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

Leading the News

Administration Releases Mid-Century Emissions Strategy.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Mooney) reports that the White House has unveiled a “breathtaking” document “outlining a ‘mid century strategy’ to massively slash US carbon emissions by the year 2050.” While the “deep decarbonization” document is intended “to build upon the US’s existing pledge to cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025,” a goal which “relies on Obama policies, like the Clean Power Plan,” it “comes at a time when a burst of doubt has been thrust into this entire process by the election of Donald Trump,” who has said he would reverse Administration climate policies. CNN Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(11/16, Krieg) said on its website that “environmental activists and organizations…are preparing for a fight to protect their gains of the past eight years,” as Trump’s victory “is threatening not to simply undo a series of already tenuous international agreements, but give a boost to interests opposed to fossil fuel regulation, while amplifying voices who express doubt – or outright deny – that climate change is real.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Viebeck, Dennis) reports in a separate story that the White House removed from the “We the People” petitions website a petition for Trump “to oust climate-change skeptic Myron Ebell from his transition team.” According to the White House, the “We the People” site “is intended to address federal policy decisions, not personnel decisions made by an incoming administration.”

WPost Analysis: Trump Presidency Not A “Death Knell” For Renewables. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Harvey) reports that while Trump’s vow to revive the coal industry and roll back many Obama Administration climate and energy policies appears to be “bad news for renewables,” according to “some experts,” the incoming Administration “hardly spells a death knell for the industry.” Growth in wind and solar “has largely been driven by both private-sector forces and the policies of individual states, more so than federal influence – and it’s unlikely to be easily halted.” According to Christopher Knittel, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at MIT, “a lot of the transition to renewables is coming because of state-level policy, and those are likely to still be there [in the Trump era].”

Higher Education

For-Profit College Leaders Fault Obama Administration’s Regulation Of Sector.

Diverse Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16) reports that Eric Juhlin, “CEO of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education — a Utah-based chain of for-profit colleges that was recently denied nonprofit status by the U.S. Department of Education” said recently that “there will be a smaller footprint for for-profit colleges thanks to the ‘extortion game.’” He said that the Administration “extorted” for-profits by “threatening them with litigation and raising concerns about whether they were misrepresenting their outcomes.” Meanwhile, former Deputy Under Secretary Robert Shireman “disputed Juhlin’s notion that the administration ‘attacked’ the for-profit sector.” The piece quotes Shireman saying, “History will show this is the for-profit industry shooting themselves in the foot.”

Higher Education Experts: Lifting Regulations May Not Help For-Profit Sector.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that though for-profit college stocks have rallied on the election of Donald Trump, who has vowed to reduce Federal regulation, “higher-education experts said that will not be enough to save the industry.” The Post quotes American Association of State Colleges and Universities Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis Barmak Nassirian saying at a Cato Institute panel, “The irrational exuberance around the election and the future of for-profits will prove enormously misplaced. The government can certainly put the schools on the honor code, wish them luck and not police them. But at the end of the day, they can’t force people to enroll. Victims go back to their communities, speak to their neighbors and the sector runs out of targets.”

Mitchell: Colleges May Have To Take Lead In Higher Education Innovation.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16) reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, speaking at a White House gathering on Tuesday “about stimulating innovation in higher education…made it as clear as he could (without actually saying so) that it may be up to college leaders and others to ensure that efforts to expand postsecondary opportunity – and experimentation with new ways of delivering it – remain central for the next four years.” Mitchell stressed that it would not be proper for him to speculate about “how an administration led by Donald J. Trump might approach higher education policy,” but “acknowledged that the election was the ‘elephant in the room,’ and that fact gave the event the feel of a valedictory – and at times a wake.” The piece quotes Mitchell saying, “As we leave this administration and leave government in the hands of others, I wanted to make sure this community recognizes the strength among you and between you. We innovate because we feel dissatisfied with the way doing things the old way results in ineffective outcomes.”

US Colleges Fear Decline In Foreign Applications After Trump’s Election.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Najar, Saul, Subscription Publication) reports that the number of international students in United States colleges this year “surpassed one million for the first time, bringing more than $32 billion a year into the economy and infusions of money to financially struggling colleges.” While US college admissions officials “caution that it is too early to draw firm conclusions about overseas applications, because deadlines for applications are generally in January and February,” they are “worried that Mr. Trump’s election as president could portend a decline in international candidates,” which “could be particularly worrisome for universities who balance their books with income from international students, who generally pay higher tuition.”

Safe Zone Ally Training
Join us for a free Safe Zone Ally Training webinar on December 6, 2016 at 3 PM, ET on LGBTQ and engineering culture. Learn more about the impacts that STEM culture has on LGBTQ inclusion, and explore different ways that you can support increased diversity on your campus. Register today – space is limited.

NEW Report: “Small Schools” by the Numbers
Smaller engineering schools are often missing from our annual “By the Numbers” summary, because of the way it’s tabulated. We have created a “Smaller Engineering by the Numbers” to feature these schools.

Research and Development

Duke Working On Robot Nurse.

The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Bridges) reports on a robot nurse being developed and tested at Duke University’s School of Nursing. The robot, Tele-Robotic Intelligent Nursing Assistant (Trina), is “a collaboration between Duke’s School of Engineering and School of Nursing.” The idea is that it could be used for patients with particularly infectious diseases such as Ebola. It is supported by a National Science Foundation grant.

App May Detect Autism In Young Children.

The New York Daily News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/15, Pesce) reports on a smartphone app being developed “to detect autism in kids as young as two.” The app “tracks a kid’s eye movements to see whether the child displays signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).” A prototype app had “a 93.96% accuracy rate” and did so taking “54 seconds to screen each kid.”

Automobile Network Protocol Is Vulnerable To Certain Cyber Attacks.

Motherboard Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/12, Byrne) reports “networked electronics” in automobiles give “hackers new potential exploits.” Researchers have identified a “potentially quite dangerous vulnerability” in the controller area network (CAN) protocol used in “in-vehicle networks.” The vulnerability is to something that “amounts to a Denial of Service (DoS) attack” that makes use of the networks error handling systems to overwhelm the system, “by flooding a CAN’s bus with error messages.”

US Army Engineering New Abrams Variant.

Scout Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Osborn) reports the US Army is currently engineering the M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank, which will be used starting in the next decade and which is “designed to be more lethal, faster, lighter weight, better protected, equipped with new sensors” and armed with better weapons. Testing on the new variant is set to start in 2021.

NC Universities Receive $1.7M To Develop New Metal-Based Manufacturing Methods.

The Charlotte (NC) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Arcieri, Subscription Publication) reports the University of North Carolina General Administration “has awarded grants totaling $1.7 million to colleges including UNC Charlotte to support faculty research in…new manufacturing methods.” Faculty teams from the universities will use the awards “to advance projects focused on developing new metal-based manufacturing methods, applying state-of-the-art technologies to promote economic development statewide, improving electricity distribution, and optimizing manufacturing processes through data science.” The funded projects would “involve several private and public-sector partners, including the General Electric Global Research Center, BlueSwarf, New River Light and Power Co., and Tetra Tech Engineering.”

The Triad (NC) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Subscription Publication) also reports.

Alternate Urine Pretreatment Improves Water Reclamation.

SPACE Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Mathewson) reports that a chemical solution called Alternate Urine Pretreatment (AUP), developed by engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, could potentially increase urine water reclamation from the current 75% to as high as 90%. Barrios Technology engineer Dean Muirhead said that, “This project was another step in facing the water-cycle challenge and creating a closed life support system in space. … To accomplish long-duration spaceflight, we need to develop these technologies that allow us to live independently of Earth. We have to close the water loop.”

NASA Solicits Submissions For Spacesuit Human Waste Management Systems . SPACE Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Howell) reports that NASA is “asking innovators to create fecal, urine and menstrual management systems” for its Modified Advanced Crew Escape Suit via an initiative called the “Space Poop Challenge.” Suits must be functional for stretches of 144 hours at a time, have a setup time of five minutes or less, and work in microgravity. The submission deadline for the challenge is December 20.

Global Developments

Baidu Shows Off Self-Driving Cars In China.

At the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Dou, Subscription Publication) Eva Dou writes that she was one of the first few dozen passengers to test out Baidu’s new self-driving technology as tested in the Chinese of Wuzhen. Dou says that the car contains an engineer in the driver’s seat to take over if needed, and uses lidar technology to sense its surroundings, run by a supercomputer hidden in the car’s trunk. Dou says the ride successfully went through a two-mile route in about five minutes, reaching speeds of 30 miles per hour, adding that the tests are big for Baidu as they take place during the World Internet Conference, with many Chinese VIPs in town.

Matt Rivers at CNN Money Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16) writes that he was not initially “thrilled” when offered a ride in Baidu’s car, but notes the car followed road rules, “stayed within the lines, stopped at a red light and even made a proper U-turn.” Rivers adds that the technology is advanced, and according to Baidu has a “long way to go before” it’s ready for the public. Rivers also notes that Baidu’s autonomous car head Wang Jing said the company is trying “to show the real capability that an autonomous driving car is actually safer than a human driver.” Rivers says that Baidu is aiming to begin putting autonomous vehicles on the road by 2018, with mass production starting as early as 2021, though he adds “I’m not ready to give up control of the wheel yet.”

Industry News

Google Releases Google Earth Virtual Reality App For HTC Vive.

Fortune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Vanian) reports Google announced Wednesday a VR version of Google Earth downloadable for free from the Valve’s Steam store. Currently, the app is only available to HTC Vive VR headset users, “but Google plans to make it compatible with other headsets in the future.” The VR version of Google Earth uses “some hefty computing power to run,” similar to other apps used on high-end VR headsets, which is why the app is not yet available on Google’s own Daydream View VR headset. Although the company “may eventually release a version of the app that” is compatible with the Daydream View.

CNET News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Hollister) reports the technology uses “the same blend of satellite, aerial and Street View images as the original Google Earth, just now in a far more immersive experience with way better controls.” Because of this, though, there are places that seem out of focus and unrefined. To supplement this, Google does list “a number of suggested destinations and premade tours filled with highlights.” To further improve the app, Google now plans to add “more layers on top,” according to Google Product Manager Mike Podwal. He states Google hopes this to be “a really rich geospacial way to learn about the world.” Fast Company Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Terdiman) reports addressing the issue of nausea “when flying to a destination,” the project’s engineering lead Dominik Kaeser explained the team developed “tunnel vision,” which limits users’ view of over what they’re flying, “blurs everything else,” and displays a grid over users’ feet. PC World Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Dingman) reports Google Street View isn’t yet included in the app, which the piece notes is odd because “Street View utilizes 3D panoramic photos.” UberGizmo Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Farooqui) reports the app’s team stresses Google Earth VR is “is a product, not a demo,” indicating it will continuously be developed.

Venture Beat Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Sawers), SlashGear Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Abent), Engadget Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, dalton), and Digital Trends Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(11/16, Coppock) featured similar reports.

Engineering and Public Policy

Solar Farm Almost Finished At Ex-Steel Plant Site In Indiana.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16) reports construction is nearly completed “on a 26-acre solar farm at the site of a former scrap steel plant in Kokomo,” Indiana. The developer of the solar farm signaled it “likely to be operational in early December and will include some 21,000 solar panels.” The electricity produced “will go directly to Duke Energy’s distribution system.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Fairfield Junior High Team Wins First At Elkhart Indiana Lego Tournament.

The Goshen (IN) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Fryman) reports on Fairfield Junior High School’s Falcon FLL lego tournament team, which took first place at the tournament at Elkhart, Indiana’s Elkhart Memorial High School. Coach Monica Kegerreis said the team had experience as the members had participated in elementary school teams. She said, “The students will be creating a list of parts of their work they want to improve and prioritize the tasks and get back to work before the state tournament.”

US Supreme Court Refuses Appeal In Case Challenging Next Generation Science Standards.

Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/16, Walsh) reports the US Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE), “a group of Kansas parents and students who object on religious grounds” to the Next Generation Science Standards. The suit charged that Kansas, in adopting the standards, was establishing a “non-theistic worldview” in the schools’ science instruction. The district court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing “because the alleged injuries were abstract.” The US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, upheld that decision, finding the suit is “an attempt by COPE to recast a future injury as a present one.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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