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

Leading the News

LIPA Expected To Approve Largest US Offshore Wind Farm.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reports that Long Island Power Authority’s board of directors is expected to approve a 15-turbine offshore wind project off Long Island. The proposed 90-megawatt project “is the first in New York, it’s the largest to date, but we’re looking at this and seeing a tremendous offshore wind resource that will be developed and it’s not the last,” LIPA CEO Thomas Falcone said Wednesday. Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Martin) reports terms have not yet been determined. Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reports wind power developer Deepwater Wind proposed building the project. LIPA is expected to decide whether to approve the proposal next week.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reports separately that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is strongly encouraging the Long Island Power Authority to approve the proposed project, which he sees furthering his goal of achieving 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Barbanel, Subscription Publication) also reports.

Higher Education

Former Corinthian Student Sues To End Debt Obligation.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Kerr) reports that Deborah Terrell, a former Corinthian Colleges student from California, “filed a federal class-action lawsuit Thursday, seeking damages and an end to daily collection calls over private loans she received to attend the for-profit school.” Terrell’s attorneys say “the case could involve thousands of ex-Corinthian students and millions of dollars.” She alleges that Corinthian lied to her about “job prospects and potential earnings” related to a medical administrative assistant program for which she borrowed $19,000. The lawsuit alleges that the firm that bought her debt did so with full knowledge of the allegations against Corinthian. The piece reports that the case pertains to private student loan debts, noting that Terrell’s Federal loans “have since been forgiven by the Education Department.”

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Politico) reports in its “Morning Education” blog that the lawsuit is part of a “legal battle” being waged by advocates of former Corinthian students, and explains that the lawsuit was filed “against the firms that now own the private loans, as well as a collection company seeking to recoup the debt from borrowers.” Terrell “was recently successful in getting the Education Department to cancel her loans on the grounds that Corinthian defrauded her” but “is still stuck with $3,000 in private student loan debt, her attorney tells Morning Education.”

Southern California Public Radio Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reports that the lawsuit asks “a federal court to forgive the private loans of thousands of students of the now-defunct Corinthian College chain,” and “was prompted by threats received by former students, lawyers said, from companies trying to collect on former students’ private loans.”

ED To Let Some Colleges Try Requiring Student Loan Counseling.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reports that ED “signaled this week that it was developing a plan to allow some colleges and universities to require additional loan counseling of student borrowers.” At present, “students who take out federal loans are required to receive counseling when they receive the loan and before they enter repayment, but not in between.” The article relates some criticisms of the idea, but reports Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators “that the department is considering giving a handful of institutions the power to require more loan counseling through the department’s so-called experimental sites authority.” The piece quotes Mitchell saying, “We’re keen to understand not only whether required loan counseling works but what kind of loan counseling is most effective, whether that’s periodic emails and text messages … or whether it’s something that’s more structured and more class based.”

Columbia University Settles Billing Fraud Allegations With US For $9.5 Million.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Douglas-Gabriel) reports the Justice Department announced on Thursday that Columbia University has agreed to pay $9.5 million to settle a civil lawsuit based on allegations that the university defrauded the NIH by improperly charging the federal agency on over 400 federal grants. Prosecutors accused the university of overcharging NIH, but Columbia claims the school charged the rates it did “in good faith.” The New York Daily News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Bekiempis) reports the university “billed the NIH at the higher on-campus research rate for 423 grants” instead of the lower off-campus rate, even though the research in question was being conducted at off-campus facilities, many of which were owned by the state of New York or New York City.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Raymond) mentions that the case began as a whistleblower lawsuit against Columbia University, but that the US government later intervened in the case.

University Of Massachusetts Trustees Approve Tuition Hike.

The Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Thebault) reports that trustees at the University of Massachusetts have approved a 5.8% average increased in next year’s tuition, citing “rising expenses and nearly flat state aid.” The piece notes that this is the third tuition hike in six years, and reports Education Secretary James Peyser “voted against the increase.” The Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette Share to FacebookShare to
Twitter(7/14) also covers this story.

Texas Grant Program Lures Top Research Professors.

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reports that the Texas Governor’s University Research Initiative has set up $34 million in state grants “aimed at attracting the best professors” to the state’s universities. Ten researchers at “prestigious national academies in the U.S. and the Royal Society in the U.K.” will be joining the University of Houston, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas. These professors “have expertise in mechanical engineering, earth and atmospheric sciences, petroleum engineering and more.”

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Research and Development

Austin Selected To Take Part In Smart Gigabit Communities Initiative.

The Austin (TX) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Theis, Subscription Publication) reports Austin, Texas is among 15 US cities selected to take part in the Smart Gigabit Communities program, which will “develop and deploy new technologies designed around ultra-fast gigabit-speed internet connections.” The National Science Foundation program “would see Austin and the 14 other cities create two gigabit-speed applications for government or nonprofit use every year.” KVUE-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Austin, TX (7/14) also covers this story.

Study Claims Many 3D Printers Lack Basic Cybersecurity Features.

ITworld Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Mearian) reports a new study by a “team of cybersecurity and materials engineers at New York University” found that many 3D printers lack basic cybersecurity features and have a significant reliability risk due to the advent of “cloud-based decentralized 3D printer production supply chains.” Professor Ramesh Karri “said it’s entirely feasible that an attacker could hack into an internet-connected printer to introduce internal defects as a component is being printed.”

Raytheon, ARL Collaborate On Next Generation Radar.

Shephard Media Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reports Raytheon and the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) are collaborating to develop Scalable, Agile, Multimode, Front End Technology (SAFMET) for the army’s Next Generation Radar (NGR) program, under a $1.1 million grant. The program aims to “enhance the performance of radar-reliant air defense and counter rocket and mortar systems,” especially in “portable configuration such as airborne, vehicle-mounted, and handheld deployments.”

Artificial Voice Production Expands, Gets Personalized.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Ramer) has a feature on the expanded use of technology to artificially produce speech. While the technology “has been around for decades,” as devices “shrink in size, efforts to customize them are expanding. Multiple companies and research groups are using speech synthesis engines to create voices from spoken samples, usually thousands of recorded sentences.” Massachusetts-based VocaliD “is taking a different approach by creating custom voices using just a small sample from the recipient,” even if it is just a sound.

Workforce

IBM Develops Predictive Algorithms To Solve Attrition Problems.

The Economic Times (IND) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15) reports IBM’s Smarter Workforce Engineering program is developing algorithms that aim to provide “crucial insights and indicators into employee behavior” to help solve attrition problems that plague technology services companies. IBM’s Kevin Cavanaugh said, the analysis enables you to “look at whether the benefits in your compensation program is really targeted at the people who are the most productive and the most likely to stay,” in order to save money.

IBM Sues Former Cloud VP For Violating Employment Agreement. Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Wiessner) reports IBM has sued former Cloud Computing VP Bowman Hall for breach of contract after he left the company to join rival Computer Sciences Corporation, saying that Hall cashed in his stock options that “he was required to surrender when he defected.”

Global Developments

Apple Constructing Advanced Camera-Focused Research Lab In France.

According to BGR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Heisler), Apple plans to build an advanced research lab in France, with an eye towards making the iPhone’s camera “even better” for future iterations.

Yahoo! News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Heisler) also cites the BGR report, noting the new research lab underscores “Apple’s commitment toward improving mobile photography,” reminding readers that Apple last year employed “more than 800 engineers” dedicated to working on the iPhone’s camera-related technology.

AppleInsider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) says the new 800-square-meter facility, to be located in town of Grenoble, will employ another 30 people, according to leaduphine.com.

Industry News

Coverage Continues: Tesla Ends Buyback Guarantee Program On Model S.

The Daily Caller Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, White) reports that Tesla has “ended its buyback program promising customers the retail value of its vehicles, and slashed the price of its Model X SUV Wednesday in hopes of giving it the extra money needed to weather recent financial storms.” According to the Daily Caller, Tesla “stopped the program in an effort to free up cash that was reserved to purchase back Model S cars from customers after a handful of years at a value half that of the original retail price.”

CFO Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reports that the program “guaranteed the resale value of a Model S after three years when purchased through one of Tesla’s loan financing plans.” According to Reuters the program would “reassure buyers purchasing vehicles using its novel technology that resale values wouldn’t drop substantially.” However, “with the total liability created by the resale value guarantee at $1.58 billion as of March 31, up over 20% since the end of 2015, the electric car maker discontinued the program effective July 1.” A Tesla spokesman said the move would help the company to “keep interest rates as low as possible and offer a compelling Lease and Loan program to customers.” Also reporting on the story are Entrepreneur Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14), Investor Place Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14), Truth About Cars Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14), and Zacks Investment Research Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14).

Engineering and Public Policy

Research Explores Link Between Extraction, Earthquakes.

PBS NewsHour Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reports that scientists and regulators in such states as Kansas and Oklahoma “are gradually getting closer to pinpointing the cause of the startling increase in earthquakes in the Central and Eastern U.S., and preventing them.” Noting that the increased incidence of earthquakes has been associated with oil and gas extraction, the article reports that researchers say the “general cause…is not drilling, but what happens after, when operators dispose of wastewater that comes up naturally during the oil and gas extraction process.” The use of disposal wells “can increase fluid pressures and sometimes cause faults underneath or nearby to move.”

Tech Executives Say Trump Would Be A “Disaster For Innovation.”

In an open letter Share to FacebookShare to Twitter on Medium, “dozens of technology executives,” including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, warned that a Donald Trump presidency “would be a ‘disaster for innovation’ that could threaten the country’s thriving tech economy,” USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Cava) reports. The letter “specifically referenced Trump’s ‘penchant to censor extends to revoking press credentials and threatening to punish media platforms that criticize him,” and highlighted “Trump’s tough stance on immigration.” While the list of those signing the letter “consisted of employees at a range of notable companies such as Yelp and Tumblr,” USA Today notes that “some of the industry’s most high profile leaders such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos,” were “notably absent.” USA Today also notes that PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who is among the GOP convention speakers announced Thursday “disagrees.”

Solar Power Sets A Record In California.

The San Francisco Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Baker) reports California’s solar plants set a record on Tuesday when they “produced a record 8,030 megawatts of electricity,” almost twice the amount of solar power the state was capable of generating two years ago. According to the California Independent System Operator, at the time the record was set, “almost 29 percent of the electricity coursing over the grid came from renewable sources.” However, the article adds that grid operators also had to curtail 292 megawatts of solar power on the same day.

League of Women Voters Joins Battle To Expand Solar Energy In Florida.

The Miami Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Klas) reports the League of Women Voters “saying they face a ‘David and Goliath’ fight against Florida’s utility giants in trying to bring rooftop solar energy collection to the Sunshine State,” announced yesterday “the creation of a new organization,” FL SUN, “that will form ‘solar co-ops’ around the state to obtain bulk discounts for community-based solar installations.” The group “is a non-profit established to solicit competitive bids from local installers and provide individualized proposals for groups of homeowners that reflect the group discounts.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Phoenix Opening New STEM High School.

The Phoenix Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Gonzales, Subscription Publication) reports that Phoenix, Arizona’s Riverside Elementary School District No. 2 “has teamed up with Estrella Educational Foundation to open Maricopa Institute of Technology in South Phoenix.” The new $14 million school will focus on STEM subjects “in an effort to help students develop a competitive advantage toward college admission and high-compensated career pathways.” The school’s headmaster, Ramona Gonzales, says it “will establish a rigorous and innovative approach to education by providing depth in the fundamentals of mathematics, chemistry, biology, physics, technology, and engineering.”

Texas Teachers Taking Part In UT-Dallas Coding Camp.

The Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reports that math, science and computer science teachers from across Texas took part in “a one-week coding camp earlier this month” at the University of Texas-Dallas. Teachers “created various projects” through 3D programming environment Alice, which was created at MIT. Teachers hope the camp will help them “implement programming lessons into their classes and clubs this fall.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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