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

Leading the News

Obama Pauses Dakota Access Pipeline Construction.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Thompson, Ngai, Ax, Ross) reports members of the Stand Rock Sioux Tribe and groups of environmentalists are “quietly” celebrating the Administration’s decision on Friday that “temporarily halted construction on federal land of the planned” North Dakota pipeline, which has sparked Native American protests since the pipeline runs “near land they consider sacred.” Brigham McCown, an industry consultant and former head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, “said the federal action came ‘out of left field’ and was unprecedented.”

Oil Price Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Cunningham) reports that an hour after a federal judge’s ruling on Friday to reject the tribe’s request to block construction, the US Department of Justice, the Department of Interior, and the US Army Corps of Engineers issued a joint letter asking Dakota Access to “voluntarily pause” construction anyways.

In a nearly 1,500 word analysis, E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Subscription Publication) reports “Minutes after a federal judge Friday crushed the Sioux’s hopes for an injunction” on the Dakota Access oil pipeline project, the Obama Administration “stepped in with its own plan to press pause — drawing a quick shift from outrage to elation from pipeline opponents.” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman David Archambault II said, “Our hearts are full. …This is an historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and for tribes across the nation.”

Federal Judge Stays Temporary Pause On Pipeline Construction. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports US District Judge James Boasberg kept in place a previous construction-stoppage order on a small portion of the Dakota Access pipeline “while federal agencies review construction permits for the site, which the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says is sacred ground.” But, separately, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Macpherson) reports “much has yet to be settled when it comes to the pipeline that’ll run from North Dakota to Illinois, including whether the company will respond to the federal agencies’ request for a voluntary, broader work stoppage in that area.”

Additional coverage is provided by Politico, Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Gilmer, Subscription Publication),Greenwire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Gilmer, Subscription Publication), NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Brady), and the Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/11).

Higher Education

NSF Expanding Engineering “Academic Redshirt” Program.

The Wenatchee (WA) World Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports that the National Science Foundation is expanding “a program to help more low-income and minority students major in engineering.” NSF “has awarded $5 million to six universities, including the University of Washington and Washington State University, to expand or create ‘academic redshirt’ programs” which “enroll promising engineering students from low-income households — many of them women and minorities — and give them an additional year of math and science courses before they enter the engineering major.”

Texas A&M To Fund Engineering Academies With $5 Million Chevron Donation.

The Austin (TX) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Anderson, Subscription Publication) reports that Texas A&M University will establish five engineering academies across the state of Texas through a $5 million donation from Chevron in order to help meet the growing demand for graduates trained in STEM fields. According to the President’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology, one million new graduates with STEM degrees will be needed to fill jobs over the next decade.

For-Profit Shutdowns Leave Students In Lurch.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Puzzanghera, White) reports on the rise and fall of the for-profit college sector in recent decades, explaining that such schools “are facing major challenges on several fronts after a period of meteoric growth.” The article describes the Administration’s increased regulatory presence and the rising number of state and Federal lawsuits against operators, adding that such firms “began aggressively expanding their numbers and enrollments in 2000 as online education became more widespread, attracting students who were more likely to be low-income, minority and part-timers.” The piece focuses on the impact that the closure of such firms as ITT Educational Services has on students, who are left unable to “get the degrees they were seeking.” The Times reports that ITT officials blame ED’s regulatory sanctions for the shutdown. However, ED officials say “their actions against ITT were designed to protect students, as well as taxpayers who are on the hook for federal student loans that don’t get paid back.” The article quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying, “We knew when we stepped up our oversight of ITT that this outcome was a possibility and we have been planning for this contingency. Ultimately, our responsibility is not to any individual institution. It’s to protect all students and all taxpayers.”

CFPB Orders Bridgepoint Education To Refund Students $23.5 Million, Pay $8 Million Penalty.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Viswanatha, Subscription Publication) reports the CFPB announced Monday that for-profit college chain Bridgepoint Education has agreed to refund $23.5 million to students for allegedly convincing them to take out loans that cost more than had been advertised. The bank will also pay a civil money penalty of $8 million. The Journal points out that the CFPB has been targeting for-profit colleges and recently imposed a $3.6 million fine on Wells Fargo for its student loan practices.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Wheeler) reports the CFPB “claims Ashford University and the University of the Rockies,” by which Bridgepoint operates, “allegedly tricked students into taking out private loans by telling them they could pay them off with monthly payments of as little as $25.” However, students later “discovered they were obligated to pay much more.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Douglas-Gabriel) reports the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said that students at the Bridgepoint Education-run Ashford University and the University of the Rockies will have their private loans forgiven and payments refunded. The agency is making the company “pay more than $24 million to refund and discharge debt that students accumulated through an in-house loan program that used deceptive marketing.” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said, “Bridgepoint deceived its students into taking out loans that cost more than advertised, and so we are ordering full relief of all loans made by the school.” Publicly traded for-profit colleges are under “tremendous pressure” due to regulatory scrutiny, “a series of government lawsuits and depressed student enrollment.”

Other media outlets covering this story include BuzzFeed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Hensley-Clancy), CNN Money Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12), and the Fiscal Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Times).

Former PBS Digital Innovator Talks About Preparing Students To Succeed In College.

PBS Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports in the “the first in a series of four blog posts featuring programs from PBS’ Spotlight Education week of educational programming,” former PBS Digital Innovator Peter Van gives his views on “an advance screening of POV’s ‘All the Difference.’” According to Van, the screening gave him “a revealing look into the post-high school lives of the students,” and made him wonder whether he and his colleagues were doing an adequate job of preparing students to face “the challenges of college life.” Van, who teaches at Lindblom, said the school prepares its students for college by emphasizing executive function skills, such as staying organized, controlling their impulses, self-monitoring, and planning. In addition, they make their courses rigorous, they introduce “students to the realities of college,” and “connect students with organizations that will support them in college.”

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Research and Development

Michigan State University Engineering Professor Testing Vibration-Powered Bridge Sensors.

WLUC-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Marquette, MI (9/12) reports online that a group of engineering professors, including Michigan State University civil engineering professor Nizar Lajnef, “had an idea to monitor bridges with sensors powered with the vibrations generated by traffic,” but “needed a real-world platform to try it out.” When Bob Sweeney of the Mackinac Bridge Authority heard about the research, he felt that “the Mackinac Bridge, because of its status as a transportation icon and modern marvel of engineering, would provide a high-profile test site.” Later this month, the researchers “will place six of these prototype sensors beneath the bridge.”

Lockheed Martin To Develop SoS Architectures For Avionics Design.

Intelligent Aerospace Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Keller) reports Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $36.4 million contract by the US Air Force Research Laboratory for phase 2 of DARPA’s System of Systems Integration Technology and Experimentation (SoSITE) program, which aims to help combat aircraft engineers “overcome the problems of long aircraft design cycles” and adversary access to advanced technologies. Lockheed Martin will develop a “system of systems (SoS) architectures to maintain US air superiority in contested environments; demonstrate how a rapid-integration mission system can be integrated into architectures; and demonstrate the combat effectiveness and robustness of those architectures.” The program’s first-phase contractors included Northrop Grumman and Rockwell Collins.

High Power Lasers Could Upend Missile Defense Market.

Bloomberg Government Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Leuthy) reports in its blog that, according to DoD officials, research on high power lasers is progressing to the point where it could soon be used on the battlefield, which “could lead to significant changes in the missile defense market.” Bloomberg Government adds that “companies like Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. have been conducting research for the Pentagon for years on high-power lasers that can hit high-speed airborne targets,” with the ultimate goal being to use them as a low-cost substitute to intercept an incoming ballistic missile.

Verizon Acquires Sensity Systems To Add LED Light Control To Internet Of Things Platform

. TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Lunden) reports that Verizon has acquired Sensity Systems, a startup that builds solutions for businesses and others converting older lighting systems to connected LED systems, enabling remote control of those systems. The transaction continues Verizon’s effort to build out its enterprise services, advancing the company’s Internet of Things “smart city” business, which will incorporate Sensity’s business and technology. Financial terms are not being disclosed, and the deal should close during the fourth quarter of 2016. “Sensity is a leading provider of IoT solutions for smart communities with a strong ecosystem of partners, and this transaction will accelerate the deployment of large-scale implementations that will drive the digital transformation of cities, universities and venues,” said Mike Lanman, Verizon’s senior vice president, Enterprise Products and IoT, in a statement.

TechRepublic Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Maddox) quotes Bettina Tratz-Ryan, vice president of research for smart ecosystems and cities at Gartner CIO Research Group, who believes “Sensity offers something that Verizon does not have, the ability to gather insights and data from different lighting infrastructure in all types of city environments, whether a street, building or public space,” and “including intelligent lighting technology into an IoT platform that can harness and understand the lighting information in context with its environment and the data will become a very important game changer for creating the smart context in cities.” Since the smart city sector is growing so rapidly – forecast by McKinsey to become a $400 billion market by 2020, with 600 cities expected to generate 60 percent of the world’s GDP by 2025 – TechRepublic believes it inevitable that more companies will seek to acquire firms with IoT ties.


White-Collar Oil Workers Struggle To Find Work Despite Stabilizing Oil Prices.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Scheyder) reports that despite energy companies shifting their focus from survival to recovery with crude oil prices trading 75 percent higher than their February lows, “white-collar jobs in the sector remain as scarce as during the depths of the two-year oil price rout.” Staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc said the US energy industry has cut 95,000 jobs this year through July, compared to just under 70,000 one year earlier, many of them white-collar jobs. Blue-collar workers have not had the same level of difficulty, with many finding jobs in construction or other industries, but “the future looks bleaker for petroleum engineers, geologists and other specialists whose skills do not transfer so easily.” According to jobs site Indeed, blue-collar job postings have risen over the past five months, while white-collar energy postings continue to fall. Still, Halliburton global VP of human resources remains optimistic, saying, “Even though people would leave to go to another industry, the moment oil and gas pricing starts to pick up, we expect them to come back to our industry.”

Industry News

Ford Taking “Go-Slow” Approach With Driverless Cars.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Boudette, Subscription Publication) reports Ford on Monday “said it was convinced by its decade of research to take a go-slow approach” to self-driving cars. The Times says the company plans to introduce self-driving cars – in a “controlled urban environment” within five years – “capable of functioning as robotic taxis at slow, stop-and-go speeds in settings with traffic-light predictability.” In its “first public demonstration,” Ford allowed reporters and analysts to take rides in its cars at its engineering campus in Detroit. The Times added that the Ford cars used in the demonstration “were outfitted with bulky lidar systems mounted on their roofs.” However, the company soon plans to assemble self-driving Fusions “with two lidar units that will be slightly larger than hockey pucks.”

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Naughton) says Ford plans to begin selling its driverless cars around 2025, according to CEO Mark Fields. Before that, however, the company will begin sales of “robot taxis to ride-hailing services by 2021.” Fields added that his company’s goal “is to lower costs enough to make autonomous vehicles affordable to millions of people.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Senate Advances Water Infrastructure Bill.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Daly) reports the Senate voted on Monday to advance a bill authorizing $10 billion in water infrastructure projects that “includes $220 million in emergency funding” for Flint, Michigan and other communities beset by lead-contaminated water. The AP says approval is expected later this week, and notes the bipartisan measure “would authorize 29 projects in 18 states for dredging, flood control and other projects overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

Senate Votes To Move Water Project Bills Forward, Earmarking $220M For Flint.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Daly) reports that the Senate “voted to move forward Monday on a $10 billion water projects bill that includes $220 million in emergency funding for Flint, Michigan, and other communities beset by lead-contaminated water.” The bill advanced in the Senate 90-1 on a procedural vote, “with approval expected later this week.” The measure would authorize 29 projects in 18 states “for dredging, flood control and other projects overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

Senators Tout Bill To Simplify Grid, Bolster Cyber Security.

Sens. Jim Risch and Angus King write for The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Sens. Jim Risch (r-Idaho) And Angus King (i-Maine)) that “while the rapid, worldwide adoption of digital automation technologies has created many benefits, it has also introduced significant cyber vulnerabilities to critical infrastructure that must be addressed.” To that end, they write that they recently introduced legislation, along with Sens. Susan Collins and Martin Heinrich to “safeguard the U.S. from these potentially catastrophic threats” by identifying “ways to reduce some of the digital complexity in our critical infrastructure.” They applaud work by national laboratories, including the Idaho National Laboratory, to develop solution to these security challenges.

DOE Proposes Efficiency Rules For Refrigeration Products.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Devaney) reports the Energy Department has proposed new efficiency standards for refrigeration products. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE “proposed Monday new energy conservation standards for walk-in coolers and freezers.” The agency “estimates the rules would cost industry more than $16 million to comply with.” The public will have the chance to comment for the next 60 days.

India Files Complaint With WTO Over US Renewable Energy Programs.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Needham) reports India has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the United States “challenging domestic content requirements and subsidies in renewable energy programs across eight states.” The complaint “argues that renewable energy programs in Washington, California, Montana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Delaware and Minnesota are getting favorable treatment compared with imported products to the United States.” The case being made by India contends that “the energy program measures are inconsistent” with the rules of the WTO’s “because they provide less favorable treatment to imported products than to like domestic products, and because the subsidies are contingent on the use of domestic over imported goods,” the WTO said. Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports that was no comment from India’s trade ministry but the country “has voiced concerns in the past about U.S. support for its solar power industry.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Philadelphia’s Career And Technical Education Programs Shape Students Lives.

The Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Murphy, Schoder) reports that “the Philadelphia School District’s career and technical education (CTE) programs give students an opportunity to choose a career path that matches their interests and talents, while gaining hands-on training in high school.” The report explains that “the District has 43 CTE programs, and many graduates have transitioned to post-secondary institutions” while “some have taken jobs in their chosen fields right out of high school.” The Notebook “asked some current and former students from District CTE programs how their participation shaped their interests and lives” and offers details the stories of three students who are working or studying in the fields of carpentry, applied visual and interactive design, and health-related technology.

High School Students Explore The Sea On Research Vessel.

The Mountain View (CA) Voice Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Forestieri) reports that eight students from high schools nationwide worked with researchers in Southern California, and took a one-week trip on the Nautilus. The students were aided by “the two robots aboard the Nautilus, Argus and Hercules, which are remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) capable of gathering information, taking samples and giving researchers a glimpse of what goes on thousands of feet underwater.” During their exploration of areas “between the North American and Pacific plates that lie along the San Andreas Fault,” a live broadcast allowed anyone to “witness encounters with sea creatures or unusual geological formations in real time.”

Apple To Launch Free Coding App.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Singer, Subscription Publication) reports that on Tuesday, Apple will “release a free coding education app…developed with middle-school students in mind.” The app, “called Swift Playgrounds, introduces basic computer programming concepts, like sequencing logic, by asking students to use word commands to move cartoon avatars through a fanciful, animated world.” While the app is free, it can only be used on an iPad. Senior researcher at the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles Jane Margolis asked, “How much of the motivation is for selling of product, and what does that do for schools that cannot afford this technology?” For over 20 years, Margolis “has studied disparities in computer science education.” She adds that “The threat is that it is going to replicate current inequities.” According to the Times, “Apple devices and ones based on the Microsoft Windows software have recently lost market share at United States public schools to Chromebooks, inexpensive laptops that run on the Google Chrome operating system.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

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