead pipes after “lead in their water had been measured at 16 parts per billion — one part per billion over the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard.”

Drillers Relinquish All But One Chukchi Sea Lease.

Greenwire  (5/10, Subscription Publication) reports that “after buying close to 3 million acres of oil and gas leases in the Arctic Ocean during the George W. Bush administration, global energy firms have given most of them back to the U.S. government, according to the environmental group Oceana.” ConocoPhillips Co., Eni SpA and Iona Energy Inc. have “relinquished all of their leases in the Chukchi Sea, Oceana revealed last night, citing documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.” Also, Royal Dutch Shell PLC is “relinquishing all but one of the 275 leases it acquired in the Chukchi in a 2008 lease sale, a spokesman for the company confirmed.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post  (5/10, Eilperin) reports that the President and others are facing “increased pressure to avert dangerous warming in the region.” The oil and gas companies’ moves come as “many Democratic lawmakers and environmental activists…are pushing for the administration to ban Arctic drilling altogether as part of the next five-year leasing plan, which runs from 2017 to 2022.” A letter from Reps. Robert Dold (R-IL), Jared Huffman (D-CA), and 66 other House Democrats to Interior Secretary Jewell called for the Administration “to revise the leasing plan before it becomes final.”

Politico Pro (5/10) reports that “the Interior Department says the decision by Shell and other companies to let go of offshore drilling leases in the Arctic won’t influence whether it will keep offering those areas up for oil and gas exploration.” Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said that the move by the companies is “an industry decision and does not have an impact” on the five-year offshore drilling plan that the Obama administration expects to finalize later this year.

Western Lawmakers Mobilize Against Army Corps For Rejecting Coal Terminal.

E&E News PM  (5/10, Subscription Publication) reports “Republicans and other pro-coal lawmakers attacked the Army Corps of Engineers yesterday for deciding to kill a proposed export facility in Washington state.” Proponents had hoped the port would ship the fuel from Western mines to Asian markets. Montana Sen. Steve Daines “accused the administration of ignoring the needs of his state and its mines” while Rep. Ryan Zinke filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the Army Corps’ review of the Gateway Pacific Terminal.

Senate Approves Bill To Study Oil Train Derailment Training.

The Hill  (5/10, Henry) reports that on Monday the Senate approved a bill to increase training efforts for first responders to rail car accidents. The legislation “would create a committee within the Federal Emergency Management Agency designed to research new training methods and expand resources for emergency officials who respond to ‘railroad hazmat incidents,’ including oil car derailments.” The article mentions that last year, the DOT “released a set of reforms deigned to reduce accidents, including phasing out or retrofitting every rail car carrying ethanol and crude oil.”

Nevada Officials, Native American Tribal Leader Oppose Latest NRC Report On Yucca Mountain.

The AP  (5/10, Ritter) reports Timbisha Shoshone Chairman George Gholson complained to federal regulators Tuesday that the 301-page environmental study of the proposed Yucca Mountain site completed last week by NRC staff “failed to consider people living in the Death Valley.” The Native American tribe leader told the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, an agency that also is critical of the NRC report, “We are real. We are here.” State and local officials said the latest report was “so technically and legally flawed” that an NRC go-ahead for the “long-stalled repository project would not stand up to a court challenge under the National Environmental Policy Act.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal  (5/10, Rogers) reports Robert Halstead, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, said the report “concedes the repository, if built, likely will release radioactive particles into the groundwater centuries after” thousands of tons of nuclear waste are “entombed…deep inside the mountain.” Halstead further contends conclusions in the report “are flawed because the NRC staff didn’t independently verify computer calculations of how the repository’s design will perform into the future.” Nevada scientists believe the contamination “will substantially violate the 1-million year standard at 2,000 years and contaminate traditional American Indian groundwater sources used by the Timbisha Shoshone tribe.” Ian Zabarte of the Western Shoshone government wrote in an email, “We are ready to challenge every conclusion in this document before a licensing board, with some of the top experts in the world and some of the best lawyers in the business.”

The Las Vegas Sun  (5/10) reports the document revises studies previous filed in 2002 and 2008.

Foxx Says He Considered Shutting Down Washington Metro System.

The AP  (5/10, Lowy) reports Transportation Secretary Foxx told reporters Tuesday that he “seriously considered ordering a shutdown of the entire Washington Metro subway system last week and may still do that if local officials don’t follow Transportation Department safety directives.” Foxx said, “We have the ability to withhold (federal) funds from Metro. We have the ability to shut Metro down, and we’re not afraid to use the authority we have. … This is serious business.” Foxx said that local officials have not identified “the root cause of incidents involving electrical arcing, smoke and fire, and so have no plan for how to fix the problem,” adding that it is “clear to DOT officials who watched a video of one recent incident that there is too much electrical power flowing through the subway system.”

In an editorial, the Washington Post  (5/10) says that “Metro’s ‘safety culture’ is in tatters,” and says General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld “must act in order to send a credible message of accountability to the system’s labor force and passengers.” Arguing that an “overhaul in Metro’s culture” is needed, beginning with “accountability,” the Post says Wiedefeld should “insist on streamlined disciplinary procedures as part of the new contract with Metro’s main transit workers union.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Organizations Release “Call To Action” On Career Technical Education.

THE Journal  (5/10, Ravipati) reports that national organizations are identifying career technical education “as a solution to transforming the education system.” Advance CTE seven national organizations have released “a collective vision proposing a transformation of the education system, with a focus” on CTE. In a release, they say “the document is a ‘call to action for leaders, policymakers, employers and practitioners across the nation to commit to creating a high-quality education system where all learners are prepared for a lifetime of future success in high-skilled, in-demand careers.’”

Girl Scouts CEO Makes Push For STEM.

US News & World Report  (5/10, Camera) reports that the Girl Scouts are making a push for STEM education, “part a result of the leadership of Anna Maria Chávez, one of the five upcoming inductees into the 2016 U.S. News STEM Leadership Hall of Fame,” who became Girl Scouts CEO five years ago. She said, “What I heard from business partners and educators in that community was the lack of girls focusing on STEM careers. I saw how girls really resonated with STEM, and I saw our organization as the perfect organization to bring STEM and STEM mentors into the lives of young girls.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Administration Urges Colleges To Reconsider Questions About Applicants’ Criminal Records.
USA Today Says Purdue’s Loan Program Worthwhile.
Researchers Design Algorithm To Spot Galaxies.
Space Agencies Call For New Greenhouse Gas Watchdog Satellites.
Professor Uses Robotics In Tutoring Sick Children.

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