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

Leading the News

Federal Government Announces $82 Million For Nuclear Energy Research.

The AP  (6/14, Ridler) reports Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz yesterday “announced $82 million for nuclear energy projects in 28 states as part of the government’s plan to reduce carbon emissions.” The Energy Secretary “said Tuesday that the 93 research projects will help scientists innovate with nuclear technologies that can eventually enter the commercial market.” Moniz announced the news during a visit to the Idaho National Laboratory. Moniz said, “Nuclear energy remains very important. … It remains by far the biggest source of carbon-free electricity.” The announcement by Moniz “fits” with the Obama Administration’s “plan to reduce emissions by generating carbon-free electricity.” A large portion of the money “is heading for universities, about $36 million for 49 university-led projects.” In addition, fifteen universities “will receive nearly $6 million for research reactor and infrastructure improvements.” Moniz stated, “Frankly, there’s been probably not enough of that in recent years. … These are very important teaching tools.”

The Idaho State Journal  (6/14) reports that according to officials at INL, Moniz “toured the lab’s advanced nuclear facilities and listened to those leading national research programs.” In addition, he “discussed advancements in nuclear materials and reactors, bioenergy research and technology that supports national security, they said.” The Energy Secretary “said $5.5 million of the funding will go toward infrastructure and research in Idaho.” The University of Idaho, Idaho State University and Boise State University will each receive some of the funding.

Atomic City Underground  (6/14, Munger) reports that institutions in Tennessee will receive nearly “$3 million in funds out of the $82 million the Department of Energy awarded today for development of advanced nuclear technologies.” Oak Ridge National Laboratory will receive “about $1.7 million for a variety of projects, including some work related to nuclear reactor fuels.” During the announcement of the awards, Moniz said, “Nuclear power is our nation’s largest source of low-carbon electricity and is a vital component in our efforts to both provide affordable and reliable electricity and to combat climate change. These awards will help scientists and engineers as they continue to innovate with advanced nuclear technologies.” The Tri-City Herald (WA)  (6/14) reports PNNL “will receive $1.5 million.” The lab “will use $1 million for research on more accurately assessing the effects of irradiation on nuclear reactor structural materials.” The Idaho Falls (ID) Post Register  (6/14) also provides coverage of Moniz’s visit to INL.

Higher Education

ED Proposes New Rules To Help Discharge Student Loans From Fraudulent Schools.

Inside Higher Ed  (6/14) continues coverage of ED’s release on Monday of a set of draft rules “to clarify and strengthen the process for federal student loan borrowers to seek to have their debt forgiven when they have been misled or defrauded by a college.” The regulations “include new requirements that apply only to the for-profit sector, including that institutions must issue warnings to prospective students about poor loan-repayment rates, and financially troubled institutions must to set aside money to pay for loan-forgiveness claims.” The piece quotes Education Secretary John King saying, “The Obama administration won’t sit idly by while dodgy schools leave students with piles of debt and taxpayers holding the bag. These rules ought to make them think twice.”

Panel Explores Whether US Student Loan System Can Benefit From Foreign Models.

Inside Higher Ed  (6/14) reports that “researchers and policy makers from Australia, England, Germany and Sweden” took part in a conference in Washington, DC Monday to discuss whether other countries’ systems could be models for improving the student loan debt system in the US. Topics included improved income-based repayment plans and the balance of responsibility between colleges, students, and taxpayers.

IBM, Maryland, JHU Partner On P-Tech Schools.

The Washington Post  (6/14, Wiggins) reports the state of Maryland, IBM, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland are partnering on the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-Tech) program that prepares students for STEM careers through a combined high school/college six-year curriculum. P-Tech was started by IBM in New York City in 2011, and has spread to several other states. IBM International Foundation president Stanley Litow is quoted saying the program “was designed to address America’s unacceptably low rates of college completion.” Its participants, “are succeeding regardless of race, income or geography,” he said.

College Courses Coming To New York State Prisons.

The Wall Street Journal  (6/14, Ramey, Subscription Publication) reports the Manhattan district attorney’s office has reached an agreement with the states of New York to allocate $7.5 million in bank forfeiture funds to support college programs at state prisons, with an estimated 1,000 inmates expected to benefit from these programs over five years. The Journal adds prisoners will be also be eligible for Pell grants. Federal and state officials are seeking proposals from colleges and universities for courses, with more than 200 schools submitting proposals across the US.

From ASEE
NEW REPORT on the Future of Making
ASEE convened leaders from the Maker Movement in November to discuss the current state and future of Making. Read the report.

Summer Prism Now Online
ASEE members can access the new Prism magazine online. Topics include research opportunities opening up with a thaw in US-Cuba relations and proposed changes to ABET criteria, among much more.

Research and Development

University Of Wyoming Joins Fossil Energy Research Coalition.

The AP  (6/14) reports that the University of Wyoming has joined several other colleges to study “the future of fossil energy” with $20 million in DOE funding. The University Coalition for Fossil Energy Research also includes MIT, Princeton, and Texas A&M. A number of campus research groups “are preparing proposals to submit to the coalition board,” which “selects which projects are deemed most important to fulfilling the key goals of the group.”

NSF Funding Smart Gigabit Communities Research.

The Chattanooga (TN) Times Free Press  (6/14) reports that US Ignite has announced that “Chattanooga is among the first group of cities to be named Smart Gigabit Communities, a new effort to foster a national high-speed internet application development ecosystem.” Noting that the National Science Foundation is putting $6 million into the research, the paper reports that “each Smart Gigabit City has committed to develop at least two gigabit-enabled applications or public services and to share them with other cities involved in the program.” The Chattanoogan (TN)  (6/14) reports that the project is “an effort to foster a national sustainable gigabit application development ecosystem.”

Tiny, Powerful Engine Closer To Powering EVs And Drones.

Wired  (6/14, Stewart) reports that LiquidPiston on Monday successfully tested the X Mini, a four-pound Wankel engine that took $18 million over 13 years to re-engineer. The light, compact engine was previously used by Mazda, and according to Wire, “can run at higher speeds and produce more power than a similarly sized conventional engine.” The problems that caused Mazda to abandon the engine, such as low fuel economy, CO2 emissions, and high oil consumption, were all addressed by LiquidPiston, which is under a $1 million agreement with Darpa.

Sandia Researchers Developing “Fundamentally New Approach To Laser Design.”

A 1,100-word article in Semiconductor Engineering  (6/15, Mutschler) reports that in a development that could have important practical implications, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories and MIT “have described a new way to build terahertz lasers that could significantly reduce their power consumption and size, while also allowing them to emit tighter beams.” Researchers believe they method “represents a fundamentally new way to phase-lock arrays of lasers” and could have applications in various industries.

The EE Times Europe  (6/14, Happich) reports the researchers study was published in “Nature Photonics,” in which they “describe the demonstration of a natural phase-locking mechanism of closely integrated nanolasers, showing that the typically unwanted lateral emissions could contribute to a long-range global coupling of all the lasers in the 2D array.”

NASA Could See Porter Ranch Gas Leak From Space, Paving Way For New Technologies.

The Los Angeles Daily News  (6/14, Henry) reports that Porter Ranch natural gas leak was so massive that NASA was able to see the leak from space. The silver lining to the situation is that “the discovery could pave the way for technologies capable of spotting leaks earlier and analyzing global methane emissions.”

Industry News

Former IBM Software Engineer Charged With Economic Espionage.

Reuters  (6/14, Beech) reports that former IBM software engineer, Xu Jiaqiang, was recently charged with economic espionage in a six-count superseding indictment disclosed Tuesday. Xu “was arrested in December by U.S. authorities for allegedly stealing proprietary source code from his former employer,” Reuters says. The Hill  (6/14, Uchill) reports that Xu “stole and sold the source code from his former employer to two undercover law enforcement agents. He’s also accused of planning to transfer the code to the National Health and Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China.” Xu resigned from his former company in May 2014. The Wall Street Journal  (6/14, Armental, Subscription Publication) reports that Xu is set to be arraigned on the most recent charge in White Plains, New York on Thursday. “Those who steal America’s trade secrets for the benefit of foreign nations pose a threat to our economic and national security interests,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin said in a release.

Engineering and Public Policy

EPA Urged To Maintain Current CAFE Standards, Targets.

Provost at Tulane University and retired professor of environmental engineering Martha W. Gilliland writes for The Hill  (6/14) chronicling the history of automobile fuel economy standards-and argues that for the U.S. to achieve and retain energy independence, “we must hold fast on the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFÉ) standards” with a goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025 which the EPA is preparing to review. Gilliland also argues that “consumers must act with knowledge of consequences,” and buy safer, more fuel efficient vehicles.

Federal Appeals Court Upholds FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules.

The New York Times  (6/14, Kang, Subscription Publication) reports that a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday ruled that high-speed Internet service “can be defined as a utility” in a decision “clearing the way for more rigorous policing of broadband providers and greater protections for web users.” The ruling “comes in a case about rules applying to a doctrine known as net neutrality, which prohibit broadband companies from blocking or slowing the delivery of internet content to consumers.” These rules, created by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015, “started a huge legal battle as cable, telecom and wireless internet providers sued to overturn regulations that they said went far beyond the F.C.C.’s authority and would hurt their businesses.” The court’s decision upholds the FCC “on the declaration of broadband as a utility, the most significant aspect of the rules.”

In an editorial, the New York Times  (6/14, Board, Subscription Publication) praises the ruling, arguing that “high-speed internet service should be equally accessible to all Americans.” The Times contends that the ruling “helps to ensure a level playing field for smaller- and start-up internet businesses because it precludes larger, established companies like Amazon and Netflix from simply paying broadband companies for faster delivery,” and “equally important, it ensures reliable service and choice for consumers by acknowledging that the internet, now a requisite of modern life, is akin to a utility, subject to regulation in the public interest.” On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal  (6/14, Subscription Publication) editorializes that the ruling is an example of the judiciary allowing the Obama Administration to limit free enterprise.

Report: Crop-based Biofuels No Threat To Food Security.

Reuters  (6/14, Prentice) says a research report, funded in part by the US Department of Energy and the World Bank, found there is no direct link between producing crop-based biofuels and higher food prices “as some prior analysis has suggested.” Siwa Msangi, a co-author of the paper and senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said in an interview on Tuesday, “There may not be as tight a link as people think between commodities prices and food security.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

California Makes Strides In Improving K-12 Computer Science Curriculum.

After lagging behind other states for years, EdSource  (6/13, Maio) reported, California is finally “expanding computer science in public schools” statewide. Although efforts to expand access to computer science curriculum are “largely disconnected, they are creating a critical mass that could hasten statewide action” and include a push to “add basic computer science curriculum standards to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS),” the Computer Science Teachers Association’s efforts to develop “computer science curricula for classroom instruction and the statewide standards for teaching it,” and decisions by individual districts to introduce computer science curriculum ahead of the statewide implementation of standards on the subject. State lawmakers have introduced AB 2329 “to create an advisory group that would unify competing ideas on computer science instruction to give it direction,” and the Instructional Quality Commission – “which advises the State Board of Education on curriculum and instruction” – just “recently updated proposed computer science standards as part of its latest review of” NGSS.

Pennsylvania District Receives Grant To Boost STEAM-based Learning.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  (6/14, Balser) reports Pennsylvania’s Gateway School District was chosen to receive a $20,000 grant to “improve its computer coding instruction and STEAM-based learning.” Improvements to the district’s computer coding program will be “phase two” of its plan “to ramp up STEAM learning in the schools, specifically the elementary schools.” Last year, the district implemented “phase one,” which “put a ‘maker space’ in each elementary school where students could do STEAM projects.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Apple iPhone Shipments To See First Annual Decline Says Source.
Virginia Tech Takes Second Place In EcoCAR 3 Competition.
NSF Giving Cornell $500,000 For Telecom Data Compression Research.
National Society Of Blacks In Computing Pushing For More Black Computer Science Workers.
Afghanistan’s Women-Only Coding School Breaks Gender Barriers.
Daimler Exec Promises Annual EV Sales To Reach 100,000 By 2020.
California’s Cap-And-Trade Program Faces Multiple Challenges.

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