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

Leading the News

Uber Hires NASA Aircraft Engineer To Aid In Developing Flying Car Platform.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Stone) reports a former NASA advanced aircraft engineer Mark Moore, who in 2010 “published a white paper outlining the feasibility of electric [aircraft] that could take off and land like helicopters but were smaller and quieter” has been hired by Uber as “director of engineering for aviation.” At Uber, Moore will work on Uber Elevate – a flying car initiative the company is pursuing. Moore said, “I can’t think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL market real.” Bloomberg notes that Uber isn’t building “flying car yet,” but recently “laid out a radical vision for airborne commutes and identified technical challenges it said it wanted to help the nascent industry solve” in its own white paper.

The Verge Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6) reports Uber isn’t interested in developing its own flying car, but rather wants to “contribute to the nascent but growing VTOL ecosystem and to start to play whatever role is most helpful to accelerate this industry’s development.” The Verge notes Moore will not head Uber Elevate, but has been brought on to help “smooth out many of its hurdles.”

CNET News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Krok) reports Uber expects VTOL aircraft to eventually “become an affordable method of daily transportation,” with Uber’s white paper laying out a 10-year plan that could have pilot certification and “other testing taking place by 2025.”

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Cava), AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Lowy), and Business Insider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, DeBord) also report.

Higher Education

Massachusetts College Responds To Trump’s Immigration Order With Refugee Scholarship.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Marcelo) reports that Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts “has created a refugee scholarship in response to President Donald Trump’s order on immigration and refugees and is calling on other colleges to do the same.” The program “is open to any refugee student fleeing conflict, but applicants from the seven countries specifically targeted by Trump’s order – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – would be given special preference.”

CNN Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Simko-Bednarski) reports that the scholarship would “cover the cost of one incoming student refugee, who is fleeing persecution and conflict,” and “is part of a growing tide of academic opposition to the executive order.” The piece explains that officials from Harvard University, Boston University and the University of Massachusetts “all offered vocal support last week for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy’s decision to file suit against the order.”

Illinois College Students Increasingly Look To Neighbor States.

According to the Sangamon (IL) Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, de Jauregui), Illinois college students are increasingly attending out-of-state schools, in part due to neighboring states’ tuition reciprocity programs and low in-state tuition. Illinois has reportedly run up against budget constraints, with each year’s public funding uncertain and universities increasingly sending funding away from programs and instructors. Urbana’s University Laboratory High School Director of College Counseling Lisa Micele spoke about the Monetary Award Program grant funding inconsistencies affecting low-income families.

Universities To Explore Ways To Use Financial Aid To Increase Low-Income Student Graduation Rates.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Douglas-Gabriel) reports Temple University and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities collaborated in the launch of a five-year pilot program, financed by a $4 million ED grant, to examine and implement small-dollar grant programs to encourage low-income students to graduate. In the first phase, “existing grants at seven schools, including Virginia Commonwealth University, Arizona State University and Ohio State University,” will be evaluated. In the second phase, to include three additional schools, “the universities will conduct a controlled trial of completion grants, whereby eligible students are randomly assigned to a group receiving grants and another without the financial assistance.” Eight schools will be selected and their emergency aid programs expanded.

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Research and Development

UTEP Researchers Win $3.8M In USDOT Funding To Study Emissions.

The El Paso (TX) Herald Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Staff) reports that The University of Texas at El Paso’s Professor Wen-Whai Li and his engineering colleagues were awarded up to $3.8 million in US Department of Transportation funds for the next five years for four research projects. The projects, to be tackled by researchers from a consortium of universities, will focus on USDOT’s Fixing America’s Surface Transportation research priorities like alternative fuels and emissions reductions as well as the public health effects of pollution and El Paso ozone reductions.

TARDEC Working To Improve Energy Efficiency For Army Vehicles.

Wireless Design & Development Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Aliotta) reports on the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center’s (TARDEC) efforts to develop more energy efficient land vehicles through its prototype Advanced Combat Engine (ACE), its Joint Operational Energy Initiative (JOEI), Tactical Vehicle Electrification Kit (TVEK), Single Common Powertrain Lubricant (SCPL), and Fuel Efficient Gear Oil (FEGO). For the TVEK, which aims to deliver a 15 to 25 percent reduction in fuel usage, among other benefits, TARDEC engineers plan to demonstrate the system on an Oshkosh Defense-built Army Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck and the Marines’ Logistics Vehicle System Replacement. FEGO will be used on differentials including the Stryker Combat Vehicles’.

NIH Awards $2.35M To Develop Wearable Artificial Lung For Children.

The Pittsburgh Business Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Nuzum) reports the National Institutes of Health has awarded a $2.35 million grant to a team of researchers and engineers at the University of Pittsburgh to “develop a compact, wearable artificial lung for children.” The researchers “will work on the four-year award in conjunction with the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.”

Study: Mars Atmosphere Lacked CO2 Needed To Support Water.

SPACE Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Choi) reports that a new study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is “deepening” the mystery of how Mars once could have supported liquid water. According to SPACE’s summary of the findings, the study concluded that Mars’ “early atmosphere likely possessed up to hundreds of times less carbon dioxide than needed to keep it warm enough for liquid water to last.” Lead author Thomas Bristow, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, said that evidence remains “indisputable in showing the prolonged presence of liquid water” on the surface of the planet, meaning “that scientists have to think a bit more deeply about what kind of mechanisms could lead to stabilization of surface water.”

Workforce

Five Defense Contractors Among Arizona Firms With Most Job Openings.

The Arizona Republic Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Hansen) reports that 80 companies in Arizona are collectively advertising “more than 25,000 open positions” across the state this month. Among those companies are Lockheed Martin, with 140 open positions ranging from material handler to systems administrator; General Dynamics, hiring 240 for positions ranging from software engineers to customer service representatives; Honeywell, hiring 140 for openings ranging from engineer to marketing associate; Orbital ATK, hiring 120 for positions ranging from engineers to inspectors; and Raytheon, hiring 580.

Global Developments

Hitachi-GE Unveils Robotic Reactor Probe.

Asahi Shimbun (JPN) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Tomida) reports, “Another robot has been developed for the elusive goal of locating melted fuel and surveying the interior of the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.” A team of “engineers and researchers from Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd. and the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning revealed the robot on Feb. 3.” The robot will be “fitted with a censoring unit mounted with a camera, dosimeter and lighting. Its purpose is to give TEPCO an idea of the location and condition of the melted nuclear fuel in the reactor.”

On its website, Iran’s Press TV (IRN) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/5) reports that the robot “named PMORPH is equipped with five cameras and a radiation dosimeter that enable it to function while exposed to destructive amounts of radiation.” PMORPH was “unveiled during an official press preview in Hitachi, not long after high radiation levels in Fukushima’s nuclear facilities effectively shut down the previously operational robots.”

Industry News

Tech Firms Like Uber, Google, Apple File Amicus Brief Against Trump Travel Ban.

U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Soergel) writes that almost 100 tech companies joined to file an amicus briefing to express qualms regarding the Administration’s immigration executive order’s potential effects on “business and future immigration patterns.” U.S. News notes that while companies like Google, Apple, GoPro, Facebook, and Uber were among the brief filers, notable exclusions were SpaceX and Amazon, though the former is reportedly against the policy.

Engineering and Public Policy

Dakota Easement Could Be Granted By Friday.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Volcovici) reports a government lawyer said the Secretary of the US Army could make a final permit decision on the Dakota Access Pipeline as soon as Friday. The Army Corps of Engineers told a Washington court that it had submitted its recommendation to the acting secretary Robert Speer on whether there needs to be a full environmental review before the pipeline can be granted a final permit allowing construction work to restart. Lawyers for Energy Transfer Partners said the pipeline would be fully operational about 90 days after construction begins. Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6) reports Jan Hasselman, lead attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said that it would be “unlawful” for the Army Corps to grant an easement after committing to an environmental impact study of the Lake Oahe crossing. The tribes would likely file a second bid to halt the project if an easement is granted by the government.

California House Republicans Ask Administration To Block Grant For Bullet Train.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Vartabedian) reports that all 14 members of California’s House Republican delegation have written to Transportation Secretary Chao to ask the Administration “to block a pending federal grant for the state’s high speed rail project until an audit of the project’s finances is completed.” In the letter, the lawmakers ask Chao “to stop approval of a $650 million grant that the Transportation Department could make as early as next week as part of an effort to install an electrical system for the Caltrain commuter rail service in the Bay Area that the bullet train would eventually use from San Jose to San Francisco.”

FAA Allows Drone Flights At Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

In continuing coverage, Digital Trends Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Mogg) reports that British design and engineering firm Atkins and California-based robotics and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) specialist 3DR received permission from the FAA to use UAVs to help aid in the expansion of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Digital Trends states that the agency’s decision to allow the group to carry out drone flights of the area “demonstrates the agency’s willingness to relax the rules under certain circumstances, and augurs well for other businesses looking to make full use of this fast-expanding technology.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Tennessee District Introduces Google Classroom Platform.

The Memphis (TN) Commercial Appeal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Hanna) reports that Tennessee’s DeSoto County Schools have introduced Google Classroom at the school year’s start and now has 40 teachers and 4,000 students using the platform that allows for assignment and lecture posting, student progress tracking, deadline notifications, and grading. The district has appointed two technology coaches to assist with the implementation, one of whom says the system is particularly accessible for users of Facebook and Gmail.

Mount Vernon Elementary Schools, AmeriCorps Offer Supplementary STEM Camp.

The Skagit Valley (WA) Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Wanielista) reports that the Mount Vernon School District offers after school STEM camps to elementary school children to supplement what they learn in the classroom. The program is part of a partnership with Community Action that has a designated AmeriCorps volunteer running the program. Said this year’s volunteer Anna Selzter, “I’ve got to say, for being our first camp (in the district), we did kind of rock it. “ District officials indicate they hope the program will have a positive impact on test scores.

Omaha High School Students To Participate In Architecture Mentorship Program.

According to the San Antonio (TX) Express-News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6), about 80 students from four Omaha high schools will participate in the Architecture, Construction and Engineering Mentor Program that allows them to meet with professionals from nearly 30 companies to engage in real-world application of design and collaboration skills. They will eventually work on plans for a renovation at Norris Middle School, with North High curriculum specialist John Vinchattle’s expectations being that “companies [will be] begging for them to work there, to do internships” as a result of the program.

Monday’s Lead Stories

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