Leading the News
Toyota Tests Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Semi Trucks At Port Of Long Beach.
In continuing coverage, Ars Technica (4/20) reports Toyota is testing hydrogen fuel-cell semi trucks at the Port of Long Beach. Takehito Yokoo, Toyota’s senior executive engineer for advanced fuel cell development, explained that the truck consists of “two Mirai power control units sit in front, with two fuel cell stacks side by side under the cabin.” Yokoo added, “Four hydrogen tanks are installed behind the cab where the truck’s sleeping berth would normally be located.” Craig Scott, Toyota’s director of the advanced technologies group, said, “Mating the two power systems together requires a lot of software development and ensuring communications between components in the right way.”
The San Jose (CA) Mercury News (4/20, Mazza) reports that the twin ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach are “the largest stationary source of pollution in the region.” The article adds that if Toyota’s pilot project goes well, “the model could replace fleets of high-polluting diesel trucks that line up at the gates every day to ferry cargo containers.”
Green Car Reports (4/20, Add) also reports on the story.
George Mason Students Design Prosthetic Arm For 10-Year-Old Violinist.
WUSA-TV Washington (4/20) reports that students in the engineering department at George Mason University have designed a prosthetic arm for a Fairfax County, Virginia 10-year-old girl. The piece notes that the girl “signed up to play violin in the strings program at Island Creek Elementary in Franconia last year, even though she knew it’d be a little difficult.” The prosthesis “was designed, 3D printed, and pieced together by five George Mason University bioengineering students, Yasser Alhindi, the lead, Abdul Gouda, Mona Elkholy, Ella Novoselsky and Racha Salha.”
Report: Maine For-Profit College Students Carry More Student Debt.
The AP (4/20, Villeneuve) reports according to a new report from the Center for Responsible Lending, “students at for-profit colleges in Maine carry much heavier debt loads than those at public and private nonprofit colleges in the state.” The report “says the debt burden falls on low-income, female and minority students who disproportionately enroll at Maine for-profit schools. About 75 percent of students at such institutions take on student loans, compared with 66 percent and 41 percent respectively at private and public institutions.” The article notes that ED said in January that “hundreds of programs at for-profit colleges are at risk of losing federal funding unless their graduates start earning better wages,” but says “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said she would take another look at the so-called ‘gainful employment’ federal rule.”
Michigan State To Fund College Prep Program Threatened By Loss Of Federal Grant.
The Detroit Free Press (4/20) reports Michigan State University is planning to fund its Upward Bound college prep program for students in Lansing, explaining that the school “learned in February it wouldn’t be receiving nearly $480,000 in federal funds to operate its Upward Bound program” because of an error on a grant application.
More States Cutting Funding To Higher Education Programs.
MarketWatch (4/20) reports that according to a new report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, a growing number of states reduced higher education funding in FY2016. The number of states reducing per-student spending rose to 17 from 10 the previous year. SHEEO President George Pernsteiner says several of these states “are heavily dependent on resources, like oil, coal and gas for revenue and as those markets have suffered so have their budgets, leaving less money for things like higher education.”
Research and Development
Notre Dame Professor Honored For Transitioning Data Software To Marketplace.
The South Bend (IN) Tribune (4/18) reports that Nitesh Chawla, the Frank M. Freimann professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Notre Dame, has been given the 2017 1st Source Bank Commercialization Award, “presented annually to faculty from the University of Notre Dame or Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend who successfully transition technology from the lab to the marketplace.” Chawla’s data science software, Aunsight, “allows scientists and business analysts to deliver on the business value proposition of big-data analytics.”
More University Of Tennessee Students Taking Part In Undergrad Research.
The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel (4/20) reports on a student competition this week at the University of Tennessee in which students demonstrated designs for Rube Goldberg machines, saying the event “comes in the midst of a trend toward growing participation in undergraduate research, according to the university.” The number of undergraduates conducting research at the school rose from 722 students in 2015 to 1,468 in 2016.
Cassini Probe Set To Enter Final Mission Stage This Weekend.
SPACE (4/20) features the new episode of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s “Crazy Engineering,” in which NASA scientists explain how the Cassini probe will execute its last orbits around Saturn to set the coarse to burn up in the planet’s atmosphere. Wired (4/20, Ellis) reports that the orbiter will enter its dive after passing the moon Titan for the last time on April 22. The agency plans for Cassini to continue collecting data during the descent until it hits the high heat and pressure of Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15. Reflecting on the mission, Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “We’ve learned about Saturn, its the rings, its magnetosphere, but the fundamental changes in our thinking came from the moons. … Titan and Enceladus were the stars of the show.”
Nanoparticle-Based Ink Opens Possibility For 3D Printed Glass.
Chemical & Engineering News (4/19, Bourzac) highlights a new silica-nanoparticle-based ink which allows for the possibility “to create intricate glass reaction vessels and optical components with a three-dimensional printer.” According to Bastian Rapp, a polymer chemist at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, though 3D printing has been gaining popularity, “the materials it’s been able to shape have been limited to polymers, ceramics, and metals.” The new method develops “elaborately structured objects that are difficult to form with a mold, and it enables mass customization.”
NASA Engineers Conduct First Flight Certification Tests On SLS Parts.
Alabama Live (4/20, Roop) reports that NASA hosted media at the Marshall Space Flight Center Wednesday to showcase some of the first structural tests conducted on Space Launch System (SLS) parts to qualify them for flight. Engineers tested adapters that connect the upper stage to the core stage and the Orion capsule. Mike Roberts, test group lead, said, “All of (the) forces acting on the rocket during flight we mimic in our tests,” applying pressure “40 percent above flight level.” To achieve that pressure and monitor performance, engineers utilize a system of 28 pistons to simulate forces, 1,900 sensors, and more than 100 miles of cable feeding data to the control room.
At F8 Conference, Facebook Stresses Commitment To AR Technology.
Tom’s Guide (4/20, Chang) reports Facebook, at its annual F8 developers conference, reiterated its plans for augmented reality, predicting that eventually smartglasses will replace smartphones. Oculus Research chief scientist Michael Abrash assured “that glasses will be smart enough to do everything that smartphones can do (and possibly more) in just five years.” Though some experts agree with this timeline, Evan Nisselson, a partner at investment firm LDV Capital predicts “it’s going to take closer to 10 years for consumers to widely accept glasses as a smartphone replacement.” According to Business Insider (4/19, Oreskovic), Abrash envisions “super glasses,” which would “look just like today’s regular glasses — lightweight and stylish — but with the power to enhance the wearer’s memory, provide instant translation of foreign languages and signs, mute distracting nearby conversations or sounds and even read a baby’s temperature with a glance.” He explains his timeline is optimistic as “major advances in materials science, optics and displays still need to be realized in order for these super glasses to be possible,” which could take 20 or more years. However, he sticks to his prediction that AR could have its “Macintosh moment,” within five years, essentially confirming Facebook’s “schedule for what many believe could be the next major computing platform shift.”
Facebook Developing Technology Allowing Users To Type Through Their Brains. MacWorld (4/20, Ribeiro) reports Facebook Wednesday announced its Building 8 research lab is developing “technology to let people type straight from their brains at 100 words per minute,” in what it calls “silent speech communications.” Facebook vice president of engineering and Building 8 Regina Dugan explained in a blog post that “Facebook’s approach will be focused on developing a non-invasive system that could one day become a speech prosthetic for people with communication disorders or a new means for input to augmented reality.” According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s goal through the technology “is to develop a system that will let people type straight from their brain about five times faster than they can type on their phone today, which will be eventually turned into wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale.”
Engineering and Public Policy
People Preparing For March For Science Events Across US.
In “Speaking of Science,” the Washington Post (4/20, Achenbach, Guarino, Kaplan) reports the organizers of the March for Science insist that the event is not “partisan,” but “political.” The article writes that “it may prove too delicate a distinction, though, when people show up in droves on Saturday with their signs and their passions.” The article mentions that President Trump has allowed Francis Collins to remain as the interim head of the National Institutes of Health.
In “Science Now,” the Los Angeles Times (4/20, Netburn) reports that more than 500 cities around the world, including Los Angeles, will host a March for Science event on Saturday. The article highlights the efforts of two people who helped organize the Los Angeles march. The Times also mentions that the Trump Administration has proposed “drastic cuts to the National Institutes of Health.”
National Grid Plans Long Island’s First Large-scale Energy Storage Battery.
Newsday (NY) (4/20) reports the “first large-scale energy-storage battery” on Long Island “would be placed on a parcel of land owned by National Grid in East Hampton that will also serve as the receiving station for the South Fork wind farm, a project designed to help meet rising power demand on the South Fork.” National Grid, “in papers filed this week with the state Public Service Commission…said it will lease out space for the big battery on a section of undeveloped land it already owns at 3 Cove Hollow Rd. in East Hampton.” The property is also the site of “four small peak-power generators owned by National Grid, and a LIPA substation.”
Westar Energy Shares Plunge After Kansas Regulators Block GPE Takeover.
Bloomberg News (4/19, Martin) reports that Westar Energy shares plunged to 7.7 percent on Thursday after the Kansas Corporation Commission rejected its proposed “$8.6 billion takeover by Great Pains Energy Inc.” In an interview, Glenrock Associates analyst Paul Patterson said, “The debt that Great Plains had to take on to buy Westar was just a bridge too far,” adding, “It’s a reminder that utility deals like this are by no means risk-free.” Westar Energy has said it is considering “next steps.”
“Graveyard” Of US Utility Mergers Attributed To State Desire To Preserve Local Authority. Bloomberg News (4/20, Cunningham, Chediak, Martin) reports on the two most recent multi-billion U.S. utility mergers blocked by state regulators, NextEra Energy Inc.’s $18 billion bid to buy Oncor and Great Plains Energy Inc.’s $8.6 billion plan to buy Westar Energy. Glenrock Associates analyst Paul Patterson attributes the “expanding ‘graveyard’ of failed utility mergers” to “a state-level desire to preserve local authority.”
Court Kills Oregon Wind-Energy Development.
The Washington Times (4/20, Richardson) reports the greater sage grouse “after years of creating headaches for the oil-and-gas industry” is “now standing in the way of renewable energy.” On Wednesday, the US District Court in Portland “killed a major wind-energy project slated for southeast Oregon over concerns about its impact on a local sage grouse population in a victory for environmental groups, which had fought the proposal for years.” The wind project “which would have spread up to 70 wind turbines and a transmission line across 10,500 acres in rural Harney County, was decried by environmentalists as an ‘industrial scale wind development’ that would have disrupted sage-grouse habitat.”
AWEA Report: Wind Industry Doing Well In Colorado.
The Denver Post (4/20) reports that a report by the American Wind Energy Association has found that the wind energy industry in Colorado “continued to fare well in 2016, ranking among the top 10 states for wind-power related jobs, and electricity generation and growth.” Colorado “held its No. 4 ranking for wind employment with more than 6,000 jobs, which were driven by manufacturing from the likes of Creative Foam, O’Neal Steel and Vestas, according to the report.” The report found “the wind industry added 15,000 jobs, growing the total number of wind jobs to 102,000.”
Three More Areas Off Eastern US Being Considered For Offshore Wind Energy Projects.
The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (4/20) reported “three additional areas in the Atlantic Ocean” are being considered “for offshore wind energy development — the Long Bay area of South Carolina and broad swaths stretching from Nantucket, Mass., to New York and from New Jersey to Virginia.” BOEM’s renewable energy program manager Jim Bennett said at an offshore wind conference, “We think that there’s much potential for additional areas in the Atlantic.”
Tennessee Robotics Teams Battle In Houston For Championship.
The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel (4/20) reports “high school robotics teams from Oak Ridge High School, Farragut High School, Hardin Valley Academy, L&N STEM Academy and South Doyle High School” are in Houston battling “this week for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics World Championship.” The teams previously had “competed with nine other local teams and 35 from the broader region at the 2017 FIRST Robotics Smoky Mountain Regional Competition at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.” David Nuttall, the Hardin Valley Academy team mentor and “a composites engineer at the ORNL Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, is one of about 15 scientists, researchers and engineers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory who mentor Knoxville-area robotics teams.” The News Sentinel adds “scientists, researchers and engineers at TVA and from Y-12’s contractor, Consolidated Nuclear Security, also mentor teams across the state.”
Mississippi Elementary Students To Compete In Robotics Competition In Kentucky.
The Hattiesburg (MS) HubCity Spokes (4/20) reports that members of the robotics team at Oak Grove Lower Elementary School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi are “traveling to Louisville, Ky., to compete in the VEX-IQ Robotics World Championship next week.” The article profiles students who hope to continue their studies of robotics as they advance in their education.
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Facebook Continues To Unveil Latest Projects At Second Day Of F8.
• Opinion: Proposed California Legislation To Refinance Student Loans Will Have Limited Effect.
• University Of Houston Students Conduct Weather Balloon Research In Alaska.
• Africa Expands Coal Power Capabilities Despite Environmental Concerns.
• Commentary: Tech Sector Needs To Focus More On Humanities.
• Christie Joins Booker In Urging Chao To View Aging New Jersey Transit Infrastructure.
• PTI Engineered Plastics Uses In-House “Technical Academy.”