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

Leading the News

Protesters Rally In DC Against Dakota Access Pipeline.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Subscription Publication) reports that “sign-carrying activists protesting the Dakota Access pipeline rallied today outside the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., against the project that would carry a half-million barrels of crude each day from the Bakken formation to Illinois refineries.” According to the article, “actresses Susan Sarandon and Shailene Woodley and filmmaker Josh Fox spoke against the project, which has recently been given federal permits for more than 200 water crossings in four states.” The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe “filed a lawsuit last month against the permitting agency, the Army Corps of Engineers.”

North Dakota Students To Receive Police Escort Due To Dakota Access Pipeline Protest. With information from the Bismarck Tribune, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) reports 28 students who attend school in Mandan, North Dakota will be getting a police escort to classes due to a safety barricade on a state Highway amid Dakota Access Pipeline protests. The Morton County Sheriff’s Office “will send a patrol car to escort the students’ bus to and from school on Thursday, the first day of classes,” and Sheriff’s Office spokesman Rob Keller “says the escorts will continue as long as necessary.”

Iowa Board Postpones Dakota Access Pipeline Work On Landowners’ Properties. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Pitt) reports Energy Transfer Partners’ subsidiary Dakota Access “was told Wednesday by the Iowa Utilities Board to stay away from the properties of 15 Iowa landowners until Monday to give board time to review legal issues involving a lawsuit.” The company must also “provide detailed information about the construction progress in Iowa, the board said, as well as more information about costs the company will incur if it’s required to work around the landowner’s parcels.” Dakota Access “previously estimated the cost to move construction crews and equipment around the 15 parcels at more than $500,000 for each.”

Tribe Chairman: Opposition To Dakota Access Pipeline Will Continue. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman David Archambault II writes in a New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Subscription Publication) op-ed that the Sioux tribes have “come together” to oppose the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota because the proposed route would cross the tribe’s treaty lands and ancestral burial grounds and endanger the health of downstream communities along the Missouri River. Archambault argues that the US Army Corps of Engineers and the pipeline’s developer “turned a blind eye” to the Sioux tribe’s rights and did not conduct adequate environmental or cultural reviews of the project. Approximately 90 tribes are now encamped near the pipeline’s construction site, but Archambault says the protests have remained peaceful and that “protecting water and our sacred places has always been at the center of our cause.”

Higher Education

NIH Names Winners Of Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Design Challenge.

Bioscience Technology Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Fletcher) reports the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering announced the winners of their undergraduate biomedical engineering design challenge. Teams for several universities developed new biotechnology with a variety of purposes and functions.

Universities Object To NLRB Ruling Granting Graduate Students Right To Unionize.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Douglas-Gabriel) reports on Tuesday’s 3-1 decision by the National Labor Relations Board that graduate students have the right to form unions. The decision was in response to a claim by students at Columbia University, which said the ruling is incorrect as graduate students are not employees, but are instead students working as research or teaching assistants in order to gain academic training. Stanford University spokesman Brad Hayward similarly said the university objected to the NLRB having “overruled years of precedent.” Harvard University said the decision would “disrupt academic freedoms, mentoring and research at the university.”

NYTimes: NLRB Ruling On Graduate Student Unions Is “Corrective Action.” The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Subscription Publication) editorializes that the NLRB’s Tuesday ruling which said graduate students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities have the right to unionize was a “corrective action more than a decade in the making.” The Times applauds the ruling for overturning a “misguided” 2004 NLRB decision that accepted “assertions that unionization was incompatible with academic life because it would intrude on matters like academic freedom, the relationship between graduate students and professors, grading procedures, and exam formats,” arguments which the Time says have been proved false at universities – such as New York University – that voluntarily accepted graduate student unions.

Texas Students Hold Protest Against Guns On Campus.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Philipps, Subscription Publication) reports that students at the University of Texas held a protest on the first day of classes against the state’s law “allowing concealed handguns on state college campuses.” The protesting students carried “thousands of sex toys.” Protest organizer Jessica Jin said, “It’s absurd. So, I thought, we have to fight absurdity with absurdity.” The protesters said the idea was “to show that they think that guns have no place on campus.” The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) and the Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) also cover this story.

From ASEE
ABET Update
The Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) Criteria Committee met in Baltimore last month to continue reviewing the EAC Criteria 3 and 5 Proposal. After spending months categorizing, summarizing, and evaluating each one of the hundreds of comments, the committee has taken that feedback into consideration and made a number of modifications to the content of the proposal.

The Engineering Area Delegation will review the proposal in late October, as it has the final approval authority for these proposed changes. The Delegation has three options: approve the proposed criteria as written and implement, delay final approval for one year and seek additional public comment, or reject the proposal.  More details are here.


Envisioning the Future of the Maker Movement
A new report from ASEE on this important development in engineering education.


Sustainable Development Primer for Higher Education Presidents, Chancellors, Trustees and Senior Leaders
This new primer describes the sustainability related, crucial roles and tasks for presidents, trustees, and senior leadership and explains how sustainability is a robust national trend in higher education

Research and Development

Small Modular Reactor Designs Hold Promise To Reduce Risk For Investors.

In a piece for Forbes Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24), energy analyst Michael Lynch writes about how nuclear engineers have been talking up proposed new reactor designs for at least the last two decades, “but few have progressed to become important components of the industry.” Lynch adds that all hype aside, “One aspect that needs greater attention is the benefit of smaller reactors, which greatly reduce risk on the part of investors.” Lynch adds that for most conventional reactor designs, “the risk is in the large size which means longer construction times and thus, more demand risk.” Smaller reactors “reduce this problem substantially. For one thing, there is much less capital at risk in a 200 MW plant, for another, construction times should be much shorter, probably 3-5 years.”

Real Clear Energy Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) runs a brief teaser and link for Michael Lynch’s Forbes piece, reporting that his argument in Forbes is that, “with power demand dropping, the SMR is a far less risky investment than old school nuclear.”

Analysis: SMRs May Unlock Nuclear Plant Financing. In an analysis for World Nuclear News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24), Rory Connor and Ken Culotta of law firm King & Spalding, write that it is becoming abundantly clear that nuclear plant construction violates the basic precepts of project finance due to the unpredictability of project costs and schedule. This is clearly at work as the UK government “mulls over the project fundamentals for Hinkley Point C one last time” and “if and when the project finally goes ahead, EDF and its Chinese partners will proceed on the basis of on-balance sheet corporate funding; not limited-recourse project financing, as originally touted.” The writers add that “new technology and new construction techniques, in the form of small modular reactors (SMRs), may hold the key to overcoming such issues.” SMRs offer more certainty since they “can be manufactured on a production-line basis; adhering to a standard design, fabricated within a factory and delivered to site (in most cases by truck or rail) in an almost turn-key state.”

NSF Gives Clemson Professor $6 Million For Nanoparticle Brain Research.

The Greenville (SC) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) reports that the National Science Foundation has given Stephen Foulger, director of Clemson University’s Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies, a $6 million grant to fund “research into the whether the use of nanoparticles can treat brain disorders such as addiction and depression.” Foulger and his team of researchers “will look at creating nanoparticles many times smaller than the width of a human hair that can be coated and ingested and sent to light-sensitive areas of the brain where they’ll be stimulated by X-rays to alter brain function.”

Researchers Develop First Entirely Soft Robot, Powered By Fluids.

Science Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) reports a team of Harvard University researchers “with expertise in 3D printing, mechanical engineering, and microfluidics has demonstrated the first autonomous, untethered, entirely soft robot.” The 3D-printed robot is nicknamed “the octobot” and “could pave the way for a new generation of completely soft, autonomous machines.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) says the wireless, battery-less robot “looks like a tiny octopus and is designed to mimic that slithery creature to get through cracks and tight places, making it ideal as a rescue robot.” The researches have created 300 of the robots because they are “cheap to make.” According to the AP, the robots are “not mechanical, nor electrical,” but “powered by fluids.” The discovery “is described, photographed and on video in the scientific journal Nature on Wednesday.”

Researchers Test “Whiskers” For Robots.

TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Biggs) reports a team of students working at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering are developing artificial “flow sensors,” similar to those found on animals’ whiskers, which can be attached to robots “to read their positions, sense their speed or even move toward high or low pressure areas.” TechCrunch adds that these can be included in future direction-sensing robots.

National Institute Of Biomedical Imaging And Bioengineering Announce Winners Of Design Challenges.

Bioscience Technology Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Fletcher) reports the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering announced the winners of their undergraduate biomedical engineering design challenge. Teams for several universities developed new biotechnology with a variety of purposes and functions.

New Window Coating Allows Light Passage And Still Blocks 90% Of Sun Rays.

UPI Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Hays) reports researchers at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore “have developed a nanoparticle coating that allows the passage of visible light but blocks 90 percent of the heat carried by the sun’s rays.” The new coating “could lessen the burden on air conditioning units in buildings across Southeast Asia and elsewhere.” A*STAR Singapore Researcher Hui Huang said, “In tropical Singapore, where air conditioning is the largest component of a building’s energy requirements, even a small reduction in heat intake can translate into significant savings.”

Northrop Grumman Secures Air Force Contract To Develop Jet Fighter Laser Pods.

IHS Jane’s 360 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Jennings) reports that Northrop Grumman has landed a $39.3 million contract with the US Air Force related to the development of a laser-based defense system called the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) Turret Research in Aero-Effects (STRAFE). Under the contract, the aerospace contractor “will develop and deliver an advanced beam control system for integration as part of a complete laser weapons system into a tactical pod for USAF fighter aircraft.” According to the article, the laser pod will enable fourth-generation Air Force fighters, including the Boeing F-15 Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, to better survive in aerial combat. The system will not be included on fifth-generation jets since that would negate their stealth capabilities.

Kindergarten Teachers Keep Students Focused On Class Lessons.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Strauss) reports on an article by kindergarten teacher Phyllis Doerr, who writes about the challenges of capturing the attention of kindergartners for about 10 minutes at a time, and keeping them on point during lessons.

Thousands Of New Preschoolers Enroll At LAUSD Schools.

Southern California Public Radio Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/23, Fernandes) reports that the number of preschoolers enrolling in the Los Angeles Unified School District more than double from last year. This increase is due to the district increasing “the number of expanded transitional kindergarten (ETK) classes from 117 last year to 286 this year, opening seats in the program for nearly 4,000 more children. Nearly 6,300 students are currently enrolled in ETK classes.” This past June, the district approved $44.4 million to fund the ETK program, “paving the way for hundreds of new teachers and teaching assistants, instructional materials and a special education component in 59 of the classes.”

Global Developments

MMSU Offers Master’s Degree On Renewable Energy Engineering.

The Philippine Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/25) reports that “engineers wanting to venture into renewable energy may consider enrolling in the Professional Science Master’s in Renewable Energy Engineering (PSM-REE) program launched…recently at the Mariano Marcos State University.” A “first in Southeast Asia, the program was established with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Energy Development Corp.” Those who graduate from the “program are expected to spearhead research, programs and projects that harness the development of alternative energy for national self-sufficiency, self-reliance and self-sustainability.”

Industry News

VW Says Production Levels Will Return To Normal After Resolving Supplier Dispute.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) reports Volkswagen stated on Wednesday its car production levels at German plants should return to normal by next Monday after settling a disagreement with “parts suppliers over contract terms.” Suppliers Car Trim and ES Automobilguss had halted “deliveries of seat covers and cast iron parts for gearboxes” while seeking 58 million euros in compensation for advance payments delivered on a canceled development contract. The dispute was resolved on Tuesday a day after VW stopped “production of the top-selling Golf and Passat models as well as assembly of engines, gearboxes and emissions systems.” VW said component plants in Kassel, Salzgitter and Braunschweig will increase production to reach normal production levels.

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) features a video segment with Commerzbank Head of Automotive Research Sascha Gommel who says although VW suffered some negative press under the dispute, the company should rebound quickly because the issue was resolved fairly quickly.

Tesla Partner Nvidia Releases Mobile Processor In Bid For Autonomous Driving Market.

Investor’s Business Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Gatlin) reports Tesla Motors’ partner Nvidia is attempting to seize the chunk of autonomous driving market from NXP Semiconductors by releasing the Parker mobile processor, which Nvidia claims “is 50%-100% more powerful than other mobile processors.” Nvidia’s Drive PX 2 system for self-driving is powered by “two Parker chips and two Pascal graphics processing units (GPUs).” According to market research firm Strategy Analytics, NXP currently holds “the largest share of any single player on the market, at 14.2%.” Mobileye is also vying for market control by partnering with Delphi.

Surveys Find Lower Customer Interest In Purchasing New Auto Technologies.

Re/code Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, O’Donnell) reports the hype around autonomous driving, ride sharing services and hybrid vehicles is overstated as highlighted through recent industry studies. In a list of 12 car characteristics, autonomous driving features and an electric/hybrid drivetrain was ranked last, “even for future purchases.” Recently, Technalysis Research surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers who currently own a car and are planning to purchase one over the next two years. The results found “there are definitely pockets of interest” for the technology, “but they don’t neatly line up with the various stories and agendas that members of the tech and automotive-related industries” tout. Studies determined consumers are “content with getting modest, incremental technology improvements” with future car purchases and are not necessarily excited by some of the tech features that focus primarily on safety.

Engineering and Public Policy

Small Turnout For Government’s Annual Offshore Oil Lease Auction.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) reports the federal government’s annual sale of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico “attracted hardly any interest on Wednesday, reflecting a dismal outlook for offshore drilling.” The AP reports “only three oil companies bid, on just 24 of the nearly 4,400 tracts offered for drilling and exploration in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast.” S&P Global Market Intelligence Analyst Stewart Glickman said, “Everything about this sale screams wariness.”

Japan Pledges $2 Million To Fund Study On Maryland Bullet Train.

The Baltimore Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Prudente) reports the Japanese government “has pledged $2 million to help fund studies on the feasibility of a magnetic levitation train that could shuttle passengers from Baltimore to Washington within 15 minutes, state officials said.” On Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan “signed a trade agreement with Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae, making Maryland the third state to sign such an agreement with Japan, the governor’s office said.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Witte) says the money is for “planning and an engineering analysis for the train, which could carry passengers from Washington to Baltimore in 15 minutes.”

First US Offshore Wind Project May Prompt Wind Energy Boom.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Cama) reports, in continuing coverage, that construction on the $300 million Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island finished this month, becoming the first utility-scale offshore wind farm in the US, “fulfilling a years-old clean energy dream from President Obama and others.” Clean energy advocates hope the project will jumpstart an offshore wind industry in the US that has already succeeded in Europe and Asia. BOEM has leased 11 offshore areas for wind farms and is working on more, and DOE “has worked on research and development for wind energy, studying best practices and looking into advanced technologies like floating wind turbines.”

House Committee Looking At DOE Solar Funding For Anti-Lobbying Violations.

Bloomberg BNA Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) reports Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and “two renewable energy groups” are “reviewing letters sent by a House committee asking whether they used Energy Department funding to lobby for state subsidies for rooftop solar projects, which could violate anti-lobbying law.” On August 16, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent letters to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council and Clean Energy States Alliance. Each of the “groups received federal grants from the DOE as part of the SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive by the end of the decade.” The committee also sent a letter “to Moniz, asking about the funding for both the renewable energy groups, and how it was allocated and used for rooftop solar.” The committee indicated “it is particularly interested in the use of SunShot funding for rooftop solar projects specifically because of a study showing the cost of rooftop solar is higher than producing solar energy from utility scale solar.”

California Assembly Approves Legislation Curbing Emissions, Increasing Oversight.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Megerian) reports that the California Assembly approved a second measure on climate change Wednesday after a “contentious debate about the benefits of environmental regulations and whether the provisions go far enough to increase legislative oversight of state regulators.” Assembly Bill 197 directs regulators to prioritize direct emission reductions from sources such as refineries and now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. Senate Bill 32, is awaiting another vote in the Senate after being approved by the Assembly on Tuesday. Separately, the Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Megerian) reports that Eloy Garcia, a lobbyist for the Western States Petroleum Association, said the legislation would mark a shift that would “call into question the availability of cap-and-trade as a tool going forward.” In an third story, the Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Megerian) reports that the legislation “does not resolve all of the issues facing California’s climate programs. In particular, the measures do not address the cap-and-trade program, which is facing a lawsuit claiming the program is an unconstitutional tax.” The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Lazo, Subscription Publication) reports that the pair of bills will expand and extend the state’s climate change law, while also authorizing more political oversight of the state board in charge of climate policy. In a press conference, Gov. Jerry Brown described the measures as “a powerful restructuring of the California economy going forward.”

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Calefati), Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Nash), the Sacramento (CA) Bee Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(8/24), the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24), and ClimateWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Kahn, Subscription Publication), also report on the bill’s passage.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Missouri Career And Technical Education Expanding Partnerships.

The Buffalo (MO) Reflex Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) reports that Missouri high school students will soon have increased opportunities to participate in career and technical education through partnerships with secondary and post-secondary institutions. Dr. Jim Welker, superintendent at Cape Girardeau 63 School District, and Eddie Stephens, associate vice president of career and technical education at Crowder College, recently presented information from on-site visit reports and discussed expanded relationships with local career and technology centers and colleges around the state to promote CTE opportunities for high school students. A dearth of skilled workers — particularly in welding, mechanics, HVAC, and transportation — has led local employers to search for workers with post-secondary technical training. Missouri’s 57 area career centers have relationships with local community colleges and four-year higher education institutions, providing Missouri high school students with the opportunity for dual credit as early as their junior year.

Preparing High School Students For The Workforce America Needs.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Gonzalez, Bozick), in its Congress Blog, publishes the opinions of two RAND Corporation sociologists about the need for enhanced career and technical education. With about 20 percent of high school graduates entering the workforce directly, evidence showing CTE can boost earning potential, with the evolving world economy requiring the American workforce to evolve, ensuring access to high-quality CTE programs can be critical. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program annually provides more than $1 billion in federal funds to state and local departments of education to establish and improve CTE programs. Policymakers should apply lessons learned from effective programs and seek to: ensure such programs work with business communities to mitigate and share risk; support work-based learning modules; incorporate employer guidance and advice; align performance requirements with Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act benchmarks; encourage state agencies to collaborate and share relevant data; and incentivize post-secondary institutions to implement programs that meet local needs.

College Encourages Students To “Engineer Like A Girl.”

Southern Maryland Newspapers Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) reports that Shadei Jones, pre-engineering coordinator at the College of Southern Maryland, believes that to encourage more females to consider careers in engineering, more middle and high school students must be familiarized with the field. Therefore, for a second year, Jones convened “Engineer Like a Girl,” a week-long day camp at CSM, to expose attendees to engineering jobs and eradicate negative stereotypes associated with women in fields related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The free camp is sponsored by the CSM Foundation and Southern Maryland Chain Chapter, The Links, Inc. The nine girls attending this year’s camp participated in workshops and hands-on activities, kept a journal, and shared thoughts at the end of each day’s activities. Attendees heard from a civil engineer, a biomedical engineering doctorate candidate, a motivational speaker, and an engineer from Patuxent River Naval Air Station. In addition, a CSM career and academic adviser discussed planning for college and engineering careers and majors.

Arizona High Schoolers Experience College Life, Engineering Concepts.

The Arizona Daily Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Chase) reports that through a TRiO Program funded through grants from the United States Department of Education, “about 60 northern Arizona students were taking classes with Upward Bound.” At the start of the summer after their first year of high school, students from Coconino High School, Winslow High School, Williams High School, and Hopi Junior/Senior High School participate in the Summer Academy, held on the Northern Arizona University campus, and “live in the dorms for four weeks and take classes that enhance their reading, writing, science and math skills to ensure that they are prepared for the rigor of college classes upon graduation.” Students took part in projects offered by the school’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and its Dynamic and Active Systems Lab.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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