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

Leading the News

California Grid Operator Urges Power Companies To Restrict Work, Consumers To Conserve During Heat Wave.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, DiSavino) reports the California Independent System Operator (ISO) “issued an alert” Wednesday urging consumers to cut down electricity usage during a heat wave that “baked the state.” Electricity supplies are expected to be taxed due to high demand caused by soaring temperatures, “power plant outages, and reductions in the capacity of transmission lines, [ISO] said in a statement.” The operator “forecast that peak demand would reach 45,876 megawatts on Wednesday and 46,866 MW on Thursday” and urged electric companies to restrict maintenance work to prevent service disruptions.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Crawford) offers similar coverage, adding ISO reported that upwards of 3,700 megawatts of power generation capacity was offline Wednesday, a 19% increase from the day before. Southern California could experience “blackouts on as many as 14 days after a massive natural gas leak at a Sempra Energy complex limited supplies to electricity generators,” the state has warned.

Higher Education

Moniz To Visit University Of Rochester.

The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Brooks) reports Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will visit the University of Rochester laser energetics laboratory later this year, Sen. Charles Schumer announced. He said, “Secretary Moniz will see first hand, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics of the University of Rochester’s world-class laser lab in action and see all the reasons why I’m pushing to see it grow.” Schumer has been seeking $68 million from the 2016-17 federal budget.

ED Releases Details Of Plan To Overhaul Student Debt Servicing.

US News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27) reports that OD last week “issued a playbook of sorts” on how it will improve customer service for student loan borrowers, noting that ED is “choosing a single servicer, who will create a student loan servicing ‘ecosystem’ that is intended to be the single point of contact and managing system for all federally held student loans.” The new system is intended to alleviate the confusion and ambiguity faced by students whose loans are owned by multiple servicers.

Colleges Testing Higher Education Social Platform Yellowdig.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27) reports that Northwestern University and other colleges are testing a social platform for higher education called Yellowdig, which “plugs into learning management systems, gives students in the same class a private board where they can share articles and other content relevant to the course they are taking, participate in discussions and award one another points.” The platform is capable of “uncover[ing] student behavior that may be difficult for a instructor to notice in a large lecture hall.”

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Engineering in P12 education.

Research and Development

University Of Wyoming Researcher Gets NASA Grant For Combustion Research.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27) reports that Erica Belmont, an assistant professor in the University of Wyoming mechanical engineering department, has received a $750,000 grant from NASA to support her research into combustion. Belmont is studying low-temperature flames, which are “short-lived, making them difficult to study.” Belmont’s facility has special equipment allowing sustained testing.

Caltech Researchers Use Quantum Mechanics To Improve Computer Graphics.

Pasadena (CA) Now Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27) reports scientists at Caltech “have developed a new way to simulate large-scale motion numerically using the mathematics that govern the universe at the quantum level.” The technology “allows computers to more accurately simulate vorticity, the spinning motion of a flowing fluid.”

Engineers Test Toyoka Hydrogen Car Under Extreme Conditions.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Potkewitz, Subscription Publication) reports on engineers testing of hydrogen cars in the extreme environments of California’s Death Valley and Canada’s Yellowknife. A prototype of Toyota’s next generation fuel-cell vehicle is undergoing testing now. The story describes the tests and efforts to keep details of prototype vehicles out of the press.

Army Research Team Tests Multi-Language Translator, Solar-Power Rucksacks.

Defense Systems Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27) reports the Army “is finding new ways for soldiers to have their rucksacks work for them, as demonstrated recently during a 1,000-personnel, 14-nation exercise in Africa.” Defense Systems says researchers with the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command “tested two science and technology prototypes – a solar power source for the rucksacks and translation software that allow soldiers to communicate with their African counterparts, particularly in the variety of French dialects that are common in the region.”

DOE Investing $11.5 Million In Eight New Research Projects, Including Geologic Carbon Storage And Geothermal Exploration.

EIN News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27) reports the US Department of Energy (DOE) “has announced the selection of eight new research and development projects to receive a total of $11.5 million in federal funding under DOE’s Subsurface Technology and Engineering Research, Development, and Demonstration Crosscut initiative.” The new projects “are focused on furthering geothermal energy and carbon storage technologies, and will be funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) and the Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE) Carbon Storage program.”

Changan Auto Suspends Public Road Tests For Autonomous Vehicles Due To Lack Of Government Safety Regulations.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, News) reports Ford’s Chinese partner Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. has “has postponed public road tests in response to a regulatory ban” it claims could hinder “efforts to develop autonomous vehicles.” The Chinese auto industry regulator has stated it is “working with police on rules governing autonomous-car testing and” issued a warning to automakers about “conducting public highway trials before the regulations are released.” Several Chinese automakers joined Changan in pushing the government to hustle with developing a “legal framework for technology being pursued worldwide to make roads safer.” The piece notes China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Ministry of Public Security currently have “preliminary draft of the rules to govern testing of autonomous cars.”

Global Developments

Israeli Navy Prepares Third Generation USV.

Defense News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27) reports that the Israeli Navy plans to deploy a third generation of unmanned surface vessels, according to a statement issued Wednesday. The four autonomous ships are being build with support from the US and will be deployed sometime in mid-2017. A prototype is being tested in Ashdod.

Industry News

New Study Says Blind-Spot Monitoring, Collision-Avoidance Technologies Have High Consumer Ratings.

The Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Box) says a JD Power APEAL study released on Wednesday “found that new vehicles equipped with safety features such as blind-spot monitoring and low-speed collision-avoidance have overall APEAL scores higher than vehicles without it.” The features are considered “gateway technologies” to autonomous, self-driving vehicles. Dallas Morning News says that if consumers “continue to accept these technologies, manufacturers will keep moving toward developing autonomous vehicles.”

Engineering and Public Policy

GAO Report: FEMA, Corps Of Engineers Failed To Implement Levee Safety Guidelines.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Crescente) reports that an analysis released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers have missed deadlines or failed to act on objectives pursuant to a 2014 law meant to require federal agencies to improve levee safety. The Corps of Engineers has not reconvened its committee on levee safety; FEMA and the Corps have not implemented the levee safety initiatives in the law; and FEMA and the Corps are one year late in developing voluntary national levee-safety guidelines. Both agencies said they have not acted because they lack the necessary funds to pay for the new programs.

DOE Proposes Efficiency Standard For Uninterruptible Power Supplies.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Marshall, Subscription Publication) reports the Department of Energy proposed an efficiency standard for uninterruptible power supplies, which provide backup power to computers and other devices. It “would save 1.18 quadrillion British thermal units.”

DOE Puts $9.8 Million Toward Studying Pumped-Storage Hydropower.

ExecutiveGov Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Clemens) reports the Energy Department says it invested $9.8 million in 12 projects studying “the use of concepts for closed-loop pumped-storage hydropower systems to support the future of hydropower in the U.S.” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, “Hydropower has provided clean, affordable, and reliable electricity in the United States for more than a century, and pumped-storage complements today’s rapidly growing variable technologies such as wind and solar.”

Environmental Groups Call For US To Reform Biofuel Mandate.

Bloomberg Politics Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Dlouhy) reports many leading environmental groups, that once promoted biofuel mandates and RFS efforts in Congress, are now calling for changes “citing higher-than-expected carbon dioxide emissions and reduced wildlife habitat.” Many green groups are disappointed with the “unintended consequences” the increased agriculture demands have caused. Though revamping the RFS has been debated in Congress for awhile, the issue is politically complicated with many lawmakers split on the issue heavily by regional lines.

EPA Ranks Ikea Among Largest Users Of Green Energy.

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Feser) reports that Ikea announced its membership in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership and was ranked sixth among the EPA’s 30 largest users of green power. Ikea’s 42 US stores use 183 million kilowatt hours of green power, and the company aims to be energy independent by 2020.

New York Poised To Boost Nuclear, Offshore Wind With Energy Plan.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Klepper) reports that several decisions in the coming weeks could detail how New York will meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s renewable energy target of 50 percent renewables by 2030. Long Island “regulators will soon vote on a plan to authorize the largest offshore wind farm in the United States,” and state lawmakers and the state Public Service Commission are “considering a series of big subsidies for upstate nuclear power plants to allow them to continue operating.” However, the Independent Power Producers of New York, a trade group, “cautions against energy standards that ‘pick winners and losers’ and create financial burdens on ratepayers.”

Maine Panel Reconsidering Net Metering.

The Bangor (ME) Daily News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Fishell) reports the Maine Public Utilities Commission is considering changing the state’s current net metering for homeowners with rooftop solar systems; Gov. Paul LePage has proposed eliminating the practice. Utilities buy electricity from power plants at a lower, wholesale rate that that from net metered customers and argue “that shifts the added system costs to the rest of their ratepayers.” However, solar advocates counter that photovoltaic systems provide additional benefits such are “reducing need for transmission and distribution upgrades and environmental benefits” that net metering doesn’t account for and that “more than make up for the unclear shift in costs to other customers.” Meanwhile, “solar installers and hundreds offering public comment have pleaded with the commission not to dismantle net metering without an alternative, saying it would curb the growth of their business in Maine’s relatively small, but rapidly growing, solar market.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Tennessee Students Stress Importance Of Computer Science At NGA Conference.

The Chattanoogan (TN) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27) reports that earlier this month a pair of Chattanooga, Tennessee students attended the National Governors’ Association conference in Des Moines “to highlight the importance of having computer science education in K-12 classrooms.” The students met with several governors, talking “about their experiences and interest in computer science while guiding the governors through some basic coding activities.”

Kids At Maryland Camp Use Creative Solutions For Simple Tasks.

The Laurel (MD) Leader Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/26) reports that more than 15 kids at a one-week Laurel, Maryland camp sponsored by the Laurel Historical Society are “using cardboard boxes, tubes, marbles and toy cars” “to tip one cup of water into another.” Camp instructor Fran Lotz said, “It’s all about just giving kids an outcome and letting them be creative…because so much of that is taken away in the school system, because it’s such a prescribed curriculum.”

Warren Summer Program Introduces Students To STEM.

The Warren (NC) Record Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/27, Weldon) reports that “students ages 6-10 from Warren and surrounding counties are participating in a summer camp sponsored by Warrenton nonprofit Compass Youth Center to introduce them to STEM subjects while having fun.” According the Warren Record, “the program is made possible through a grant from the nonprofit For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) and held in partnership with Warren County Memorial Library and N.C. Cooperative Extension.”

New Jersey Program Fast Tracks New Physics Teachers.

Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/28, Heitin) reports that “a New Jersey program, created by a former state teacher of the year in partnership with the local teachers’ union, is working to curb the teacher shortage by training educators of other subjects – including language arts and English-as-a-second-language – to teach physics.” According to Education Week, there is an increasing number of students becoming interested in physics, and “the program promotes a physics-first method of teaching – meaning that students learn physics as 9th graders, then move on to chemistry and then biology. Most high schools use the biology-chemistry-physics sequence, meaning physics is paired with more difficult math, and fewer students end up taking it.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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