Leading the News
Core Of Engineers Denies Easement For Dakota Access Pipeline.
The US Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday said that it will not grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota, saying that “alternative routes” should be considered. Media reporting – including brief coverage on all three network broadcasts – characterizes the decision as a victory for protesters who have demonstrated against running of the pipeline under Lake Oahe, but some coverage highlights the likely short-lived nature of the success due to President-elect Trump’s support of the project.
USA Today (12/4, Hardy) says the decision is the “most substantial blow yet to the much-contested pipeline” and Tammy Leitner reported on NBC Nightly News (12/4, story 3, 2:10, Snow) that “the announcement came at the 11th hour, one day before a government deadline to evacuate the dangerously frigid camp.” However, ABC World News (12/4, story 5, 0:35, Llamas) characterizes the decision as “delay[ing] the pipeline” and the Wall Street Journal (12/4, Connors, Maher, Subscription Publication) reports the decision and apparent victory for protesters could be short-lived due to Trump’s position.
Reuters (12/4, Scheyder, Volcovici) quotes a US Army statement as saying it “will not grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location based on the current record.” The Army added, according to Bloomberg News (12/4, Vamburkar), that the rejection was based on factors that included the mandates in the Mineral Leasing Act and the involvement of the historic tribal homelands.
The AP (12/4, MacPherson) reports that Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a news release that the decision was based on the need to “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline’s crossing.
For-Profit Colleges Hope Trump Will Roll back Regulations.
The Wall Street Journal (12/2, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) reports that colleges are hoping that President-elect Donald Trump will reverse regulations that could result in the hundreds of school closings. Credit Suisse Analyst Trace Urdan said, “It’s fair to think that you’re going to have a more benign enforcement regime, certainly with respect to consumer protections,”
Course At The University Of Pittsburgh Stresses Need For Civil Discourse.
The Houston Chronicle (12/4) reports on a course in argumentation at the University of Pittsburgh which stresses, “Argument and abuse are not the same thing.” According to experts, too much information can erode one’s ability to make informed decisions. The situation is exacerbated when the information is slanted or false. This fall, Calum Matheson changed his course “to incorporate the just-concluded presidential campaign, and students were asked to watch and discuss how Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton debated.” In addition, “the course tackled larger theories of building and recognizing arguments, both good and bad. Students in the class explored theories including Aristotle’s paths to persuasion and tied those ideas to events such as the famed Nixon-Kennedy presidential debate of 1960.”
Students At Northwestern University Studying At Their Own Pace.
The Baton Rouge (LA) Business Report (12/2) reports on an education model at Northwestern University in Louisiana which “lets students advance at their own pace.” Following the July 2014 passage of the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act, “competency-based degree programs surged in popularity in the U.S. over the last few years as universities started implementing them.” The program “builds upon students’ prior knowledge and experience rather than spending a set number of hours in a classroom. Students advance as they demonstrate mastery of specific skills or knowledge called competencies.”
Research and Development
NASA Announces 13 ESI Grants.
PRNewswire (12/2) reported that NASA has awarded 13 Early Stage Innovations (ESI) grants to university-led proposals “to conduct research and technology development to advance NASA’s scientific discovery and exploration goals,” according to NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk. Proposals were selected for the research areas of “Parachute Inflation Dynamics,” “Additive Manufacturing Processing Parameters,” “Electric Propulsion Physics Theory,” and “Autonomous Planning for Human Spaceflight.”
ANL Prototyping Two Most Promising Future Battery Technologies.
Forbes (12/5) reports that Argonne National Laboratory researchers “have settled on two prototypes they believe can surpass lithium-ion at much lower cost.” The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research “will build an organic flow prototype for grid storage and a perfected lithium-sulfur prototype for transportation” and test whether they can achieve the project’s founding goal of “five times the energy density of commercial batteries at one-fifth their 2011 cost.” JCESR Director George Crabtree said last week, “Full cell testing of each of these concepts is now underway, and proof-of-principle prototypes will soon be evaluated.”
Expert Urges Against Changes To NASA’s Earth Science Mission.
Adam Frank at the University of Rochester writes in an op-ed for the New York Times (12/2, Subscription Publication) about NASA’s history of Earth research since the 1980s, lamenting that “NASA critics have long wanted to shut the agency out of research related to climate change.” The problem with doing so, Frank writes, is earth science is part of NASA’s “prime mission” but the agency is “uniquely positioned to do it. Without NASA, climate research worldwide would be hobbled.” None of NASA’s missions were “explicitly designed to study climate change,” but “the data from these missions tell us that Earth’s climate is changing.” Frank writes that the NOAA “neither has the reach or experience” or budget to do what NASA does. He argues that “proposals to get NASA ‘back to’ some other kind of science not only ring false but their wasteful price tag would also fly in the face of fiscal conservative values.”
Maryland Cyber Incubator Graduates Emblematic Of “Beltway Cybersecurity Ecosystem.”
The Christian Science Monitor (12/2) discussed the cybersecurity industry in the greater Washington, DC area, focusing on “two recent graduates of the Baltimore-based Cync cybersecurity incubator program” that “show two prominent ways the region is growing the business of cyber defense.” The Monitor called Light Point Security “top-flight technical talent with deep government experience starting a new business and looking to use the region to take flight nationwide,” and is “the type of company common to the Beltway cybersecurity ecosystem.” On the other hand, another incubator graduate, iWebGate, “represents another aspect of the area’s burgeoning cybersecurity market: an international firm with award-winning technology looking for a big break in the US.” The incubator, Cync, is “a partnership between Northrop Grumman and the bwtech@UMBC Cyber Incubator, a research and technology community affiliated with the University of Maryland Baltimore County.”
DOE Awards University Of Wyoming Funding For CCS Projects.
The AP (12/4) reports the Department of Energy has awarded almost “$2.4 million to the University of Wyoming for research into commercial carbon capture and storage projects in Wyoming.” UW, is one of 13 universities and organizations, chosen “to share more than $44 million in research and development funds.” The funding is part of an Energy Department “initiative to help mitigate carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.” The project at UW “involves assessing secure, commercial-scale CO2 capture and storage at the Rock Springs Uplift in southwest Wyoming and studying CO2 capture, transportation and storage opportunities at Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Power Station near Gillette.”
Instrumental Report: Samsung Knew Note 7 Had Dangerous Design.
Forbes (12/4) contributor Ben Sin reports that Instrumental , “a respected independent team of hardware engineers,” recently tested the Samsung Note 7 and “concluded that the phone’s tendency to combust is due to a ‘fundamental problem with the design of the phone,’ and that Samsung sort of knew the ‘super aggressive’ design was risky, but went with it anyway because it was trying so hard to innovate and gain a competitive edge.” Sin says the US “CSPC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) actually came to the same conclusion a few months ago, when its spokesperson told Bloomberg that the Note 7′s body was ‘too large for the compartment of the phone.’” Sin concludes, “I ultimately respect the Samsung team for pushing the boundaries. They took a gamble, but it’s cost them dearly: the company lost a reported 5.3 billion.”
Phone Arena (12/4) also covers this story.
Engineering and Public Policy
EPA To Require Mines To Show Financial Means To Clean Up Pollution.
The AP (12/2, Brown) reports the EPA on Friday said it will begin requiring “mining companies to show they have the financial wherewithal to clean up their pollution so taxpayers aren’t stuck footing the bill.” The article notes that the EPA’s proposal follows a court order issued in 2015 that enforces “a long-ignored provision in the 1980 federal Superfund law.” The requirement would impact hardrock mining operations, though the piece says the EPA is also “considering similar requirements for chemical manufacturers, power generation companies and the petroleum refining and coal manufacturing industries.”
Scientists, Environmentalists Prepare For Clashes With Trump Administration.
The Washington Post (12/4, Eilperin, Mooney) reports that scientists and environmentalists have “mobilized” to try to influence President-elect Donald Trump’s “future decisions and appointments” amid fears that “they could be marginalized once he takes the helm of the federal government in January.” In a move the Times says “underscore[s] how these individuals could be at the front lines of an oncoming political clash,” petitions and open letters “have poured out in the past couple of weeks, including a call by nearly two dozen Nobel laureates that Trump defend ‘scientific integrity and independence’ and a petition by more than 11,000 female scientists demanding that he respect inclusiveness and the scientific process.”
NHTSA Driverless Vehicle Guidelines Raise Concerns About “Patchwork” State Regulations, Consumer Safety.
Automotive News (12/5) reports companies are providing opinions on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s guidelines for driverless vehicles. Many are concerned that the rules may not prevent a “regulatory patchwork among the states.” The guidelines currently “leave it open to the states to fill in ‘gaps in current regulations’ on a variety of issues,” which may lead them to “pursue inconsistent regulatory approaches among states,” according to John Krafcik, head of Google’s self-driving car project. Other feedback on the guidelines centers on data privacy, protecting motorcyclists, and monitoring driverless cars for safety. Automotive News (12/5) reports that other groups worry “the policy does not go far enough to outline what kind of training the dealership sales force should undertake” with driverless cars. A wide variety of systems in driverless cars, “makes it hard to keep track of what each vehicle does,” said AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson. He worries that high turnover at dealerships will result in poorly educated salespeople, and suggests that a “non-negotiation model that is salary-based rather than commission-based” will be required before the industry will attract salespeople with the skills required to discuss technology. Ibro Muharemovic, an engineer that works on driverless car technology, explained that “educating the consumers on the capabilities of active safety and automated driving vehicles…is critical.”
Deepwater Wind Farm Off Block Island To Begin Operations Soon.
Reuters (12/2) reported Deepwater Wind announced on Friday that “its 30-megawatt wind farm located offshore from Block Island, Rhode Island,” has finished its “testing phase and is expected to start commercial operations in a few days.” The company “said it is currently finalizing operations protocols with the New England grid operator to get final approval to start commercial operations.”
According to the AP (12/2) the company “reported one turbine is not turning.” However, spokeswoman Meaghan Wims signaled “that will not delay the start-up and the other turbines will begin delivering power for the grid within days.” In a statement Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said, “We’re truly proud of the wind farm’s performance to date and to have completed a successful test phase. … The wind farm’s performance has been exceptional, even in some of the harshest weather conditions offshore.” Wims added that now that the testing has been finished, commercial operations will soon begin.
Kansas Farmer Lawsuit Aims To Stop Wind Farm To Protect Cranes.
The AP (12/4) reports Edwin Petrowsky, a farmer in Kansas, “has filed a federal lawsuit to stop a new wind farm from operating out of concern for the endangered whooping crane.” Last month, the Pratt County resident filed a lawsuit that seeks “injunctions against NextEra Energy Resources, whose Ninnescah Wind Farm is scheduled to start operating next week.” Petrowsky makes the case that “the wind farm is located in the bird’s flyway.”
New York Middle School Students Compete In LEGO Engineering Tournament.
The Schenectady (NY) Daily Gazette (12/4, Fitzsimmons) reports dozens of 9 to 14 year-old students gathered at Ballston Spa Middle School Saturday to compete in the Hudson Valley FIRST LEGO League (the “FLL”) qualifying tournament. The FLL, is a “national program designed to get elementary and middle school students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. (FIRST is an acronym for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.)” The10-person teams face 12 different challenges, or “missions,” which vary by difficulty and point value. Missions include “using the team’s robot to move objects on a LEGO table into a certain area, crossing a barrier in a certain way, or tripping a mechanism that creates a chain reaction. The more difficult the task, the more points a team is awarded by a judge for successfully completing it.”
College Board Aims To Ease Teasing Accommodations.
Politico Morning Education (12/2) reports that the College Board announced last week “that it’s streamlining its request process for students who need testing accommodations on exams like the SAT and PSAT,” at that most students who need testing accommodations “will be automatically approved for accommodations for a suite of exams.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• SpaceX Plans December Launch Of Iridium Next-Gen Satellites.
• WSJournal: Obama, Democrats Deceived Voters With Student Loan Programs.
• Facebook Rolling Out Videos To Allay Public Fears About AI.
• STEM Project Helps South African Girls Construct Satellite.
• EPA Criticizes Army Corps Environmental Study Of Planned Coal Terminal.
• Makerspaces Helpful In Teaching English Learners.