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

Leading the News

Trump Signs Measure Ending Stream Protection Rule.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16, Natter) reports President Trump signed legislation repealing the Stream Protection Rule under the Congressional Review Act. “In eliminating this rule I am continuing to keep my promise to the American people to get rid of wasteful regulations,” Trump said at a White House signing ceremony. The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(2/16, Henry) reports the rule “is among the most controversial environment regulations” of the Obama administration and the coal industry “said it would be costly to implement and lead to job losses across the sector.”

The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16, Wolfgang) reports that “the legislation has at least some bipartisan support.” West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin was “present at Thursday’s event and has urged Mr. Trump to roll back Obama-era regulations on the coal industry.”

Meanwhile, CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports that the rule “would have caused relatively few layoffs within the industry and created nearly as many new jobs, according to a government report.” The Congressional Research Service “found the rule would reduce coal-related employment by an average of 260 jobs a year.” CRS also “projected the rule would generate an average of 250 jobs a year,” and “some of the new jobs would be in high-skilled areas like engineering and biology.”

Higher Education

ED Recommends Renewal For Embattled Accreditor.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports that ED is recommending that the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity renew its recognition of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, “a controversial regional accreditor of two-year colleges in California and other Western states.” NACIQI is scheduled to review its recognition of the accreditor next week. ED, the piece reports, “had given the accreditor a year to fix several problems, including concerns about the consistency of its decision making, acceptance of its policies by academics and others, and its adherence to due process in the accreditation process.” The piece notes that the accreditor came under a cloud over its “longstanding feud over sanctions it imposed on City College of San Francisco. But last month the accreditor renewed City College’s accreditation for seven years.”

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports that the decision to accredit CCSF ended “a five-year legal and political battle over the fate of the college and its more than 60,000 students.” However, “the long-simmering controversy over” ACCJC “is coming to a head. The accreditor’s fate will once again be on the line when a federal accreditation panel considers it next week.”

Physics Professors: Trump Should Prioritize Investment In Science To Boost Economy.

In a New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16, Subscription Publication) op-ed, CUNY Professor Michael Lubell and Stanford Professor Burton Richter argue that President Trump needs to boost federal support for long-term scientific research in order to keep pace with global competitors. Lubell and Richter say the President should surround himself with competent scientific advisers and fully populate science and technology-focused government agencies in order to address three main science and technology opportunities that would boost the economy: making science infrastructure part of the proposed national infrastructure revival program, using corporate tax reform to fund a nonprofit research endowment, and making “major investments in clean energy research.”

Bob Jones University To Regain Tax-Exempt Status.

The Greenville (SC) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16, Cary) reports that Bob Jones University “says it will regain its federal tax-exempt status on March 1, more than three decades after the IRS stripped its nonprofit ranking following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling.” The issue in the court case “was the university’s refusal to allow interracial dating or marriage among students, staff or faculty of the university, a rule it has since abandoned.” The “conservative Christian” university “dropped its interracial dating ban in a nationally televised interview with past president Bob Jones III on CNN in 2000,” and in 2008, “past president Stephen Jones, great-grandson of evangelist and university founder Bob Jones, apologized for the school’s past racial discrimination,” but the university “didn’t seek to reinstate its tax-exempt status until 2014 after Steve Pettit took over as the fifth president in the school’s 90-year history.”

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Research and Development

Researchers Develop High-Tech Mosquito Trap.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16, Neergaard) reports that researchers have developed a new high-tech robotic mosquito trap which “is promising to catch the bloodsuckers while letting friendlier insects escape — and even record the exact weather conditions when different species emerge to bite.” The piece reports that in recent tests, the traps “accurately captured particular mosquito species — those capable of spreading the Zika virus and certain other diseases — that health officials wanted to track, researchers reported Thursday” at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. The piece reports that Microsoft lead researcher Ethan Jackson said “the traps act like ‘a field biologist in real time that’s making choices about the insects it wants to capture.’”

San Diego State University Researchers Develop New Electrodes For Use With Spinal Cord Injuries.

The Times of San Diego Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports that San Diego State University researchers announced Thursday that they “have developed a new generation of electrodes that can take brain signals and prompt limb movement in people suffering from spinal cord injuries.” The piece explains that SDSU, the University of Washington, and MIT have formed the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, which has developed glassy carbon electrodes that “could lead to an improved implantable brain chip that records neural electrical signals and transmits them to receivers in the limb, bypassing the damage and restoring movement.”

Winners Announced For NASA’s “Space Poop Challenge.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16, Guarino) reports that on Wednesday, the winners were announced for the NASA-backed “Space Poop Challenge,” hosted on crowdfunding platform HeroX. For the challenge, NASA sought ideas for better ways to contain human waste in space suits. Retired US Air Force Col. Thatcher R. Cardon, a physician, won the $15,000 first-place prize for his small airlock designed to expel waste while protecting the suit’s oxygen supply. While “none of these technologies will necessarily be directly implemented,” Kirstyn Johnson, a NASA engineer specializing in space suit technology, said in a news release that “we’ll be able to use aspects of the winning designs to develop future waste management systems.”

Michigan State University Team Develops Stretchable OLED Technology.

PC World Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16, Hachman) reports researchers at Michigan State University have created “a printable OLED circuit within a stretchable material,” opening the possibility for smart fabrics, wearables, or truly foldable displays. Chuan Wang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at MSU, led the design team to the development and will now work on “[combining] those elements into a working pixel, the foundation for a flexible display,” a process which should only take between one and two years. The stretchable material Wang’s team created can also “be printed with an ordinary inkjet printer, helping to keep manufacturing costs down.” Furthermore, the MSU technology is seemingly different from current patents for foldable displays, like Samsung’s OLED which “was still built upon inelastic materials, whereas” Wang says his smart fabric “could be folded and placed in a pocket without breaking.”

MIT Reveals Development Plan For Volpe Center In Kendall Square.

The Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16, Logan) reports the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Thursday revealed its “first vision” for the development of the Volpe Center in Kendall Square. The university’s plans include “more than 1,000 apartments and condos, offices and stores across eight new buildings.” However, MIT Investment Management Co.’s first construction project on the grounds will be a new research facility for the US Department of Transportation.

Workforce

Alexa Could Take Over IT Management.

A piece from Venture Beat Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) yesterday questioned whether at some point in the near future, Al-based assistants such as Alexa could one day be used to displace standard IT roles. According to VB, in lieu of employing human personnel for some IT management positions – particularly in monitoring and troubleshooting – machine learning tools could instead take over basic IT responsibilities and thereby refocus engineering and development teams on improving other areas such as product and service delivery.

Occidental Growing After Refusing To Layoff Workforce In Downturn.

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports Occidental Petroleum’s strategy during the market downturn was to hold onto talent by putting young engineers to work supervising drilling rigs, replacing outside contractors. Now that the market has started to rebound, Occidental is in a position to ramp up quickly and take advantage as their competitors who laid off a large amount of workers scramble to convince people to come back. Occidental felt that companies resort too quickly to layoffs in times of crisis, and that taking a longer view helps to retain talent and engender loyalty in its workforce. To weather the downturn, the company cut capital spending, capped bonuses and sold land holdings, but it committed to keeping employees at work. New hires were sent to work on projects that would expand their knowledge and skills, while veteran employees worked on ways to help the company operate more efficiently.

Tech Industry’s Concerns Over Lack Of Skilled US Workers May Be Unfounded.

Decode DC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports that not every is “buying” the tech industry’s argument that cutting back on H-1B visas “would restrict their access to the world’s best and brightest and blunt their competitive edge.” The article say the industry has argued “there’s a shortage of high-skilled workers in the US because not enough students are graduating with science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degrees.” Yet, Rutgers University technology education expert Hal Salzman is cited as saying there is a lack of proof to back up this claim that the US is lacking in skilled workers. In reference to tech companies, he said, “I mean it’s the height of hypocrisy… they’re laying off workers and yet claiming they can’t find people.”

Industry News

Analysts Expect iPhone 8 To Feature 5.8-Inch Flexible Display, Facial Recognition Technology.

BGR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports a new research note from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo indicates the new iPhone 8 will likely be the same size as the 4.7-inch iPhone 7 but will offer a display with 5.15 inches of usable space. In other words, the new screens will have barely-there bezels on the sides and top of the display, while the bottom of the device is rumored to feature a “function area” that will “presumably be similar to in utility to the Touch Bar on Apple’s recently released MacBook Pro.” Phone Arena Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports Kuo also claims the iPhone 8 will feature a wrap-around, flexible OLED panel, which will bring the display surface area to 5.8 inches with 2800 x 1242 resolution. A second article from Phone Arena Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports JPMorgan analyst Rod Hall’s projection seems to line up with Kuo’s that Apple is doing away with the Touch ID Home Button, claiming the iPhone 8 will incorporate a 3D laser scanner for facial recognition.

The Verge Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) and 9 to 5 Mac Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) also provide similar coverage of this story.

Engineering and Public Policy

New Coalition Calls For More Federal And Private Infrastructure Dollars.

Engineering News-Record Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16, Ichniowski) reports on the new Coalition to Modernize American Infrastructure which was launched on Feb. 13 and includes the National Association of Manufacturers, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Business Roundtable, among others. In announcing the Coalition to Modernize American Infrastructure’s launch, former US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor “told reporters that U.S. infrastructure needs total an estimated $3.3 trillion” and “that the coalition members believe that ‘it is essential that the momentum for an infrastructure solution continue.’” In addition, the coalition “states that a new infrastructure program must include private-sector investment.”

Report: More Than 55,000 US Bridges Are Deficient.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/15, Halsey) reports that according to the “yearly American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) report on bad bridges,” which is set to be released Wednesday, 55,710 bridges nationwide “were found to be deficient.” The FHA “estimates an annual investment of $20.5 billion is needed over the next 16 years to repair and replace bridges.” The Post adds that while “the number of bridges needing repair dropped by 2,785 last year…at that pace of improvement it will be a generation before the last needy bridge is addressed.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

CEO Responds To Seven-Year-Old Girl Who Wants To Work At Google.

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports that after asking her father where he would most like to work, British seven-year-old Chloe Bridgewater learned about “the slides and beanbag chairs” at Google’s offices. “Chloe then put pen to paper and wrote herself an application, in the form of a letter addressed to ‘Dear Google boss,’ to send to the massive corporation.” The Monitor says the girl’s “impressive résumé caught the attention of Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, who personally responded to Chloe’s letter four days later.”

Local Robotics Team Heading To State Championships.

The North Jersey (NJ) Media Group Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports that the high school robotics team in Wayne, New Jersey is set to compete in the state championships in the coming weeks, noting that this year’s competition is dubbed the “Velocity Vortex,” and “tasks robots with pushing and tossing wiffle-like balls into goals for points on a 12-foot playing field. Robots must also activate beacons lining the field and can cap the rotating vortex with a large ball for a point bonus.”

Colorado High School Hosts FIRST Competition State Qualifier.

The Rifle (CO) Citizen Telegram Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16) reports that students from seven Colorado high schools met at Coal Ridge High School last Saturday “to compete in the ‘For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology’ (FIRST) Tech Challenge.” The state qualifier “served as an innovative way for the students to connect with peers from across Garfield County as they learned new skills by playing with robots.”

Northern Illinois University Holds Star Wars-Themed STEM Outreach Event.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/16, Barrows) reports that Northern Illinois University recently held a STEM Outreach program based on the Star Wars films. One student was able to “program her own droid, marvel at 3-D images through a hologram projector and create her very own lightsaber.” The article relates the stories of a number of local elementary school students describing their enthusiasm for science and technology, and quotes local STEM educator Jeremy Benson saying, “‘Star Wars’ is a big thing culturally right now. Everyone loves ‘Star Wars,’ and we’re using the allure of it to get kids thinking about STEM fields.”

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