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

Leading the News

Missouri College Locked Down Over Engineering Student’s Assignment To Build Toy Gun.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) reports that an engineering student at Missouri’s Saint Louis University “did too well on a class assignment to build a toy gun, creating a model so realistic that it prompted a campus-wide lockdown and hunt for a possible shooting suspect.” The school “warned all students to shelter in place for hours Wednesday afternoon and evacuated a residence hall after reports of a man with a gun on campus and shots fired.” The piece explains that “students in the Aerospace and Mechanical ‘Engineering Manufacturing Procedures’ class had been assigned to build a toy rubber band gun.”

Fox News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) reports the university issued a statement saying the assignment will not be repeated, and “asking all of the students to bring the toy guns in closed containers to a university office Thursday, where they will be destroyed.”

Higher Education

NSF Gives Mary Washington Grant To Support STEM Majors.

The Fredericksburg (VA) Free Lance-Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) reports that the National Science Foundation has given Virginia’s University of Mary Washington a $996,216 grant “to recruit, financially support and train 20 academically talented and diverse, low-income students who major in the sciences.” The money “will fund a new Jepson Scholars Program that provides four-year scholarships to 10 students annually for two consecutive years. The selected students, who must major in biology, chemistry, physics, geology or environmental science, will receive financial aid averaging $7,500 annually.”

Furman University Turns On Solar Power Array.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) reports “the largest solar project on a university campus in South Carolina” has started “generating electricity.” Furman University “has turned on the $1.7 million solar farm located on a six-acre tract.” It is “expected to generate about 5 percent of the school’s energy needs.”

Purdue Faculty Want School To Back Out Of Kaplan Deal.

The Chronicle of Higher Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) reports the Purdue University Faculty Senate “voted overwhelmingly” to urge school administrators to revisit their plans to purchase Kaplan University, saying the deal violates “both common-sense educational practice and respect for the Purdue faculty.” The resolution calls on “the president and Board of Trustees ‘to rescind any decisions, to the degree possible, made without faculty input.’” The piece notes that a week ago, Purdue made the “surprise announcement of its deal to buy the 32,000-student university in an effort to jump-start its online profile.”

More Men Enrolling In College As More Jobs Require Degrees.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4, Yadoo) reports that enrollment of males in US colleges is rising as young men “discover a degree is what employers increasingly value.” Bloomberg notes that “men are starting to catch up after a long stretch of trailing female peers in educational attainment.” The piece relates new Department of Labor statistics showing that the number of men enrolling in college has risen over 6% since 2012. Federal data show this is the “the longest sustained period of gains” in male enrollment “since at least 1960.”

German Ambassador Touts Apprenticeship Programs.

Peter Wittig, Germany’s ambassador to the US, in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4, Subscription Publication), touts Germany’s form of apprenticeship programs, which German companies in the US often implement, and American companies are increasingly choosing to do. Wittig touts the programs as the cause of his country’s low f youth unemployment and a method to produce the skilled and motivated workers needed to protect existing manufacturing and create more jobs in the sector.

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Research and Development

Google Veterans Found Startup DeepMap To Develop Autonomous Vehicle Location Technologies.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4, Webb) reports DeepMap Inc., a Silicon Valley startup founded by former Alphabet employees, “is building systems enabling self-driving cars to steer through complex cityscapes,” with “plans to license its map-building software to automakers and technology companies looking to teach cars how to drive.” While some self-driving startups have been snapped up for large sums by the likes of GM, which acquired Cruise Automation, and Uber, which acquired Otto, “new entrants face sizable competition, whether in autonomous technology or mapping.” DeepMap’s financial backers, however, believe an independent startup can “focus on the software, which typically has higher profit margins,” as opposed to navigating through conflicting client interests and applications.

Venture Beat Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4, Sawers) reports Accel is leading the series A funding round with help from ground-level seed investors Andreessen Horowitz and GSR Ventures. DeepMap’s small team is composed of several “experienced and knowledgeable people” working to connect the so-called “eyes and the brain needed to make cars autonomous.” Venture Beat foresees “more partnerships…either through acquisitions, investments, or simply collaborations” in the future as the automotive and technological sides of autonomous vehicles converge.

Global Developments

Cambodia Holds Groundbreaking Ceremony For Its First Oil Refinery.

Fox News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) reports that Cambodia “held a groundbreaking ceremony for its first oil refinery, a $620 million project to reduce spending on imported fuel.” The plant being built by an engineering unit of China National Petroleum Co.

Industry News

Average Fuel Economy For Light Vehicles Edges Up.

Automotive News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4, Charniga) reports a study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute released on Thursday shows that “the average fuel economy of new light vehicles sold in the U.S. in April rose to 25.3 mpg, up 0.1 mpg from March’s level.” Automotive News also reports that “year-over-year U.S. light-vehicle sales slid 4.7 percent in April, with car deliveries dropping 11.4 percent and light-truck sales, including crossovers, down 0.1 percent, according to the Automotive News Data Center.”

Engineering and Public Policy

S&T Warns Congress About Security Threats To Phones.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4, Chalfant) reports the DHS’ S&T “sent Congress a study warning of security threats to mobile devices used by the federal government.” Acting S&T undersecretary Dr. Robert Griffin said the study “found that threats to the mobile device ecosystem are growing, but also that the security of mobile computing is improving.” Griffin added, “It outlines several important recommendations to strengthen security that will help the Federal government keep pace with current and emerging threats.” The report offered recommendations that include “adopting a mobile device security framework and starting an information-sharing program to address mobile malware and vulnerabilities,” and “recommended the establishment of a new research program to focusing on lapses in mobile network infrastructure security.”

Three GOP Senators Say Government Shouldn’t Enforce Net Neutrality.

Sens. Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, and Mike Lee, in an op-ed in the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) criticize an op-ed by former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and two senators defending net neutrality regulations. Cruz and his coauthors argue the term “net neutrality” is younger than the Internet and the regulations very recent, dismissing the other op-ed’s argument that regulations are needed to preserve the conditions that allowed websites such as YouTube to flourish by noting that the website was started a decade prior to the regulation’s creation. Invoking the possibility the government will seek to control the whole of the Internet, the authors argue that companies have not yet caused harm to net neutrality and promote their Restoring Internet Freedom Act, which would bar the FCC from ever enforcing net neutrality.

Idaho Power Aims To Close Of Nevada Coal Plant Sooner Than First Planned.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) reports plans have been announced by Idaho Power to close a coal plaint in Nevada “it co-owns with NV Energy 10 years sooner than planned, a move that would shutter both units at Nevada’s last utility-owned, coal-burning power plant by 2025.” In a filing with state regulators Idaho Power signaled “it will work with Nevada-based NV Energy to reach an agreement to stop burning coal at the North Valmy plant near Battle Mountain under the new timeline.”

Trump Draft Executive Order Seeks To Bolster Cyber Security For US Electric Grid.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4, Subscription Publication) reports on a new draft White House executive order aimed at concentrating “federal defenses on a classified list of infrastructure companies that are at greatest risk of a damaging attack.” In addition, the order calls for an investigation into the “potential fallout from a major cyber assult on the U.S. electric grid” and for more cybersecurity professionals to be trained and recruited into the federal government. The draft is currently being sent around to various energy-sector officials for feedback.

Great Plains Energy, Westar Energy Want Regulator To Reconsider Merger.

The Kansas City (MO) Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4, Vockrodt) reports that Great Plains Energy and Westar Energy have requested an additional month to develop a “revised merger agreement that regulators might find more palatable than the $12.2 billion” that Kansas regulators rejected on April 19. “We continue to firmly believe that combining Great Plains Energy and Westar creates significant value for customers, employees and communities in Kansas and Missouri” said Great Plains Energy CEO Terry Bassham, adding that the merger would “establish a leading Midwest energy company that creates benefits for all stakeholders that neither company could achieve on its own.” The Kansas Corporation Commission rejected the deal based on arguments that the “burdensome purchase price” would require Great Plains Energy to take on significant debt. Bassham said he believes there is room to work with Westar to “directly address these areas.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) and Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) also provide coverage.

Michigan Voters Reject Proposals For Wind Farms.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) reports “voters have rejected plans to expand the number of wind turbines in an eastern Michigan county along Lake Huron.” The proposals that were denied would have “added dozens of more wind turbines in Huron County, at the tip of the state’s Thumb region.” Huron County “is already home to most of the 28 utility-scale wind farms in operation or under development in Michigan, according to the state Public Service Commission.” The AP reports that one of the proposals that was rejected “would have allowed DTE Energy to implement 70 turbines in four townships.” The other “proposal sought approval for NextEra Energy Resources to implement 60 turbines.”

Maryland Governor Signs Environmental Laws.

In an article about several new environmental laws signed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) reports that after the bill signing ceremony “Hogan declined to taking a position on a decision the Maryland Public Service Commission is expected to make this month on two offshore wind proposals near Ocean City.” The commission “could enable Maryland to host the nation’s largest offshore windfarm.” Hogan stated, “The law was passed a while ago. … It’s finally come to fruition, but that’s a decision that the independent body — the PSC — has to make, and we’re following it very closely but don’t have any role in the process.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Nebraska Science Standards Emphasizes Links To State.

The Lincoln (NE) Journal Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4, Reist) reports on Nebraska’s draft science standards, which “focuses on inquiry and thinking skills as much as scientific concepts.” They also include “the ways scientific concepts relate to Nebraska, using topics such as the Ogallala Aquifer, tornadoes or Nebraska plants and agriculture to explain and explore ideas.”

All Girls Team Competes At Missouri FIRST Championship.

The St. Louis Review Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/4) reports on the FIRST Robotics Championship at America’s Center in Downtown St. Louis April 26-29, where Ursuline Academy’s robotics team was “the only all-girls team in Missouri to compete.” It is also in its first year of competition though the mentor has previous experience as does at least one member of the team.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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