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

Leading the News

Reports: FlexDex Tool Offers Innovation To Surgeries.

Medgadget Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Medgadget Editors) explains FlexDex, the new “minimally invasive surgical tool system that we’ve grown quite fond of” that is “very intuitive and ergonomic” and “is set to revolutionize minimally invasive surgery.” The device, used first during operations at the university of Michigan, could possibly “compete with expensive robotic surgical systems at a cost orders of magnitude lower.”

New Atlas Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Irving) reports FlexDex can “precisely mimic the motions of a surgeon’s wrist and translate it to a tiny flexible claw” without electronic or computerized parts and specializes in internal suturing. While the Da Vinci surgical robot brand offers “more versatile” and “finer” surgical control, the products are too expensive for smaller or more remote hospitals, making the $500 FlexDex a more practical option. The device is also “less traumatic and painful than being cut right open, and takes far less recovery time.” Comparable devices are currently being considered for patents by the FDA, while FlexDex Surgical has already begun shipping its technology across the US.

Higher Education

Nonprofit Sector Holds Many Opportunities For STEM Students.

On its website, Southern New Hampshire University Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23) reports on how STEM students can apply their talents to the nonprofit sector. Southern New Hampshire University Adjunct IT Professor Kimberly Lawrence, an information systems security assessor at SAIC, said that “educating students of the causes and the need will help develop the passion and direct their paths into the STEM-related disciplines.” Lawrence, a member of cybersecurity nonprofit association (ISC)2 and Internet safety group Safe and Secure Online, explained that STEM students can help organizations focused on everything from the environment to cancer research to cybersecurity.

Schneider: Congress Should Revisit Tax Breaks For Wealthy Colleges.

An op-ed in the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Schneider) by Mark Schneider, vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research, discusses the “inherent exclusivity” of expensive, top private universities that “leads them to fail at fostering the most critical dimension of the American dream: social mobility.” Schneider explores “whether the extent of the tax subsidies granted to the nation’s wealthiest universities is justified,” as “students from families in the top 1 percent of the income distribution are 77 times more likely to attend the most elite universities” than are students from families within the lowest 20 percent of the income distribution. Schneider suggests that it may be time for Congress to decide “these universities are indeed too rich for the public good and revisit the utility of their extensive tax breaks.”

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Research and Development

Office Of Naval Research Awards Robotics Researchers $16 Million.

The Military Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Snow) reports the Office of Naval Research awarded the creators of blooded robots and tortoise-inspired amphibious vehicles two Young Investigator Program awards, totaling $16 million in grant funding. Dr. Larry Schuette, ONR’s director of research, said the Office is “fortunate to have these top scientists working on behalf of the US Navy and Marine Corps.” Dr. Robert Shepard of Cornell University believes blood-like technology “could be beneficial for exoskeletons” on robots because they operate hydraulic systems that “require heavy hydraulic fluids, a fluid that could potentially mimic blood in animals.” Dr. Rebecca Kramer of Yale University researches bio-robotics evocative of sea turtles to help design “a biological unmanned untethered vehicle” that would “mimic natural systems” and “have the potential of operating in environments where traditional robots would not be able to function,” she said.

Cosmic Radiation Poses Threat To Technological Functions.

Business Insider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21, Dockrill) reports Vanderbilt University electrical engineer Bharat Bhuva spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science last Friday to explain how cosmic radiation will increasingly impact technology performance through single-event upsets as developments progress and transistors become smaller. Bhuva said manufacturers are growing more concerned as the situation grows more dire, as “the risk of an SEU occurring is greater than ever.”

Engadget Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/20) reports Vanderbilt researchers expose transistors to radiation to test functionality during SEUs, finding that as “the latest chips require less electrical charge to make a bit,” the chances of experiencing failures “have shot up.” Though transistors are less likely to be struck, “there are a lot more packed into the same space.” SEUs have been linked to incidents such as an election voting machine giving 4,096 votes to one candidate and causing the failure of a Qantas A330’s autopilot that injured 11 passengers. Bhuva said the problem is “serious and growing.”

Research Team Develops Method Of Using Ultraviolet Let To Convert Carbon Dioxide To Fuel.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23) reports a Duke University research team has “developed tiny nanoparticles that help convert carbon dioxide into methane using only ultraviolet light as an energy source.” They now hope that using the new catalyst they can “develop a version that would run on natural sunlight, a potential boon to alternative energy.” Additionally, the researchers say because “the rhodium nanoparticles made more efficient when illuminated by light,” their “selectivity” could also be expanded to other key chemical reactions.

SpaceX Dragon Completes ISS Delivery Following Delay.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23) reports that on Thursday, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship successfully completed its delivery to the ISS after a navigation problem delayed its scheduled docking on Wednesday. Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Klotz) reports that an ESA astronaut “used the station’s 58-foot…robot arm to pluck the gumdrop-shaped capsule from orbit.” The Dragon’s 5,500 pounds of cargo included food, supplies, and dozens of science experiments. Objectives of those experiments include understand lightning strikes, stem cell research, and testing the effects of microgravity on the “superbug” MRSA, which MedicineNet Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23) details. On its website, the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23) features a NASA video of the docking.

Foam Stops Bullets, Blocks Heat And Radiation.

Fox News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Barrie) spotlights DOE-backed research by a team led by North Carolina State University’s Afsaneh Rabiei to develop a heat resistant, bullet-stopping foam for protective applications. The foam can block x-ray radiation and armor-piercing bullets. The foam shielding “could provide a lightweight, strong alternative for the military” or use in the transportation and storage of hazardous materials.

Rowan University Researcher Develops Surgery Robot, Wins Grant.

SNJ Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/21) reports Dr. Mohammad Abedin-Nasab of Rowan University developed an orthopedic surgery robotic assistant, allowing patients to heal more quickly and with fewer complications. Abedin-Nasab received one of the University City Science Center’s three “Proven as Demonstrated,” or Q.E.D. Program, grants of $100,000, and is the first professor from Rowan University to receive the award. Robossis assists with pre-operative planning as well as surgeries to lower radiation exposure, lessen hospital stays, reduce infection risk, and minimize blood loss.

Industry News

Apple Expanding Its AI Engineering Operations Center In Seattle, Looking To Community For New Talent.

GeekWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23) reports Apple is planning to significantly expand its engineering operations in Seattle to further establish the “satellite office as a hub for developing future artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies.” It appears this expansion is couple with Apple’s partnership with the University of Washington’s AI and machine learning curriculum, which today announced a new $1 million endowed professorship in these fields. The recent surge of AI investment in Seattle is likely attributed to its “foundation in software engineering and cloud computing,” and Apple is looking directly to the source for talent to bring into its expanded operations as well as its recently-acquired Seattle startup Turi.

Northrop Grumman Believes Its “Cyber Resiliency” Will Improve Odds Of Winning USAF Contract.

The Great Falls (MT) Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Puckett) reports Carol Erikson, Northrop Grumman’s Vice President of Engineering for Space Systems, said in an interview recently that she believes its “cyber resiliency” will help it better compete against Boeing and Lockheed Martin for one of the US Air Force’s contracts to modernize and replace the ICBM missile system. The Tribune notes that “Erikson was in Great Falls on Thursday to discuss the work with local officials and promote Northrop Grumman’s capabilities.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Nationwide Floods Prompt Federal Reevaluation.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Griggs, Subscription Publication) reports floods around the country have caused Association of State Dam Safety Officials to reevaluate the number of dams in need of repair. The United States Army Corps of Engineers monitors more than 90,000 dams nationwide in accordance with United States Geological Survey guidelines. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimated in 2016 that repairs to dams would reach $60 billion with at least $20 billion set towards repairing “high potential for hazard” dams.

California Democrats Introduce Measures To Protect Obama-Era Environmental Policy.

According to Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Carroll), Democratic state senators in California introduced the “Preserve California” package of bills Thursday that would ensure future federal policies do not “encroach on our far-reaching progressive [environmental] policies,” said state Senate Leader Kevin de Leon in a press conference. The measures will make existing Obama-era federal regulations on clean air, water, and endangered species enforceable by state law and prevent the sale of federal lands to oil companies.

Environmental Groups: NY Should Promote Energy Efficiency To Offset Nuclear Plant Shutdown.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, McGeehan, Subscription Publication) reports a report Riverkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council issued Thursday concludes that in order to make up for the power lost by the Indian Point nuclear power plant’s 2021 closure, New York would have increase regulation to “more aggressively” pursue “efficient use of electricity.” Otherwise, supporters of the plant say, the state will have to rely on carbon-burning plants for cheap energy, or the report indicates “the wholesale cost” of the state’s electricity would increase by 0.2 to 2.1 percent.

PG&E Says It Violated Drug, Alcohol Testing Rules For Call Center Workers.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Avalos) reports PG&E confirmed Thursday it failed to adhere to alcohol and drug tests of its approximately 950 call center workers. PG&E became aware of the potential violations in April 2014 and reported them this month. California state Sen. Jerry Hill said it was “outrageous that PG&E didn’t report this for three years.” PG&E spokesman Gregory Snapper said the utility is “going through a detailed review of the facts and circumstances underlying the noncompliance to determine what caused the issues” and to make changes.

Tesla To Manufacture Solar Panel Products In Buffalo.

The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23) reported Tesla has “announced plans to begin manufacturing solar panel products at a taxpayer-supported factory in Buffalo.” On an earnings call company CFO Jason Wheeler indicated “that the remaining capital to start manufacturing of the solar roof product is a small piece of the company’s overall planned capital spending.” Wheeler stated, “We’ll be scaling that in the Buffalo Tesla solar factory. It’s helpful that the facility already exists … and frankly a lot of the equipment also exists and is already there.”

Polls, State Chamber Oppose Oklahoma Wind Tax Proposal.

NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23) reports American Wind Action commissioned polls showing that 3 in 4 Oklahoma voters oppose a tax on wind-generated electricity proposed by Gov. Mary Fallin and the state Chamber is also opposing the plan. “Among Republicans, 66 percent were opposed, while 75 percent of Democrats were opposed. Meanwhile, 82 percent of independents opposed a wind tax.”

Source: Terra Firma Set To Sell US Wind Energy Business.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Dummett, Subscription Publication) reports Terra Firma Capital Partners has launched a sale of its US wind energy business EverPower Wind Holdings, according to an unnamed source. EverPower operates seven wind farms with 752 megawatts of capacity concentrated in the US Northeast and West Coast power markets. A target price was not disclosed, but the Journal reported in 2015 a valuation of $1.5 billion.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Astronaut Speaks To Students For “Introduce A Girl To Engineering” Day.

The Baltimore Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/24) reports that on Thursday, aerospace company Rockwell Collins hosted NASA astronaut Mary Cleave and 15 middle school girls at its facilities to mark “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” day. Cleave recounted her time in space as part of the initiative to inspire more girls to enter Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Cleave explained that it’s important to get girls interested in STEM careers by middle school before social pressures threaten to dissuade them from entering technical fields.

High School Students Participate In Y-12 STEM Event.

The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23) reports nearly 200 high school students on Thursday participated in Y-12’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering event which featured 26 STEM-related booths. Kristin Waldschlager, CNS educational outreach coordinator, said, the event “gives an opportunity to girls to engage in conversations with engineers and see all the options for different career pathways they have.”

Two Ukiah, California Teams Win Underwater Robotics Competition.

The Ukiah (CA) Daily Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Brodsky) reports two of the three teams Ukiah High School sent to the California SeaPerch underwater robotics competition will advance to the national competition in May. The groups’ physics teacher Chatnaree Upton said the teams “scrambled” to prepare for the Navy competition with limited funding, and many worked right up until the competition began.

Oakview, Washington Elementary Gives Students An Early Start In Robotics.

According to the Centralia (WA) Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Tomtas), Oakview Elementary school’s early-morning robotics program introduced in November has more than 20 enthusiastic participants. Superintendent Mark Davalos says he is ensuring that Oakview receives the same resources as Washington Elementary for the program aimed at familiarizing pupils with STEM concepts, building workplace and teamwork skills, and giving students a sense of accomplishment.

Author: Trump Should Support Vocational Training To Expand Students’ Career Choices.

In a Washington (DC) Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Selingo) op-ed, There Is Life After College author Jeffrey Selingo writes that President Trump can better prepare students to join the workforce by developing “more pathways into jobs that encourage high school graduates to pursue additional education and vocational training,” instead of encouraging everyone to obtain a bachelor degree at a four-year university. Selingo provides on example: a program Frito-Lay has initiated with a community college near one plant in order to provide students with skills it knows workers will need, including for jobs created by automation. Taking adequate time for career exploration is also important, writes Selingo, because student often limit their options to their surroundings and cannot develop skills for positions they do not know about.

California Dream Act Application Numbers Drop.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/23, Resmovits) reports the California Department of Education believes applications for the California Dream Act have dropped due to “heightened enforcement of federal immigration laws combined with confusion and anti-immigrant rhetoric,” which may be causing illegal and undocumented students to refrain from applying for fear of “being identified as lacking legal status in the current climate.” The grants allow students up to $12,294 per year. While the Trump Administration did not end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, the Department of Homeland Security stated it will “empower immigration enforcement officers to target any of the 11 million people in the US illegally,” the Los Angeles Times said.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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