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

Leading the News

Utah State University Shows Off Driverless, Wireless Charging Bus.

KUTV-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Salt Lake City (9/27) reports that engineers “from institutions around the nation” have collaborated with Utah State University to develop “the country’s first fully electric, self-driving, wireless charging vehicle,” unveiling the bus in Logan, Utah on Tuesday. Utah, the piece reports, has received millions in state and Federal grants, placing it “on the forefront of developing electric vehicle technology.”

The Logan (UT) Herald Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/27) reports that “officials at top institutions from around the country and experts in the electric vehicle industry got to ride a bus charging wirelessly in motion Tuesday at Utah State University’s new Electric Vehicle and Roadway Research Facility.” The demonstration was part of the first annual meeting for SELECT, the Sustainable Electrified Transportation Center, which “brings together university partners and multiple sectors — including automotive manufacturers, national laboratories, military and government agencies — to find solutions to electrified transportation.”

Higher Education

ED: Student Loan Default Rate Inches Downward.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ED announced Wednesday that “the share of people not making payments on their federal student loans within three years of them coming due has fallen” from 11.8% to 11.3% over the past year. The piece notes that this number is “one of the most closely watched metrics in higher education because schools with default rates of 30 percent or more run the risk of losing access to federal student aid.” The Post reports that Education Secretary John King “credits increased enrollment in the government’s generous repayment plans with lowering the national default rate,” quoting him saying, “Even with progress, we know considerable work remains ahead.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28) reports that this marks the “third straight year the rate has fallen.” The piece notes that “colleges with high default rates may lose their access to federal student aid, and based on the new data, nine for-profit colleges and one private nonprofit institution may forfeit that eligibility.” Diverse Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28) also mentions this announcement in an article about the Education Trust calling for “a greater emphasis on federal-state partnerships that focus on lowering college costs and boosting completion rates for low-income students.”

Clinton Pushes Free College Tuition Plan In Appearance With Sanders.

Hillary Clinton campaigned with Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire on Wednesday where she “worked to sway millennial voters by promoting a plan to provide free public-college tuition for working families,” USA Today Share to
FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Gaudiano, Przybyla) reports. At the University of New Hampshire, Clinton “sought to connect with those facing sometimes insurmountable college debt” by discussing her own student loan debt when she finished college, and said that “she aims to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for families earning less than $125,000 per year, to make community college free, and to help students refinance their college debt.”

A New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Flegenheimer, Subscription Publication) analysis says the election is not too near for Clinton “to bother with understatement.” Her event with Sanders “included 17 renderings of the phrase ‘debt-free college,’” as she “spoke conspicuously of ‘my friend Bernie Sanders,’ looking out on a student-heavy crowd inside a university field house here, and wrapped her former rival in a warm embrace from the stage.” The Times says Clinton and Sanders “have settled into a workable rhythm.” While they “may not love each other,” they are “determined to present a united front for the sake of the kids. Or, at least, prospective voters ages 18 to 29.”

Clinton Touts Debt-Free College Plan In New Hampshire. The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Kamisar) reports in its “Ballot Box” blog that Hillary Clinton, seeking “to motivate young voters to turn out for her” in the general election, appeared in New Hampshire alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders to tout her plan for debt-free college. The two also “sat down for a roundtable on Clinton’s debt-free college plan,” with both speaking “in lock-step about education policy, regularly calling back to echo the other’s points.”

First Bankruptcy Court Session For ITT Educational Services.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Brickley, Subscription Publication) reports that, in the wake of being barred from receiving taxpayer-backed student loans, ITT Educational Services Inc., one of the country’s largest for-profit school operators, made its first appearance in bankruptcy court. In her 12 days of being the chapter 7 trustee, Indianapolis lawyer Deborah Caruso has signed up a liquidator, created a website and a hotline to inform employees and ex-students, hired a realtor to sell the company’s real estate, hired company to put student transcripts online, begun to secure personal information, and negotiated with Cerberus Capital Management for the money to pay for it. Meanwhile, various state attorneys general were at the court session, and one indicated they are preparing to weigh in should the company seek to collect student loan debts of former students.

FedEx To Donate $1.5 Million To Support Kent State’s Flight Program.

Crain’s Cleveland Business Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28) reports FedEx is set to donate $1.5 million over the next three years to support the flight program at Kent State University’s College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology, which the company siad in a press release has outgrown its facilities. FedEx Express president and CEO David J. Bronczek said in a release, “I am proud to say FedEx has long supported the career development of the aviation professionals of tomorrow, so we are honored to present Kent State University with this donation. … We believe the ultimate success of the air transportation industry is directly tied to aeronautics programs specifically committed to investing in our youth, and look forward to following the progress surrounding the university’s airport enhancement efforts.” Crain’s adds that FedEx Custom Critical president and CEO Virginia Albanese and Kent State president Beverly Warren are scheduled to “acknowledge the gift during a special ceremony during” the University homecoming game on October 1.

Study Suggests Quality Online Master’s Programs Could Tap Into New Market.

Kevin Carey writes in the “Upshot” blog of the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Carey, Subscription Publication) that college graduates looking to enhance their employability are increasingly turning to one- and two-year master’s degree programs, and a study by Harvard economists found there may be “a whole new market for higher education, one that could change the way we think about the problem of college costs.” Georgia Tech began offering a master’s in computer science online for “less than one-eighth as much as its most expensive rival.” The school’s “combination of a prestigious department, traditional degree and drastically lower price was something new,” and, due to initial limits on enrollment, the study was able to study those rejected for the program and found they generally didn’t enroll in any other master’s program.

Wisconsin Technical College See Spike In Tuition, Debt.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28) reports that Wisconsin technical colleges, which are supposed to be “a more affordable option for career training than four-year universities or for-profit schools,” have seen in increase in tuition and debt. University of Wisconsin-Madison associate professor Nicholas Hillman, a who analyzes student loan debt, said, “Research shows a lot of community college students who don’t repay loans only enrolled in about a semester of courses,” adding, “Dropping out with no degree and debt is a problem.” Hillman said the worry come from “the small borrowers.”

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Research and Development

NSF Gives Clemson Researcher Grant To Train Emergency Planners.

The Anderson (SC) Independent-Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/27) reports the National Science Foundation has given Clemson University civil engineering professor Sez Atamturktur “a first-of-its-kind $3 million federal grant to train graduate students to better serve the needs of emergency planners.” The article describes how infrastructure and municipal services are disrupted by disasters, and says the grant “will pay to train students to collect more and better data, spot changes and weaknesses sooner and create computer models to help emergency planners prepare more effectively for such disturbances.”

WSPA-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Greenville, SC (9/27) reports the grant “will go to research and graduate classes that could find ways to keep basic necessities like transportation, communication and energy reachable and functioning in times of need.”

Opinion: Public Figures Disparaging Science Is Hurting Our Public Policy Debate.

Samuel Guzman, a policy analyst, writes in The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Guzman, Contributor) “Pundits Blog” that many public figures are disparaging science in an attempt to discredit it from being a source of information in public policy debates. Guzman argues that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and others “could essentially make pseudoscience the law of the land” if they continue to dismiss science.

IARPA Developing Early-Warning System For Cyberattacks.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Rosenbush) reports IARPA has launched a three-and-a-half year research and development program called Cyberattack Automated Unconventional Sensor Environment, or CAUSE. The effort will establish new technologies that could lead to an early warning system for detecting cyberattacks.

Apple Invests In VR/AR Sector.

AppleInsider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28) reports Apple is developing “virtual reality/augmented reality that could be incorporated into future iOS devices and/or hardware products.” And although there are no specific “details about the products or when they might launch,” Apple CEO Tim Cook recently hinted at the company’s emphasis on AR, labeling it a “core technology.” Apple has not yet released its own VR/AR system, but recently it has taken steps like hiring technology experts, sending key employees to Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, acquiring companies in the field, and filing for a “Visual-based inertial navigation” patent. Key hires included Zeyu Li as a Senior Computer Vision Algorithm Engineer and Yury Petro as a VR research scientist, who worked previously at Facebook’s Oculus. Apple’s commitment to the field does not indicate the company will create a virtual headset, but will instead “more likely create a platform where developers can tap into its hardware/software to create VR experiences.”

Researchers Explore Sending Passwords Through The Human Body.

Digital Trends Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28) reports that researchers are exploring “sending secure passwords through the human body itself, using low-frequency transmissions generated by fingerprint sensors on smartphones and other consumer devices.” According to the article, the transmissions rely “on actual connectivity,” such that “no information is sent wirelessly through the air.” Digital Trends reports that tests have worked using “the touch ID sensor on an iPhone, the trackpad on a Lenovo laptop, and various other fingerprint readers,” as well as with “people of different heights, weights and body types.” Assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington Shyam Gollakota said, “The only way this wouldn’t be secure is if there was someone physically touching your body as you entered your password, which would be inconvenient for a hacker and would be very noticeable for the user.”

TechRadar Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/29, Wilhelm) reports that test results “showed that the system is fairly flexible, with strong signals received on just about anywhere on the body regardless of if the subject was standing up, sitting, or lying down.” The article notes that the system “won’t replace your email, online banking credentials, or anything else server-based” since physical contact is required.

Engineering and Public Policy

Measure Would Urge Army Corps Of Engineers To Revisit Tribal Consultation Policy.

Politico Pro (9/28) reports that the House on Wednesday “added an amendment to its Water Resources Development Act that would urge the Army Corps of Engineers to revisit its tribal consultation policy amid the controversy over the Dakota Access pipeline.” The amendment from Rep. Gwen Moore “does not directly mention the ongoing protests against the $3.7 billion Dakota Access project, which would ship upwards of 450,000 barrels a day of oil from North Dakota to Illinois, but it aligns with the tribal consultation announced last week by the Obama administration.”

North Dakota AG Asks Energy Transfer To Explain Ranch Purchase Near Dakota Access Pipeline. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28) reports North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is asking Energy Transfer Partners to explain its purchase of a 7,000-acre ranch where a Dakota Access oil pipeline protest “turned violent earlier this month.” Stenehjem is “giving the company 30 days to say how the land, where tribal officials said construction crews destroyed burial and cultural sites, will be used.”

Tribe, Supporters Say Pipeline Fight Threatens Obama’s Tribal Legacy. The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Henry) reports tribes and their supporters “say President Obama can cement his legacy on American Indian issues” by rejecting the North Dakota Access pipeline. While Indian leaders have “lauded Obama’s work on indigenous issues, they say his decision on the pipeline will be key in their assessment of his presidency.”

North Dakota Morton County, North Dakota Sheriff Says 21 Protesters Arrests. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28) reports the Morton County Sheriff’s Office says 21 people protesting at two construction sites of the Dakota Access pipeline have been arrested on Wednesday “on charges including resisting arrest, criminal trespass on private property and possession of stolen property.” The statement also “says 95 people have been arrested in recent weeks since protests began months ago over the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline.”

DOE Report Finds Costs Of Wind, Solar Dropping Dramatically.

Fuel Fix (TX) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28) reports a new Energy Department report “catalogs just how much renewable energy prices” have declined in recently. According to the report, since 2008 the costs have dropped 41% for offshore wind turbines, 54% for rooftop solar and 65% for utility-scale solar farms. As a result in 2015, wind turbines and solar panels “accounted for more than two-thirds of the power generation installed on the U.S. grid, with wind accounting for more than 40 percent of the total.” In a statement Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, “We need to continue pushing the innovation agenda that leads to these kinds of dramatic cost reductions for all low-carbon technologies and increase America’s competitiveness and independence in the global clean energy economy.”

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Henry) reports the report found that “wind and solar power…accounted for two-thirds of new electricity capacity installed last year, and together produce enough electricity to power 19 million homes.” At the Washington Ideas Forum, Moniz said, “The clean energy revolution is too often always assumed to be something that would come along in 10 to 20 years. … The message is: look around, it’s happening now.” Greenwire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Marshall, Subscription Publication) reports the Energy Secretary added, “This report is further proof that our commitment to clean energy and American innovation can lead to steep cost reductions.”

Clean Power Plan Opponents, Supporters Both Upbeat After Oral Arguments.

The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28) reports that during seven hours of oral arguments Tuesday on the Clean Power Plan, “states opposing President Obama’s signature climate change plan are heartened by federal judges’ reactions to their constitutional objections,” while supporters “said challengers’ claims were overblown while voicing some reservation about calling the day a victory.”

Greenwire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Reilly, Subscription Publication) reports several judges “questioned whether the Clean Power Plan is transformative enough to warrant a special standard of review reserved for major agency decisions of vast ‘economic and political significance.’” Judge Patricia Millett said opponents may be engaging in “bait and switch” because industry specifically cited the Clean Air Act as a basis for denying states a common-law remedy to greenhouse gas emissions. Judge Sri Srinivasan questioned whether the DC Circuit had the power to question EPA’s authority.

ClimateWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28, Holden, Subscription Publication) reports consulting group ClearView Energy Partners “suggested that if EPA wins, it may be by a partisan 6-4 margin, giving challengers more leverage to get the Supreme Court to look at an appeal.” Judges may want EPA to rewrite some parts of the rule, “but opponents probably didn’t convince them to vacate the rule entirely, ClearView said.”

WPost: Clean Power Plan Is Authorized By The Clean Air Act. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/28) editorializes that opponents of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan “cannot reasonably argue that the [EPA] is forbidden from using the Clean Air Act to reduce power-sector carbon dioxide emissions.” The Post does not “begrudge anyone” for “wishing that Congress had tailored a policy to address the novel threat of climate change instead of watching the EPA jury-rig the Clean Air Act to deal with the issue,” but the Clean Air Act “was not a temporary authorization to deal with a few toxic air pollutants; it was a comprehensive law meant to address a range of air pollution challenges, including those its writers did not anticipate.” The Supreme Court has already said the EPA can apply the act to greenhouse gas emissions, and so the Post concludes, the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit should uphold the Clean Power Plan.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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