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

Leading the News

Climate Scientists Concerned Over Proposal To Scrap NASA Earth Science Programs.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Fountain, Subscription Publication) reports President Trump’s budget blueprint proposed eliminating four of NASA’s climate science missions in a message that the Administration will seek the “long-sought goal of some conservatives” of a “clamp down” on NASA studying the Earth. Climate researchers previously “warned” of “less than adequate” climate monitoring capabilities that result in “data collection gaps and other uncertainties.” Scrapping the missions “would be a further blow” even as many current missions are in their twilight years. In particular, scientists are worried about gaps in the continuous data records “crucial” to improving climate models. Meanwhile, eliminating the earth science programs would save just “:$102 million out of a proposed agency budget of $19 billion.”

Concerns Raised About Political Leanings Of March For Science. The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Richardson) reports next week’s March for Science, in resolving the “brouhaha” over race, gender, and privilege that began when Bill Nye, the Science Guy was selected as honorary co-chairman, ceased “any pretense that the April 22 protest targeting the Trump administration is politically neutral.” Now, scientists are concerned the “clear tilt to the left…will drag legitimate scientific inquiry into the political mud.”

Higher Education

Clinton Foundation, Adapt Pharma To Give Colleges 40,000 Doses Of Naloxone To Reverse Opioid Overdoses.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Svrluga) reports, “The Clinton Foundation and Adapt Pharma are working together to give colleges 40,000 doses of NARCAN [naloxone HCl] nasal spray” to reverse suspected or known opioid overdoses. The effort, which was announced April 10 by Adapt Pharma president Mike Kelly and former US “president Bill Clinton, expands upon an earlier initiative that has given out more than 3,000 free doses of NARCAN Nasal Spray to high schools in 33 states.”

Virtual Conference – “The Culture of Teaching”
As part of the 2017 Interdivisional Town Hall Meeting, there will be a virtual conference on April 24 – 27 at this site. The conference will explore improving the culture of teaching through hands-on sessions designed to produce concrete solutions.  

Ideas Lab
A new ASEE report tries to break the code of successful interdisciplinary research.

Research and Development

University Researchers Use Spinach To Bioengineer Human Tissue.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10) reports Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Arkansas State, and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers removed plant cells from spinach leaves to bioengineer human tissues, particularly heart tissues. The researchers initially had trouble developing a vascular system capable of transporting blood to developing tissues, but turned to the spinach leaf stem because its structure is similar to the aorta. The researchers hope that their technique will one day be used to repair damaged human hearts.

Cornell Researchers Collaborate On Robot Surveillance Project.

The Cornell Chronicle (NY) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10) reports Cornell University computer science associate professor Kilian Weinberger, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Silvia Ferrari, and mechanical engineering professor Mark Campbell are collaborating to develop a system that enables robot teams to share and interpret surveillance images at the speed of light. The researchers said that their technology is also applicable for risky jobs like landmine disposals, nuclear meltdown cleanups, and natural disaster surveying. The Office of Naval Research is supporting the project, titled “Convolutional-Features Analysis and Control for Mobile Visual Scene Perception,” with a four-year, $1.7 million grant. The researchers’ core technology combines “deep learning,” which allows computers to interpret the captured images, and “Bayesian modeling,” which enables continuous updates of the robots’ models of the world.

Fitness Trackers May Get More Accurate Heart Rate Readings When Users Are At Rest, Research Suggests.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Rapaport) reports that research suggests fitness trackers “may get more accurate heart rate readings when users are at rest than during exercise.” The “results suggest that while the trackers may help monitor daily activity, it’s not clear the heart rate readouts would be accurate enough to help patients with certain health problems make medical decisions, the authors note.” The findings Share to FacebookShare to Twitter were published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Healy) reports the study authors concluded that “more research is needed before we can confidently conclude that the monitoring feature for heart rate is sufficient to help clinicians advise their patients about health issues and conduct clinical trails that requires a high level of accuracy and reliability.”

HealthDay Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Dotinga) reports that these “findings support those of a study released last month at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting,” which found that “depending on the type of activity, the wrist devices were up to 34 beats per minute off.”

US Air Force Contracts Company To Research UAV Noise Characteristics.

Military Embedded Systems Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Daigle) reports that as part of its effort to develop sound regulations for UAVs, the US Air Force Research Laboratory 711th Human Performance Wing/Airman Systems Directorate/Battlespace Acoustics Branch has reached a cooperative agreement with composite-systems company Owens Corning for the development of “best practices for measuring and labeling the sound produced” by small unmanned aerial vehicles. The results “will be used to develop a national standard.” The company will make measurements in its acoustic library, while the Air Force will provide open-air testing at the White Sands Missile Range site in New Mexico.


Some Tech Firms Pay H-1B Workers More Than Prevailing Wage.

The San Francisco Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Thadani) reports on an analysis it conducted that showed a number of Bay Area companies in the most recent fiscal year “offered to pay H-1B recipients amounts similar to – or, in some cases, significantly more than – the prevailing wage.” While noting that wages are “calculated by the Department of Labor based on conditions such as skill level and location,” the Chronicle, however, cites experts as saying that the characterization of H-1B visa holders as “underpaid foreign workers is dangerous for a program that Silicon Valley has come to rely on to staff many engineering positions – often at six-figure salaries.”

Global Developments

UK Advanced Propulsion Center Awards Millions For Electric Vehicle Batteries.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10) reports that Britain’s Advanced Propulsion Center (APC) awarded funding to the Williams Advanced Engineering to “further develop and make available battery systems.” While carmakers are “racing to build greener cars,” the UK “lacks sufficient manufacturing capacity.” The APC announced a separate project in which “BMW will partner with the University of Warwick and another firm to design, develop and produce power dense batteries in Britain,” Reuters adds. Williams said its project would begin next year.

Industry News

Aerojet Rocketdyne To Construct Rocket Production Facility In Alabama.

The Huntsville (AL) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Roop) reports Aerojet Rocketdyne announced on Monday that it is relocating its “defense-related program management, engineering and related support positions” from Sacramento to Huntsville, Alabama, by the end of next year. The company’s Defense headquarters and Rocket Show Defense Advanced Programs are already located in Huntsville. Aerojet will construct a state-of-the-art factory that will introduce 800 new jobs to Huntsville. It is on track deliver a new, certified liquid-fueled AR1 engine by mid-2019, the same year that Congress ordered rocket companies to halt the use of the Russian RD-180 engine. Earlier this year, Aerojet credited the relocation decision to “the top-tier talent at the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Propulsion Research Center, the exceptional level of rocket engine expertise at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and at our teammate, Dynetics, and in the local community.” The National Science Foundation ranked UAH’s Federally-financed aeronautical and astronautical engineering program sixth in the nation.

Blog: Apple Has Lacked Innovation Since CEO Tim Cook Took Over.

NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Sydell), in it’s “All Tech Considered” blog, writes that several former Apple employees, including Bob Burrough (a software engineer and a manager who worked on the team that helped create the iPhone) and Bryson Gardner (one of the team leaders for iPod and iPhone development for nearly a decade), believe the company’s culture shifted away from innovation after Steve Jobs died in 2011 and CEO Tim Cook took over. Burrough says, once “employees were getting the message to look down and do their jobs.” Similarly Gardner “says Jobs liked debate about how to make products better — and his style was to listen and then make a decision;” whereas Cook acts like a traditional CEO, “typically bringing together top managers and building consensus rather than letting them debate it out until he makes a decision.” Due to the lack of innovation, Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey believes “Apple risks going down the same path as Sony, which used to be seen as the high-end and most innovative tech company.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Winter: Energy Department’s Office Of Science Has Made Critical Contributions, Deserves Adequate Funding.

In an op-ed in The Hill, Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Winter) Dr. Jessica Winter, Professor of William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Ohio State University, writes that as a cancer survivor she is “uniquely aware that my survival has resulted from therapies discovered by government-supported research.” She cites a “wealth of dividends” generated by the Energy Department’s Office of Science, including “the development of lithium ion batteries for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles; advanced sensors that help law enforcement personnel detect trace quantities of nuclear, chemical and biological agents and explosives; and X-ray diagnostics of computer chips and other high-tech materials.” Winter praises her state’s senator, Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and his colleagues for voting last April to increase the Energy Department’s Office of Science fiscal year 2017 budget by eight percent, and urges them to “follow their earlier wise decision and provide the Office of Science the support they have said it deserves” against the threat of budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

Groups Urge Perry To Support DOE Energy Efficiency Programs.

The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10) reported “a broad coalition of 40 groups” sent a letter on Friday to Energy Secretary Rick Perry “to show continued support for energy efficiency programs at the agency.” The letter said, “The importance of DOE’s leadership in research, technical assistance, and market integration efforts that have driven gains in energy efficiency cannot be overstated.” Among the signatories were Ceres, Dow Chemical Co. and the National Association of State Energy Officials.

Politico Analysis: Despite Bipartisan Support For Infrastructure, Trump Plan Faces Perils.

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10, Gardner) writes that though President Trump “is counting on his $1 trillion infrastructure proposal to produce the kind of bipartisan legislative victory that has eluded him on health care and pretty much everything else,” he is “running into familiar roadblocks: suspicious Democrats, a divided GOP and questions about the math.” While Democrats back infrastructure spending, their “enthusiasm has waned sharply as the likely contours of Trump’s plan” – rooted in tax breaks, not new spending – “have become clearer.” Republicans are “still unsure of the details” and are concerned about the sources of funding. Politico also says the plan could suffer the fate of the “shovel ready” projects that President Obama sought in 2009, which can take a long time to realize. And “another potential obstacle to Trump’s infrastructure plan is his crackdown on illegal immigration,” since “some of the country’s greatest transportation needs” are in sanctuary sanctuaries that Trump has vowed to defund.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Georgia Teachers To Participate In Renewable Energy Summer Experience.

The Savannah (GA) Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10) reports 10 Georgia teachers, including Jenkins High School energy teacher Aaron Specht and STEM Academy Research teacher Holley Newkirk, will participate in a seven-week-long advance research experience at Georgia Southern University this summer. Georgia Southern faculty members Valentin Soloiu, Mosfegur Rahman, and Rami Haddad will work with the teachers in combining smart-home research and wind turbine technologies. The National Science Foundation awarded the faculty a three-year grant for the initiative, titled “Engaging Educators in Renewable Energy.” The grant is part of the NSF’s Research Experiences for Teachers Program, which seeks to establish long-term partnerships between STEM teachers, community college faculty members, and the NSF’s research community.

Report Examines States’ K-12 Computer Science Education Policies.

THE Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10) outlines the findings of a report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter that examined states’ K-12 computer science education policies. The report, titled “State of the States Landscape Report: State-Level Policies Supporting Equitable K–12 Computer Science Education,” was presented at a workshop co-organized by Google, the Education Development Center, and the Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network. The report warned that an inadequate number of Americans are trained “to fill the current need for information security analysts, hardware engineers, software developers, computer programmers, data scientists and other STEM professionals.” It urged states to “inspire and prepare a far greater number of students to pursue CS education and related careers.”

Minnesota’s Anonobots Team Places Second In FIRST Lego League Competition.

The Eden Prairie (MN) Sun-Current Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10) reports Bloomington-area elementary and middle school students on the “Anonobots” team received the second-place Champion’s Award at the Minnesota State FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League Competition. At the state competition, the Anonobots will compete against 61 other Minnesota teams selected from a total 633 statewide. The top two teams will advance to the 2017 World Competition.

Arizona Students To Compete In Statewide Coding Competition.

The Arizona Republic Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/10) reports Arizona high school and middle school students will compete this week in the fifth-annual SPARK Game Jam. The competition is sponsored by Google’s former self-driving project, Waymo, and is hosted by Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering and the SPARK App League. At the competition, to take place at ASU’s Polytechnic campus, students will use “Scratch,” MIT’s online game-creation system, to develop games. Teams will be judged on innovation, design, and coding implementation. Waymo will also introduce students to self-driving car technology.

Monday’s Lead Stories

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