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

Leading the News

Clemson University Receives $1.4 DOT Award For Research Into Traffic Elimination Technology.

WSPA-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Greenville, SC (1/17, Hampton) reports that the Department of Transportation has awarded Clemson University $1.4 million which, in addition to a partnership with the DOT, will help the university “create accessible wireless technology for all cars and traffic signals.” Researchers at the university have developed a formula which teaches “a traffic signal hub to reason like a human.” Dr. Mashrur Chowdhury, professor of Civil Engineering, is quoted as saying, “Connected cars will lead to driverless cars. In order to make driverless cars affordable, we need to have this connectivity. … This can solve significant problems we are having in transportation. So, the primary purpose of these connected vehicles actually is to save lives.”

The Upstate Business Journal (SC) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Anderson) reports the university’s research “could ease traffic woes across South Carolina and beyond” using wireless technology which “enables vehicles to communicate with each other, pedestrians and infrastructure.” The university has said the $1.4 million from the DOT “will be used to establish the new Center for Connected Multimodal Mobility.” Dr. Chowhurdy will lead the center, which will also house “researchers from Benedict College, The Citadel, South Carolina State University and the University of South Carolina.”

Higher Education

Nicolet College Selected For US Education Department Financial Aid Study.

The Lakeland (WI) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Leighty) reports the US Department of Election selected Nicolet College to “participate in a national experiment which focuses on reducing student loan debt.” The goal of the study, according to Nicolet College Director of Financial Aid Jill Price, is to have students remain aware of their increasing debt as they progress through college. The control group in the study will receive financial aid like how students currently receive it: by going through “an entrance or exit counseling session with no additional interviews required while in school.” The experimental group “will be required to receive some form of additional counseling regarding their loans while in school,” which can include “face-to-face sessions with the school’s financial aid department or online tools through the school or US Department of Education.”

CFPB: Older Americans Owe Nearly $67 Billion In Student Loans.

Correspondent Jo Ling Kent of NBC Nightly News (1/17, story 9, 2:00, Holt) reported Americans over the age of 60 owe nearly $67 billion in student loans and 40 percent of people over 65 are in default on those loans, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Furthermore, two-thirds of the student loan debt that Americans over 60 owe are for the benefit of their children’s or grandchildren’s educations. Kent said experts recommended contributing money over time into a 529 plan for grandchildren’s education and understand that by co-signing a student loan, “you’re responsible for paying it” and “the government may garnish your social security check.”

Hawaii Offers College-Course Pathway For High Schoolers Interested In Engineering.

THE Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Schaffhauser) reports the Hawaii Department of Education signed an agreement with the University of Hawaii at Manoa to create a “course pathway for high schoolers interested in engineering.” By passing two high school engineering technology classes developed to “track along with the course objectives covered by the university’s entry-level engineering courses,” students that are admitted to the university will be granted immediate entry into the engineering major. The article mentions other areas that make up Hawaii’s CTE program “cover arts and communication, business, health, natural resources and public and human services.”

Presidents Of New York Private Colleges Argue For Expanding Tuition Assistance Program.

Anthony G. Collins, president of Clarkson University, Cathy S. Dove, president of Paul Smith’s College, and William L. Fox, president of St. Lawrence University, advocate for expanding New York’s existing Tuition Assistance Program in the Watertown (NY) Daily Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Collins, Dove, Fox) because it would “more effectively leverage taxpayer investments to ensure affordable access to education for New York’s college-bound students from a range of incomes.” The authors say Gov. Cuomo’s recently introduced Excelsior Scholarship proposal provides welcome “national attention on New York’s higher education assets,” but government policy “that artificially shifts enrollment growth to public colleges and universities doesn’t make the ongoing investment to taxpayers more affordable.” Expanding TAP “makes good fiscal sense for New Yorkers since private colleges and universities deliver a highly cost-efficient education.”

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Research and Development

Rochester Institute Of Technology Professor Receives Grant To Increase Physics Graduate Program Diversity.

On its website, WXXI-AM Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Rochester, NY (1/17, Gorbman) reports the National Science Foundation granted Rochester Institute of Technology associate professor Casey Miller $428,000 to increase diversity and completion rates in the physics Ph. D. program. Casey will use the grant to increase participation and retention rates of traditionally underrepresented groups, such as women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, in the institution’s physics graduate program.

Researchers Develop Strong, Flexible Hybrid Spider Silk.

LiveScience Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Ghose) reports the journal Nature Chemical Biology Share to FacebookShare to Twitter published a paper on Jan. 9 in which researchers described a synthetic spider silk with properties similar to real spider silk and capable of production on a mass scale. To overcome shortcomings in previous attempts, including one funded by the National Science Foundation in 2010, the researchers replicated conditions found in a spider’s silk glands and discovered different species created silk proteins of various pH levels that determine whether the silk dissolves. The researchers developed a hybrid spider silk gene dubbed NT2RepCT, “a completely new protein that combined” solubility and a high sensitivity to pH, the two “best properties” of different spider species.

NYU School Of Engineering Hosts Kid Inventors’ Day.

WPIX-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter New York (1/17, Mateo) reports on its website that MakerSpace of New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering recently hosted Kid Inventors’ Day. At the event, students from across the nation showcased the designs they created with Autodesk’s Tinkercad software. Midwood High School students involved in Tandon’s K12 STEM Education Center introduced “ICM,” a mechanism to help students increase their self esteem.

Research Finds Venus “Gravity Wave” Could Be Largest In Solar System.

Business Insider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17) reports that in a study published in the journal Natural Geoscience on Monday, Japanese researchers detailed Venus’ “stationary gravity wave” phenomena after studying images taken by JAXA’s Akatsuki spacecraft, which photographed the anomaly “for the first time in infrared light” in 2015. The researchers’ work “implies that it’s far bigger than similar waves seen on Earth and Mars, making it ‘perhaps the greatest ever observed in the solar system.’” While some have disputed whether the gravity wave goes as high into the atmosphere as the findings suggest, “most scientists Business Insider spoke to say the gravity does appear to reach that high – and that current models of the climate on Venus can’t account for the anomaly.”

Global Developments

Abu Dhabi Institute Signs MOU With Thales For UAV-Satellite Hybrid.

Arabian Aerospace Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17) reports that Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute of Science and Technology “has signed a memorandum of understanding with Thales/Thales Alenia Space and French engineering university MINES ParisTech to develop applications for the Stratobus drone-satellite hybrid airship.” Under the agreement, “Masdar Institute work to develop Stratobus environmental applications for the UAE.” Jean-Philippe Chessel, Stratobus business line product manager, said he believes the partnership “will result in the development of many useful applications.”

Industry News

Volvo Trucks Makes First Canadian Delivery Of 2017 Engines.

Fleet Owner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17) reports that Volvo Trucks North America “recently delivered 19 D13-powered Volvo VNL 300 models to Ontario-based Purolator, marking the first Canadian delivery of trucks equipped with Volvo’s new 2017 engines.” Jeff Lester, senior vice president of sales at Volvo Trucks North America, is quoted saying: “Our 2017 engines offer several engineering enhancements to deliver significant fuel savings. … And we were able to do it without sacrificing power or performance, a win-win for our customers.”

Op-ed: Self-driving Vehicles Will Benefit Field Service Organizations.

Gill Devine, VP Western Europe at cloud-based aftermarket service software provider, Syncron, writes at Automotive Logistics Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17) that “autonomous vehicles will do much for road safety but their benefits will extend far beyond this, with particular gains for businesses managing fleets of mobile service engineers.” She points out that “self-driving vehicles may limit liability for field service organisations – something that is always a significant concern and cost for them.” She also says they could “help boost vehicle and service engineer performance.” Meanwhile, “when it comes to field service applications, driverless vehicles would mean technicians could multitask – something they clearly cannot do safely behind the wheel today.” She concedes that there are some hurdles. For example, “companies using driverless vehicles will have to deal with regular updates…as the technology becomes more advanced.” However, she says it’s clear “that self-driving vehicles offer exciting benefits for the future of field service.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Commentary Calls On Universities To Keep Federal Legislators Informed.

In commentary for Wired Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/11), Justin Talbot-Zorn, a Truman National Security Fellow and public policy consultant, and Sridhar Kota, the Herrick professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, write that as a part of federal lawmakers’ budget-cutting initiatives, a number of expert advisers and programs have been let go or disbanded. The “so-called Congressional lobotomy has increasingly serious consequences,” but the nation’s “unrivaled” and top-ranked universities can provide lawmakers’ with much-needed advising services so that federal legislators are kept informed. Wired suggested a variety of ways that universities can assist not only federal lawmakers, but also legislators at the state and local level, and usher in “a new model of intellectual partnership with policymakers.”

Group Aims To Get More Scientists Involved In Politics.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Kaplan) reports “STEM the Divide” seeks to get more scientists involved in politics. The initiative, “which officially launches Tuesday, was set up by the political action committee 314 Action.” The group “says its goal is to connect people with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math to the expertise and funds needed to run a successful campaign.” Founder Shaughnessy Naughton says the project is partially motivated by worry over the election of Donald Trump, “noting that the president-elect and some of his Cabinet picks dispute the scientific consensus on climate change, vaccines and other issues.”

ETP Tries To Block Environmental Study Of Dakota Access Pipeline.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Nicholson) reports Energy Transfer Partners is asking U.S. District Judge James Boasberg to block the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from launching a full environmental study of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. ETP wants the study put on hold until the government rules whether ETP already has the necessary permission to lay pipe under Lake Oahe. ETP wants the decision on permitting to be “free from the risk that its ruling will be frustrated or thwarted by new governmental actions.” An environmental assessment conducted by the Corps last year found that the Oahe crossing would not have significant environmental effects, but Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said that a broader environmental impact statement was warranted.

Poll Finds Americans Want EPA To Remain Strong Regulator Under Trump.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Kahn) reports that more than 60 percent of Americans would like for the “powers” of the EPA to be “preserved or strengthened under incoming President Donald Trump, and the drilling of oil on public lands to hold steady or drop, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.” The findings of the poll “could foretell stronger-than-expected public opposition to Trump’s plans to boost energy development by slashing environmental regulations.”

California Lags In Climate Change Fight Amid Nuclear Plant Closures.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Porter, Subscription Publication) reports even California, a state at the “forefront” of the fight against climate change, “is far from providing the leadership needed in the battle against climate change” as it has become “distracted by the competing objective of shuttering nuclear plants that still produce over a fifth of its zero-carbon power.” The article reports that if California had not shuttered the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the Rancho Seco nuclear generation station, combined with “the never-built Sundesert nuclear plant in the Mojave Desert and three planned-but-not-built units at Diablo Canyon,” it “would add a total of 77,000 gigawatt-hours of zero-carbon power to California’s supply.” In that case, “only 27 percent of the power produced in California would come from fossil sources…as opposed to 66 percent today.” The article expresses concern that, amid nuclear plant closures across the U.S., it appears “that the battle against climate change has, once again, been relegated to the back seat.”

DOE Moving Forward With New Pool Pump Efficiency Rules.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Devaney) reports the Energy Department is going ahead “with new efficiency rules for dedicated-purpose pool pumps.” The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE announced yesterday “new energy conservation standards for these pool pumps that would cost industry more than $35 million to comply.” The new standards “would reduce energy consumption by more than 60 percent for pool pumps, which the agency estimates could help consumers save as much as $24 billion on their energy bills over the next three decades.” The new rule will go “into effect in 120 days.”

LIPA Plans Vote On Offshore Wind Project.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17) reports LIPA is set to vote this month on a plan to construct a 90-megawatt, 15-turbine offshore wind farm that “would be the largest offshore wind project built to date” in the US. The AP notes that “plans are also underway for a wind farm that would feature as many as 194 turbines in a 127-square-mile section south of Jones Beach,” but the proposal “still faces legal challenges.”

University To Install New Biomass Boiler.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17) reports the University of Illinois Energy Farm will install a biomass boiler from Germany that will “release fewer carbon-dioxide emissions and use perennial grasses grown on the university’s energy farm to produce heat.” The project is “a test system that could possibly power other parts of campus or east-central Illinois farms in the future” and forms part of the university’s Climate Action Plan

New York Town Considering Solar Guidance.

The Buffalo (NY) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17) report Grand Island officials are considering rules to boost local solar projects. Grand Island Supervisor Nathan McMurray said developers seeking to invest in area projects have sought a local law to set the guidelines. “The law specifically applies to free-standing, ground-mounted or pole-mounted solar energy collectors.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Buffalo Elementary Propels Students To Future With VR Science Curriculum.

The Quad-City (IA) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Baker) reports the introduction of virtual reality (VR) technology into classrooms at Buffalo Elementary School, the first in the country to incorporate the technology into the Next Generation Standards Science Curriculum for grades 5-8. Davenport Community Schools Superintendent Art Tate is eager to prepare students for the future through innovation: “We can’t sit still and let these students get behind.” Victory VR owner Steve Grubbs, whose business will produce the 23 VR units for the Davenport curriculum, explained three benefits of the technology: reduced distraction, realistic transportation of students to area of study, and improved instructor explanation to captivate student interest.

New Houston Aviation High School Gains Own Hangar.

According to the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17, Webb), Houston’s Sterling Aviation High School is the only American secondary school to have its own private airplane hangar, which measures 7,100 square feet and is to house two single-engine planes, flight simulators, and 17 engines. According to Houston independent School District (HISD) leaders, the on-site hangar was necessary to prevent the school, open January 4, from being beholden to aviation companies. Said Sterling principal Justin Fuentes, “We wanted something sustainable. When we’ve partnered with businesses in the past, some have ended up failing and we’d get cut off.” Commenting on the HISD funding source Fuente commented, “I think it’s important, the neighborhood needs something great. Former bonds have come and gone, and not much has changed around here. We’re the farthest-south school in HISD, and you get the assumption that it’s forgotten. But this proves HISD and the city care. Now, this is a showpiece in the neighborhood that elevates the whole area.”

Also in the News

Cuomo Pushes For Consolidated Pre-K Programs.

POLITICO New York Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17) reports New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed merging the state’s pre-Kindergarten programs under plans announced in his State of the State book of legislative priorities released last week. State Education Department data show there are “seven programs (one is federal) and seats for nearly 120,000 full-day or half-day students.” Cuomo has also called for another $5 million “to expand pre-K programs across the state, with preference given to high-need districts with no current program.” New York State Association of School Business Officials executive director Michael Borges called Cuomo’s proposal “a positive step in the right direction” and said the consolidation “eventually will provide a more streamlined, efficient way to deliver pre-K that’s easier to manage and monitor.”

Schaumburg Community Consolidated School District 54 Receives Meritorious Budget Award.

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/17) reports in its “Schaumburg” section that School District 54 received a Meritorious Budget Award from the Association of School Business Officials International for its 2016-17 annual budget. The award is “conferred only to school systems that have met or exceeded the Meritorious Budget Award Program criteria.” This is the school district’s 20th consecutive year receiving the award.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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