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

Leading the News

SpaceX Plans December Launch Of Iridium Next-Gen Satellites.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1, Chang, Subscription Publication) reports that Iridium Communications announced plans Thursday to launch “the first batch of its next-generation satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 16.” This comes three months after a SpaceX rocket exploded on a launchpad in Cape Canaveral. The proposed launch date “hinges on approval by the FAA, which is reviewing SpaceX’s investigation” of the September 1 explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral. The explosion “destroyed a $200 million Israeli satellite that Facebook planned to use to expand internet services in Africa and elsewhere.” Despite this, Iridium CEO Matthew J. Desch said in an interview, “I wouldn’t approve our satellites to be launched if I wasn’t confident.”

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1, Pasztor, Subscription Publication) reports that the projected December flight would take off from Vanderberg Air Force Base in California. The FAA is required to issue a 10-day advance warning notice warning to pilots that airspace surrounding the launch facility will be closed.

Higher Education

WSJournal: Obama, Democrats Deceived Voters With Student Loan Programs.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1, Subscription Publication) editorializes that President Obama and Congressional Democrats used student loans and loan forgiveness to deceive voters at the cost of higher tax rates. The Journal cites a Government Accountability Office report that estimates the government takeover of student loans is costing taxpayers more than $108 billion. The Journal reports that GAO faulted ED’s accounting practices.

Treasury Urged To Help Student-Loan Borrowers With Disabilities.

Nancy Altman, Founding Co-director, of Social Security Works, writes in the Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1) that the Obama Administration should take “administrative steps to deliver relief” to student loan borrowers, particularly those who are “totally and permanently disabled, and so are unable to earn an income and pay back their federal student loans.” Discussing ways available to have the loans canceled, Altman says “the problem is that most of them do not know they are entitled to the relief.” She also argues that “unless the Treasury Department rules that the loan amounts canceled by the Department of Education are not taxable income to those borrowers, the relief is a cruel joke.”

Center For American Progress Reports Rise In For-Profit Graduate Studies Enrollment.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the Center for American Progress has released a study that says “nearly a half-million people are borrowing $5 billion a year to pursue advanced degrees from for-profit colleges and universities, even as the industry is reeling from investigations, lawsuits and the collapse of prominent players.” The Post characterizes these findings as “striking for an industry that has watched enrollment in its certificate, associates and bachelor’s programs slide as the economy recovered and government scrutiny intensified.”

Universities Cutting Services For Older Students.

PBS NewsHour Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1) reports that as colleges’ tighten their budgets in the face of diminishing revenues, many of them are cutting services meant to support nontraditional students and older students. The piece notes that colleges are not often equipped to support older students, especially parents. Colleges are “shedding services such as day care.”

Safe Zone Ally Training
Tune in December 6 at 3 PM, ET for a free Safe Zone webinar on STEM and engineering culture. Promote inclusion and diversity on your campus by learning about professional culture, the three cultural ideologies in STEM, and how they are connected to inequality in the field. Erin Cech (University of Michigan) and Robyn Sandekian (University of Colorado, Boulder) to facilitate.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.

Prism Podcast
The Mobile Virtual Player is a new development keeping football players safe, created by Dartmouth engineering students. Listen to the short podcast on the invention here.

Research and Development

Facebook Rolling Out Videos To Allay Public Fears About AI.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1, Guynn) reports that in the face of public concerns about the advent of AI, which “summons fears of Terminator-like sentient machines,” Facebook is working to “dispel some of the pop-culture myths about AI with a series of six instructional videos that attempt to explain this complex field of computer science.” The move “is part of a broader industry effort to influence public opinion as artificial intelligence is being used for more everyday tasks and even to automate warfare.”

Michigan State Getting $122.5 Million For Superconducting Cyclotron Lab.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1) reports that Michigan State University is entering into an agreement with the National Science Foundation to get “up to $122.5 million in funding over five years for the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.” The funding will “will support research in nuclear and accelerator science and continue operation of the cyclotron laboratory.”

New Gadget Based On A Dog’s Nose Could Make Bomb, Drug Detection More Effective.

The Daily Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1) reports that a new adapter developed by scientists can “sniff out” dangerous substances more effectively. Based on how dogs sniff and process different aromas, “researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory and the US Food and Drug Administration fitted a dog-nose-inspired adapter to the front end of a commercially-available explosives detector.” Matthew Staymates, a mechanical engineer and fluid dynamicist at NIST, said that the gadget “could lead to significantly improved vapour samplers for detecting explosives, narcotics, pathogens – even cancer.”

IARPA Building Tools For Superconducting Electronics.

SIGNAL Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1, Seffers) reports researchers at IARPA are building electronic design automation and technology computer-aided design (TCAD) tools “that will make it simpler to blueprint circuits based on superconducting material,” with the aim of spurring the “widespread adoption of superconductor technologies.” IARPA’s tools will make it easier to design and develop superconducting networks will lead to computers “of much faster processing with lower energy requirements.” Because of this, the tools could “potentially revolutioniz[e] the computer and electronics industry.”

Ex-IARPA Employee Now CEO Of Firm Working On Quantum Tech. Science Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1, Popkin) reports, “One thing is certain: Building a quantum computer has gone from a far-off dream of a few university scientists to an immediate goal for some of the world’s biggest companies.” One of the companies pursuing quantum technology is the startup ionQ, the CEO of which is David Moehring, who was “just hired away from the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.”

University Of Utah Wins DOE Money To Study Carbon Capture And Store.

The Deseret (UT) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1) reports the US Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy awarded $1.3 million in funding to help the University of Utah determine the “suitability of building carbon capture and storage sites near the Hunter and Huntington power plants.” The Utah project is among 16 carbon storage projects across the nation to receive more than $44 million for research and development.

UNLV Receives $1.4M Grant From Transportation Department For High-Speed Rail Projects.

The Las Vegas Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1) reports UNLV received a $1.4 million federal grant from the US Department of Transportation to research the design, construction and maintenance of future high-speed rail projects. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1), the grant “will allow the university to collaborate on a rail infrastructure study with the University of Delaware and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.” Sen. Dina Titus (Nev.) stated, “With its longstanding rail program, UNLV is well positioned to galvanize high-speed railways in the desert Southwest and partner with academic institutions that have the common goal of deploying safe and innovative projects across the nation.”

Notre Dame Professor Uses Gold Nanoparticles For Breast Cancer Detection.

Inside INdiana Business Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/30, Veleta) reported on University of Notre Dame professor Dr. Ryan Roeder’s development of “a method he believes could catch [the] most elusive cases of breast cancer,” which “involves injecting gold nanoparticles into the breast” that target and attach “to any microcalcifications that are present and, much like metal shows up clearly on security images at the airport, the gold is very easy to see on mammogram films–even in high-density breast tissue.” Roeder said, “As engineers, we make things. Some of the things I make are smaller than what you can see with the naked eye–these nanoparticles. We make new things, and we make old things better–that’s what we’re all about as engineers.”

Engineers Create Hydrodynamic Map Of NJ To Prepare For Extreme Weather.

New Jersey Business Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/2) reports that “working under an $800,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs,” Rowan University assistant professor Dr. Rouzbeh Nazari “is developing a resiliency hub for the state” to prepare for extreme storm weather. According to the magazine, “the hub will feature hydrodynamic mapping of all of New Jersey, enabling municipalities and others to assess the impact extreme weather will have on their locations, weather like the 2012 Hurricane Sandy and the June 2015 storm that devastated parts of South Jersey.”

RIT Sustainability Institute Helps Local Businesses Reduce Waste.

The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/30, Goodman) reported on the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology that “collaborates with companies to help them use materials that last longer and to make products that are reusable,” according to RIT associate provost Nabil Nasr, an engineer who is an expert in remanufacturing. For example, sustainability institute engineers “have assisted Council Rock, which is a local telecommunications engineering firm, in testing and refining a device for a ‘smart grid.’” In addition, “Tim Forster, a division manager for Rochester Colonial, said the sustainability institute created a complex mathematical model for developing the company’s product.”

Global Developments

STEM Project Helps South African Girls Construct Satellite.

Seeker Network Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29) reports that fourteen girls in South Africa have constructed the country’s first private space satellite, which is scheduled to launch in May 2017. The project, which was coordinated by South Africa’s Meta Economic Development Organization (MEDO) in collaboration with Morehead State University, enables engineers from Cape Peninsula University of Technology to take part in a program that encourages women to enter STEM fields. Dr. Mae C. Jemison of Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense program and the first female African American Astronaut said, “The skill sets and confidence developed in such an undertaking is important. In addition, the world will benefit from the new perspectives, problem identification, and problem solving capacity we will gain.”

Engineering and Public Policy

EPA Criticizes Army Corps Environmental Study Of Planned Coal Terminal.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1) reports the EPA has called inadequate a draft Army Corps of Engineers study of the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview in Washington state, which would handle coal exports. The draft environmental review “is flawed because it fails to take a hard look at potential environmental impacts, such as air quality, rail traffic and climate change, EPA wrote to the corps in a letter Tuesday.”

API Joins Ethanol Industry To Save EPA Fuel Program.

The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1) reports that the American Petroleum Institute joined the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy in sending a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking her not to sign off on a change to the Renewable Fuel Standard proposed by Valero and Monroe Energy. Valero petitioned the EPA and the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to change the program so that fuel retailers, which deliver the fuel to convenience stores and gas stations, are responsible for blending ethanol into gasoline and diesel suppliers, rather than the refiners. The EPA said earlier this month that it does not plan to accept the proposal.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Makerspaces Helpful In Teaching English Learners.

EdSource Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/30, Maio) reports that “educators are finding that the new “makerspace” movement – a strategy to teach K-12 students science, math and technology through hands-on activities – is providing the added benefit of helping English learners become more proficient in the language.” Makerspace requires “students gather a few times a week in a separate classroom, library or museum for a group project using such technologies and materials as 3D printing, robotics, microprocessors, textiles, wood and wires to construct robots and other electronic gadgets.” It is now said to be “a valuable tool for helping improve English, as children talk through their work in teams and keep journals to record their progress.” Sanger’s Wilson Elementary School teaching assistant Elizabeth Garcia said, “Here the students have an opportunity to learn English and not feel pressured in the classroom. A makerspace environment forces kids to interact.”

Toymakers Look To Fill STEM Gaps From Schools.

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/1, Jackson) reports that toy companies such as Learning Resources are “playing into parents’ desires to develop science, technology, engineering and math – aka STEM – skills in their children at earlier ages.” During the Chicago Toy and Game Inventors Conference, Living in Digital Times founder Robin Raskin said, “Ninety percent of parents want their kids to learn computer science, but only 40 percent of schools teach computer science,” and “the toy industry is looking to fill a gap where schools might not be teaching STEM.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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