Leading the News
Hyperloop One Discusses Incorporating Self-Driving Vehicles Into Plans.
The Verge (1/23, Hawkins) reports Hyperloop One has met with companies developing self-driving vehicles to “discuss possible mergers in their respective missions,” placing autonomous cars on future functional hyperloops. Recently, Hyperloop One co-founder and President of Engineering Josh Giegel and Senior Vice President in charge of global field operations Nick Earle met with representatives from Intel and Nvidia “to talk about their respective efforts to expand into the automated driving space, as well as with supercar company McLaren.” Furthermore, “it was about a realistic effort to find a way to link self-driving cars to the ambitious and costly transportation system.” Describing the predicted process, Earle said “the idea is you have a transmitter in your car…As you approach the hyperloop, it would be like a fast pass on the freeway.” The technology is still being developed, by according to Giegel, Hyperloop One has “the team capable of doing it. And we are doing it.”
CMU Team Prepares For Test Of Hyperloop Design. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (1/23) reports, Carnegie Mellon University Hyperloop team is testing their design they are billing as “the future of mass transport.” The prototype will travel down a 1.5 mile long tube at speeds over 200 mph with the goal of achieving 700 mph in the near future. In 2013, SpaceX owner and operator, Elon Musk, generated the idea back in 2013 as a way of cutting down on travel times between two points. The student’s design is based on using mag-lev technologies in low pressure tubes to reduce wind resistance.
Charlotte School Of Law Resumes Classes.
The Charlotte (NC) Observer (1/23, Gordon) reports Charlotte School of Law reopened on Monday and, according to school leaders, will remain in operation until at least May. Attendance was “far below normal, especially in the first- and second-year classes.” Last week, the school laid off approximately two-thirds of its faculty and reduced its class schedule to accommodate the students who transferred elsewhere. The American Bar Association placed the institution on probation in November and terminated its access to the federal student-loan program that, in 2016, awarded its students nearly $50 million in aid. Last week, ED and CSL “broke off negotiations” centered around the restoration of some loan money in what the Observer called “a highly unusual public spat.” Both ED and the ABA cited the law school for chronic problems related to admission, curriculum, and bar exam passage rates, and accused the institution’s leaders of shielding those problems from students.
In an online video, Charlotte (NC) Spectrum News (1/23) added that ED also accused Charlotte School of Law of admitting students despite knowing they could not pass the bar. Correspondent Jenna Barnes said students are uncertain about their futures at CSL, although last week the school announced in a statement that it will credit students who were awarded federal student loans so they can continue attending classes. Barnes reported the institution “is still holding out hope that the Department of Education’s decision could be reversed under the Trump Administration.”
Student Government Presidents Urge Trump To Continue DACA.
Inside Higher Ed (1/23) reports more than 50 student government presidents sent a letter to President Trump asking him to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows those brought to the US illegally as children, many of them college students, “the right to work and temporary protection from deportation.” The letter also urges the President “to continue visas for international students as well as H-1B visas.” During the campaign Trump vowed to end DACA and called the visas a “cheap labor program.”
Virginia Legislature Kills Bill Aimed At Reduce Student Loan Burden.
The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch (1/23) reports legislation aimed at lessening the burden faced by college students in Virginia was effectively killed in committee this week. The bill was tabled after Del. Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico) raised issues with the fiscal impact created by the student debt crisis. The Augusta (VA) Free Press (1/23) reports legislation aimed at creating a state entity tasked with allowing student borrowers to refinance their debts at a lower rate has been killed today. The legislation was aimed at helping more than 600,000 Virginia borrowers refinance. Del. Marcus Simon supported the legislation claiming the high levels of debt are undermining the states economy by depleting young students expendable income.
Navient CEO Pushes Back Against CFPB Lawsuits Against Company.
The Washington Post (1/23, Douglas-Gabriel) reports the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has filed three lawsuits against the student loan management company Navient. The suits claim that Navient has been putting their interests ahead of struggling borrowers. Investigators discovered “Navient employees misallocating payments, supplying incorrect information and ignoring borrowers’ requests for help.” President and CEO Jack Remondi pushed back against the lawsuit arguing his company is able to prevent a borrower from going into default about 90 percent of the time. He also furthers that of those who default on their debts, 90 percent of them do not contact the company. Remondi specifically rebukes the claim that having a borrower in default is better for them stating, “It’s 180 percent higher revenue if the borrower is current than if the borrower is in forbearance.”
Research and Development
Advanced NOAA Weather Satellite Sends Back First Pictures.
USA Today (1/23, Rice) reports the GOES-16 weather satellite sent back its first images of Earth, “at four times the image resolution of existing spacecraft.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the satellite will be used “to generate new or improved meteorological, solar and space weather products.”
Lamar University Student Receives Grant To Address Lion Fish Problem.
The Washington Times (1/23, Teitz) reports Lamar University student Qiuyi Ma has received a grant to construct and test a new robot named Lion Hunter. The robot’s goal is to preserve underwater reefs by reducing the population of lion fish in the area. Ma stated, “there’s already consensus in the industry that lionfish are a problem and need to be removed.” Ma’s plan is to deploy the robots to reduce the invasive species’ numbers.
Human Hibernation Eyed By SpaceWorks To Assist Space Exploration.
Yahoo! News (1/22) reports SpaceWorks is working on technology that would allow humans to “hibernate.” The Atlanta based company is working to achieve human stasis through “hypothermia, nutrition and intravenous support and metabolic rate, to realize the potential of deep space travel.” The program is not based on science fiction, but rather on the case of Mitsutaka Uchikoshi. Uchikoshi suffered a fall that caused him to break his pelvis in 2006. After 24 days, he was discovered with organ failure and a weak pulse– he was able to survive without food or water during the ordeal. He is the first known case of human hibernation.
Los Alamos National Laboratory Proves The Internet Can Enhance Nonproliferation Efforts.
Stars And Stripes (1/23, Litvak) reports Phil Williams and Tom Congedo, both Pitt professors, have joined together to “develop an early warning system — ‘like a Google alert’ — for when the world’s ‘bad guys’ are about to get their hands on nuclear materials.” They are not the only ones to have this idea, both The International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Threat Initiative have similar systems. The Los Alamos National Laboratory has shown just how helpful the internet can be at enhancing nuclear nonproliferation effort through the use of creative algorithms. Just last year, the lab was able to predict flu outbreaks by tracking the number of Wikipedia searches for flu symptoms. R&D engineer Rian Bahran applied this same technique to nuclear nonproliferation research, yielding promising results. However, the idea is currently on hold, according to Bahran.
Hyundai Creates Heat Resistant Catalyst.
The Korea Herald (1/23, Bo-gyung) reports Hyundai and Kia Motors have successfully created “a catalyst that can withstand heat of up to 900 degrees Celsius,” according to the company. A company official said, “the latest research is meaningful in that we can now spearhead the transformation of the internal combustion engine to an eco-friendly one with self-developed air purification technology.” The Cu-LTA catalyst was developed by automakers and team of researchers led by professor Hong Suk-bong at Pohang University of Science and Technology and will “be used by the selective catalytic reduction device in diesel vehicles.” According to the automaker, the technology decreases “harmful emissions by converting nitrogen oxides into water and nitrogen.” It added that “the Cu-LTA is widely expected to expand the use of the engine and enhance fuel efficiency.”
Research Indicates Automobile Hydrogen Refueling Stations To Hit 5,000 by 2032.
ComputerWorld (1/23, Mearian) reports that research from Information Trends shows that “refueling stations that would support a burgeoning hydrogen fuel-cell industry are on the rise and should reach nearly 5,000 by 2032.” According to the data, “In 2015, there were 115 hydrogen fueling stations worldwide, and 285 in 2016…By 2022, there will be 1,306, and by 2032 there will be 4,808.” The increase in refueling stations is driven by preparation by Audi and Mercedes-Benz to “launch FCVs on the heels of rollouts of hydrogen-powered vehicles by Toyota, Honda and Hyundai.” According to a 2015 Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report by the US Department of Energy, “the hydrogen fuel industry has reached several milestones over the past several years” and will continue to grow.
Engineering and Public Policy
Judge To Sentence PG&E Thursday Over Pipeline Safety Violations.
The AP (1/23, Thanawala) reports PG&E “says it is prepared to pay the maximum fine of $3 million after a jury convicted the company of deliberately violating pipeline safety regulations” ahead of a deadly natural gas pipeline explosion. PG&E, however, is “asking a federal judge not to restructure its bonus program for employees or require an advertising campaign publicizing its conviction.” The judge postponed his final decision on sentencing until Thursday. The San Francisco Chronicle (1/23, Egelko) notes the state Public Utilities Commission “has already fined PG&E a record $1.6 billion for the explosion.”
UK’s May Sees “Global Britain” Buoyed By Clean Energy Industrial Strategy.
Bloomberg News (1/23, Hirtenstein, Shankleman) reports UK Prime Minister Theresa May plans to “capitalize” the nation’s early adoption of clean energy “to win a substantial share of global markets,” according to a new industrial-strategy paper published Monday. May has said she wants a “global Britain” to bolster the UK’s ties to other countries as the nation exits from the EU.The UK drew more than $29.9 billion in offshore wind energy investment last year, up 40 percent from 2015. The government also plans to coordinate “the installation of smart grids, charging points for electric vehicles and potentially, hydrogen fuel.” Emma Pinchbeck, executive director of trade association RenewableUK, said the move is a “reboot for Britain” and that “with renewable energy now a mainstream power source, we need to maximize the benefits we all get from the investments that have been made in modernizing the way we generate electricity.”
PSEG Unit Buys Two North Carolina Solar Projects For $75M.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (1/23) reports PSEG Solar Source has acquired two North Carolina solar facilities under construction for $74.6 million from German renewable-energy developer BayWa RE. The two facilities can produce up to 47 megawatts of power and are the second and third projects PSEG has developed with BayWa. Virginia Electric & Power has a power purchase agreement in place. Reuters (1/23) also reports.
Xcel Energy’s Second Major Solar Project Comes Online.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (1/20, Hughlett) reports the 62-megawatt Marshall Solar Energy Project is the second of two large solar facilities that have begun sending power to Xcel Energy. The project follows the 100-megawatt North Star project. “The Marshall Solar Energy Project puts us on a path to achieve our goal to be 63 percent carbon-free by 2020,” Xcel’s Chris Clark said in a press statement.
Minnesota Bill Targets Oversight Of Renewable Energy Fund.
The AP (1/23) reports Minnesota Republican state lawmakers “are considering killing a solar incentive and taking control of an energy fund they say has little oversight.” A proposed bill would shift renewable energy account funds to a general energy fund and end the “Made in Minnesota” solar energy incentive program. State Rep. Marion O’Neill “questioned why the account is controlled by a private company, Xcel Energy, instead of a state body.” Democrats opposed the changes, “citing lowering solar production costs, the loss of jobs in the ‘Made in Minnesota’ program and the abandonment of previous [renewable energy] commitments.”
Wyoming Bill Would Raise Cost Of Wind Energy.
Bloomberg Business (1/23, Denning) reports, in continuing coverage, on a bill proposed by two Wyoming state senators “that would penalize Wyoming’s utilities if they sell power generated from utility-scale wind or solar installations within the state.” The local economy has suffered as prices of coal and natural gas have collapsed, with mining driving two-thirds of an 8 percent decline in GDP from 2018 to mid-2016. Wind and solar compete with fossil fuels and, once installed, the facilities are not as labor intensive.
Female Engineer Shares Story With Alabama High School Students.
The Enterprise (AL) Southeast Sun (1/23, Gibbs) reports Mississippi Power Company Customer Services Organization Vice President Nicole Faulk, who is also an engineer, spoke to engineering students at Enterprise High School on Friday, January 13. After sharing her experiences with becoming an engineer, Faulk “encouraged the female students to seriously consider a career in engineering.” She said, “I did that, and I know that you can do that. There wasn’t anything that made me special. There was a lot of luck and a lot of hard work that went into that and what I’ve been able to do. I know that each and every one of you all, and females I’m talking to you all now, you can do it.” The Southeast Sun mentions that Faulk “has also been a part in the development of Georgia Power’s Vogtle 3 and 4 project – the newest nuclear plants to be built in the United States in more than 30 years.”
FIRST Program Robotics Competitions Turn STEM Into Sporting Event.
The Elgin (IL) Courier News (1/24, Kalmar) profiles the not-for-profit group FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), which was established by Segway inventor Dean Kamen and sponsors competitive robotics Tech Challenges for K-12 students. The robotics competitions are modeled after sporting events to attract students to “the curriculum of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).” Teams of participating students, under the guidance of coaches and mentors, design, build, and program robots and then compete against other teams for a variety of awards in areas like performance, community outreach, and design. Thirty-five teams competed in Illinois’ West Suburban League North Division competition, eight of which will qualify for the state competition.
Massachusetts Teachers Seek Funding For Student Innovation Center.
The AP (1/23, Shaner) reports seven Massachusetts teachers helped create the Ashland Innovation Center, a pilot maker space funded by a grant from the Board of Selectman’s Boston Athletic Association. The center is a former high school engineering room and computer lab that was redesigned “to accommodate work with electronics, robotics, programming, woodworking, digital fabrication and textiles” and “accommodate what the students need it to” be. Computer science teacher Chad McGowan, one of the seven teachers who advocated for the center, explained, “The idea is to create something where our students can be innovative without limitation.” The teachers have not yet secured enough funding to realize the center’s vision and are collaborating with the Ashland Education Foundation to secure additional outside grants. McGowan added that the center has not only fostered student interest in technology, but also “been very heavily female, and that’s an access point we so dearly need.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• DOT Announces 10 Official Proving Grounds For Autonomous Vehicle Testing.
• UI Labs To Offer MOOC On Digital Manufacturing.
• New Report Details Robotic Silicon Sleeve To Aid Heartbeat and Circulation.
• Traditional Retailers Compete With Amazon For Sales, Tech Talent.
• Amid Privacy Concerns, Engineer Designs Echo “Kill Switch”.
• Renewable Energy Advocates Concerned About Trump Administration’s Plans.
• South Carolina Students Take Part In STEM Opportunity Program.