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

Leading the News

Trump To Kick Off Infrastructure Week With Focus On ATC Privatization.

The White House said Saturday that President Trump will kick off “infrastructure week” on Monday with events focused on fulfilling his campaign promise related to aviation and transportation. Although the network newscasts were dominated by the latest developments from the terrorist attacks in London, the print dailies, wires, and online publications provided coverage. Reporting was mostly straightforward about the upcoming events, which analyses suggest could help the White House reclaim control of the media narrative after a week of negative articles.

For example, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/3, Thomas, Boak) reports Trump’s week of events will “highlight his effort to modernize American infrastructure – the highway, waterway, electrical and airway systems on which the nation operates.” National Economic Council Director Cohn said Friday, “It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are farmer in the Midwest, or a mother driving your kids to and from school, or a worker or a college kid flying back and forth to school, you’re affected by infrastructure.” Cohn added the US is “falling behind and the falling behind is affecting economic growth in the United States. The president wants to fix the problems and he doesn’t want to push these liabilities into the future.”

Trump plans to “put a spotlight on his vows to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system and spur $1 trillion in new investment in roads, waterways and other infrastructure,” the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/3, A1, Wagner) says in a front page article, as part of “a stepped-up effort…to show that the White House remains focused on its agenda, despite cascading headlines about his administration’s ties to Russia.” In addition, he will travel to the Ohio River to tout “the importance of waterways and to lay out his vision of infrastructure investments more broadly, aides say,” and will host “a bipartisan group of mayors and governors to Washington to discuss the topic and venture to the Transportation Department to talk about roads and railways.” The Cincinnati Enquirer Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/3, Shesgreen) reports the President will speak in the Cincinnati area on Wednesday, “according to a White House spokeswoman,” who called the week “a critical pillar of the president’s agenda to promote job creation and grow the U.S. economy.”

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/3, Davis, Kelly, Subscription Publication) says Trump will “lay out a vision this coming week for sharply curtailing the federal government’s funding of the nation’s infrastructure and calling upon states, cities and corporations to shoulder most of the cost of rebuilding roads, bridges, railways and waterways.” According to the Times, the President’s Monday speech on privatizing air traffic control is his “first concrete explanation of how he intends to fulfill a campaign promise to lead $1 trillion in United States infrastructure projects.” In an interview Friday, Cohn said, “We like the template of not using taxpayer dollars to give taxpayers wins,” adding, “We want to be in the partnership business. We want to be in the facilitation business, and we’re willing to provide capital wherever necessary to help certain infrastructure along.”

Bloomberg Politics Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/3, Niquette, Levin) says “Trump’s actions come after an initial outline of his infrastructure plan and his proposed budget sparked criticism from state and city leaders of both parties, who said they’d be left with too much of the financial burden.” Bloomberg reports the plan to privatize the US air traffic control system, which is currently run by the Federal Aviation Administration, “will be based largely on legislation introduced in 2016 by” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, “according to a White House official.” While Cohn “provid[ed] few specifics, [he] said Trump’s proposal would create a new user fee to replace current taxes on aviation fuel and airline tickets.” He also promised the plan will include “unspecified protections for rural airports; critics of the air-traffic plan have said it would jeopardize small airports by giving too much power to airlines and large hubs.”

Higher Education

For-Profit College Stocks Up Sharply Since Trump’s Election.

Despite “growing concern from education watchdogs,” for-profit college stocks rose “sharply since Donald Trump’s November election amid renewed investor optimism,” says the Omaha (NE) World-Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/4), which notes “DeVry’s stock price has risen 52 percent, while other for-profit colleges such as Strayer University and Grand Canyon University have gained 37 percent and 55 percent, respectively.” The World-Herald explains ED under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos withdrew “key federal student loan servicing reforms and signaled a less onerous regulatory environment for the essentially taxpayer-financed career education sector.” The World-Herald also says ED’s decision last month to delay the implementation of the gainful employment rules, which were finalized in 2014, also fueled for-profit institutions’ stock gains. According to figures ED released in January, for-profit institutions offered 98 percent of the 800 programs that failed gainful employment standards.

Indian Students Worry About Trump’s Proposed H1-B Visa Changes, Anti-Immigrant Sentiment.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/4) reports since President Trump took office, “Indian tech students in America – and Indians at home hoping to join them – are worrying new ‘America first’ immigration policies may affect their futures.” In April, Trump signed an executive order that called for switching the H-1B visa program “from a random lottery system to one that gives preference to those with the highest level of skills or the highest pay.” The Post-Dispatch outlines ways that the executive order may detriment students, colleges, and companies, and how other “policy changes and anti-immigrant sentiment threaten to change the equation.”

Poll: College Graduates Only Partially Informed On Repaying Student Loans.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/4, Singletary) reports that a news site called the Student Loan Report has “conducted an online poll of 400 student loan borrowers from this year’s graduating class.” The Post identifies “encouraging” aspects of the poll – nearly 80 percent of borrowers were familiar with the amount of bot their loan balance and their monthly loan payment. However, it also shows that “only a little more than half knew the grace period was six months after graduation,” that “more than a third of graduates do not know the name of the company servicing their federal student loan,” and that “forty-three percent didn’t know that their federal loans had a fixed interest rate.”

ASEE Statement on 2018 White House Budget Request
The ASEE Board of Directors encourages members of the 115th Congress to follow the praiseworthy precedent set with the FY 2017 Omnibus legislation and sustain adequate funding for our nation’s engineering and scientific research efforts. Read the full statement.ASEE Annual Conference Video Highlights
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Research and Development

NYTimes: NASA Probe Will Reveal Some Of The Sun’s Mysteries.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/3, Subscription Publication) says in an editorial that some of the mystery surrounding the sun should “change markedly” in the coming year when “NASA launches the first satellite aimed at our own star to reveal the secrets of the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.” The Parker Solar Probe, named for astrophysicist Eugene Parker who first theorized the existence of solar wind, will get as close as “3.9 million miles from the sun’s surface,” it will “move faster than anything mankind had ever made” as it loops between the Sun and Venus. The Times concludes that “as the probe takes on a grand cosmic question of how stars work, the only certainty is that the sun will prove to be anything but unremarkable.”

Toyota-Backed Startup Unveils Prototype Flying Car.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/4, Bomey) reports startup venture Cartivator Resource Management on Saturday “revealed a rudimentary prototype of a flying car, aiming to whisk a driver through the air to light the Olympic torch in Tokyo in summer 2020.” The piece notes that the venture is backed by Toyota, though the automaker is “not officially collaborating.” Toyota, nevertheless, “confirmed to USA TODAY that it is exploring ‘aerial solutions’ on its own in early-stage research. And some of its employees are aiding the start-up on a voluntary basis.” USA Today says Toyota’s involvement “reflects a serious step forward for flying cars amid a swirling debate over whether they’re realistic at all.”

Purdue Professors Share New Research On “Instantly Rechargeable” EV Batteries.

Breitbart Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/2, Church) reported John Cushman, a professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, and Mathematics at Purdue University, “presented new research at the International Society for Porous Media 9th International Conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands” that “outlines a new type of battery, and the method by which it could be recharged with unprecedented speed.” The report, which is titled “Redox reactions in immiscible-fluids in porous media – membraneless battery applications,” lays out the process by which the researchers would create the “instantly rechargeable” batteries “that could change the face of the electric automotive industry.”

Administration Touts US Clean Energy While Cutting Its Research Funding.

CNN Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/3, Marsh) reported that while Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt “described the United States as a leader in clean energy that would continue to lead by helping other countries reduce their own carbon emissions by exporting US technology,” the Administration has proposed “cutting the very federal programs that fund clean energy innovation research intended to combat climate change.” The Administration argues this isn’t contradictory, taking the position that private industry is responsible for innovating and spreading new technology. However, “environmental activists say research for things like renewable energy is very expensive on the front end and many private sector investors find the prospect too risky.”

Senior Research Scientist Yale Song Explains Yahoo eSports’ AI Use In Creating Highlight Reels.

NVIDIA’s The AI Podcast Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/31) provides a look at Yahoo’s use of artificial intelligence in the composition eSports highlight reels and discusses this AI application with Yale Song, a Senior Research Scientist for Yahoo. Song explains that the project stemmed from Yahoo eSports’ coverage of professional events for “about a dozen…game titles” and he says the visual effects such as a “burst of fire” or a phrase like “triple kill” – which game developers use to note significant occurrences during gameplay – provide an objective means of identifying significant moments for inclusion. Song also explains the video manipulation, annotation, and “objective” and “non-objective” steps of the process used to tweak the AI highlight selection behavior. In doing so, and in explaining that highlight selection is not strictly objective, he cites “some empirical evidence that [crowds] actually agree” with the AI’s decisions and resulting highlights. Song explains that this is measured using units of inter-radar agreement based on a scale of zero to one, with “one being perfect agreement.” According to Song, the project has achieved an agreement level of 0.9, which “is really high for this type of subjective test.”

Global Developments

Swiss Firm Opens First Commercial Carbon Recapture Facility.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/3, Pultarova) reports Swiss firm Climeworks, a spinoff of the Swiss science, technology, engineering and mathematics university ETH Zurich, has opened “the world’s first commercial facility that can extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and resell it.” The firm says this technology “could help cut 1 percent of global fossil fuel emissions by 2025.” Climeworks “built the plant at a site between a waste incineration plant and a large greenhouse. Agricultural firm Gebrüder Meier Primanatura, which runs the greenhouse, will use the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) to enhance the growth of lettuce, the company said. The waste incineration plant will provide the heat and renewable electricity needed to run the facility, the company added.”

Thales Plans Innovation Hub In Wales.

Wales (UK) Online Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Barry) reports that Thales is planning a “research and development focused hub,” to be built in Blaenau Gwent, Wales. The article mentions that Thales’ clients include “Williams Formula One team, Jaguar Land Rover and the MoD.”

Engineering and Public Policy

DeVos Praises Paris Accord Withdrawal, Mum On Climate Science.

Noting that she expressed similar sentiments on Thursday, the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/2, Brown) reports Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “praised President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate change accord” during a visit to Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, DC on Friday. However, DeVos “declined to comment Friday on the extent to which human activity has driven climate change over the last half-century.” The Post reports DeVos said Trump “had ‘made good on a promise to ensure that the American people are not subject to overreach’ and ‘fulfilled a commitment to keep America first and to focus on American jobs.’” The Post reports DeVos “said she didn’t have an answer to a question about what the United States should do to confront the challenges of climate change,” quoting her saying, “I’m here to talk about students and schools today, and I would hope that we could focus on the opportunity that these kids have in this unique environment and this unique school with amazing teachers and administrators.”

The Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/2, Miller) reports that while praising Trump’s move on the climate deal, DeVos “was noticeably tight-lipped regarding her own beliefs on climate change.” The Post notes that DeVos was at the school to observe a student science fair. This piece says she “struggled to answer questions about her personal views on one of the planet’s most pressing problems.” The article quotes her saying, “The president has made good on a promise to ensure that the American people are not subject to overreach … and fulfilled a commitment to keep America first and focus on American jobs.” TIME Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/2, Trautwein) reports similarly, as does The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/2, Hensch).

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/2) reports that during her visit, DeVos “petted a lizard, read a Dr. Seuss book and took questions from reporters for about five minutes,” noting that she has “barely made herself available to mainstream news reporters and declined an opportunity to speak this week at the D.C. conference of the national Education Writers Association.”

Broadview Wind Now Delivering Renewable Power To California.

North American Windpower Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/2, Lillian) reported Pattern Energy Group’s 324-megawatt Broadview Wind power facility and the associated 345 kV Western Interconnect transmission line is now providing renewable power. The power produced by the facility is delivered to Southern California Edison, which has two 20-year power purchase agreements for 100 percent of the facility’s output.

The Windpower Engineering & Development Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/2, Froese) quotes Pattern Energy President and CEO Mike Garland as saying, “This innovative facility is generating inexpensive renewable energy in eastern New Mexico and delivering clean power into California – helping that state transition to a carbon-free, low-cost, renewable grid.”

Greentech Lead Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/2) provides additional coverage.

New York Governor Announces $1.5 Billion For Renewable Energy Projects.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/2) reports New York is going forward with “a major clean energy job initiative in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from an international pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo “announced $1.5 billion for renewable energy projects such as wind, solar arrays, hydro and fuel cell to advance a state goal of achieving 50 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030.” According to Cuomo, “the investment will produce 40,000 clean energy jobs by 2020.”

Ann Arbor Urges Community To Adopt More Solar Energy.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/3) reports Ann Arbor, Michigan “is encouraging residents to go solar to help meet the city’s community-wide goals of significantly reducing carbon emissions.” Last month, a new policy was “unanimously adopted” by the City Council “requiring all renovations of city facilities that are included in the city’s Capital Improvements Plan to comply with current Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design criteria for existing buildings and to incorporate solar power and other renewable energy sources to the greatest extent possible.” Earlier this year, “the city partnered with nonprofit Clean Energy Coalition in Ann Arbor for the launch of a solar group-purchase program, A2 Solar Club, to encourage more residents to go solar.”

New York City Called To Disseminate Building Energy Efficiency Scores.

In an op-ed in the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/5, Spiegel-Feld, Subscription Publication), Danielle Spiegel-Feld, the executive director of the Guarini Center on Environmental, Energy and Land Use Law at New York University Law School, calls for the New York City Council to pass a bill currently being consider that would require buildings to publish energy efficiency ratings, which are already being collected, “more effectively.” Drawing upon Europe’s experience, Spiegel-Feld calls for the city to “translate the current numerical scores into a more intuitive letter grading system and require that the grades be included in real estate advertisements” and posted in the buildings.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Report Suggests Vermont’s “Major Investment” In CTE Paying Off.

After the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act was reauthorized in 2006, career and technical education “has been quietly growing in importance in Vermont,” Valley News (VT) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/4) says, and adds that signs indicate “the state’s investment in career and technical education is working.” A 2015 report found that over the previous decade, CTE program enrollment in the state remained constant despite a 13 percent decline in total student enrollment, and 96 percent of CTE “program concentrators were enrolled in post-secondary education, employed, or in the military,” slightly better than for recent high school graduates. In January, state Deputy Education Secretary Bill Talbott and state Director of Career and Technical Education Jay Ramsey presented a report that found the state paid $13.3 million in fiscal year 2017 for costs related to CTE programs. Also that month, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott “issued a budget address that identified career and technical education programs as a priority for increased funding.”

Most Idaho Adults Are “Climate Skeptics,” But One Teacher Is Challenging Students.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/3, Kaplan) reported on how the term “climate change” evokes “deep skepticism in northern Idaho.” The Post profiled an Idaho teacher, Jamie Esler, who has been teaching science in Idaho for nearly a decade, received the state’s Teacher of the Year award in 2014, and has helped establish his school’s Outdoor Studies Program. The Post added that Esler has managed “to nurture a growing cadre of budding environmentalists by eschewing politics and focusing on tangible changes in the natural landscape, changes that affect the crystalline water, the ancient trees, the once-abundant snow.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

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