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

Leading the News

Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Assistants Get “Center Stage” AT CES 2017.

Twice Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Curran) reports that artificial intelligence and digital assistants are set to take “center stage” at next year’s CES, writer John Curran suggesting new advancements in those areas could “be more dramatic and pervasive than ever before.” One highlight of the event, according to Curran, should include a revelation concerning “new robotics process automation technologies” that eventually could “accelerate manufacturing of CE products” such as smartphones and tablets. All told, Curran says that by 2024, according to data from Transparence Market Research firm, the market for AI and virtual assistant technology is projected to grow to $7.9 billion. With a related report, the Huffington Post Share to
FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Coates) reports that Director of Baidu Silicon Valley AI Lab Adam Coates says 2017 will be an important year for the future of voice recognition technology. Coates remarked, “2017 will see product developers rapidly adopting the latest AI-powered voice recognition technology. This will largely be driven by newly made available Speech APIs and tools that are now free to use. I expect usage of speech products to continue exponential growth next year. At Baidu, we expect the speech traffic to double in 2017.” Fast Company Share
to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Mohan) reports on a similar prediction from IFTTT cofounder and CEO of task automation service Linden Tibbets, wherein she describes, “The adoption of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant shows that consumers are ready to embrace new API-driven interfaces.” In a related report, Huffington Post (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Ebbett) advises users it’s “time you made friends with Alexa,” the report predicting that in the next few years, “smart assistants will be as ubiquitous in the home as light switches.”

Higher Education

Federal Government Giving University Of Delaware $250 Million For Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Institute.

The Wilmington (DE) News Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/16) reports that the University of Delaware is receiving $250 million from the Federal government as part of a project aimed at mass producing biopharmaceuticals. The grant will fund the establishment of the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals, which “will unite more than 150 universities, private companies, and nonprofits from across the country.”

The Delaware Business Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/16) reports that $70 million of the funding is coming from the Department of Commerce, and says Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker “said that the formation of the institute will break down silos from the private sector to academia.”

ED Identifies For-Profit Colleges That Exceeded 90/10 Rule.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21) reports that ED has released the latest annual report on “compliance with the so-called 90/10 rule, which prohibits colleges from collecting more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal aid sources.” According to the report, 17 for-profit colleges “exceeded the limit, up from 14 the previous year.”

ED Delays Release Of Gainful Employment Template.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21) reports that ED last week delayed “the release of an updated template colleges are required to use next year to make gainful employment disclosures.” The piece explains that in November, ED “released its first batch of gainful employment data, which it plans to use to enforce the rule,” but says this data “didn’t include programmatic numbers, and the disclosure template is not slated to be available until the tail end of January, the department said.”

ED Amends Terms Of Approval For Apollo Sale.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that Apollo Education Group said in a Wednesday SEC filing that ED has changed the terms under which it would approve a deal privatizing Apollo Education Group. ED is smoothing the way for the deal by lowering the required letter of credit amount. Originally, ED required a $385.6 million letter of credit, but revised it to $154.3 million with $231.4 million in cash escrow accounts.

Increase In International Students Leads To More Competition For Enrollment At Top US Colleges.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Anderson) reports the “competition” for admittance into the US’ top private colleges and universities has increased due to “a major increase in international enrollment in recent years.” The Post says “that tension is particularly evident” at the Ivy League schools, as federal data shows that the freshman class size grew five percent from 2004-2014, while the number of incoming foreign students increased by 46 percent and the number of total applications “shot up” 88 percent.

USA Today Analysis: Many Undocumented Students Fear End Of DACA.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Molina) reports that “many undocumented students fear that the Trump administration” will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. USA Today says some students and college administrations have started “a new controversial movement” called #sanctuarycampus, which involves schools “vowing to support their undocumented students in a variety of ways.” USA Today highlights the uncertainty that students such as Harvard junior Birdie Park, who is undocumented, are feeling.

Indiana Teachers Get Five Years To Meet New Dual Enrollment Requirements.

Chalkbeat Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21) reports that the Indiana Commission for Higher Education has announced that an accreditor has given the state “a five-year reprieve from tough new rules that will require all teachers of dual credit classes to have a master’s degree or 18 graduate credits in their subject area.” The program in the state “had been in danger because most of the high school teachers leading the classes — almost 75 percent — do not currently meet the new, higher requirements that were initially planned to take effect in 2017.”

Prism Podcast
We talked to UDub’s Urban Freight Lab director Anne Goodchild about the best uses of city infrastructure. Hear what she has to say in our short (2:20) podcast here.

Diversity Committee Newsletter
Read about ASEE’s Best Diversity Paper Award and ABET’s ad-hoc committee on diversity, among other items.

Support ASEE with your Holiday Amazon Purchases
ASEE participates in Amazon Smile, a program allowing you to donate a percentage of your purchase total to the charity of your choice. To set up your account to donate to ASEE, follow these few simple steps.


Research and Development

University Of Maryland Researchers Developing Thin-Film Technology To Fight Battery Fire.

The Engineer (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/20) reports on the propensity of lithium-ion batteries to catch fire, noting that efforts to counter the problem by creating solid state batteries “have stumbled because of difficulty in achieving electron flow between the electrodes inside the cell. Researchers at the University of Maryland Energy Research Centre and the A. James Clark School of Engineering now believe they have solved this problem.” Researchers are working on “depositing a thin film of aluminium oxide (Al203) onto the electrode surface.” to facilitate electron flow.

Scientists To Gather At UC San Diego To Discuss Future Of Robotics, Automation.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Robbins) reports that 30 top scientists from around the world “are scheduled to meet at UC San Diego in February to discuss the toughest challenges in robotics and automation, including how to make driverless cars safe for a mass audience.” Henrik Christensen, who was hired earlier this year to run UC San Diego’s Contextual Robotics Institute, is gathering the group.

Texas University To House Industrial Center To Help Manufacturers Become Energy Efficient.

The McAllen (TX) Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Perez-Hernandez) reports, “With a new grant of $1.25 million on hand, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is getting ready to open the first Industrial Assessment Center in South Texas to help local manufacturers become energy efficient.” The new center “will provide free energy efficiency assessments among other services to small and medium size companies.” UTRGV College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean is quoted saying, “We are essentially going to help the people of the Valley and companies, specifically, become more efficient, more profitable, so that gives them the ability to maybe hire more people, to grow.”

University Of Chicago Research Could Lead To Mini Robots to Deliver Drugs.

Digital Trends Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Zimmerman) reports on research at the University of Chicago that ultimately could help patients through a merger of “electronics and with biology.” Practically, that could “include using mini robots to deliver tiny amounts of certain drugs to a particular part of the body, or recording the electrical communication between different structures inside a cell.” The work on nanowire-based devices operating at the cellular level “could open up exciting possibilities like being able to deliver tiny amounts of drugs to cells that are normally resistant to taking in pharmaceutical drugs.”

CWRU Grad Student Chosen To Participate In Chain Reaction Innovations Program.

Crain’s Cleveland Business Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21) reports Case Western Reserve University graduate student Felipe Gomez del Campo “is one of five people chosen to take part in a two-year entrepreneurship program” at Argonne National Laboratory. This week, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced he “would be one of the participants in Chain Reaction Innovations, or CRI, billed as the Midwest’s first entrepreneurship program to embed innovators in a national laboratory starting in January.” DOE describes the program as an initiative “to accelerate the development of sustainable and energy-efficient technologies and drive manufacturing growth by helping startups and innovators reduce development costs and risks.”


Girls’ Declining Interest In Science Cited For Contributing To Workforce Disparity.

NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21) reports that girls’ interest in science and technology “peaks and wanes” in the middle and high school years, calling this “one of the clear leaks of the talent pipeline that feeds workers to the tech industry.” Tech firms are often “criticized for their slow process in employing more women and other underrepresented groups,” but “often, they say they simply can’t find enough qualified workers to hire.”

Global Developments

China Launches Carbon Emissions-monitoring Satellite.

China Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/22) reports that on Thursday, China became the third country, after the U.S. and Japan, to launch its own satellite to monitor greenhouse gas emissions, launching a carbon dioxide monitoring satellite from China’s Gobi Desert. The TanSat satellite “was sent into a sun synchronous orbit about 700 kilometers above the earth and will monitor the concentration, distribution and flow of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, said Yin Zengshan, chief designer of TanSat at the Chinese Academy of Sciences micro-satellite research institute.” TanSat application system commander and vice director of the National Satellite Meteorological Center Zhang Peng said, “The satellite has worldwide scope and will improve data collection. Observing atmospheric CO2 by satellite demands cutting-edge technology, so TanSat is a major technological achievement for China.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Administration To Adopt Pipeline Safety Rules In Its Final Days.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Brown, Macpherson) reports that despite industry resistance and concern that President-elect Trump could cancel them, the Obama Administration “is expected to push through long-delayed safety measures for the nation’s sprawling network of oil pipelines in its final days.” The Transportation Department proposal, which is “aimed at preventing increasingly frequent accidents,” calls for “tougher inspection and repair criteria, leak detection systems on more lines and other measures to cut risk.” In addition, companies “would be required to inspect lines after flooding or other extreme events.” The proposal is under review by OMB and final adoption “is anticipated in late December, said Allie Aguilera, government affairs director of the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.”

Judge Tells Dakota Access Protesters “Get A Job” To Pay Legal Bills. The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Richardson) reports that Benjamin Schapiro and Steven Voliva, who were convicted Tuesday in the first jury trial related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protest asked State District Court Judge Bruce Romanick “to waive the $500 both were ordered to pay their public defenders,” but the Romanick “was having none of it, informing the two men that $500 was far less than a private lawyer would have charged and noting that protesters have demonstrated ample resources when it comes to posting bond.” According to the Bismarck Tribune, Romanick told the pair, “You can get a job and pay these costs back.”

Mining Company Expects Trump’s EPA To Allow Application For Alaska Copper, Golf Mine.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Mordant) reports that the Canadian mining firm Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd is confident that President-elect Trump’s victory “will let it proceed with an application for a copper and gold mine in Alaska that has been stalled almost three years by environmental regulators aiming to protect the world’s biggest sockeye salmon fishery.” Company CEO Ronald Thiessen said he expects the EPA “to announce in the first quarter of 2017 that it will let the application process proceed for the controversial project.” Thiessen said his company has “held discussions with Trump’s transition team, including Myron Ebell, who heads the EPA transition.”

Tax Credit Proposals Could Benefit Mississippi Clean Coal Plant.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Smith, Subscription Publication) reports that President-elect Trump’s interest in clean coal initiatives could provide a financial lifeline to Southern Co.’s Kemper County, Mississippi power plant, which was designed to capture some 65 percent of its carbon-dioxide emissions and sell it to oil companies to use in extracting crude from wells. Several proposals from lawmakers would increase tax breaks for facilities that can perform that function.

States Want To Scrap Clean Power Plan Even As They Near Targets.

The Sacramento (CA) Bee Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Tate) reports that thanks to “cleaner-burning natural gas, wind and solar energy and more efficient use of electricity,” the US power sector is on the track to meet 83 percent of its goal under the Clean Power Plan this year. Nevertheless, attorneys generals from a handful of states are asking Trump to “withdraw the rule on day one.” The attorney generals wrote, “We believe it is important to provide a longer-term legislative response to the rule to ensure that similar or more extreme unlawful steps are not attempted by a future EPA.”

Sierra Club Member “Disappointed” With States’ Petition To End Clean Power Plan. In an op-ed in The Hill, Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21) Sarah Willey, chair of the Sierra Club’s Missouri Chapter, writes that she was “disappointed” when 24 state officials wrote a letter calling on the Trump administration to repeal the Clean Power Plan. She argues that the Clean Power Plan is “a boon for our nation’s economy and independence,” noting that renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly competitive with fossil fuels, and that as utilities switch to more renewable energy sources, “We could each be spending an average of $8 a month less by 2030 according to the EPA’s estimate.”

Report: Most CCP Goals Already Met By Power Sector Shift From Coal. The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Tate) reports that according to an analysis by the Carbon Tax Center, “natural gas, wind and solar energy and more efficient use of electricity have moved the country most of the way toward meeting the Clean Power Plan’s target,” despite efforts to end the plan. The group attributes 42 percent of the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 to 2016 to the switch to natural gas and 20 percent to renewables.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Texas Gives High Schools Grants To Establish Workforce Training.

The Austin (TX) American Statesman Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Chang, Subscription Publication) reports Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has announced that 19 high schools in the state will share $7.1 million in grants to “establish workforce training academies on their campuses.” The academies will be at “early college high schools, which the Texas Education Agency specially designates.” Theses schools “usually collaborate with a community college to offer college courses for free, targeting mostly low-income, first-generation college students, who often face barriers to entering and staying in college.”

The Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21) also covers this story, saying the Dallas Independent School District was named “one of 16 recipients of a Texas Industry Cluster Innovative Academies grant, with $7.1 million split statewide among selected high schools and collegiate academies that offer college credit and associate degrees for high-demand science and technology jobs.”

Minnesota High School All-Girl Engineering Class Profiled.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/21, Dupuy) profiles the “women in engineering” class at St. Anthony Village High School in St. Anthony, Minnesota, which “has spent the semester building furniture, from cribs and tables to board games, for Isuroon, a local nonprofit for Somali women.” Students “spend their class time sketching, designing prototypes with a 3-D printer and crafting furniture.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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