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

Leading the News

Stephen Hawking Warns About AI Technology.

U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/21) reports Stephen Hawking announced on Wednesday the creation of an artificial intelligence center at Cambridge University “with an eye toward ensuring that AI in the future is a benefit to humanity – not a candidate to harm or even end life as we know it.” During the announcement, Hawking said, “Alongside the benefits, AI will also bring dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many.” The article notes that DNI Clapper in Feb. presented his unclassified worldwide threat assessment to Congress, in which he said, “The increased reliance on AI for autonomous decision-making is creating new vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks and influence operations.”

Artificial Intelligence The “Future” Of Crime. The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Markoff, Subscription Publication) reports that artificial intelligence technology is the “future of crime,” as the next generation of cyber attack tools “will add machine learning capabilities that have been pioneered by artificial intelligence researchers to improve the quality of machine vision, speech understanding, speech synthesis and natural language understanding.” Some computer security researchers think digital criminals “have been experimenting with the use of A.I. technologies for more than half a decade.”

Higher Education

NSF Gives Alabama State Grant To Buy 3-D Printer.

The Bristol (VA) Herald Courier Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/22) reports that the National Science Foundation has given Alabama State University a $271,000 grant “to purchase a state-of-the-art 3-D printer” for “students in ASU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics” which “will enable researchers to custom design and build tissue replacements.”

Whistleblower Lawsuit Preceded ITT Shutdown By 17 Years.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/21, Morgenson, Subscription Publication) profiles Dan Graves, a California mental health aide who, 17 years ago, was an employee of ITT Educational Services and filed a whistleblower lawsuit “alleging that the company had systematically violated the law governing compensation of sales representatives.” Now, Graves wonders “what [took] the government so long” to move against the firm when Federal investigators said at the time that “the government could recover $400 million in damages from the case.”

Coalition Of Colleges Release Draft Competency-Based Education Standards.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/21) reports that a group of colleges dubbed the Competency-Based Education Network has “released a draft set of voluntary quality standards for the emerging form of higher education.” The piece reports that some 600 colleges are working with the new form of education, and reports that the group says the standards “seek to influence the newcomers while also holding established programs accountable.” The article notes that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell recently reiterated ED’s enthusiasm for the concept, but said that “underperforming programs could threaten competency-based education’s growth.”

ASEE’s Paper Repository
Explore our vast paper collection from the Annual Conference and other events, dating back 20 years.

Norman Fortenberry Co-Chairs NASEM Project
ASEE’s ED recently co-chaired a workshop on “Enhancing Teachers’ Voices in Policy Making Related to K-12 Engineering Education.”

Research and Development

Argonne Researchers Working On Next Wave Of High-Performance Computing.

InsideHPC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) reports that Argonne National Laboratory researchers are preparing for the next wave of high-performance computing, “where the operating system will have to assume new roles in synchronizing and coordinating tasks. In the supercomputers of yore, ‘people wanted the operating system to just get out of the way,’ says Pete Beckman, a senior computer scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and co-director of the Northwestern Argonne Institute for Science and Engineering.” But now, there is the potential for sophisticated operating systems that could make “high-performance computing systems run smoother and more cost-effectively.”

Engineering Student Develops Functional Exoskeleton.

E&T Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/21, Parker) reports on developments in wearable exoskeleton technology, discussing a suit created by mechanical engineering student Vimal Govind Manikandan from Kerala, India comprising “a hydraulics-powered exoskeleton employing mechanical systems, actuators, micro controllers and force sensors to produce movement.” The article mentions that Lockheed Martin “continues to develop Fortis, an unpowered, lightweight exoskeleton developed to improve endurance and safety in industrial settings.”

Driverless Cars Said To Be “The Future.”

Institution of Mechanical Engineers head of transport and manufacturing Philippa Oldham argued in an op-ed for Newsweek Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(10/21, Oldham) that autonomous cars are the future, despite continuing skepticism among the public. Data indicates “that around 95 percent of all accidents that happen on U.K. roads are due to human error,” and “estimates suggest that autonomous technology could boost the U.K. economy by as much as $62 billion a year.” Oldham urged people to “start thinking about why they are traveling, what time they are traveling and which mode of transport they are using to travel” to “help to reduce bottlenecks on our transport network well before we have these fully automated vehicles on our roads.”


Companies Face Shortage Of Cybersecurity Workers.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/22) reports that cybersecurity firms “can’t hire fast enough,” with a reported 209,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the US alone. The Cybersecurity Jobs Report indicates that the “workforce shortfall may reach 1.5 million” in the US by 2019. The piece notes that the Obama Administration “in July called for ‘immediate and broad-sweeping actions to address the growing workforce shortage and establish a pipeline of well-qualified cybersecurity talent.’”

Industry News

WSJ: Cause Of Galaxy Note 7 Combustability Remains Unknown To Samsung.

CNET News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Musil) reports that the Wall Street Journal said on Sunday that almost two months after recalling its Galaxy Note 7, Samsung reportedly still does not know the cause of some phones overheating and catching fire, and with that continued mystery delaying development of its next flagship device, the Galaxy S8. A Samsung spokeswoman, notes CNET, told the Journal that it continues to serve for the cause of the defect. “We recognized that we did not correctly identify the issue the first time and remain committed to finding the root cause,” the spokeswoman said. “Our top priority remains the safety of our customers and retrieving 100 percent of the Galaxy Note 7 devices in the market.” According to the Journal, the extended effort to solve that mystery has delayed development of the S8 by two weeks, as engineers seek an answer.

Gizmodo Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Hongo) notes that the Journal’s report said Samsung’s initial diagnosing, which blamed malfunctioning batteries for the fires, “was made by executives with incomplete information under pressure to ‘do right’ by their customers,” but in their haste to solve the problem, “they likely aggravated it instead.” Gizmodo notes that outside experts have suggested several possible causes, ranging from software to circuit design to the size of the battery case.

Engineering and Public Policy

Ruptured Pennsylvania Pipeline Spills 55,000 Gallons Of Gasoline In Williamsport Creek.

NBC Nightly News (10/22, story 5, 0:20, Diaz-Balart) broadcast on the “ruptured pipeline threatening the drinking water supply of thousands” in Pennsylvania, reporting that “an estimated 55,000 gallons of gas has spilled into a nearby creek” in Williamsport after heavy rains in the area. According to the story, state officials have “no indication” of contamination at this point, “but they’re closely monitoring the break to make sure the water remains safe.”

DOE IG Finds GOE Geothermal Technologies Office May Have “Wasted” Taxpayer Money.

E&E News PM Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/21, Marshall, Subscription Publication) reports that an inspector general reports has found that taxpayer money is in jeopardy of being “wasted” because “of inadequate procedures at the Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office.” The IG report “found the geothermal office was not always obtaining final reports and required data from award recipients to verify they are meeting project objectives.” The report determined that without those “deliverables,” the agency “cannot fully demonstrate performance has been achieved as expected, or if geothermal objectives and goals have been met.” E&E adds “there was also a risk of duplicating research.”

Emails Detail Clinton’s Political Maneuvering Over Keystone Pipeline.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/21, Biesecker) reports that hacked e-mails show that Hillary Clinton’s campaign “wrestled with how to announce her opposition to construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline without losing the support of labor unions that supported to project.” Clinton campaign labor liaison Nikki Budzinski and others warned that opposing the Keystone pipeline “might earn the ire of union leaders who supported the pipeline due to the thousands of construction jobs that would be created.” Political director Amanda Renteria, however, offered reassurance that even if President Obama opposed the project, the campaign could still keep unions’ support.

Trump Giving Boost To Down-ballot Republicans In Kentucky Coal Country.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/21) reports down-ballot Democrats in Kentucky fear a backlash in Appalachian coal country against national Democrats has migrated to the local level. Donald Trump’s appeal helps make Appalachia “one of the few regions of the country where the Republican nominee could help GOP candidates down the ballot.” The story details the challenges state Democrats are facing in their races. John Tripplett, a Republican attorney in eastern Kentucky, said Trump’s appeal is mostly in response to Clinton and her comments about coal miners. “It’s very difficult to find anybody that would publicly admit they are for Hillary Clinton.”

Study: Utilities Undervalue Rooftop Solar By 20 Percent.

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/21, Handy) reports that according to a study by environmental advocacy group Environment America, rooftop solar is undervalued by utilities. The group’s examination of 16 studies of power systems around the country found, solar panel owners were underpaid by about 20 percent for the energy they produce. “The key, researchers have concluded, is for states to develop [net metering] policies that allow utilities to benefit from added electricity … and customers to receive fair value for their power.”

California Landfills To Flare Gas Rather Than Burn For Power Due To State Rules.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Vartabedian) reports that the decision by the Riverside County landfill to flare off methane gas instead of tapping it for electricity generation “reflects a clash of environmental goals and regulations.” California has 81 landfills producing electricity, accounting for about 9 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year, according to state estimates. A state engine emission rule “appears to be more stringent than the one applying to flaring gas,” and power generated from landfills isn’t competitive with other renewable power.

SolarCity Official Says Nevada Ballot Measure Would Create Energy Options.

SolarCity chief policy officer and former FERC chair Jon Wellinghoff writes for the Las Vegas Review-Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) that Nevada’s Energy Choice Initiative ballot measure “is forward-thinking measure that creates an open, well-regulated energy market in the Silver State based on much-needed electricity competition.” He argues the measure would expand consumer choice, lower bills, and create jobs. The measure “provides for the possibility of a neutral grid operator and fair and well-regulated competition that produces lower prices, more green energy options and advances in energy technology with the power to change the way we live.”

NASA, University Of Nevada Lab Test System Intended To Manage Drone Air Traffic.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) reports that, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal, “NASA and the University of Nevada, Reno’s NUANCE Lab tested” a new system intended to manage drone air traffic, under its Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management program. Parimal Kopardekar, NASA Ames senior engineer for air transportation systems, “said” that one of the goals of the program “is to create safe plans that steer operators clear of operations underway at the same time and place.”

Op-ed Supports New California Refinery Regulations.

In an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/21), Mike Wilson from the San Francisco office of the BlueGreen Alliance writes that in the years leading up to a 2012 fire at Chevron’s Richmond refinery, managers at the company “heard from their own engineers, via at least six reports, that pipes in the plant’s massive crude unit were corroding and needed inspection and replacement, according to the report published by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.” Wilson says, “Just days after the incident, Gov. Jerry Brown assembled an interagency working group to assess the state’s refinery safety regulations. Now — four years later — the state’s redrafted regulation is poised for adoption.” He explains that “if enacted, the regulation will enable plant engineers and other experts —including union safety representatives — to identify hazards and correct them, not with temporary patches or other Band-Aid measures, but with high-quality engineering solutions known collectively as ‘inherently safer technologies.’” Wilson adds, “The new regulation, in its strongest form, might give the industry’s corporate leaders heartburn, but there is no question that — at some point in California’s future — it will save lives.”

CCAs Could Displace Up To 40 Percent Of Electricity Load In California.

The Windpower Engineering & Development Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/21, Barrow) reported on the rise of community choice aggregators in California, where it is estimated they “could displace as much as 20 percent to 40 percent of electricity load.” The article “explains how exit fees are calculated, what issues have been raised about the current methodology and proposals for reform.” The article mentioned Los Angeles County’s planned CCA among “ones to watch” in California, reporting that “if all eligible cities participate in LA County’s program, at full enrollment it will account for approximately 40 percent of Southern California Edison’s total load.”

The College of Engineering at North Carolina State University is solving the Grand Challenges of the 21st century while producing outstanding engineering graduates and supporting our state economy. With more than $180 million in annual research expenditures, the College leads major research initiatives sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense, including the lead role in two NSF Engineering Research Centers, FREEDM and ASSIST. The College is investing $250 million in infrastructure and faculty hiring over the next five years, including construction of a new marquee building called Engineering Oval that will continue the College’s move to NC State’s innovative Centennial Campus.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Greenville ISD To Unveil Design For New STEM Campus.

The Greenville (TX) Herald-Banner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Kellar) reports representatives from Huckabee and Associates on Tuesday will unveil the design for the Greenville Independent School District’s K-5 STEM magnet elementary school at the district’s Board of Trustees meeting. The Herald-Banner explains that the school “is expected to help ease overcrowding in the district’s elementary classrooms and serve students with a propensity for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.”

Carmel High School Workshop Seeks To Draw Middle School Girls To STEM.

Current In Carmel (IN) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/22, Larr) reports the Carmel High School’s robotics team, the Carmel TechHOUNDS, “is working to change the underrepresentation of women in fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics” by holding its second Women in Technology Workshop for girls in middle school on Saturday, Nov. 12.

Friday’s Lead Stories

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