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

Leading the News

New Online Tool Facilitates Tracking Of Political Issues At State Level.

CNN Money Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/7) reports the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at California Polytechnic State University has released an online tool called Digital Democracy which “lets you search for issues at the state level as easily as you might search for something in Google.” The system has been rolled out in California and New York, and soon will be available in Texas and Florida. Users “can search for issues and find the hearings that mentioned a particular keyword.”

Wired Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/7) reports that the system was developed with the help of former California state legislator Sam Blakeslee, who says that legislation is often made “far from the prying eyes of” citizens. When Blakeslee left government, “he began working with students on a way to automate government accountability.” This article describes Digital Democracy as being “like YouTube for local government hearings, bolstered with a splash of artificial intelligence. Bots create transcripts of lawmakers’ every official utterance at the state house and use face recognition software to keep track of who’s speaking.”

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/7) reports that California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is backing the plan and its expansion. The article describes it as “a pioneering online video platform that allows citizens and journalists easier access to information about the government.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/7) also covers this story.

Higher Education

International Students At Massachusetts Colleges Concerned About Trump.

The Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/10, Levenson) reports that President Trump’s order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries has “ensnared a highly educated community of Iranian scholars, researchers, and professionals who, over the last century of immigration, have risen to the top echelons of Boston’s academic, healthcare, and high-tech institutions.” The article says these individuals are “the kinds of immigrants the politicians of both parties generally say they want to encourage,” and mostly came to the US legally and will “ultimately work in science, engineering, and mathematics, fields that are integral to the economic health of the country.” The article says that concerns within this community over Trump’s order raise “the specter of an exodus from some of the states leading universities and medical centers.”

National Trend Grows From Tennessee’s Free Community College Program.

The Tennessean Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9) reports that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam likes to say that the state’s Tennessee Promise college scholarship program “changed the conversation parents and children have about going to college.” However, “it’s conversations in statehouses around the country that are changing, placing the Volunteer State at the center of a national movement.” The piece reports that when the program was launched in 2014, Tennessee was the only state in the union to have a program offering free tuition to community college students. Several states have since adopted or pursued similar programs. The Tennessean adds that President Obama touted the program as a national model during the 2015 visit and that Sen. Bernie Sanders also praised the program on the campaign trail last year.

Investors Raking In Profits Short-Betting Student Loan Sector.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Subscription Publication) reports that hedge fund managers skeptical of the student loan market are making large profits “through so-called short bets, or wagers in the stock and options market that shares of certain student-loan-related companies will fall.” The piece reports that “outspoken hedge-fund manager William A. Ackman has called student debt a big threat to the United States credit markets, saying, ‘I think that the government’s going to lose hundreds of millions of dollars.’”

Experts Propose Tuition Cooperative Plan.

PBS NewsHour Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Zinshteyn) publishes a story originally appearing on The Hechinger Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/6, Zinshteyn) that reports on a tuition cooperative plan for vocational schools that Sean Tierney, an Indiana Commission for Higher Education associate commissioner, and Audrey Peek, an American Institutes for Research researcher, have proposed in order to help students “manage the affordability crisis in a simpler, easier way,” said Peek. According to their proposal, a nonprofit organization would group students with similar interests – like coding or auto mechanics, pooling their public aid and personal savings and then negotiating with multiple institutions to secure the best deal.

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Research and Development

Next Gen Ingestible Device Powered By Stomach Acid.

The Scientist Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Olena) reports that “researchers have developed an ingestible device that uses copper and zinc electrodes to harvest power from gastric fluid, according to a study published this week (February 6) in Nature Biomedical Engineering,” and according to coauthor Giovanni Traverso of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, their work demonstrates “the feasibility of harvesting energy for several days from a large mammal that is ambulating and eating.” The Scientist adds that the harvested power “was sufficient to transmit measurements from an onboard temperature sensor to a receiver several meters away from the animals,” and coauthor Phillip Nadeau of MIT explained, “We can get relatively consistent power, enough to power temperature measurements on a minute by minute basis and transmit [them] wirelessly.”

Sandia Team Addresses Solar PV Panel Corrosion.

Engineering360 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Brown) reports that “Olga Lavrova of the Energy Department’s Sandia National Laboratory, has demonstrated a link between corrosion and the risk of arc faults in photovoltaic (PV) systems’ electrical connections.” According to Eric Schindelholz, of Sandia, “One of our primary goals is to predict how fast corrosion will occur and what damage it does, given certain environments and materials. This, in turn, gives us information to select the right materials for design or to develop materials for corrosion-resistance for a particular environment.” The report explains that “a team led by Erik Spoerke is working to block corrosion altogether” by “developing nanocomposite films made from inexpensive materials as barriers against water vapor and corrosive gases.”

Solar Industry Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/10, Bebon) has a similar report.


Software Firm Official Argues That Tech Will Drive Job Creation.

In an op-ed for The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Maccarthy, Contributor), Mark M. MacCarthy, SVP of public policy at the Software & Information Industry Association argues that “technology can continue to create more jobs than it displaces, while driving U.S. economic gains.” In making the case, he points out that a “recent study by McKinsey & Company estimates that almost half of all current tasks are subject to automation, providing fodder for arguments that widespread technological unemployment is near.” However, “computers can eliminate all job-required tasks in only 5 percent of occupations, and there will still be plenty of tasks to perform in existing occupations, while many new tasks will be created,” according to McKinsey Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/11).

Tech Firms Distance Themselves From Indian Outsourcing Firms Amid Visa Concerns.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Meckler, Stevens, Subscription Publication) reports the Silicon Valley tech firms are distancing themselves from Indian outsourcing companies amid concerns about their ability to bring workers into the US under President Trump. American tech companies are hopeful that new restrictions on the H-1B visa program will be aimed at the Indian companies and that the impact on their own practices will be nominal.

Industry News

Tanner: Defense Firms Still Have “The Most Innovative Engineering Force.”

Defense One Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Weisgerber) reports Lockheed Martin CFO Bruce Tanner said Wednesday at Cowen and Company’s Aerospace/Defense & Industrials conference in New York that he believes that defense firms “still have the most innovative engineering force, bar none.” Tanner adds that he also believes that the “solutions that our workforce can come up with have yet to reach their highest potential.” Defense One adds that it is “no secret that large defense firms were never thrilled” about DOD leaders’ publicized outreach to Silicon Valley’s private sector and they are now unsure if Defense Secretary James Mattis will continue that outreach.

Engineering and Public Policy

Dakota Access Pipeline Construction Begins Again.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Cama, Henry) reports Energy Transfer Partners has restarted construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, and according to ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado, crews “started work in the 1.5-mile Lake Oahe section right after the company received its Army Corps of Engineers easement that President Trump expedited.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is quoted saying, “The administration is pleased that Americans will be going to work building this pipeline, and building it with American steel, wherever possible.” Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Vamburkar) notes that Energy Transfer “owns the project with Phillips 66 and Sunoco Logistics Partners,” adding that Marathon Petroleum and Enbridge Energy Partners “announced a venture in August that would also take a minority stake in the pipeline.”

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Hampton) reports Energy Transfer said Thursday “that it expects its Dakota Access Pipeline to begin service in approximately 83 days, according to a company spokeswoman.” The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Yardley) reports construction started less than 24 hours after the final easement was granted. ETP said it expects to have $2.6 billion in loans for project “within the next several days.” The pipeline is expected to be fully operational before June. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9) reports North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum urged “cooperation and restraint” from all parties, and requested federal law enforcement help during construction.

Court Hears Arguments Against Offshore Wind Lease Sale Off Cost Of Long Island.

North American Windpower Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Lillian) reports on a court hearing in which “fishing communities, associations and businesses” were arguing in US District Court in Washington, DC, “against an offshore wind lease sale off the coast of Long Island, N.Y.” The lease was awarded by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to Statoil “for $42.5 million.” Opponents argued the lease would interfere with the scallop and squid fisheries in the area.

Additional coverage was provided by Windpower Engineering & Development Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Dvorak) and reNews Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9).

Scientists Studying How To Lower LA’s Temperature.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Netburn) reports in a 2,000-word article on L.A. Mayor Eric Garcett’s pledge “to reduce the average temperature in the metropolis by 3 degrees over the next 20 years.” Among the challenges, “how do you turn down the thermostat of an entire city in a warming world? And in a place as vast, sprawling and heterogeneous as Los Angeles, how do you measure success?” The issue is not only related to climate change, but also to the way that the city’s asphalt, dark roofs and other dark architectural features trap heat. “The city has already teamed up with USC environmental engineer George Ban-Weiss. A veteran of the Lawrence Berkeley Heat Island Group, he said there is no better place to test different ways of reducing urban heat than L.A. ‘There is all this variation across the city,” Ban-Weiss said. “You can’t get a richer place to study climate and meteorology.’”

Trump Tells Airline Executives He Will Fix Infrastructure, Roll Back Regulations.

During a meeting Thursday morning with US airline executives, the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Wagner) reports, President Trump “decried the state of the country’s ‘bottom-of-the-rung’ infrastructure” and vowed “to change all of that.” Trump said, “We have nothing, and we have an obsolete plane system, we have obsolete airports, we have obsolete trains, we have bad roads. … We’re going to change all of that, folks. You’re going to be so happy with Trump. I think you already are.” USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Jackson) says Trump told the executives “that he would help them through reduced regulations and lower taxes,” and the Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Miller) reports that he “pledged that he would be rolling back the “morass” of regulations that he said stymied business growth in America.”

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Carey, Lee, Subscription Publication) says Trump’s comments were welcomed by those in attendance, which included the heads of United Continental Holdings Inc.,Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., Alaska Air Group Inc., three cargo carriers, and seven heads of airport operators from New York to Los Angeles.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Roanoke Convention Trains Teachers In STEM Lessons.

According to WSLS-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Roanoke, VA (2/9, Brookshier), over 700 Virginia and East Coast elementary teachers are participating in the two-day Children’s Engineering Convention in Roanoke, Virginia to learn new approaches to adding STEM subjects into lessons. The convention reportedly features projects allowing teachers firsthand experience with the new lessons, and according to one teacher, lessons that look like “fun” are really focused on preparing students in the Standards of Learning they are tested on annually.

Education, Policy Changes Urged To Make US “Cyber Safer.”

Harold J. Raveché, Ph.D., president of Innovation Strategies International, and Hon. Michael W. Wynne, the 21st Secretary of the US Air Force, in an op-ed in The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Raveche, Wynne, Contributors) “Pundits Blog,” call for addressing the “multidimensional, long-term challenge” of making the US “cyber safer.” They call for educational policies “at the local, state and federal levels to inform, enlighten and convert anxiety to more careful use of the Internet,” including cyber education beginning “in the 6th grade,” college courses, and majors in cybersecurity at the nation’s service academies. Additionally, “the National Guard should be trained in cyber, just as they are trained for disaster relief.” The authors also urge “tax policies and regulatory relief” that to encourage business and industry to “aggressively…improve their cybersecurity capabilities,” as well as the reform of government procurement “to encourage America’s techno-entrepreneurs to develop out-of-the-box and more effective cyber technologies.”

Iowa Elementary School Pioneers VR In Science Classrooms.

According to THE Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/7, Ravipati), Buffalo Elementary School in Iowa’s Davenport Community School District is the first city nationwide to introduce virtual reality into the Next Generation Science Standards curriculum, according to the Quad-City Times. The curriculum for fifth to eighth graders includes lessons on the solar system, the water cycle, and ocean life. High School Course Expands Exposure To Diverse Students.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9, Guynn) reports that high school computer science courses designed by in conjunction with College Board are exposing increasing numbers of minorities and women to the discipline. Tehran-native Hadi Partovi, who founded the nonprofit funded by tech companies like Facebook and Microsoft with his brother Ali, says that his coding skills allowed him to secure jobs and success when he immigrated; “I’m living the American dream,” he says. Sonia Spindt, a teacher at an Oakland, California school, says the subject is beneficial for students because “it also reinforces the soft skills that they will need in the work force: problem solving, logic and creativity.”

New Mexico Legislators Advance Bill To Adopt National STEM Standards.

The Ruidoso (NM) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9) reports that the New Mexico House Education Committee voted 8-3 Wednesday to pass a bill requiring the state to adopt National Research Council standards in math and science designed to prepare students for college and jobs. “To fall behind our national counterparts is not an option,” said Representative Bill McCamley (D-Las Cruces), one of the bill’s sponsors.

Northern Virginia Nonprofit Looks To Expand STEM Guitar Program.

According to Inside NoVa (VA) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/9), Northern Virginia nonprofit Music for Life hopes to expand its “STEM Guitar Project,” currently in place at Mount Vernon High School, to the Arlington Career Center. The program aims to teach students the math and science pertinent to guitar construction, according to a representative from the nonprofit.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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