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

Leading the News

Obama Reiterates Goal Of Sending Humans To Mars By 2030s.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Lederman, Borenstein) reports President Obama “sought Tuesday to reinvigorate his six-year-old call for the US to send humans to Mars by the 2030s.” The AP says the White House “was calling attention to government contracts” given to six companies to build habitats that could take humans into deep space. In an op-ed for CNN’s Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11) website, Obama wrote that the US has “set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time.” Obama added, “Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we’re already well on our way.”

SPACE Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Weitering) says that while Obama’s announcement “echoed his earlier vision for space exploration that became law in 2010,” it also “placed new emphasis on venturing beyond Mars.” The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Victor, Subscription Publication) reports a blog post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter by senior White House adviser John Holdren and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden combined with Obama’s op-ed to provide “new details on how the United States expects to get there.” Holdren and Bolden wrote that seven companies received awards to develop the habitats. They added that NASA will also allow private companies to attach their modules to the space station. The officials said, “This work serves as necessary preparation for eventual missions that will take humanity even further, to Mars and beyond.” Reuters Share to FacebookShare
to Twitter (10/11) reports Obama wrote, “We are working with our commercial partners to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space. These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth – something we’ll need for the long journey to Mars.”

Some People Believe Venus Is “Easier Target” Than Mars. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Fung) reports that while the Administration “has been pursuing a visit to Mars for years,” some people argue the President “may be overlooking [the] easier target” of Venus. The Post says Venus is “a lot closer to Earth than Mars,” which will require less time, fuel, and money to get there. The Post adds that “the upper atmosphere is actually rather habitable,” despite the surface temperature being “hot enough to melt metal, and the crushing pressure will squish you like a bug.”

Higher Education

NSF Gives Kansas Technical School $800,000 STEM Grant.

KMUW-FM Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Wichita, KS (10/11) reports the National Science Foundation is giving Wichita Area Technical College an $800,000 grant “to create a new collaborative network for manufacturing education,” explaining that the school will “set up this network called Manufacturing Alliance Keeping Education Relevant to Technical Employee Competence or ‘MakerTEC’” with the goal of creating “a qualified workforce in science, technology, engineering and math industries.”

HBCUs Could Be Key To Increasing Number Of African Americans In Tech Sector.

Take Part Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11) reports that President Obama has “made adding 1 million more STEM professionals to the American labor force a national priority,” but notes that African Americans are severely underrepresented in the tech workforce. Meanwhile, a new report from the University of Pennsylvania “shows historically black colleges and universities produce a majority of the nation’s degree-holders in science, technology, engineering, and math, with eight schools among the top 20 institutions awarding bachelor’s degrees to black graduates from 2008 to 2012.”

Oklahoma Legislators Exploring Ways To Protect For-Profit College Students.

The Oklahoman Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11) reports that members of the Oklahoma legislature are mulling “what more they need to do to protect students from disreputable private for-profit colleges.” The article describes the testimony of former students who have been left with heavy debts and no useful degree.

Arizona Community College Students, System Less Equipped To Deal With Student Loan Defaults.

The Phoenix Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Gonzales, Subscription Publication) reports that “nationally, community colleges have a higher student loan default rate than other colleges and universities,” while students tend to be higher risk, lower on the socioeconomic scale, and less well-equipped to navigate the complexities of borrowing federal student aid. Further, Kishia Brock, vice president of strategy and compliance for Maricopa Community College District, says the community college system “doesn’t have the resources to reach out to all its former students who are in default,” but the colleges are “still as accountable for improving their default rates as for-profit institutions, many of which are in the crosshairs of regulators.”

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Research and Development

Samsung Builds LTE, Bluetooth Into “Tiny” Smartwatch Chip.

Engadget Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Dent) reports that Samsung has successfully fashioned a new smartwatch chip containing LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, an FM radio and a GPS (GNSS) receiver. Engadget says engineers managed to squeeze the technology “into the 100 millimeter square (0.155 square inch)” space while also “reducing the total height” – allowing for an even smaller processor. Not only that, Engadget reports that according to Samsung the chip is “20 percent more power efficient than last-gen 28-nanometer tech.”

Tech Companies Form Group To Work On AI Best Practices.

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Romm) reports that Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft launched the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence on Wednesday, pledging to “address the privacy, security, and ethical challenges of AI — by funding new research and setting up industry best practices.” Co-founder of DeepMind Mustafa Suleyman says AI could “reduce traffic congestion, tackle climate change and more, but Politico reports that AI could “also disrupt entire industries, replacing human workers with machines or posing safety and consume protection concerns.” According to the article, the new partnership “does not intend to lobby government or other policymaking bodies,” but co-chair of the group Eric Horvitz says there has “been concern that in the echo chamber of anxiety, the government itself will be misinformed.

Report: EV Could Dominate Roads In Wealthy Cities By 2030.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Chestney) reports McKinsey & Co and Bloomberg New Energy Finance on Tuesday released a report with research that shows, “In densely populated, high-income cities like London and Singapore … electric vehicles could represent as much as 60 percent of all vehicles on the road by 2030, the result of low-emission zones, consumer interest and favorable economics.” During the BNEF Future of Energy Summit on Tuesday in London, BP Chief Economist Spencer Dale said, “‘Electric vehicles could take off anytime,’ as shifts in social preferences cannot be modelled.”

Global Developments

Japanese Nuclear Lab May Have Been Targeted By Cyberattacks.

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11) reports a nuclear lab at the University of Toyama that works on tritium, “a substance used to fuel nuclear fusion reactors, is feared to have been targeted by cyber-attacks over a period of about six months, according to an internal investigation by the university and other sources.” The Tribune says some information may have been stolen from the “computer terminal of a researcher at the university’s Hydrogen Isotope Research Center.” The hacker compressed the files to easily transmit “huge volumes of data.” The University’s internal investigation “found that about 59,000 data files, which accounted for most of those in a personal computer that was infected with a computer virus, may have been stolen.”

Industry News

Samsung Will Kill Off The Galaxy Note 7.

Samsung’s announcement that it would permanently halt production of its Galaxy Note 7 handsets generated wide coverage across all major media outlets, with a focus on the brand damage the Note 7 battery issues would have on the company, and the ability of heir apparent Jay Y. Lee to handle what has become an “unprecedented” situation. The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Cheng, Jeong, Dou, Subscription Publication) reports Samsung has decided to permanently end production of its Galaxy Note 7 handset, with the company alerting South Korean regulators of the decision.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, A1, Sang-Hun, Subscription Publication) reports Samsung issued a statement to South Korea’s stock exchange saying it’s production halt was a “final decision,” according to a source familiar with the matter. The Times notes it is an “unprecedented move” for Samsung. The company “apologized to consumers and business partners” with the source saying Samsung had determined ending production was the “quickest way to stem further confusion and anxiety about the phone, albeit a costly one.” On the same day China initiated a formal recall of the Note 7, a delay compared to other countries, and one that has frustrated some Chinese consumers, like the Weibo user who said “Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 explodes, and they recall their phones in every other country except for China. They really look down on us.”

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Lee) reports the move leaves Samsung “without its highest-end smartphone” to compete with Apple “during the holiday shopping season.” Nomura Holdings Inc. now pegs the total cost of the Note 7 problems at $5 billion. Bloomberg notes the situation “will put Jay Y. [Lee’s] leadership skills to the test,” according to Hansung University professor Kim Sang Jo. Lee is the vice chairman and heir apparent at the company. Bloomberg also notes the decision to end production will affect Samsung’s suppliers, including divisions within the company itself. Morning Star analyst Dan Baker said it could have a major impact on the whole company: “It’s not just the phone; their whole ecosystem is behind this – displays, memory chips. If their phone sales drop, then their sales of other parts of the business will be impacted. It’s a spiral.” The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Borowiec) reports an editorial in the paper Dong-a Ilbo questioned the impact on South Korea’s economy, saying “It’s not an exaggeration to say that when Samsung falters, the South Korean economy is weakened.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Shale Environmental Impact Studies Must Take Infrastructure Into Account.

In a “Pundits Blog” blog for The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Stine, Cohon, Contributors) Carnegie Mellon Engineering and Public Policy Professor Deborah D. Stine and Environmental Engineering Professor Jared L. Cohon write that shale gas development needs to include a discussion of above-ground infrastructure impacts, not just underground hydraulic fracturing, to evaluate environmental impact. The authors argue that “A comprehensive, landscape-scale planning process that incorporates regulatory predictability can address some of the impacts of shale infrastructure on wildlife habitats, water resources, and ecosystem functions while improving operational efficiencies (including potential cost savings).”

Dakota Access Pipeline Construction Resumes.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Dawson, Maher, Subscription Publication) reports, on Sunday, a federal appeals court supported the lower court ruling which denied a temporary injunction which alleged that the US Army Corps of Engineers didn’t adequately consult with the Standing Rock Sioux to protect historical sites. Energy Transfer Partners applauded the appeals court ruling on Tuesday and said it freed the company to build the pipeline in an area within 20 miles to the east and west of the Missouri River. Energy Transfer also said it expects the Army Corps to approve the river crossing, which is the last approval needed to complete the pipeline. The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Maher, Subscription Publication), The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Henry), and E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Gilmer, Subscription Publication) report similarly in separate articles.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Vamburkar) reports that “the company’s decision to resume work comes after several protesters were arrested trying to halt construction at the project earlier this week, and amid a broader effort Tuesday to shut down other pipelines bringing crude from Canada.” Bloomberg notes that “critics of the project are pressing ahead with protests despite the recent legal setback. ‘This fight is far from over,’ said Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, in a statement after the appeals court order.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11) reports construction on the Dakota Access pipeline resumed Tuesday on private land in North Dakota near a camp where thousands of protesters opposing the pipeline have gathered for months. The protesters said they are discussing nonviolent opposition measures, “including chaining themselves to equipment.” At least eight people were arrested Tuesday while attempting to shut down pipelines in other states as a show of solidarity with the Dakota Access protesters. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11) reports separately on a time-line of the events.

GE To Acquire LM Wind For $1.95B.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Bomey) reports that General Electric said Tuesday that it had reached a deal to acquire one if its key suppliers, Denmark-based manufacturer of wind turbine blades LM Wind Power. “The deal is expected to be finalized in the first half of 2017 and begin contributing to GE’s bottom line in 2018.” Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11) reports LM Wind Power had revenue of $840 million in 2015 and operates 13 factories in eight countries including Denmark, Canada, the United States, India, China and Brazil. Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Clough) quotes Jerome Pecresse, CEO of GE Renewable Energy, saying the move “shows GE’s true commitment to the wind industry” and that it is “clearly willing to grow in offshore.”

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Hufford, Subscription Publication) and the Financial Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Ward, Subscription Publication) also cover the deal.

Huge Solar Project Proposed For Nevada.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, BREAN) reports SolarReserve has announced plans “to build the world’s largest solar project in Nevada, a $5 billion endeavor involving at least 100,000 mirrors and 10 towers as tall as any building in the state.” The company’s Sandstone project “would include up to 10 concentrated solar arrays, each equipped with a molten salt system capable of storing the sun’s energy to generate power after dark, CEO Kevin Smith said.” The Sandstone project, according to Smith, “would generate between 1,500 and 2,000 megawatts, enough to supply about a million homes.”

Ranger Solar Signs Lease At Former Loring Air Force Base.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11) reports Ranger Solar “has signed a lease” for what may become Maine’s “largest solar farm, producing up to 100 megawatts of electricity, officials said Tuesday.” The company “wants to develop more than 600 acres at the former Loring Air Force Base,” but first Ranger Solar “must clear regulatory hurdles and negotiate power purchase agreements with buyers of the energy.” The company “would like to see construction underway before 2019, which would allow for time for necessary approvals.”

Provo Mayor Says He Would Veto Solar Power Fee.

The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) reports John Curtis, the mayor of Provo, Utah, has signaled “he intends to veto a controversial fee the Municipal Council last week approved imposing on electrical customers who have installed solar panels on their homes.” The Solar Generation Capacity Charge would amount “to an $18 monthly surcharge on a typical solar array, which proponents say is needed to ensure “net-metered” customers pay their share of the electrical grid’s many fixed costs.” The mayor “contends the fee — approved Oct. 4 on a 4-3 vote — sends the wrong message, one that could discourage residential use of solar, and needs additional work.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Google’s Student Privacy Policy Criticized For Lack Of Transparency.

As the third article in a three-part series “exploring the growth of the education technology industry,” The Street Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/11, Owusu) reports Google “has come under scrutiny recently…for lack of transparency in its student privacy policies,” as they apply to student users of the Google Chromebooks being issued to school across the country. The Street says despite assurances that “students’ online activities are secure, they are still subject to the same tracking as non-students when they are on third-party websites that fall outside of the Google suit of educational products.” Ultimately, however, The Street contends, the responsibility falls to parents to “protect their children’s privacy as the internet makes its way into the classroom.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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