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

Leading the News

PHMSA Asks Colonial To Take Corrective Action Before Pipeline Operates Again.

In continuing coverage, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/19, Landrum) reports the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Agency, which is investigating the gasoline spill from Colonial Pipeline Co.’s pipeline through Alabama, is requiring the company to “conduct testing and analysis on the failed section of the pipeline” before it goes back online. The PHMSA “said the spill is ‘within an unusually sensitive ecological area’ and it ordered Colonial to take action ‘to protect the public, property and the environment from potential hazards.’” Georgia-based Alpharetta in a Saturday statement “said that repair work had begun in an effort to return the pipeline to service ‘as rapidly and safely as possible.’”

East Coast Consumers Brace For Spike In Gasoline Prices After “Massive” Pipeline Leak. ABC World News Tonight (9/16, story 10, 0:20, Muir) reported that a “massive leak in America’s biggest oil pipeline is already pushing up prices at the pump.” ABC indicated the Colonial Pipeline leak, which has spilled more than 250,000 gallons in Alabama, “could causes prices to spike by up to 15 cents per gallon in the next week.” NBC Nightly News (9/16, story 5, 1:45, Holt) reported the pipeline “stretches from Houston to New York Harbor, servicing 13 states, delivering 40 percent of the gasoline used on the East Coast.” NBC added that “Colonial says it will be next week before repairs are finished and gasoline is flowing freely again,” and consumers are “bracing for impact at the pump” in the meantime.

Alabama Pipeline Leak Leads To Rising Fuel Prices, States Of Emergency. NBC Nightly News (9/18, story 8, 1:35, Snow) reported “a gas pipeline leak at a pump in Alabama” is “causing headaches across the southeast,” with “rising gas prices and shortages” causing “some governors to declare a state of emergency.” The “quarter million gallon” leak in Colonial Pipeline’s Line One was discovered last week, forcing the pipeline – which supplies 40 percent of the fuel to the east coast – to shut down. Colonial Pipeline has announced it is constructing a bypass line around the leak site. Meanwhile, gas prices in the southeast are expected to rise by as much as 20 percent until the leak is fixed. The CBS Weekend News (9/18, story 8, 1:30, Ninan) ran a similar story.

Higher Education

ITT Files For Bankruptcy, Begins Preparing For Liquidation.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16) reports that ITT Educational Services filed for bankruptcy on Friday as it prepares to begin liquidating its assets. The article discusses the allegations of fraud and the regulatory pressure that led to the firm’s collapse, drawing a parallel with the downfall of Corinthian Colleges Inc.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, McCarty) reports the move comes after ITT closed “136 technical schools, leaving over 35,000 students stranded in one of the largest college shutdowns in U.S. history.” Bloomberg reports ITT “said it was forced to close its doors after the U.S. Education Department demanded a steep increase in the security the company would have to post to guarantee federal student aid.”

More Women Focusing On Engineering And Computer Science At Top Colleges.

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Anderson) reports that the number of women enrolling “in engineering and computer science at some of the nation’s most prominent colleges and universities…shows that gender parity is possible in technology fields long dominated by men.” According to federal data, “More than half of engineering bachelor’s degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology went to women in 2015.” Similar results were seen at Dartmouth College, and women are the majority at California’s Harvey Mudd College computer science program. At Carnegie Mellon University, 48 percent of first-year computer science students are women.

Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Dean Committed To Recruiting Women. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Anderson) reports in a separate piece that Carnegie Mellon computer science dean Andrew Moore is “a fervent advocate for recruiting more women into the field.” The Post reports that during his time at Google, he resolved to be “alert in the future to anything that might be a potential turnoff for girls interested in his field.” Moore says that in addition to the moral imperative to have a diverse student body, there are also practical implications, since the collaborative nature of computer science work means that if “teams aren’t diverse, they’ll have blind spots that can dampen the power of the brainstorming that is essential to the work.”

Six Universities Receive Federal Funding To Boost Low-Income Student Enrollment In Engineering Programs.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/17) reported that the National Science Foundation has award $5 million to six universities, including the University of Washington, Washington State University and Boise State University “to expand a promising engineering program for low-income students.” Under the grant, funds are allocated “to evaluate the program to see how students do, compared with a group that doesn’t get help. Researchers will also study the best ways for faculty members to mentor students.”

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Research and Development

ORNL Facility Creates Mini Excavator Through 3-D Printing.

The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/17, Edwards) reports on ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, where engineering students from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Minnesota worked on 3-D printing projects “thanks to a National Science Foundation grant.” The article highlights the Additive Manufactured Excavator (AME) project, that included a “mini-excavator’s 20-foot arm, 30-foot-by-10-foot driver’s cab and some of her engine” via 3-D printing methods. The article features comments from Lonnie Love, ORNL’s Manufacturing Systems Research Group leader, who “helped shepherd AME to its successful conclusion.”

Apple Stockpiling Augmented Reality Talent.

Business Insider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/15) reports on Apple’s continuing effort to stockpile talent in augmented reality, while apparently developing a new display or technology showing images superimposed on the real world. Apple’s aggressive hiring in this area began in May 2015, when it bought AR startup Metaio (whose CEO still works at Apple). In June, Yury Petrov, formerly of Oculus, Facebook’s virtual reality platform, started work as an Apple research scientist at Apple. Petrov describes himself on LinkedIn as “a specialist in experimental psychology, human vision, optics for head-mounted displays, brain imaging, and mathematical methods of signal processing and analysis.” More recently, the company hired Zeyu Li, formerly of augmented reality startup Magic Leap, whose LinkedIn profile says he is “interested in deep learning, VR, AR, driverless car.” Apple now has hundreds of staff building prototype headset configurations, according to a January Financial Times report.

NSF Awards Grant To Research Bamboo As Building Material Of The Future.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/18, Aupperlee) reports that “researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering are working to make the grass the building material of the future in developing countries.” Associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt Kent Harries indicated that “bamboo is stronger than timber, is more accessible in remote parts of the world and can perform better in earthquakes and other natural disasters.” The National Science Foundation has awarded a $300,000 grant to Harries and Durham University and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez researchers “to study bamboo’s potential as a building material.”

Researchers Receive NSF Grant To Find Ways To Make Phone Batteries Last Longer.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/18) reports that University of Delaware computer science professor Lori Pollock and assistant professor James Clause are conducting research on “how an array of common techniques used by coders might be inadvertently contributing to battery drain.” Pollock said, “Most software developers worry about performance and user experience, but they don’t have a sense of how to make their apps more energy efficient.” The National Science Foundation has awarded the professors a three-year, $516,000 grant to study how to make phone batteries last longer.

Virginia Tech Plans Test For New Hyperloop.

WDBJ-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Roanoke, VA (9/15, O’Meara) reported that “a team of 33 Virginia Tech students is working” on a Hyperloop pod that can move at speeds over “700 miles per hour.” Soon, the team will “test its pod somewhere between the Duckpond and Route 460. It will have its very own nearly 150-meter Hyperloop Testing Track to try to answer a very interesting question.”

Virginia Tech Students Develop Basket To Prevent Hypothermia In Babies.

WTVF-AM Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Blacksburg, VA (9/15, Harris) reports that in order to solve the problem of newborns in countries such as Malawi dying from hypothermia, students from Virginia Tech came up with the idea of a “baby basket,” which “draws upon both modern mechanical engineering for it’s heat retaining features, and the modern field of public health.” According to WTVF-AM, “Initial funding to design and make the baby baskets came from Virginia Tech’s mechanical engineering department and the pediatric medical device institute in Roanoke. Malawian entrepreneurs are now manufacturing the low cost baby baskets” which will “be available there this fall.”

Global Developments

China Launches Tiangong-2 Space Lab.

AFP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/15) reports that on Thursday, China launched its Tiangong-2 space lab aboard a Long March-2F rocket from the Gobi desert. The vessel is to enter orbit at a height of 380 kilometers above Earth. The Shenzhou-11 mission will transport two astronauts to the lab, where they will “carry out research projects related to in-orbit equipment repairs, aerospace medicine, space physics and biology, atomic space clocks, and solar storm research” over the course of 30 days. Zhou Jianping, “chief engineer of China’s manned space program,” said, “Once the space lab mission comes to an end, China will start building our own space station.”

Industry News

One Year Later, Volkswagen Still Affected By “Dieselgate” Scandal.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16) highlighted Volkswagen’s financial status one year after its emissions-test cheating scandal went public. The carmaker’s shares are still well below its pre-scandal values by 25 percent, and its shares fell an additional 2.2. percent on Friday after German states Hesse and Baden-Wuerttemberg announced their intent to sue the company for damages. Analysts predicted that Volkswagen’s future may be further marred because in China, Volkswagen’s largest profit center, government tax cuts will fade.

Deutsche Welle (DEU) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16) similarly wrote that “barely a week has passed that has not seen a fresh twist in the saga, forcing the auto giant to launch mass recalls, battle compensation claims from customers and dealerships, and negotiate settlement deals for its wrongdoings with authorities in the US and elsewhere.” The article said vehicle sales are still sluggish, especially in the US where it faces “a barrage of lawsuits and compensation claims from the authorities, customers and investors.” Volkswagen has also refused to compensate European consumers or buy back their vehicles and faces lawsuits and investigations on that continent and elsewhere around the globe.

Opinion: Volkswagen May Not “Come Out Of This Crisis Stronger.” In an opinion piece for Deutsche Welle (DEU) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Böhme), Henrik Bohme wrote that Volkswagen officials may seem optimistic about the post-emissions-rigging scandal, but “there is no guarantee Europe’s biggest carmaker will come out of this crisis stronger.” Bohme said Volkswagen “will never again sell a diesel car in the US” and “the legal battle has not even started” in Germany, after which “there will be months of negative coverage.” He added that estimating the costs Volkswagen faces remain unknown but warned “VW will not make a profit for years.”

Analysis: Rise Of Self-Driving Cars Could Spark Electric Car Revolution.

A 1,247-word Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/18, Gardner) analysis stated that “nearly all” the self-driving cars being tested across the nation are hybrids or electric vehicles, a sign that the upcoming increase in self-driving vehicles “could spark an electric car revolution that for some has been overdue.” The Free Press said the “change won’t be instant, but it will be steady” as a combination of mileage requirements via regulations, engineering innovation, and increased use of ride-hailing services will make it “easier, cheaper and safer to recharge an unmanned car than to gas one up.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Appeals Court Suspends Construction On Dakota Access Pipeline.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/17, Harris) reports a Federal Appeals Court on Friday “temporarily” suspended construction on Energy Transfer Partners LP’s $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile Dakota Access pipeline while it “considers an emergency request by a Native American group claiming the project could destroy or damage sacred land.” Bloomberg explains the “dispute” over the pipeline “is cresting 10 months after” President Obama “rejected TransCanada Corp.’s plans for the Keystone XL pipeline, which had faced opposition in Nebraska.”

Federal Review Of Pipeline Expected To Be Completed Within Weeks. Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Vamburkar) reports “the federal review stalling construction on a portion of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline will likely be completed within weeks, not months,” Justice Department attorney James Gette “indicated” during a court hearing Friday.

Judge Dismisses Restraining Order Against Tribal Leaders. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16) reports US District Judge Daniel Hovland on Friday “dropped a temporary restraining order against Standing Rock Sioux tribal leaders who were sued by the company developing the four-state Dakota Access oil pipeline.” According to the AP, Hovland ruled the restraining order was “‘simply an ‘obey-the-law’ injunction’ and he expects the tribal leaders to protest lawfully.”

Pipeline Delay Angers GOP Lawmakers, But No Action Yet. The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/17, Cama) reports Republican lawmakers “are slamming President Obama’s delay of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” with Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) calling the administrations delay “astonishing” after a Federal court approved the project to continue. Barrasso added, “So it just shows how anti-energy and anti-economy President Obama is.” Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) said, the matter “seems like another rerun of the Keystone pipeline.” However, The Hill adds the GOP is “not rushing to stop Obama.” When asked if Congressional action would be needed to move the project forward, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) responded, “not at this point.” Cramer said, “Right now, my team and I are focused on getting the administration and the agencies and the tribe together to get this thing settled very quickly.”

FAA Says Drone Registrations Exceed 500,000.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Lowy) reports FAA’s director of it’s drone office, Earl Lawrence, said that in the 9 months since the creation of a drone registry system, “more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft have been registered with the agency,” which is almost double the number of “manned aircraft registered in the US.” The AP says officials on Friday said “they are contemplating the possibility of millions of unmanned aircraft crowding the nation’s skies in the not-too-distant future.” According to Lawrence, the rate of new registrations is 2,000 a day. In addition, less than a month ago the FAA “began issuing drone pilot licenses to commercial operators” and more than 13,000 have already applied to take the pilot exam.

Economists Believe Major Public Works Push Coming With Next President.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/18, Dougherty, Subscription Publication) says improving the nation’s infrastructure is “one of the few ideas Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton agree on.” While Clinton has said “her administration would seek to spend $250 billion over five years on repairing and improving the nation’s infrastructure” and “put an additional $25 billion toward a national infrastructure bank to spur related business investments,” Trump “said he wanted to go even bigger, saying his administration would spend at least twice as much as Mrs. Clinton.” The Times writes that while either plan “would have to get through Congress and the inevitable acrimony over any proposal to raise taxes or add to the national debt,” Clinton and Trump’s agreement on the issue, “combined with growing accord among economists that increased spending on infrastructure could invigorate the American economy and raise overall living standards, has led to a cautious optimism that some sort of big public works push is coming, regardless of who is elected.”

Most States Challenging Clean Power Plan Poised To Meet Targets.

Fortune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/18) reports that most of the 27 states challenging the Clean Power Plan in court “say the lower emissions levels it would impose are an undue burden,” but “are likely to hit them anyway” due to changes in the power market and policies favoring clean generation. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in an interview, “It’s a great sign that the market has already shifted and people are invested in the newer technologies, even while we are in litigation.”

Clean Power Plan Advocates Say Energy Shift Doesn’t Negate Need For Rule.

EnergyWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Kuckro, Subscription Publication) reports lawyers arguing in favor of the Clean Power Plan say that a transition by electric utilities away from coal-fired generation to cleaner energy sources without any federal mandate does not negate the need for the rule. David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “Every neutral analyst expects these market-driven trends to continue,” adding that “because of these trends, analysts expect the power sector to be well positioned to meet the Clean Power Plan’s carbon limits in 2022 and beyond,” citing Southern Co.’s move to reduce its coal-fired generation by 60 percent over the past decade.

Tesla Selected To Build Battery Storage Project At SCE Substation.

In continuing coverage, USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Woodyard) reports Tesla Energy has been selected to build a lithium-ion battery storage project at a Southern California Edison substation. The article reports Tesla, which says the project will be “the largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world,” said that the project “will hold enough electricity to power 2,500 households for a day or charge 1,000 of its sleek vehicles.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to
Twitter (9/16) reports the battery storage project will be built as SCE’s Mira Loma substation and is expected to come online by December 21.

Utility Dive Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/16, Bade) provides additional coverage, reporting that the project “is part of an expedited storage deployment ordered by the California Public Utilities Commission in response to the Aliso Canyon methane leak that has depleted natural gas supplies for generators in the Los Angeles basin.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Despite Fragmented Opportunities, Coding Instruction Gains Momentum In Bend, Oregon Schools.

The Bend (OR) Bulletin Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/18, McLaughlin) reports that although the field of computer science is fast-growing, with an average salary in the six-figure range, efforts to teach the discipline in Central Oregon are fragmented. Integration of computer science into curricula is increasing in various schools, but resource gaps make that gain uneven. Teachers working under the Framework for 21st Century Learning seek to incorporate programming skills, such as problem-solving, throughout their curricula. Recruiting qualified teachers can be difficult, but even those who are not experts can integrate coding into their lessons in numerous subjects.

Friday’s Lead Stories

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