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Leading the News

In Test, UPS Drone Delivers Package In Florida.

ABC World News Tonight (2/21, story 11, 0:25, Muir) reported, “UPS is testing drone delivery” with a test flight in Florida in which a UPS driver delivered a package while a drone, launched from the top of the truck, delivered another package at the same time.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Lopez) reports the drone “flew autonomously toward its destination, dropped a package and then returned to the vehicle as the driver continued on a delivery route.” John Dodero, vice president of industrial engineering at UPS, said, “We see this as an exploration into this new technology.” He added there is no timeline for putting it into wider use, in the words of Reuters, “partly because federal authorities are still developing regulations on how to use the technology.” As UPS confronts “lower margins for e-commerce” drones could help reduce costs. USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Weise) reports UPS estimates that reducing the distance each drivers covers a mile a day would save the company up to $50 million annually.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Sasso) reports Mark Wallace, UPS’s senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability, said, “Drones won’t replace our uniformed service providers,” adding, “it really is there to assist.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) reports Wallace “says the test has implications for service in rural areas where deliveries are far apart and costly.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Yamanouchi) reports UPS chief information officer Juan Perez said, “I can imagine a day when we dispatch a fleet of autonomous cars…. Now imagine a day when these autonomous vehicles have a UPS delivery person on board” delivering packages and deploying drones.

In contrast to other coverage, Gizmodo Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Estes) takes a negative tone as it reports that while the first demonstration of the drone went well, UPS “bungled” a second demo requested by reporters. “Some sort of interference – possibly from the broadcast reporters’ cameras – caused an issue with the drone’s compass,” and when the drone sought to abort its launch, it tipped to the side and “was nearly crushed by the still-closing lid of the vehicle.” According to a UPS representative explained that “when the aircraft tipped sideways, a human operator took over and steadied the drone before taking off and landing it on the ground unharmed.” The bug “means that UPS is going to do a lot more work before letting these things fly in public.” Furthermore, with the increasing complexity wireless communication, “if multimillion dollar electronic companies can’t even figure out how to make wireless headphones work perfect, the notion of a building a safe, nationwide wireless drone delivery system seems damn near impossible.”

Higher Education

Tulane Undergraduates Win NASA “Big Idea” Engineering Competition.

WWL-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter New Orleans (2/20, Farris) reports online about the five Tulane undergraduates who won NASA’s Big Idea Challenge for Spacecraft Design, having presented their concept “to NASA researchers, designing a structure that is huge in space but that can fit in a smaller rocket cargo hold to get there.” The story casts the Tulane team as the underdogs in the competition up against “top of the line, brilliant” competitors from super elite programs, “but this unusual group, honored just to be finalists, came up with the Sunflower, a compact hexagon, that ‘blooms’ or keeps unfolding and expanding.”

Harvard Law Project Sues DOJ For For-Profit School Settlement Documents.

According to the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Douglas-Gabriel), Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending is suing the Justice Department for withholding documents from a 2015 settlement in which the operator of for-profit schools called Education Management agreed to pay $95.5 million to resolve allegations of violating the federal ban on incentive compensation. Harvard Law clinic attorneys say the documents it has requested via the Freedom of Information Act would make it easier for affected students to have “borrow defense to repayment” claims approved, but the Justice Department first said a court order prevented the release of the files. Federal prosecutors haves since said the documents are not subject to FOIA.

DeVos Expected To Decide Fate Of ACCJC Soon.

The San Francisco Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is expected to decide the fate of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in the near future, noting that the “controversial accreditor” has been locked in a dispute over the accreditation of City College of San Francisco. The piece notes that the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity is set to vote on a recommendation from ED officials that ACCJC “retain its authority over community colleges for another 18 months despite complaints that the agency failed to meet standards, treated CCSF unfairly and lacked transparency.”

Judge Clears Way For ED To Withdraw Recognition From ACICS.

Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) contributor David Halperin writes that a federal judge on Tuesday “denied a motion filed by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the U.S. Department of Education from proceeding with the de-recognition of the organization.” US Judge Reggie Walton said the accreditor “had not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case, particularly because then-Secretary of Education John King determined in December that ACICS was in substantial noncompliance with the rules governing accreditor performance.”

CCCSE Report Examines Financial Struggles Of Community College Students.

Diverse Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/20, Morris) examines a new report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement showing “a lack of resources as the primary reason” for why some community college students take longer than usual to complete their degrees. Furthermore, “the constraints of financial need limit not only students’ ability to complete a degree, but also their visions for the future,” the story says. Commenting in the story is CCCSE Executive Director Evelyn Waiwaiole, PhD, who says “We spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about how to help students succeed academically, but if we don’t also think about how to prevent this mindset of struggling financially, then we will continue to see students walk away from our institutions and not complete.”

Engineering Research Council Meeting
Register now for this event, where ASEE members delve into the federal research funding world, hearing directly from staff at NSF, NIH, DoD, and others. This short video explains why attendance is valuable.

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Researchers and innovators will want to be in this FREE, two-week course to improve STEM education in both formal and informal settings, at all levels. The course kicks off at the ASEE Annual Conference in June. Learn more and apply here.

NEW Report on Engineering Technology Education
The report, from the National Academy of Engineering, was written with the input of several ASEE members. It is available online for free.

Research and Development

University Of New Mexico Wins AFRL Contract To Develop Semiconductors.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) reports that the Air Force Research Laboratory has given the University of New Mexico School of Engineering a $7 million contract “to help develop alternative semiconductor materials for electronics that may perform better than today’s products in harsh conditions.” Engineers at the school will develop and build “next-generation materials and devices for electronics in space.” AFRL Program Manager Jesse Mee said the contract is “part of an AFRL project to build faster, and possibly more robust, electrical devices for satellites.”

UT Austin Researchers Develop Ultra-Thin Nanoelectronic Thread For Durable Neural Implants.

IEEE Spectrum Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/17, Johnson) reports about new developments in nanoelectronic thread, highlighting research out of the University of Texas at Austin that “developed neural probes” made of this NET that “are so thin and tiny that when they are implanted, they don’t trigger the human body to create scar tissue, which limits their recording efficacy” for single-unit recording.

Virginia Tech Project Brings Together Artists, Designers, Engineers To Make Better Robots.

The Augusta (VA) Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/20) reports on the ESCHER “humanoid robot created to respond to natural or man-made disasters,” developed at Virginia Tech’s Terrestrial Robotics Engineering & Controls Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The story focuses on the collaboration among “artists, designers, and engineers…to create better products,” in this case a humanoid robot that has “a contoured suit of 3-D printed body panels for ESCHER to promote familiarity and recognition of the robot as an emergency first responder, while also providing protection from impact, heat, and water damage.”

Professor Outlines Prospects For Construction On Mars.

On its website, CNN Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Springer) posts an interview with University of Southern California Professor of Engineering Behrokh Khoshnevis about the prospects for a colony on Mars and his research of technologies intended to facilitate construction on the planet. Last year, Khoshnevis won NASA’s In-Situ Materials Challenge for his 3D-printing method designed to produce construction materials using Mars’ surface powder. In the interview, Khoshnevis explained the requirements for transporting such a system to Mars and the infrastructure system needed before establishing human habitats. He said that bigger payloads and increasing commercial interest in space could make space construction common within 50 years.

Global Developments

German Court Bans Disclosure Of Emissions Scandal Documents In Audi Case.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) reports a German labor court Tuesday prohibited the public disclosure of documents pertaining to VW’s emissions scandal while conducting “a hearing for wrongful dismissal brought by a former employee at VW subsidiary Audi (NSUG.DE).” The hearing originally started in public, but Audi’s lawyers sought privacy “when the plaintiff’s lawyer mentioned an email exchange in 2012 between engineers about emissions of Audi cars in the United States.” The court approved Audi’s motion and observers were asked to leave the hearing. Hans-Georg Kauffeld, the lawyer for fired Audi engineer Ulrich Weiss, said, “I regret that the public was barred.”

Industry News

Boeing Planning Overhaul Of Satellite Building Process.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Pasztor, Subscription Publication) reports that Boeing is taking steps to streamline its process for building satellites, including plans to adopt simpler, modular designs that incorporate technologies like 3-D printing for faster assembly requiring fewer workers. Paul Rusnock, who leads Boeing’s satellite business, explained that the changes to the company’s highly-customized, by-hand assembly procedures are necessary to keep Boeing competitive in a business landscape increasingly occupied by small-satellite makers already using standardized processes that enable faster, cheaper production.

Boeing Awarded Contract For JCSAT-18/Kacifit-1 Satellite. Space News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Subscription Publication) reports that on Monday, Boeing announced that it has won the contract to produce a satellite that will be owned jointly by Sky Perfect JSAT Corporation and Kacific Broadband Satellites. The JCSAT-18/Kacific-1 spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch in 2019, “will provide mobile and broadband services in the Asia Pacific region.”

Uber Rolls Our Self-Driving Cars Available For Pickups In Arizona.

TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Dickey) reports Uber announced its fleet of self-driving Volvo XC90s is now available to passengers in Arizona. The vehicles will be available to users in Tempe, Arizona, and will feature two driver engineers to help each car operate or take over if necessary. Running into legal issues after not obtaining a California self-driving test permit, the company’s pilot self-driving program moved in December from San Francisco to Arizona, where Governor Doug Ducey has “been a proponent of the plan since the day these automated vehicles showed up,” telling the company it was welcome in the state “with open arms and wide open roads.” CNET News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) notes that because Arizona’s autonomous regulations are more relaxed, “there’s a good chance the XC90s will stick around for a while.”

The step is a positive one for Uber, but as The Verge Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Hawkins) reports, the company still faces hurdles after several bad press incidents. The company recently faced a #DeleteUber campaign and allegations of widespread sexism, so its unsure “the rollout of a new self-driving pilot will do much to repair the company’s reputation.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Automakers Urge Pruitt To Withdraw Obama-era Fuel-efficiency Rules.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Shepardson) reports the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers on Tuesday asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to withdraw an Obama administration decision to lock in vehicle emission rules through 2025. Mitch Bainwol, the group’s president, said in a letter to Pruitt the decision was “the product of egregious procedural and substantive defects” and is “riddled with indefensible assumptions, inadequate analysis and a failure to engage with contrary evidence.” Bainwol’s request follows a separate letter to President Donald Trump earlier this month from auto industry executive urging Trump to revisit the decision. Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/22, Beene) reports the group asked the EPA chief “to resume a review of the standards in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is developing vehicle fuel economy regulations for 2022-2025.”

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Spector, Subscription Publication) reports a week before President Trump came into office, the EPA announced it was keeping its fuel economy targets, even though the full review with NHTSA and other partners was not supposed to finish until 2018. The EPA’s decision on the matter cannot be revised lightly, however, as environmental groups would surely take any changes to the midterm review of the regulations to court.

Scholar Urges Replacement Of CAFE Standards. Ian Adams with the R Street Institute writes for The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) “Pundits Blog” that the fuel economy standards “force Americans to pay more for cars and light trucks while providing few ecological, economic or security benefits.” CAFE standards are regulated by the EPA and NHTSA, and Adams writes that when the EPA finalized stricter standards 14 months earlier than scheduled, NHTSA was pressed to conform to avoid divergent policies. Adams says the CAFE standards should be replaced with a “unified supply-side solution” offering tax incentives to companies whose fleets outperform emissions targets.

WTimes: Fuel Efficiency Raising Auto Fatalities. The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) editorializes that auto fatalities that wee falling for years but are rising again, are “likely the fault of government supervision gone awry.” The Times blames CAFE, standards imposed by the Obama administration which drive automakers to use more plastic and composites, and less steel “in pursuit of Mr. Obama’s radical environmental agenda of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Sources: Trump Set To Issue Orders On Emissions, Waterways Rules.

Drawing on reporting by the Washington Post, The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Henry) reports that according to unnamed sources, President Trump is poised to issue executive orders instructing the EPA to rewrite a 2015 rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. Another order would “instruct the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to redo another 2015 rule that gives the federal government more regulatory power over waterways,” and immediately lift a moratorium on federal land coal leasing. Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) reports that EPA employees were not given the details of the orders, according to two EPA sources.

Trump Administration Prepares “Review” Of Clean Power Plan.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Subscription Publication) reports that the EPA’s new administrator “is expected to begin unraveling landmark climate policies in the opening days of his job.” White House officials have already begun reviewing an executive order that would weaken the Clean Power Plan and cancel the Climate Action Plan, “the aspirational framework” aimed at reducing greenhouse gases nationwide.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Subscription Publication) reports that in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Pruitt openly questioned whether the EPA has the “tools” to restrict carbon dioxide emissions. His statements seemed to contrast his testimony at last month’s confirmation hearing, where he said, “I believe EPA has a very important role at regulating the emissions of CO2,” during one exchange with Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Republican Plan For Clean Air Act May Target Carbon.

E&E Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/17, Subscription Publication) reports House and Senate panels with jurisdiction over the Clean Air Act aim to adjust the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the law. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. John Shimkus predicted a “rifle shot” approach to reforming the Clean Air Act with Vice Chairman Rep. Joe Barton the point man on any effort targeting carbon dioxide, according to Shimkus. “My intent would be to clarify as originally written CO2 was not a criterion pollutant,” Barton told E&E News this week. “It does not mean that it’s not a greenhouse gas — it is — but it was not one of the regulated ones.” Barton and Shimkus both have disputed scientists’ consensus on the role of carbon dioxide in global warming.

Elementary/Secondary Education

High School Teacher Wins AIAA Foundation Educator Achievement Award.

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) reports that Lyons Township High School aviation and engineering teacher Dave Root was selected as one of five educators across the country to receive the AIAA Foundation Educator Achievement Award, which recognizes “outstanding achievement in aeronautics instruction through the use of integrative STEM learning activities.” An Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala will be held in May at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington DC to distribute the awards.

Kansas Women Engineers’ Group Seeks To Introduce Girls To Engineering Careers.

Next week, the Society of Women Engineers’ Kansas City Section is hosting its seventh annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, the Kansas City (MO) Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) reports. At least 270 female high school students are expected to attend, and more than 100 female mentors will assist students at the event. International Space Station associate program scientist Tara Ruttley is participating as the event’s keynote speaker. Society of Women Engineers president Adriana Aguilar commented, “While women represent a significant portion of the workforce, they are still grossly underrepresented in engineering.” The Star notes ED on Tuesday released data by Change the Education, a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) literacy advocacy group, that claimed Kansas and other states using the Next Generation Science Standards “are showing improvement in efforts to integrate engineering and technology into their science classrooms.”

Dyson Hosts Chicago-Area High School Students For National Engineering Week.

In an online video, the Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) highlighted the National Engineering Week event held at Dyson’s Chicago-based location. Area high school students collaborated with Dyson and showcased their prototype designs. Dyson graduate talent acquisition partner Kyle Polke commented, “Our main focus is to inspire the next generation of engineers.”

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan Discusses Violence, STEM Careers With Chicago Students.

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) reports former Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke with Chicago Vocational Career Academy students on Friday afternoon. During a round table discussion, the conversation “veered between violence and ideas for apps that might help.” Duncan expressed alarm at how many students knew people who had been shot and told them, “That’s not OK. It’s not fair that you guys are growing up like that, and that we as adults have let you guys down. And we’ve got to do a lot better.” He also reiterated the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math instruction as a means to introduce students to life beyond violence. “We have to give them a glimpse of what exists outside of their block or their neighborhood,” Duncan asserted, and added that instruction in coding, research, or even app design “has to start to become the norm.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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