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

Leading the News

US Court Of Appeals Strikes Down FAA’s Drone Registry Requirement.

On Friday, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit struck down FAA’s rule, finalized in 2015, requiring all UAS owners to register with the agency before operating their UAS in public airspace. Media coverage was heavy in print and online. Reporting highlighted the repercussions of the ruling, but only a few outlets note the ruling does not apply to commercial UAS operators – only recreational drone owners.

NBC Nightly News (5/19, story 10, 0:25, Holt) broadcast the appellate ruling means “if you have a drone, as of now, you don’t have to register it.” The broadcast added that “FAA put the rule in place in 2015 amid reports of close calls between drones and passenger planes.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19, Koenig, Hananel) reports “the ruling was a victory for hobbyists and a setback for the FAA, which cited safety concerns as it tried to tighten regulation of the fast-growing army of drone operators.” Since 2015, UAV sales have exploded and some “760,000 hobbyists have registered more than 1.6 million drones” with the Federal registry. FAA’s own estimates predict hobbyists will purchase an additional 2.3 million UAVs in 2017 and as many as 13 million by 2021. The AP adds that it was a “drone hobbyist,” one John Taylor of the Washington area, who brought forward the challenge to FAA’s registry rule.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19, Harris, Levin) reports “the ruling doesn’t apply to a growing number of commercial drone operators,” who are expected to buy 2.5 million UAVs for commercial purposes this year, according to FAA estimates. Bloomberg News reports the appellate ruling did leave standing FAA’s “guidance on where recreational drones may fly.” The Circuit Court based its ruling on the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which “expressly barred the FAA from issuing rules governing model aircraft use.” FAA says it is reviewing the ruling.

TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19) reports an FAA spokesperson told the outlet, “We are carefully reviewing the U.S. Court of Appeals decision,” adding that “FAA put registration and operational regulations in place to ensure that drones are operated in a way that is safe and does not pose security and privacy threats.”

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19, Gershman, Subscription Publication) reports the ruling is also a setback for those in favor of having tighter control over US airspace as the UAS industry expands. The idea was that UAS should be treated like manned aircraft, The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19, Zanona) says, which the Circuit Court rejected, calling the registry rule “quite extensive, as one would imagine for airplanes.”

Higher Education

Education Department To Contract With Single Company For Student Loan Servicing.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19, Lambert) reports the US Department of Education on Friday announced a change to student-loan servicing, in which a single servicer will be awarded a contract to handle all outstanding student loan debt. Under President Obama, student loan debt servicing was moved out of the banks to four major companies, with Navient being the largest of those.

The idea of using a single company to manage student loans, however, “also carries risk,” the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19, Cowley, Subscription Publication) says. Consumer advocates have raised concerns that to do so would make the Education Department “overly reliant on a single student loan company,” according to Rohit Chopra, senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America. Chopra additionally cautioned, “The changes may increase profits for the industry, but may do little to tame the high levels of default in the program.” Navient, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, and Nelnet and Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, who submitted a joint proposal, have all submitted bids for the contract.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in April “withdrew a series of policy memos issued by the Obama administration to strengthen consumer protections for student loan borrowers,” drawing “backlash from consumer groups and state attorneys general, who complained that DeVos was abdicating her duty to protect borrowers. At the time, DeVos said the bid process had been ‘subjected to a myriad of moving deadlines, changing requirements and a lack of consistent objectives.’” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19, Danilova), MarketWatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/21), and Diverse Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/21) also cover this story.

DeVos Touts Changes To Student Loan Servicing. Meanwhile, in a Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19, Subscription Publication) op-ed, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos argues the current system of loan servicing used by Federal Student Aid does not put students and parents first, with the process being complicated and confusing. She says this does a disservice to students and that the department’s plan is to implement a new system to enhance customer service while also protecting taxpayers. With this new system, paying back loans, she says, will become easier because the single servicer will be required to establish a standardized process for managing customer calls and providing timely responses to questions. It will also reduce duplicate notices that might be sent and will provide an online calculator and other tools too help students repay their loans.

Former Howard President: Changes Could Harm HBCU Students. Education Diverse Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/21) reports Dr. H. Patrick Swygert, a long-time higher education administrator and the former president of Howard University, speaking at a recent forum convened by Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, said that “colleges and universities with a high percentage of students who fund their educations with college loans may face tougher challenges in the years ahead based on proposed changes in the federal regulations that govern student loan servicing.” Swygert warned that “any wrong turn, albeit well intentioned, could further jeopardize the fragile state of HBCUs” because “85 to 90 percent of HBCU students graduate with loans.”

University Of Illinois Partnering With UAE To Award Engineering Degrees.

The Urbana/Champaign (IL) News-Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/16) reports the University of Illinois has entered into a partnership with the American University of Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates to “allow engineering students to get a bachelor’s degree from that school and a master’s from Illinois.” The agreement “will create a ‘three-plus-two’ cooperative program, in which students can spend three years at the UAE school and two at the UI, earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering in five years.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/20) runs similar coverage.

Oak Ridge Partnering On Data Science Doctoral Program.

The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19) reported Oak Ridge National Laboratory will partner with the University of Tennessee Knoxville on a new data science and engineering doctoral program. Shaun Gleason, director of the computational science and engineering division at ORNL and a developer of the new PhD program “said the new program will be unique in connecting data scientists to scientific domains outside of national security, an area that the lab has traditionally focused on when it comes to data.”

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Research and Development

“In-Depth Look” At Samsung Galaxy S8 Showcases Major “Breakthroughs In Engineering.”

BGR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/21, Smith) reports that Samsung offered an “in-depth look of what’s inside the Galaxy S8” – featuring “more details” about its internal components. Samsung explains, “[The] Galaxy S8 is a device that beautifully merges form and function,” and notes it is “the result of the latest breakthroughs in engineering.” Screen-wise, the company says the S8’s display “makes watching video content a truly cinematic event,” and regards the bottom-placed ear jack as “appropriately situated for the high-performance, AKG-tuned earphones that are included with the Galaxy S8.” Phone Arena Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19) also reports.

Army Seeking New Algorithm For Apache Radar.

C4ISR & Networks Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19) reported that the Army wants to develop a new algorithm for its Apache attack helicopters’ radar that will improve the aircraft’s ability to spot non-moving ground targets. C4ISR & Networks adds that, according to the Army research solicitation, the service is particularly interested in “a novel algorithm approach rather than data collection concepts to improve detection (such as Doppler beam sharpening or synthetic aperture radar) using current or similar algorithms.”

Samsung To Showcase World’s First ‘Stretchable’ Display At SID.

Yonhap (KOR) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/22) reports Samsung Display Co announced Monday it plans to “showcase the world’s first ‘stretchable’ panel” during the US Society for Information Display’s SID 2017 tech fair this week, a debut that “is expected to open a new era for the industry.” Samsung reportedly “said the stretchable OLED display is unique since it can bend in both directions,” compared with previous flexible panels that “could only bend in one direction.” According to Yonhap, industry observers “said the stretchable display calls for more complicated technology than any other displays in the market, and can be considered the ultimate product in flexible technology.”

According to the Korea Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/22, Shin), Samsung plans to show off its “9.1-inch stretchable organic light-emitting diode panel” at the SID display conference, which begins Tuesday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The display can reportedly “be stretched to be used for various high technologies, including wearable display, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and automobile display.” A Samsung Display spokesperson said, “While current flexible OLED is able to be transformed in only one side, this stretchable OLED can be transformed – whether curved, bended or rolled – in both sides, above and below.” However, the Herald reports the tech “is still in the early stage of research and development so the firm is not sure when it would be commercialized.” Samsung is also slated to debut an “ultra-high-definition liquid crystal display, which can be used for virtual reality, augmented reality and hologram.”

Researchers Seek To Improve Utility-Scale Battery Storage.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/21, Wells, Subscription Publication) reports that research and real-world applications are showing that utility-scale battery storage can be viable. The technology would address solar and wind power’s intermittence. Lithium-ion batteries are used in many current projects, but the cost has researchers seeking cheap alternatives. One promising technology is flow batteries, which offer easy scaling, few moving parts, and a long working life.


Wyoming Wind Project Targets Coal Workers As Trainees.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/21, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports prominent China-based wind-turbine manufacturer Goldwind Americas is looking to expand its policy of hiring local, American workers for permanent jobs on its wind farms “to an unlikely place: Wyoming” – which as the largest coal-producing state has imposed a tax on wind-energy generation. The company announced Thursday morning at an energy conference in the state that it plans to launch a free training program for wind farm technicians aimed at jobless coal miners and others. CEO David Halligan told the Times in a phone interview that it would be a “win-win situation” because unemployed coal workers could find work and Goldwind’s new workers would have relevant electrical and mechanical skills as well as experience working under difficult conditions. University of Wyoming Center for Energy Economics Public Policy Director Robert Godby said the announcement could engender a shift in thinking about the potential economic benefits of wind projects in the state.

Engineering and Public Policy

WPost: Zinke Should Be Cautious In Reforming Methane Rule.

In an editorial, the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19) discusses the Senate’s move to block the reversal of the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which regulates emissions from oil and gas drilling on federal land. The Post agrees with the senators’ request for modifying the regulation through administrative action, suggesting that avoiding the Congressional Review Act gives Interior Secretary Zinke “flexibility to adjust the rule modestly rather than aggressively.” The Post adds, “Modesty on Mr. Zinke’s part would be wise,” and suggests that he “should aim to write a rule that reflects both direct monetary concerns and society’s broader interest in preventing environmental degradation.”

American Bridges Show Improvement Despite Claims Of Infrastructure Decay.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/21, Harrison, Subscription Publication) reports that as a sign of reduced levels of decaying American infrastructure, the percentage of American bridges listed as “structurally deficient” under federal standards dropped from 15 percent in 2000 to 9.1 percent – or 56,000 – last year. Moreover, the share of bridges “functionally obsolete” at completion dropped from 15.5 percent to 13.8 percent in the same period. The Journal explains that these improvements come as a result of increased state and local oversight and funding boosts, while federal spending on bridges has stayed relatively flat at $6.8 billion annually since 2013. The Journal emphasizes that the improved status of troubled bridges and interstate highways would seem to contradict references by public officials that decaying infrastructure is a sign of America in decline.

Florida Hasn’t Moved To Deregulate Power Sector.

In a 5,000-plus word feature, the Pensacola (FL) News Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19, Baucum) explored why Gov. Rick Scott has not moved to deregulate Florida’s electric power sector to allow for greater competition, contrasting the state’s system of investor-owned utilities which enjoy monopoly power with the wider consumer choice available in Texas’ deregulated market. According to the article, utility officials, “as well as third-party experts, have asserted that deregulating a market could open a territory to consequences beyond healthy competition.” Gulf Power vice president of external affairs and corporate services Jim Fletcher said, “In Florida, our prices are low under our current structure that we have, and our reliability is excellent. … If you look at most of the states and compared deregulated versus regulated, their reliability is much less because of the lack of investment, because of the market structure. And their prices are a lot higher than what we experience.”

Smaller Companies Find It Harder To Tap Renewable Energy.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/21, Baskin, Subscription Publication) reports that smaller companies find it more difficult than larger ones to install solar and wind power systems. This is partly because large, long-term projects are able to get the cheapest renewable power. Also, dealing with power producers and regulations requires paying attorneys and experts. In an effort to address the issue the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance seeks to offer expertise on making such deals. Smaller businesses can also band together to combine their clout.

Nonbattery Energy Storage Gaining Traction.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/21, Sweet, Subscription Publication) reports that nonbattery efforts to store electrical energy are gaining traction. These include pumped hydropower, in which water is pushed uphill to later be used to drive generators; flywheels, some of which can hold energy for over four hours; and compressed air, which is used to drive a turbine.

Solar Farm Opens At Indiana’s Crane Naval Center.

Drawing on coverage from the Bloomington, Indiana Herald-Times, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19) reports “a 145-acre solar farm that will turn the sun’s rays into enough electricity” to “power several thousand homes has been dedicated at southern Indiana’s Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center.” Crane officials were joined by Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch “for Thursday’s dedication at the land-locked naval installation that’s one of the region’s biggest employers.” The solar farm will be roughly “30 miles southwest of Bloomington is a joint project between Duke Energy and the U.S. Department of the Navy.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Idaho Issues New School Science Standards.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/21, Kruesi) reports “new revisions” to the K-12 science standards in Idaho “downplay the negative impacts of human activity on climate change as part of the latest attempt to appease Idaho’s Republican-controlled Legislature.” Legislators earlier this year “approved updating the state’s outdated science standards after striking key references to human behavior and climate change.” But “that approval wasn’t permanent” and “lawmakers put a one-year expiration date on the standards and instructed the Department of Education to come back in 2018 with new versions of the removed language.” The AP adds that “according to the new sections provided by the Department of Education, the tweaks suggest that humans can mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as that humans can also be a benefit to the environment.”

New Hampshire School Fuses Career And Technical Education, Traditional Schooling.

In its cover “EqualEd” story, the Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/21) profiles the Manchester School of Technology High School, or MST-HS, in New Hampshire. MST-HS “is embedded within a career and technical education center that has long served juniors and seniors from other high schools who come to take work-related courses,” and its curriculum is centered on “a wide variety of career pathways” from nursing to policing. “While the focus on career development here is stronger than at most high schools,” the article says, “MST-HS is symbolic of efforts across the United States to make education more relevant and engage students with new approaches.” MST-HS also reflects how New Hampshire has evolved into a “competency-based” education movement leader, and if its “quiet education revolution” is successful, it “could inspire a dramatically different future for American schools.”

North Dakota Teacher Hosts Invertebrate Olympics.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/20) reported fourth-grade teacher Matt Guenther of North Dakota’s Grimsrud Elementary School recently staged an Olympics for invertebrates to encourage students to get involved in science, math, and engineering. Student teams researched “different countries and cultures, which they presented at the Opening Ceremonies,” and pitted their trained insects against each other in 400- and 200-millimeter races. Throughout the school year, the students developed insect prototypes to understand the trial-and-error process, and “also participated in philanthropic projects that included removing bushes to make room for a small habitat outside of the school.”

Georgia Team Wins Regional Underwater Robotics Competition.

The Newnan (GA) Times-Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/19, Leftwich) reported the Narwhals, a team of four students from Newnan, Georgia, recently won the Regional SeaPerch underwater robotics competition in Memphis. Under the SeaPerch program, which is supported by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, teachers and students are provided “with the resources they need to build a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) inside or out of a school setting” according to “a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme.” Participating teams compete in the more than 200 annual SeaPerch-sanctioned competitions nationwide.

Friday’s Lead Stories

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