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

Leading the News

Energy Transfer Continues With Dakota Access Pipeline Despite Obama’s Request, Protests.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) reports Energy Transfer Partners is “moving forward with construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, rejecting the Obama administration’s request that it voluntarily halt some work on the $3.8 billion project.” In a statement Tuesday, the company said, “Dakota Access looks forward to a prompt resumption of construction activities” following an appeals court decision which “cleared the way for construction to continue on one segment of the project that had been blocked by a legal challenge.”

Army Corps Defends Its Dakota Access Pipeline Review Process. E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12, Subscription Publication) reports the Army Corps of Engineers is “pushing back on the original challenge to the Dakota Access pipeline,” and defending its review process which led to approving water crossings for the project, according to a legal brief filed last night. The Lake Oahe crossing in particular, “sparked explosive opposition to the pipeline from tribes and environmentalists who say the Army Corps did not fully consider impacts to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others.” But, lawyers for the agency “formally responded to the allegations yesterday, denying that the corps violated the Clean Water Act, National Historic Preservation Act or National Environmental Policy Act.”

Higher Education

University Of Phoenix President Calls For Law Allowing Schools To Prevent Excessive Student Borrowing.

University of Phoenix President Timothy P. Slottow writes in commentary for The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12, Slottow) “Congress Blog” that in ED’s new student cohort default rate calculations, “for the third year in a row, the University of Phoenix’s rate dropped,” calling this “an exciting validation of our five-year transformation plan to become a more focused, more trusted, less complex and higher retaining institution.” To continue to “help students graduate in a strong financial position,” Congress should pass “legislation empowering universities to prevent students from excessively borrowing and taking on unnecessary burdens in student debt.”

Texas Ramping Up Oversight Of For-Profit Schools.

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) reports that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is taking “a more deliberate approach to watch for-profit institutions it deems to be near collapse” in the wake of the implosion of ITT Educational Services. The agency has designated nine for-profit schools “high risk” because thy have shaky finances and because they are accredited by ACICS, from which ED recently revoked its recognition.

Rhode Island Plan Would Replace College Textbooks With Free Materials.

The Hechinger Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) reports that under a plan announced this month by Rhode Island Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, college students could “save a collective $5 million.” Under the plan, schools will “replace traditional textbooks with free materials.” The plan “is among a growing number of attempts to encourage college professors to turn to free, open-licensed materials” and is “being billed as a way to cut the costs of a college education.”

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Research and Development

Seattle, University Of Washington Working On Efficient E-Commerce Delivery Systems.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12, Le) reports that as the advent of e-commerce and on-demand product deliveries has left some cities seeing growing problems related to traffic congestion, the city of Seattle is working with researchers at the University of Washington “to improve how goods are delivered in the city — solutions they hope can be used in other cities across the country.” The city has “pledged $285,000 over the next three years to the UW’s new Urban Freight Lab, which will test more efficient methods to deliver goods that are ordered online and delivered to large residential or retail and commercial buildings.” Researchers will study such strategies as “centralized drop-off lockers or managing curb space with different pricing or restrictions.”

UNLV, Lockheed Martin Working On NASA’s Orion Program.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) reports that UNLV and Lockheed Martin are partnering with NASA to support the Orion program, “which aims to eventually send humans to deep-space destinations such as asteroids and Mars.”

UC-Boulder Engineers Convert Brewery Wastewater Into Energy Cells For Biobatteries.

Forbes Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) reports that research shows that for craft brewers use a great deal more water than the amount of beer they are able to brew, and says that University of Colorado-Boulder engineers have “created a new bio-manufacturing process that turns brewery wastewater into the carbon-based material needed to create energy storage cells.”

University Of Pittsburgh Researchers Develop Drones For Use Inside Body.

KDKA-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Pittsburgh (10/12) reports Dr. Sung Kwon Cho of the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering is working on making tiny, swimming drones that navigate the interior of the human body, and “has just received a nearly three-quarter of a million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to develop that technology.” The drown could target medications to specific tissues or engage in “precise bio-imaging.”

Importance Of Ethics In Cybersecurity Touted.

IBM Ethical Hacking Engineer Aidan Knowles, in a blog on Security Intelligence Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12), writes that “clear ethical standards and rules” are “a critical part of any sound cybersecurity defense strategy.” He calls on employers to offer an “ethical practice policy, guidelines and/or code of conduct.” Additionally, “those responsible for overseeing information security practices within organizations” need to “be engaged and lead by example to help engender a culture of high ethical standards.” Knowles also argues ethics should be inculcated in the young, arguing, “it is important to give talented youth the best opportunity to develop cybersecurity skills in safe and legal environments and to provide concrete guidance and rules regarding ethics.”

CSA Released Internet Of Things Security Road Map.

In a brief, eWeek Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) says a report by the Cloud Security Alliance “provides a detailed road map for developing secure internet of things products.” Brian Russell, chairman of the IoT Working Group at CSA and chief engineer of Cyber Security Solutions at Leidos, said, “CSA has well-defined cloud security guidelines, with the Cloud Controls Matrix and other guidance, but we realized that if the IoT products themselves are not secure, then there will continue to be compromises.”

Obama Addresses Future Of AI In Interview.

In a Wired Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12, Dadich) interview published Wednesday, President Obama talks about artificial intelligence – including government regulation and the impact on international affairs – with MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito and Wired’s Scott Dadich. Obama said that he believes AI “has been seeping into our lives in all sorts of ways, and we just don’t notice;” partly “because the way we think about AI is colored by popular culture.” A challenge, according to Obama, as AI becomes more prevalent is that we will have to consider “where and when is it appropriate for us to have things work exactly the way they’re supposed to, without surprises?”


Study: Female Astronomers Get Less Telescope Time.

The Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) reports on “a jarring new study” which found that “female astronomers are less successful than their male counterparts at lining up critically important observing time on major telescopes,” noting that “more than 13,000 proposals to use” European Southern Observatory “telescopes were submitted by about 3,000 male and female astronomers during the eight-year period the study examined. Only 16 percent of the proposals by female astronomers were accepted,” while that number rose to 22% for male astronomers.

WSJournal A1: Tech Boom Has Created Relatively Few Jobs.

On its front page, the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12, A1, Hilsenrath, Davis, Subscription Publication) reports in a 2,581-word analysis that the technology boom in the US has delivered several exciting technological advances over the last decade and a half, but it has not delivered many jobs. Google’s parent company Alphabet and Facebook had 74,505 employees combined at the end of the last year, approximately one-third fewer employees than Microsoft, even though their combined stock-market value is twice as large. Data from the Labor Department show that the inflation-adjusted payroll value of the technology sector has increased dramatically since the 1990s, but the number of employees in the sector has seen only a mild gain. The Journal says this trend is one factor driving increasing income inequality and discontent among middle-class people displaced by economic changes. In the coming decades, more routine work may be automated, further exacerbating these discouraging trends.

Industry News

Toyota, Suzuki Exploring Business Partnership.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12, Bomey) reports that Toyota and Suzuki announced on Wednesday that they have agreed “to start exploring ideas” for a “business partnership,” which could involve collaboration on research and development, safety engineering, or information technology. Such a deal could aid Suzuki in “navigating the costly road to meeting automotive regulatory requirements around the world.” Toyota would also benefit, having conceded that “it may be behind competitors in North America and Europe when it comes to the establishment of standardizations and partnership with other companies.” It is unclear whether a partnership between the two companies could lead to Toyota’s acquisition of Sukuki or taking an equity stake in the smaller company.

Engineering and Public Policy

Zipper Merge Method Helps Reduce Traffic Congestion, Experts Say.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12, Mele, Subscription Publication) reports traffic engineers and transportation departments across the country are promoting a traffic maneuver known as “the late merge — or zipper merge,” in which “drivers in dense, slow-moving traffic remain in the lane that will be closed and then pull into the other lane at the merge point, helps ease congestion and drivers’ frustrations, experts said.” During an interview last week, officials from the Colorado Department of Transportation explained that this method results in a “15 percent increase in the volume of cars moving through the work zone and a 50 percent decrease in the length of the line.”

Vermont Wind Project Developer Offers To Pay Voters.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12, A1, Seelye, Subscription Publication) reports in a 1,292-word analysis that Iberdrola Renewables, a Spanish energy developer, wanted to build a large wind turbine development on a private forest tract between the two small Vermont towns of Windham and Grafton. Residents in both towns will vote on November 8 on whether to approve the project. “No one knows which way the vote will go,” the Times says. Iberdrola last week “put cash on the table for individual voters,” offering a total of $565,000 a year to 815 registered voters in both towns, or $14.1 million over 25 years. Many residents in both towns called the monetary offers an attempt at undue influence, “if not an outright bribe,” but the Vermont attorney general’s office reviewed the case and said the offer does not violate state law.

World’s Largest Solar Array Planned In Nevada Desert.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) reports Solar Reserve of California “says it intends to spend billions of dollars to build the largest solar power plant in the world on a sprawling 25-square-mile plot” northwest of Las Vegas. The plan was outlined on Tuesday by SolarReserve chief executive Kevin Smith “to create a 10-tower concentrated solar array dubbed Sandstone Energy X near the Nye County city of Tonopah.” The AP adds, “Smith, with U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Deputy federal Energy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, said the goal is to produce enough electricity to power about a million homes, probably in California.”

Recap Of Clean Power Plan Court Arguments.

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) recaps the legal proceedings over the EPA’s Clean Power Plan before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. “The EPA projects that CPP will reduce power plant emissions by 32 percent by 2030, save thousands of lives per year, and result in up to $45 billion in climate and health benefits.” Critics have described the initiative “as part of a much broader expansion of powers by regulatory agencies, which they see as increasingly circumventing Congress’s legislative authority.” A decision is expected in late 2016 or early 2017.

White House Promotes Artificial Intelligence As Energy Tool.

Greenwire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12, Subscription Publication) reports in the first-ever federal guidelines on artificial intelligence technology released, the White House National Science and Technology Council outlines “current progress with AI and recommends regulations to ensure safety, avoid job losses, and boost research and deployment dollars.” The report states that in transportation “AI-enabled smarter traffic management applications are reducing [public transit] wait times, energy use, and emissions by as much as 25 percent in some places.” The Administration emphasized the release of datasets that enable the use of AI to address social challenges, and “potential steps may include developing an ‘Open Data for AI’ initiative.”

Vermont Cabin Emblematic Of Debate Over Wind Farm Noise.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) reports a group opposed to large-scale wind projects, Energize Vermont, is planning to set up sound monitoring equipment at the former home of the Therriens family who abandoned their cabin due to noise form wind turbines within a mile of their home. Although studies commissioned by public health agencies in Canada and Australia have found no links between living near turbines and physiological health effects, but since July, “more than 100 doctors, other scientists and activists worldwide have signed a letter urging the World Health Organization to recommend new sound guidelines for wind turbines.”

Conservative Think Tank Pushes Back Against 100% Renewable Energy Future Plans.

The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/12) reports conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute said in a report released yesterday that a plan by Democrats to “move the nation to a 100 percent renewable energy future to combat climate change would take the combined land mass of Texas and West Virginia to achieve.” The study “examines a scenario of using renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050,” which would require a portion of land equivalent to the size of the two states “combined to build all the energy infrastructure necessary, including wind farms and solar arrays, as well as the necessary doubling of existing transmission lines.” The study determined that such a proposal “would be met by growing opposition in rural America.” Rather, the study found “the nation should embrace a plan that relies on zero-emission nuclear power plants and low-emission natural gas plants to reduce carbon emissions.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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