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

Leading the News

Baidu And NVIDIA Form Partnership To Create Autonomous Driving Platform.

Engadget Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1) reports Chinese search engine Baidu and NVIDIA are partnering “to develop an artificial intelligent platform for self-driving cars.” NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang announced the partnership during the Baidu World Conference, stating “the companies will unit to merge their individual technical capabilities to crate a new self-driving car architecture from scratch.” The platform’s primary purpose is to provide self-driving taxis to China, but the companies are developing the program to become accessible to other auto makers “to fit with their own plans for self-driving vehicles.”PC Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Brant) reports Baidu plans to test the platform on public roads in the US, because of “an autonomous vehicle testing permit it recently received from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles.” The Verge Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Hawkins) reports senior vice president of Baidu and general manager of Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Unit Jing Wang said the company will begin testing its “autonomous driving technologies on public roads very soon in California.” He added that “Baidu has already built a strong team in Silicon Valley to develop autonomous driving technologies, and being able to do road tests will greatly accelerate our progress.” The Verge Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Kastrenakes) reports the platform isn’t a fully autonomous system as the companies are planning for Level 3 autonomy, meaning a vehicle can drive itself in some circumstances and a human driver will need to take control “here and there.”

Fortune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Korosec) also ran a similar story.

Higher Education

ITT Discloses Details Of Efforts To Remain Afloat.

The Indianapolis Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1) reports that ITT Educational Services “is asking for leniency from the federal government as its prospects for survival become more dire.” In an SEC filing, he firm “disclosed Thursday that it has received a letter from insurer Chubb informing the company that Ace American Insurance Co. is moving to cancel a $19.8 million line of credit.” The insurer is “requiring ITT to post collateral for the full amount within 30 days to avoid cancellation,” even as ED is pressuring the firm to expand its access to credit. The SEC disclosure also indicates that the firm “is trying to negotiate with the Education Department to lessen the sanctions handed down Aug. 25.”

ITT Students Look To Future. Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1) reports that ED’s actions, combined with a number of state lawsuits and investigations, are leaving many ITT students “questioning their options,” noting that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell recently said “that ITT’s approximately 45,000 students could choose to continue at ITT, look to transfer their credits to another institution, pause their education or, if the company closes before they finish, look to discharge their loans.” The article explores students’ prospects for successfully negotiating a number of options.

USA Today Criticizes Clintons’ Ties To For-Profit University.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1) says in an editorial that although “on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton is a big critic of for-profit universities,” she “doesn’t mention…her close family connections to for-profit Laureate Education and the hefty $9.8 billion in loans accumulated just by students at Laureate’s Walden University in Minnesota.” From 2010 until just before Clinton entered the presidential race, Laureate “paid Bill Clinton $17.6 million as the honorary chancellor.” USA Today says that “in any other election, the Clintons’ ties to Laureate Education would get more attention,” but her opponent is “the founder of Trump University, an operation that makes Laureate look like Harvard.”

Former White House deputy domestic policy adviser James Kvaal writes in an opposing USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1) op-ed that Clinton intends to protect students “from exploitation by those for-profit colleges that are deceptive and abusive.” She “has endorsed bipartisan proposals that make sure that colleges – like students and taxpayers – have an incentive to make sure that loans can be affordably repaid, while enrolling disadvantaged students in quality programs,” and has promised “to strengthen employment rules that ensure graduates of for-profit schools can afford to repay their loans, and to crack down on deceptive marketing.”

Texas A&M Board Of Regents To Get Presentation On $150 Million Expansion.

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Ellis) reports that on Thursday during its meeting, Texas A&M University’s board of regents “will hear a presentation on the planned RELLIS Campus, an ambitious $150 million research and technology expansion the university is developing.” According to the Chronicle, “a large piece of the project will be a student education center.”

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

Ohio State Engineers Make Electric Car Battery Breakthrough.

The Akron (OH) Legal News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1) reports that engineers at Ohio State University “may have cracked the code” on making electric car batteries safer and more making them hold a charge longer “with development of technology controlling how charge flows inside a battery.” The technology “was inspired by the manner in which living cell membranes transport proteins in the body.” The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

NRO Satellites Launched In 1970s Better Than Google Earth.

CNN Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Patterson) reports Phil Pressel, a top engineer at Massachusetts-based Perkin-Elmer, which designed an “ultrasecret US satellite program” in the 1970s codenamed “Hexagon,” believes the program “was responsible for preventing World War III.” The NRO launched 20 Hexagons between 1971 and 1986 as part of Cold-War efforts. The satellites were able to capture “much higher quality photos of the planet’s surface” than Google Earth can now. This is because each satellite weighed 30,000 pounds, created “photos showing 370-mile swaths of the planet,” and, from 100 miles in orbit, took pictures that “clearly showed objects as small as 2 feet wide.”

NEI Committing $12.4 Million To Develop Technologies To Regenerate Damaged Neurons.

Fast Company Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1) reports the National Eye Institute announced Thursday it will provide $12.4 million to fund six studies on technologies with the goal of regenerating damaged eyes. Researchers are interested in animals that can “regrow neurons and rebuild broken eyes,” and if they “coax the same process in humans, they might be able to reverse not only blindness but also diseases of the brain and other nerves.” The NEI is providing three-year research projects at “nearly a dozen institutions,” including Vanderbilt University, Johns Hopkins, the University of Wisconsin, Stanford, Harvard, and the Scripps Research Institute. “Understanding factors that mediate the regeneration of neurons and the growth of axons is crucial for the development of breakthrough therapies for blinding diseases,” says NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving in a press release. “What we learn through these projects will have a health impact beyond vision.”


Manufacturing Jobs Going Unfilled As Skill Requirements Get Tougher.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Sussman, Subscription Publication) reports that vacancies in manufacturing jobs have averaged 353,000 per month this year, nearly triple the amount in 2009. New technology has required more specialized skills for factory workers, and many of those who would have filled such jobs in the past are not qualified.

In a Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Subscription Publication) op-ed adapted from his new book, Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute writes that last year, 84.4 percent of men ages 25-54 were working, fewer than in the last year of the Great Depression. Ten million fewer men are at work now than were in 1965.

Junemann: H1-B Reform Does Not Go Far Enough.

In an op-ed for the San Diego Union-Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers president Greg Junemann says legislation to reform the H1-B visa process “just doesn’t go far enough.” While the bill proposes raising the salary threshold for H1-B visa recipients to $100,000, Junemann points out that this is “still lower than base pay for many US workers with specific technical expertise,” meaning that “companies can and will still cut costs by laying off US workers in favor of H1-B visa holders.” Junemann mentions instances in which both Southern California Edison and Disney allegedly replaced “skilled, experienced US workers” with “foreign guest workers with H1-B visas, employed by global outsourcing firms that specialize in providing low-cost labor to multinational companies.” Junemann says, “as president of a union representing 75,000 rocket scientists, Boeing engineers and others…[I am] disappointed that their bill does so little.”

Global Developments

US Defense Suppliers Turn To Asia As Growth Market For Military Aircraft.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Einhorn) reports that Lockheed Martin’s F-16 – “a symbol of U.S. military power” since the 1970s – may “become the latest U.S. product to get offshored” if Lockheed wins a big contract with India. Lockheed is competing for a contract to sell fighters to India and has expressed willingness to put “India as the center of the supply base,” according to Lockheed director for aeronautics business development Randall Howard. Competitors Boeing and Saab have similar offers in place, demonstrating “the lengths U.S. military suppliers are willing to go to win customers worldwide” in the midst of “across-the-board budget cuts that took effect” in the U.S. in 2013. Bloomberg Government research found Japan to be “the biggest customer for U.S. military contractors in 2013 and 2014” with combined spending of $36.5 billion. Lockheed itself “has orders to supply Japan with 42 of its F-35 fighters, with most assembly taking place in Nagoya.”

Industry News

Lowe’s To Begin Using In-Store Robots This Month.

Business Insider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1) reports Lowe’s will “roll out its LoweBot” in September, according to Yahoo. The LoweBot is “an autonomous retail service robot” that can assist shoppers “by helping them navigate the store and find the products they are looking for.” For employees, the robots scan inventory and keep backend operations up-to-date.

GM Plans SuperCruise As Response To Complete Self-Driving Vehicles.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Boudette, Subscription Publication) reports GM plans to equip its 2017 Cadillac sedan with a SuperCruise feature, as an “answer to Tesla Motors’ Autopilot,” which is currently under investigation by NHTSA. SuperCruise “will be designed to steer a car for long stretches of highway driving, pass other vehicles, brake for traffic, speed up and change lanes — all with minimal effort by the driver.” But unlike Tesla’s autonomous vehicle technology, GM’s system forces drivers to “keep their eyes on the road” by placing a camera near the rearview mirror that will monitor the driver. The move indicates GM is “unwilling to assume that human drivers will — or even can — be trusted to remain safely engaged in the vehicle’s operation.” The monitoring system will analyze the drivers’ eyes and head to make sure they are facing forward and will “notice if drivers are drowsy, looking down at their cellphones or have turned to reach into the rear seat.” Should the system notice any irregularities, warning tones will sounds and lights will flash followed by a slowdown of the vehicle if the driver does not respond. Audi plans to release a similar feature.

Engineering and Public Policy

FERC Requires ISO New England To Modify Incremental Power Plant Capacity Plan.

Platts Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1) reports FERC has approved ISO New England’s proposal “clarifying the process for how new incremental generation at existing power plants participates in capacity auctions,” but ordered “several key changes to the plan.” In May, FERC rejected a request by Dominion Resources Services that the ISO be ordered to run a capacity auction again after the ISO rejected about 21 megawatts of new DRS capacity. Instead FERC in Tuesday ordered the ISO “to revise its tariff within 60 days to also allow matched existing excess winter capacity to elect the price lock-in.”

PJM Says It Can Meet Clean Power Plan Climate Mandate.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Crawford) reports that PJM Interconnection LLC, said in a report Thursday that the largest US power market can meet the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from generators 32 percent by 2030, while limiting the impact on power prices to a less than 3 percent rise. The report “challenged claims from opponents who say the environmental mandates will drive a wave of power plant retirements.” The study “also found that the existing fleet of nuclear reactors can become economic” as states eye carbon-free generation to meet the targets.

PGE Coal Plant To Test Burning Only Biomass For Full Day.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Plaven) reports Portland General Electric is looking for to convert the Boardman Coal Plant to 100 percent biomass. PGE “will use nothing but woody debris to power the station for one full day as the utility continues to test alternative fuels at the 550-megawatt facility.” The plant successfully burned a 10-to-1 mix of coal and biomass last year, “but this will be the first time the plant is fed exclusively biomass” for a full day and will help determine long-term feasibility.

DOE Proposing New Standards For Cooking Products.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Devaney) reports the Energy Department “is proposing new efficiency rules for cooking products.” The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE “issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking on Thursday that would establish new energy conservation standards for residential cooking ovens and tops.” The public will have a chance to comment for 30 days.

Construction To Begin On Tule Wind Project Next Month.

The San Diego Union-Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Nikolewski) reports construction will begin on the Tule Wind Project in San Diego’s East County in about a month, “after a dozen years of debate and wrangling over permitting.” The article details concerns the community has over the project, mentioning that “Southern California Edison last year signed a 15-year power purchase agreement for the project and the turbines will be connected to a substation operated by San Diego Gas & Electric.”

Shortcomings Of California’s Zero-emission Vehicle Program.

In an analysis, Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Carroll, Sage) reports that automakers “will have no trouble meeting California’s zero-emission vehicle mandates” despite weak sale because they “can satisfy those obligations with state-awarded environmental credits instead of current zero-emission vehicle sales.” Reuters reports that Toyota and others have “amassed stockpiles of credits through past ZEV sales or by purchasing credits from competitors that produce more zero-emission cars,” such as Tesla or Nissan, and the system masks weak demand from consumers. The California Air Resources Board plans to take up ZEV program changes by December, with a likely focus on the credit system. That prospect has “ignited tensions” between traditional automakers and Tesla,

Elementary/Secondary Education

Dallas ISD Hopes Corporate Partners Can Bridge Gap Between Early College High Schools And Workforce.

The Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/31) reports that the Dallas ISD and Dallas County Community College District expanded their early college high school program, opening eight new facilities to augment the existing five. With the expansion, the DISD and DCCCD also announced nearly 20 corporate partners for the schools. The DISD and DCCCD focused on aligning academic opportunities with the job market so, depending on the campus, students follow different “pathways” such as law enforcement, information technology, and gaming. The schools provide instruction, while the corporate partners simultaneously afford students hands-on experience through mentorships, worksite visits, internships, and even job placements. “We know we have to do a better job with the handoff from high school to college, and college to industry,” said Israel Cordero, DISD’s deputy chief of school leadership and a leader in the program’s development. “And we want to put our students in the best situation possible to have the best possible options.”

National Science Foundation Awards $250,000 Grant To UNLV.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Ley) reports that the University of Nevada-Las Vegas has been awarded more than $250,000 by the National Science Foundation to examine middle school mathematics instruction across four states. The three-year grant will help researchers – led by Professor Travis Olson but also including scholars from Brigham Young University, the University of Arkansas, and Grand Valley State University – learn more about math teachers’ lesson preparation. The researchers hope their study will ultimately boost science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research.

Parents Seek New STEAM Academy Building, Enhanced Partnerships With U Of Kentucky.

The Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/1, Honeycutt) reports on the concerns of some parents of Lexington STEAM Academy students that insufficient progress is being made toward finding a home for the school or solidifying its relationship with the University of Kentucky. When it opened in 2013, the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics school was intended as a partnership between UK and the Fayette County Public Schools. On Thursday, Tina Stevenson, director of STEAM Academy, said officials are negotiating to allow enrollment at UK for dual-enrollment courses. District officials started working immediately to find a better site than its initial home in an elementary school built in 1939. Myron Thompson, the district’s senior director of operations and support, said officials are searching for a new location, but the school will remain in the old building for at least three years. Despite earlier discussions of locating the new building on the UK campus, that option is not presently being considered.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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