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

Leading the News

Google Teams Up With Chipotle To Test Food-Delivery Drones Near Virginia Tech.

Vox Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Lee) reports Google has teamed up with Chipotle to test a prototype food-delivery drone on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Beck) reports the experiment, called Project Wing, involves drones picking up burritos from a hidden Chipotle food truck and delivering them to the people who ordered them. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “researchers say that the delivery drones could be used to deliver food, batteries, and other emergency supplies to emergency workers in disaster areas.” The article mentions Amazon has been pursuing drone delivery for a while, “with vice president of global public policy Paul Misener telling the House Oversight Committee in 2015 that delivery drones were on their way.” The FAA granted Amazon approval to test drones in April 2015.

The Daily Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Liberatore) outlines current US drone regulations, mentioning that Amazon is testing drones in the UK “to understand how drones can be used safely and reliably, and identify the best regulations to put in place.”

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Gendreau) reports Google “plans to share with the FAA data on the drones’ flight path, timing and navigation, to help the regulator determine how drones should operate in public airspace.”

Higher Education

Former ITT Students Struggle To Transfer Credits To New Schools.

The NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Carapezza) “NPR Ed” blog profiles William McNeil, a 57-year-old former student at an ITT Educational Services college in Norwood, Massachusetts who borrowed $20,000 in Federal student loans and was one semester shy of earning an associate’s degree in networking technology when the firm closed all its schools last month. McNeil and some 40,000 other students have been “were left scrambling, wondering if their time and money spent at ITT Tech would pay off at all, anywhere.” The piece notes that community colleges and other schools are reaching out to former ITT students, but many students are having trouble getting credits to transfer. The piece notes that ED supports “giving students credit for what they know, rather than time spent in the classroom.”

Clark College Formally Welcomes $40 Million STEM Building.

The Clark County (WA) Columbian Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/3) reports Clark College has a new 70,000-square-foot, $40 million STEM Building that “was formally unveiled to a crowd of students and public officials Monday.” Speaking to a “packed crowd that braved rain and chill,” Clark College President Bob Knight “called the building a ‘transformational project’ for the community college.”

University Officials In New Mexico Are Worried Over Budget Cut Proposal.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4) reports that New Mexico university officials expressed concern over a House proposal to cut college funding. The proposed 6 percent cut in funding comes on top of a 2.5 percent cut earlier this year, and officials say that it may lead to tuition increases, hiring freezes, and restructuring programs.

Opinion: Online Degrees Will Have A Significant Impact On Higher Education.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Selingo), author Jeffrey J. Selingo discusses the growing legitimacy of online degrees in recent years. Selingo credits “name-brand and elite universities” offering online education for the increase in popularity and value of the programs. He cites Harvard researchers who said that “satisfying large, previously unmet demand for mid-career training” with online programs will drastically increase the number of educated people in the US. Selingo concludes that while online degrees “won’t replace traditional undergraduate residential colleges,” he thinks that they will have “a significant impact on the future of higher education.”

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Research and Development

DHS Promoting Cyber Hygiene During National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Federal Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Ware) reports on National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), DHS’ “annual awareness campaign.” The Times says the campaign is “intended to educate both the public and private sector about threats to the connected world,” and will include initiatives to “raise awareness of tools available as safeguards and responses to a cyber incident.” The Times adds that each week will have a theme, with the first week’s theme being “Everyday Steps Toward Online Safety with Stop. Think. Connect.”

Air Force Launches Yearlong Campaign To Address Cybersecurity. Federal Computer Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Gunter) reports Air Force CIO Lt. Gen. William Bender released a memo “announcing a yearlong Cyber Secure campaign to address cybersecurity throughout the service.” The memo says that “it is no longer adequate to have just National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.”

Opinion: NCSAM Plays Vital Role In National Defense. In an op-ed for In Homeland Security Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4), American Military University faculty member James R. Lint argues that the creation of the National Cyber Security Awareness Month has played a vital role in educating the country about online security. Lint says NSCAM has “evolved through training and awareness and has led to improved cyber security in many organizations” since its inception. Lint concludes that NCSAM is an “ambitious mission, but it is one that is vitally needed for our national defense.”

DHS’ Spaulding Visits UVA To Deliver Cybersecurity Address. WVIR-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Charlottesville, VA (10/4) reports DHS’ Suzanne Spaulding visited the University of Virginia on Tuesday to “discuss the main cybersecurity issues individuals and companies are likely to face.” Spaulding says, “Cybersecurity is really a shared responsibility and government can only do so much. Businesses and even individuals have to do their part.” Spaulding spoke about “cyber hygiene,” which is comprised of “doing basic cyber steps…to make sure that our devices can’t be used for bad purposes.”

DHS Awards RAND Corp. $500 Million Contract To Conduct Research. My News LA (CA) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4) reports DHS awarded RAND Corp. a five-year $500 million contract to “conduct technical and operational research.” Under the contract, RAND “will operate the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center, which will perform analytical work in hopes of bolstering” DHS security, immigration, and cybersecurity efforts.

General Services Administration Announces Interagency AI Program For Citizen Services.

Federal News Radio (DC) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4) reports that the General Services Administration will be launching an “interagency AI” to “to collect, translate and use massive amounts of data for citizen services.” Justin Herman, SocialGov community leader at the GSA said that the system would help them be able to “look at where to provide lifesaving food, water, shelter into areas.”

UMass Lowell Receives Cyber Defense Research Designation.

The Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Quintana) reports the University of Massachusetts Lowell has been “designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research, or a CAE-R, by the National Security Agency and Homeland Security,” according to a statement from the school. The Globe says the university received the designation for its “efforts to promote digital safety and combat cyber-security threats including malware, phishing, or hacking.” Additional coverage is provided by The Lowell (MA) Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Lisinski).

MIT Scientists Develop Programmable Rubber To Soften Blow Of Drone Accidents.

Inc. Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Ryan) says reseachers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence lab “have found a way to 3-D print materials that could lessen the impact” in the event a drone falls from the sky. The researchers invented “programmable” rubber materials that, “if used to make drones, could cause less severe impact on anything they ram into–people included.” The article characterizes the product as giving manufacturers “the ability to create safe, shock-absorbing components themselves,” which “would mean they’d also have the ability to print and test materials,” leading to safer products.

Cities Vying To Test Driverless Vehicles.

Fortune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4) reports driverless vehicle manufacturers will need to test out their self-driving cars in “welcoming locations,” and selected cities are “racing to be racing to be leaders—and guinea pigs—in this experiment.” Google has been had autonomous vehicles in the San Francisco Bay Area for several years, and it has recently started testing cars in Phoenix, Austin and Kirkland, Washington. Pittsburgh, “home to pioneering self-driving car research at Carnegie Mellon University, has just formed an alliance with Uber to provide a driverless version of its service.” Boston partnered with the World Economic Forum for a “year-long test of autonomous vehicles on its streets.” Singapore is also “pioneering the world’s first taxi service using autonomous vehicles in a limited district,” while Baidu is “attempting a similar feat in Beijing.” According to Fortune, Tokyo wants to have driverless vehicles available for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Government Spending On Research May Cover Areas That Private Business Won’t.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Torres) reports on research spending by the US Government. The article explains that spending on research lifts the economy in hard-to-measure ways, and compared to the push for more infrastructure spending, “there’s nothing like that mobilization to lobby for research spending.” Jonathan Aberman, founder of a company that helps the government find entrepreneurs, “says the government needs to make tough, strategic decisions about what deserves funding” in order to find “the discoveries that make the next new thing,” which he believes may not happen if only for-profit companies are funding the research.

University Of Alaska Fairbanks Purchases Isotope Analyzer Through Federal Grant.

The Fairbanks (AK) News-Miner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4) reports that a $580,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Infrastructure program “will allow the University of Alaska Fairbanks to purchase a high-tech machine that measures and analyzes isotope ratios in heavy elements such as mercury and lead.” A UAF professor said that the “machine that can be used by many different disciplines” and “open up a whole bunch of areas of research.” It will also be available to anyone outside the university.

Industry News

Google Poaches Amazon Kindle Hardware Chief To Oversee Pixel Unit.

ZDNet Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Smith) reports that, according to The Information, Google recently hired David Foster, who previously served as Amazon’s VP of hardware engineering, to lead its renewed smartphone efforts. Foster reportedly started this week in his position as Google’s VP of product engineering, reporting to Rick Osterloh, who oversees Google’s hardware initiatives. The Information reported that Foster – who oversaw Amazon’s Lab126, in which the Echo, Fire TV, and other devices have been developed – will lead the future development of Google’s Pixel smartphones.

AppleInsider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Wuerthele) reports that Foster began working Amazon in 2011, and that he was responsible for all hardware and technology development in the Kindle and Kindle Fire product lines. Before leaving Amazon, Foster oversaw the design team for all hardware devices at Amazon Lab126, including the Kindle, Kindle Fire, Echo, Fire TV, and Dash product lines.

Also reporting: The Silicon Valley (CA) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Stangel, Subscription Publication)9 to 5 Google Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Schoon).

Engineering and Public Policy

EPA Report Finds Power Plant, Industrial Emissions Continue To Decline.

Fuel Fix (TX) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4) reports the Environmental Protection Agency reported yesterday that greenhouse gas emissions “from the country’s power plants and other industrial facilities continue to fall.” FuelFix adds that “within the power industry,” emissions in 2015 “were down 6 percent from 2014 and 11 percent since 2011.” Also, “emissions from oil and gas facilities” fell “2 percent from 2014 – though were up 4 percent from 2011, following increased oil and gas production through the shale drilling boom. Emissions from other industrial and waste facilities fell 2 percent from 2014.” In a statement acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation Janet McCabe said, “The trend is moving in the right direction.”

Puerto Rico Power Company Continues To Face Scrutiny Following Island-Wide Blackout.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4) reports that Lisa Donahue, “the top debt restructuring official for Puerto Rico’s troubled power company,” signaled yesterday “at a legislative hearing on last month’s island-wide blackout that the agency faces serious infrastructure problems despite borrowing millions of dollars in recent years.” In addition, Donahue “said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently requested information related to bonds the agency sold in 2012 and 2013 amid a decade-long economic crisis.” It wasn’t clear if “the SEC has launched a formal investigation.” Her “comments come as frustration builds over the blackout.”

Some House Republicans Break With Ryan Over Renewing Alternative-Energy Tax Breaks.

Bloomberg Politics Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4) reports “House and Senate Republican leaders are at odds over whether to renew expiring alternative-energy tax breaks during Congress’s lame-duck session.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to look at the possibility, but House Speaker Paul Ryan and other “have signaled they won’t go along with continuing what has been a perennial late-session ritual of extending targeted tax incentives that are set to expire.” Some House Republicans however are joining Democrats in starting to call for lame-duck action on favored tax breaks. Rep. Charles Boustany said on Monday that he’s introducing a bill to extend a tax credit for the sale of alternative fuels, including propane.

Altus Power $205M For Solar Expansion Despite Market Skepticism.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Ng, Subscription Publication) reports solar-energy investment firm Altus Power America said it raised $205 million from Goldman Sachs Group and others to fund solar projects for commercial and municipal customers. The new investment comes amid a wave of skepticism over the long-term growth trajectories of solar companies following declines in share values for SolarCity, Vivint Solar, VSLR, and Sunrun, and the bankruptcy of SunEdison.

Large Wind Farm Approved In Colorado.

ClimateWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/4, Cusick, Subscription Publication) reports the “largest proposed wind farm” in Colorado last week “cleared a key hurdle” as “the Colorado Public Utilities Commission granted final permission to build the 600-megawatt Rush Creek Wind Project in the state’s remote eastern plains.” Under the regulator-approved “settlement between developer Xcel Energy Inc. and more than a dozen parties, the Rush Creek wind farm will begin construction in 2017, with an expected completion date of late 2018, according to officials involved with the project.” The proposal calls “for installing 300 turbines across 116,000 acres in four counties along the Interstate 70 corridor.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Chevron Donates To Schools Through Fuel Your School Program.

KOBI-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Medford, OR (10/4, Rian) reports that through Chevron’s Fuel Your School campaign, the digital technology and robotics program at South Medford High School in Oregon will receive a top of the line 3D scanner. The Odessa (TX) American Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(10/4, Sterkel) reports that on Monday, fifth graders at Zavala Engineering Magnet school were presented with supplies allowing them to participate in the Shark Finder program, an initiative that offers students the opportunity to “dig through 19-million-year old marine sediment in search of fossils” and possibly “have their find published in the research project being headed up by the University of Maryland.” Sarah Hughes, public affairs representative for Chevron North America, said, “We believe that’s really the core to these students moving on to higher education and then going on to get good jobs and creating stronger communities.” She added, “They’re our next engineers, our next scientists, our next geologists.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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