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

Leading the News

Government Orders Construction Pause For Part Of Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Justice and Interior Departments on Friday ordered a pause in construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, hours after a Federal judge rejected the requests by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and environmentalists to do so. While the network newscasts did not provide coverage, reporting in print and online was heavy, highlighting the Administration’s “unusual” intervention in the case.

In a front-page article, the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, Healy, Subscription Publication) reports the Federal government “in an unusual move issued a statement saying it would, for the time being, not allow the pipeline to be built underneath a dammed section of the Missouri River that has become a focal point of the pipeline dispute.” The statement was issued by the Justice and Interior Departments and the Army, saying “important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain.”

In the tribe’s lawsuit, its lawyer said “the Army Corps of Engineers had not properly consulted with the tribe on questions of environmental impact and historical preservation as required by law,” the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, Berman, Heim) adds. District Judge James Boasberg, however, ruled the “Army Corp of Engineers had complied with the law in approving permits for the pipeline and that the tribe had not demonstrated that ‘irreparable harm will ensure.’”

Unprecedented Intervention May Alter Future Reviews Of Infrastructure Projects. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/10, Macpherson) reports the DOJ, DOI, and Army Corps of Engineers released a statement saying they would “reconsider any of its previous decisions” regarding land bordering Lake Oahe, the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation water source, and asked Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners to “voluntarily pause” construction of the pipeline following US District Judge James Boasberg ruling that “denied the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s attempt to halt the construction.” The governments action is “a move some say likely may forever change the way all energy infrastructure projects are reviewed in the future.” Former PHMSA acting administrator and industry consultant Brigham McCown said the Administration’s action has “‘changed the lay of the land forever’ for infrastructure projects,” saying, “This could bog down or delay every single infrastructure project moving forward.”

Higher Education

ITT Closure Leaves Former Students “Scrambling.”

NPR’s All Things Considered Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/11, NPR) ran a segment on how former students of ITT Educational Services colleges have been left “scrambling to find other options” after the firm’s decision to shutter all of its schools. Some 45,000 students were impacted by the closure, which “follows years of federal investigations into its student loan practices, which led the U.S. Department of Education to ban the school from enrolling new students who get federal loans.”

WPost: Government Should Help Strengthen For-Profit Sector, Not Destroy It. In an editorial, the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/10) criticizes the Education Department’s use of “administrative muscle” to “destroy” ITT Technical Institutes, as well as the Obama Administration for “its ideological opposition to for-profit colleges and universities.” The Post insists “there should be a level playing field that recognizes the place – and value – of for-profit colleges and universities,” and says “the government be looking for ways to strengthen the industry, rather than to destroy it.”

WSJournal: The Only One Profiting From The ITT Shutdown Is The Government. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, Subscription Publication) criticizes the government’s role in the shutdown of ITT Technical Institute, as well as the benefits that government-run community colleges are reaping from the closure. Further, the Journal argues that ITT’s former students are suffering from the shutdown, citing issues such as the loss of GI benefits and inferior public education options.

WVU Students Win Robotics Contest.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/11) reports that a team of engineering students from West Virginia University has won the $750,000 top prize in a NASA robotics competition. The prize was awarded last week at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. According to a release from WVU’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, the 10 students won by successfully navigating a robot to win the Sample Robot Return Challenge component of NASA’s Centennial Challenges. The Challenge concluded a half decade of competitions that began in 2012, and it required the seven qualifying teams to retrieve up to 10 samples.

Tribal College Gets $500K NSF Grant To Create New Science Degree.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/11) reports that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $500,000 grant to the New Town, North Dakota-based Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College to develop a new “associate of science degree in sustainable energy technologies.”

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

Election Forescasting
Election Analytics, a student run STEM project at the University of Illinois (with ASEE member Sheldon Jacobson as advisor) makes sense of the daily stream national polling data to provide a snapshot of the current state of the election, with no political commentary or partisan opinion.

Research and Development

NYTimes A1: Pittsburgh’s Eagerness For Uber Self-Driving Tests Raises Alarms.

The front page of the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/10, A1, Kang, Subscription Publication) reports Pittsburgh has not done “much” at all “to prepare for Uber’s unprecedented test” of self-driving Volvo cars starting this month. And yet “this hands-off approach” is “precisely” why the city is such an “ideal ground for one of Silicon Valley’s boldest experiments” in the first place, the Times explains, even if the decision “ignited criticism that the city is giving away its keys to Uber, which is testing a nascent technology and has a reputation for running roughshod over regulators and municipalities.” The view of government officials and tech experts quoted in the story is that so-called “greenlight governing” is essential “these days” for struggling Rust Belt cities, but the Times contrasts this optimism with its corresponding “criticism from those who say Pittsburgh is giving too much power to tech companies, all for a sheen of innovation,” or “that they have been thrust into an experiment with potential safety risks.”

University Of Maryland Students To Build Cyclotron.

Washington Post Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Alter) reports that a pair of University of Maryland materials engineering majors have launched a push to gather resources and expertise to build “a working cyclotron as a teaching tool.” The students garnered the support of a number of professors and senior students, and “over the next few years students will not only construct the largest cyclotron built by undergraduates, they will wind up with a machine that will continue its hands-on educational mission by allowing students to conduct experiments in nuclear physics.”

University Of Delaware Researchers Looking To Extend Phone Battery Life.

The Wilmington (DE) News Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/11) reports that mobile phone lithium-ion batteries “have not kept pace with our ever-increasing demand for more power.” A team of University of Delaware researchers is looking to address the issue by focusing on “the power-sucking software that’s draining your battery.”

Industry News

NYTimes A1: VW Engineer Pleads Guilty In Criminal Investigation Over Emissions Deception.

A New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, A1, Tabuchi, Subscription Publication) front-page article reports Volkswagen engineer James Robert Liang on Friday plead guilty in US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on charges of “conspiring to defraud regulators and car owners.” The Times indicates this is the first criminal charge levels against the carmaker “from the American investigation” into its “emissions deception” and that it “adds to the pressure on the company, as Volkswagen faces criminal investigations and lawsuits around the world.” DOJ officials said Liang was cooperating with the investigation and that he admitted he and other engineers “developed a defeat device to cheat emissions tests in the United States.” He faces up to five years in prison.

A Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, Viswanatha, Rogers, Subscription Publication) front-page article also reports Liang’s cooperation with officials suggests a different approach the DOJ is taking that toward companies for corporate wrongdoing, where few executives have been punished. The Journal says Liang’s cooperation could help prosecutors go after other individuals at Volkswagen.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, Schoenberg) and the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, Schneider, Krisher) provide similar coverage.

US Consumer Agency, FAA Issue Warnings About Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission on Friday warned consumers to power down and stop using their Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones, the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, Beckerman, Subscription Publication) reports. The agency cited the phone’s lithium ion battery catching fire as the problem. Samsung has indicated consumers can exchange their phones through a new program is announced last week, in which they could swap their old phones for new ones. The company also said it “identified the affected inventory and stopped sales and shipments of those devices.” The article also notes the move comes as the Federal Aviation Administration announced Thursday the phones should not be used on planes.

Some of the world’s top airlines in North America, Europa and Asia, including American, Delta, and United Airlines and Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Air France, have all banned the use of the phone following the FAA’s warning, Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, Lee, Dastin) reports. The article says the airline industry has been battling the use of lithium ion batteries on plane because they are known to combust.

The CBS Evening News (9/9, lead story, 2:10, Pelley) also reported that while lithium-ion batteries “have been touted as the future,” they have “been plagued with overheating and fires in everything from popular hover board toys to e-cigarettes.” The report noted Samsung isn’t taking any chances, saying it’s stopped shipment of the devices and is cooperating with the recall. Gizmodo writer Matt Novak said, “Samsung will ultimately recover but I think it’s obviously bad press. I think that Samsung’s going to take a big hit with this one just because it doesn’t look good.”

GM Recalls Millions Of Vehicles For Software Defect That Can Cause Airbags Not To Deploy.

There is extensive coverage, particularly from wire pick-ups, of the latest General Motors vehicle recall affecting over 3.6 million vehicles in the US and about 680,000 more worldwide, announced Friday by NHTSA. The issue this time is with airbags that in rare cases may not deploy due to a software defect. So far the defect, which affects several models from 2014-2017 across four brands, has been linked to one death and at least three injuries.

The CBS Evening News (9/9, story 10, 0:25, Pelley) broadcast, “GM is recalling more than 3.5 million vehicles in the US because of a software fault that could prevent the airbags from working.” According to the broadcast, the faulty airbags are being “blamed for at least one death.” CBS News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9) also reports from its website. Another story by CBS News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9) reports with a list of affected GM vehicles.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, Shepardson) reports that NHTSA documents posted Friday state “certain driving conditions may cause the air bag sensing and diagnostic module software to activate a diagnostic test,” preventing the airbag or seat belts from working correctly in a crash.

Engineering and Public Policy

US Releases Strategic Plan To Jumpstart Offshore Wind Industry.

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/10, Rosen) reports that after “flounder[ing] in the race for offshore wind farms,” the US “is committed to shifting course” as the Departments of Energy and the Interior released “a strategic plan to develop a national offshore wind industry.” On Friday, Secretary of Energy Moniz said, “Make no bones about it. We are very serious about advancing offshore wind as a major component of our clean energy future.” The strategic plan, coupled with actions by various states, “marks a political shift among different levels of government to fully embrace offshore wind,” the Monitor says, but costs remain the biggest hurdle, as it is much more expensive than in Europe, according to The New York Times. Moniz “says streamlining the permitting process will also lower the price of offshore wind development” and analogized these drops to those of the solar energy industry, but “adds, the offshore wind industry still has a long way to go, and a lot to learn.”

Amtrak To Upgrade Trains, Tracks, And Stations With $2.45 Billion FRA Loan.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/10, Aratani) reports Amtrak will leverage its $2.45 billion Federal loan to upgrade many of its trains and tracks on the Northeast Corridor in “its push to modernize service and rebuild aging infrastructure” after “years” of “lobbying an often-skeptical Congress for money to pay for a backlog of capital needs.” The loan, “the largest…ever given by the U.S. Department of Transportation,” came with the blessings of the Vice President, himself an Amtrak commuter, and regional officials like Sen. Chuck Schumer, but “also comes at a time when Amtrak is transitioning to new leadership” under former Norfolk Southern executive Charles “Wick” Moorman.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Girls Work To Support Classmates In STEM Subjects.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/10, Stirgus) reports on an proposal initiated by Teishana Antoine, a junior at Lanier High School in Gwinnett County, Georgia, who likes science and wanted to encourage more interest in the subject by female middle schoolers. With funding from a $3,000 grant by Apple, Intel, and Microsoft, Antoine and peers are starting an afternoon technology camp for girls at Lanier Middle School, with an eye to closing the gender gap regarding science, technology, engineering, and math. Many Gwinnett educators share that goal, as girls lag behind in those subjects on college-entrance exams. Girls interested in such subjects believe the best way to succeed is to support each other, taking advantage of programs like the afterschool camp.

Virginia Tech/Qualcomm Initiative Exposes Students To STEM.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/11, Shapiro) reports on a new partnership between Virginia Tech and Qualcomm that led to the establishment of a new Thinkabit lab, a STEM-focused learning center that aims to expose students as young as middle school age to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The lab is open at no cost to community groups such as Girl Scout troops and Metro DC school districts. The six-hour program begins with students learning about stem career opportunities, continues with students getting hands-on experience with tangible projects, and ends with students building a “robot” and presenting it to their class. “The important thing for students coming out here is that students learn there is a place for them in the world,” said Susie Armstrong, senior vice president of engineering at Qualcomm.

DC Public Schools See Hike In Advanced Placement Participation.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/9, Matos) reports that last school year, DC Public Schools reported that since 2010, the number of students taking advanced placement classes is up by 73 percent. Banneker High School Principal Anita Berger “attributes the school’s higher passage rates to teachers working together to expose students earlier in their high school careers to the rigor of the advanced courses.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

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