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

Leading the News

US Automakers Recall Another 12 Million Cars Over Takata Airbags.

The AP  (5/27, Krisher) reports that as part of a “massive expansion” of a recall on Takata air bags, the NHTSA on Friday posted more recalls by Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Ferrari, and Mitsubishi. The automakers have recalled “more than 12 million cars,” including older model cars “in areas along the Gulf Coast with high heat and humidity.” Additionally, Japan’s Ministry of Transportation has also “on Friday announced 7 million more Takata-related recalls covering air bag inflators without a chemical drying agent.” The CBS Evening News (5/27, story 11, 0:30, Pauley) provided similar coverage.

The New York Times  (5/27, Ueno, Subscription Publication) reports Japan’s recall affects 19.6 million additional vehicles and that Takata is “facing questions about whether it can handle the growing financial strain of a global safety scandal.”

DOE Report Shows Number Of Nuclear Engineering Graduates Increasing.

The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel  (5/31, Munger) reports that according a study by the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, “the number of nuclear engineering graduates increased at U.S. universities in 2015, resuming a growth trend that was interrupted by a one-year dip” the previous year. Thirty-five universities that have nuclear engineering programs were surveyed by the institute. The University of Tennessee “last year awarded 40 bachelor’s degrees in nuclear engineering, 28 master’s degrees, and nine doctorates.” In an email Wes Hines, head of UT’s Department of Nuclear Engineering program, said, “We see nuclear engineering enrollment and employment opportunities still strong.” Atomic City Underground  (5/29) carries the same article.

Higher Education

Education Department Appoints New Attorney In Corinthian Colleges Case.

The AP  (5/27, Horwitz) reports the Education Department on Friday appointed a new attorney, Clark Kent Ervin of Squire Patton Boggs, to “oversee the business practices of Zenith Education Group, an offshoot of a student-loan debt collection firm” that has taken over schools previously owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc. The AP notes Corinthian was previously one of the biggest for-profit college chains in the US before “it collapsed in 2015 amid allegations of fraud.”

Boston Globe Analysis Explores Diversity Of Campus Police Forces.

The Boston Globe  (5/29, Ransom) reports that its analysis has found that “many colleges and universities in the area have police departments that largely reflect the campuses they serve — with a few notable exceptions.” Five out of nine Boston-area colleges “either closely resemble or have a higher percentage of minority officers compared to their student populations, while four do not.”

EDITOR NEEDED: Journal of Engineering Education
ASEE members recognize JEE as the world’s premier journal on the scholarship of engineering and engineering technology education. Read more if you’d like to be considered as the next editor.
Retention Strategies
Going the Distance” is a video showcasing effective retention strategies at six universities.

ASEE has done extensive work on retention and time-to-graduation rates over the previous several years. A good distillation was recently done by consultant Cindy Veenstra.

Research and Development

Michigan Lawmakers To Consider Bills To Expand Use Of Driverless Cars Beyond Testing.

The AP  (5/28, Eggert) reported that legislators in Michigan will soon consider a “newly introduced package of bipartisan bills” to “update 2013 laws to allow for the operation of autonomous cars on public roads” without a human driver behind the wheel. The legislation would also allow the “the Detroit Three – General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Ford – and other auto manufacturers” to operate “networks of on-demand self-driving vehicles.” According to the AP, authorities are worried that antiquated or unfriendly autonomous vehicle laws could drive “automotive research and development to other states.” The bills’ sponsor Republican Sen. Mike Kowall said lawmakers are “working with the industry and MDOT so that once these vehicles are on the road you can rest assured that they are safe,” but Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court warned that “it’s foolhardy to rush into this without a plan just because it seems to be a way to stimulate jobs.” Wired  (5/27, Davies) offered similar coverage.

The New York Daily News  (5/30, Blain) reports that some New York lawmakers also wants to change legislation to allow for self-driving cars, as currently a law from 1971 “requires drivers to keep at least one had on the steering wheel while the vehicle is in motion.” The Senate approved a bill allowing for an exemption for “driving technology” use, but the bill still must pass the New York Assembly, where it “has yet to gain traction.”

Pentagon Views Navy’s Railgun As Inexpensive, Efficient Defense Against Missiles.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/27, Barnes, Subscription Publication) reports the Navy has developed a new supergun, called the railgun, which is powered by electromagnetic rails and can fire a 25-pound projectile through seven steal plates, leaving a five inch hole. The Navy developed the gun to blow holes into enemy ships, destroy tanks, and level terrorist camps. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon also views the gun as an inexpensive and more efficient tool to knock enemy missiles out of the sky.

Army Project To Test Explosions On Vehicles.

In a 2,587-word article, the New York Times  (5/30, Roach, Subscription Publication) reports on the Army’s project to create the WIAMan – the Warrior Injury Assessment Manikan – to assess the impact of underbody explosions on military vehicle prototypes. The cadavers have sensors transmitted throughout the bodies like a “man-made nervous system.” After explosions, “the cadavers will be autopsied and the injuries documented.” This information will “allow vehicle evaluators to interpret the G-forces and strains and accelerations that WIAMan’s sensors will register.” WIAMan won’t be ready “for routine use” until 2021, but the injury data can still be used to help better predict underbody blast injuries.

Engineering and Public Policy

Transportation Secretary, DC Metro GM Comment On Current Infrastructure Problems.

The CBS Evening News (5/27, story 8, 2:10, Pauley) interviewed Transportation Secretary Foxx and DC Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld about current infrastructure problems. When asked why there has not been an effort to fix the country’s infrastructure, Foxx said, “Because people like groundbreakings. They like openings, but we haven’t taken on the aggressive routine work of making sure the system stays as healthy as possible.” Meanwhile, Wiedefeld said, “What we’re going through is we’re at the point where we no longer can sort of keep pushing this down to the future and pretend it’s not there.”

Report: Replacing Flint Water Pipes Will Cost Double Original Estimate.

The AP  (5/28) cites Detroit Free Press reporting that said the estimated cost of replacing lead-tainted water pipes in Flint, Michigan may be double original estimates given by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The DEQ’s estimate was $4,000 per service pipe, but engineering company Rowe Professional Services said the cost would approach $7,500 when permit fees of $2,400 per site and re-pavement fees are taken into account. Ari Adler, a spokesman for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s office, said the city was “charging ‘very large fees.’” Flint has received $2 million from the state for the replacement pipes and Gov. Snyder is “seeking $165 million more through the budget process.”

Edwards To Say Flint Water Improving. The AP  (5/30) reports Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards, who helped uncover the Flint lead contamination problem, is set on Tuesday to present “independently produced information on amounts of chloroform and other disinfection byproducts in the water” showing the water’s condition is improving.

Co-ops Team Up On Solar Power Project In North Dakota.

Drawing on coverage from the Bismarck Tribune, the AP  (5/29) reported Northern Plains Electric Cooperative and Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative have joined together “to construct a system that generates solar power and offers a look at the potential of the type of energy source in central North Dakota.” The system “is set up in Carrington and has spent a year online.” Northern Plains systems engineer Ashten Breker said, “We set it up so we could show the members a real-life solar project.” In the first year of the system, “8.7 megawatt hours were generated by it.”

Interior, Army Corps Propose Dam And Fish Bypass On Yellowstone To Save Pallid Sturgeon.

The Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review  (5/29, Brown) carries an AP story reporting the US Army Corps of Engineers and Interior Department are proposing to build “a $57 million concrete dam and fish bypass channel along Montana’s Yellowstone River” in order to help the pallid sturgeon reach their spawning grounds. Opponents favor removal of “an existing man-made rock weir on the river” and argue “there’s no proof the bypass channel would work.” A study by Interior and the Army Corps found that solution “would cost at least $138 million” and could cost over $500 million. Jonathan Proctor of Defenders of Wildlife said removal of the weir was less expensive than “a foolish investment in something that won’t work,” adding, “There’s only one guaranteed way to save the pallid sturgeon.” The AP story also appears at the Washington Times  (5/28, Brown), KXMC-TV  Minot, ND (5/28, Brown), and Christian Science Monitor  (5/28, Brown).

UMaine’s Offshore Wind Project Gets Grant Boost.

The AP  (5/27, Villeneuve) reported that a University of Maine-led “offshore wind power pilot project” is “back in the running for a major federal grant, officials said Friday.” The Energy Department “elevated the project’s status after a slew of independent cost estimates showed the project’s technology will reduce the cost of offshore wind development, the UMaine offshore wind research team’s leader, Habib Dagher, said from Orono.” The project was initially “passed over for a $47 million grant, but the Department of Energy awarded some funding because the project showed promise.” The project has now been “elevated to top status in the competition and will be one of up to three leading projects each eligible for up to $40 million in additional funding for the construction phase” according to the state’s U.S. senators.

WSJournal: Like Europe, California’s Cap-And-Trade Program Looks Doomed.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/30, Subscription Publication) editorializes that like the bursting of Europe’s carbon cap-and-trade bubble, a similar program in California appears headed for failure after the California Air Resources Board (CARB) sold only two percent of the carbon emissions it put up for auction in May. The auction raised only $10 million of the $500 million CARB had projected would be available to spend on high-speed rail, housing, and electric-car subsidies. CARB has brushed the auction off, which, according to the Journal, signals that the state’s climate officials don’t appear to care about the suffering of businesses and consumers.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Experts Present At 2016 STEM Solutions Conference In Baltimore.

US News & World Report  (5/27, Clarke) published videos from the 2016 STEM Solutions Conference, and reported presentations from different panels, including a discussion moderated by Boeing CTO and Senior VP of Engineer, Operations and Technology John Tracy.

Science Standards Coming To West Virginia’s Schools.

The Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail  (5/29, Quinn) reports that the National Science Teachers Association does not recognize that West Virginia has in fact adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, scheduled to be effective statewide next school year. According to National Science Teachers Association Executive Director David Evans, this is due to “West Virginia’s change to just one ‘performance expectation’ in the standards.” He adds that how teachers teach the standards depends on training. State Office of Education Performance Audits Executive Director Susan O’Brien said school principals will provide oversight to make sure teachers actually teach the standards.

Yakama Nation Students Win Prosthetics Challenge.

The Houston Chronicle  (5/29) reports the Yakama Nation Tribal School’s “MESA prosthetics team has turned a classroom into a workshop.” According to the Houston Chronicle, “Team members Temina Holt, Isiah Strom, Noah Pastrana and Justin Strom, all sophomores, put their hands-on learning to good use by developing from scratch four prosthetic arms along with mastering lessons in science, technology, engineering and math,” and they won first place at Heritage University’s regional MESA prosthetics challenge.

LEGO Challenge Inspires Student Creativity.

ThisWeek Community Newspapers (OH)  (5/30, Parks) reports on Anand Saha, who founded the non-profit organization called Million LEGOs for Kids, which distributes “the Danish toys in schools in the neighborhood as well as at the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center,” and the “very first Million LEGOs for Kids Challenge.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

Research Indicates Consumers Are Ignorant And Wary Of Hybrid, Autonomous Cars.
Regeneron Says It Will Sponsor Science Talent Search.
Study Suggests Data Taken From Car’s Internal Computer Can Determine Driver In Minutes.
Microsoft, Facebook Partner To Build Transatlantic Subsea Cable.
Colorado Senators Seek Return Of Natural Gas Royalties Set Aside For Anvil Points Cleanup.
California Education Officials Discussing How To Build College, Career Readiness Metric.

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