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

Leading the News

Amazon Expanding Boston Operations, To Eventually Employ 3,000 In Massachusetts.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) reports that Amazon announced on Monday that it will be adding 900 new jobs next spring. The jobs will be located in a 150,000 square foot space in Fort Point Chanel and located near GE’s soon-to-be new world headquarters. The announcement said Amazon “plans to hire people to work on its Alexa voice-activated technology, logistics and other business lines.” Amazon currently has existing spaces in “Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood and in Cambridge’s Kendall Square neighborhood.”

The Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Logan) says the other two facilities currently employee 1,000 people. The article says that in the five years that Amazon has opened an office in the Boston area, it is “becoming something of an East Coast hub for Amazon. Hundreds of its engineers in Kendall Square work on voice-operated systems for the Alexa and Audible units, as well as on cloud computing for the company’s Web services.” The article also reports that with a “young, tech-savvy workforce” in the area, Amazon is recruiting in Boston for “jobs elsewhere in the sprawling company, said Mike Touloumtzis, who leads the Cambridge office.” Currently, the Cambridge office is over 170,000 square feet, and according to Toulomtzis, there are about 340 jobs available at the location.

Higher Education

Syracuse University Wins $4M NSF Grant To Recruit STEM Students.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) reports that “Syracuse University is getting $4 million in federal money to help recruit minority students interested in science and math.” The article adds that “Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced the National Science Foundation funding on Monday,” and writes that it “will be used to attract and retain students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math – subject areas commonly known as STEM.”

Google Paying University Researchers For Papers As Part Of Public Policy Influence Campaign.

In a front page article, the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, A1, Mullins, Nicas, Subscription Publication) reports that a Journal investigation has found that over the past decade Google has financed hundreds of research papers designed to help protect its market dominance from regulatory challenges, with payments for each project ranging from $5,000 to $400,000. The Journal found that Google often promotes the research papers to federal officials, sometimes even paying travel expenses for researchers to meet with Administration officials and congressional staff. According to data compiled by the Campaign for Accountability, Google has funded 100 public policy academic papers since 2009, and another 100 or more papers were written by researchers financed by think tanks or university research centers in turn funded by Google and other technology companies.

STEM Degrees Earned By Women, Minorities Increase.

The Omaha (NE) World-Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, Ruggles) reports that “efforts to increase the numbers of women and minority students in science and technology appear to be having some effect, national statistics indicate.” The World-Herald adds that “the numbers of blacks, Hispanics and women earning degrees in science, technology, engineering and math rose considerably between 2008-09 and 2014-15, the most recent year for which data are available.” However, the article states, “there were still more than double the degrees awarded to men than women in STEM, and there were well over twice as many STEM degrees earned by whites as were conferred on blacks, Hispanics and American Indians as a whole.”

Growing Number Of Colleges Transforming Libraries To Accommodate Digital Material.

The Southgate (MI) News Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11) profiles Oakland University’s Kresge Library, one of many “university libraries are changing how they serve their students, faculty and staff” to accommodate the advancing digital age. A library room once used to catalog books is now “in the process of being transformed into a new maker-space, complete with 3D printers.” Over the last few years, the library has also added more than 100 “computers, new printing stations, collaborative and high tech workspaces on multiple floors and a new data management librarian.” It is also looking to replace its Voyager catalog system, which was designed to catalog printed materials, with one that can handle both print and digital material. Meanwhile, Rice University took advantage of increasingly popular open source data and research sources. In 2012, it “began offering free, digital, peer-reviewed textbooks through a nonprofit publisher known as OpenStax College, according to Inside Higher Ed.”

ASEE Annual Conference Video Highlights
Good Day Columbus broadcast LIVE from our exhibit hall. (Click the picture to play the video)

Interview with NSF Director France Córdova.

The Conference “Living Wall.”

Members on the next big thing in engineering education.

VIDEO – 2017 Global Colloquium in the Azores
This event, September 16-18 (in conjunction with the SEFI Annual Conference), links engineering educators across international borders and brings together lecturers, researchers, and corporate colleagues for an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and perspectives.

Research and Development

USC Looking To Expand Research Footprint.

The San Diego Union-Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/8, Fikes) reports that the University of Southern California, “long known for its prowess in business education and athletics…is tackling some very public issues, including medical care, homelessness, the economy and the status of veterans.” To this end, the school “has hired top academic scientists, especially in the biomedical field, and is building to accommodate their research goals.” The article describes the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, scheduled to open in San Diego in the fall, which will house the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. The new center will be headed by Carl Kesselman, who “helped create grid computing, which links computers together in networks that collaborate in problem-solving.” The piece says Kesselman wants to help life scientists organized massive amounts of data “so it can be properly interpreted.”

University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign Launching Cancer Research Center.

The Urbana/Champaign (IL) News-Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11) reports on the launch of the Cancer Center at Illinois, a new effort that unites “more than 90 faculty members, plus graduate and postdoctoral researchers, from across” the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. UI Bioengineering Professor Rohit Bhargava, who will be the center’s founding director, said it “will formalize and build on the cancer research activities already underway across campus.”

Researchers Develop New Technology For Making Animated 3D Table-Top Objects From Structured Light.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11) reports researchers from Southern Methodist University in Dallas have developed a new technology for “making animated 3D table-top object by structuring light.” Project lead and chemist Alexander Lippert said, “The new technology uses photoswitch molecules to bring to life 3-D light structures that are viewable from 360 degrees…Our idea was to use chemistry and special photoswitch molecules to make a 3-D display that delivers a 360-degree view It’s not a hologram, it’s really three-dimensionally structured light.” Nanowerk states that the “economical method for shaping light into an infinite number of volumetric objects would be useful in a variety of fields, from biomedical imaging, education and engineering, to TV, movies, video games and more.”

Retired Professor Contributes $1 Million To New Orange Coast College Planetarium.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, Money) reports retired Orange Coast College professor Mary McChesney contributed $1 million to help fund a $20 million on-campus planetarium. McChesney’s contribution “will be used to fund a Foucault pendulum – a device used to demonstrate Earth’s rotation,” which school officials said will be the only one of its kind in Orange County. In a statement, McChesney said the new planetarium “will be a center of scientific studies for college students as well as the surrounding community.”

Microsoft Launches Initiative To Bring Broadband Internet Access To Rural Americans.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11) reports Microsoft unveiled a new initiative on Tuesday aimed at expanding broadband services to about 20 million rural Americans across 12 states “by turning to a wireless technology that uses the buffer zones separating individual television channels in the airwaves.” Microsoft is urging the Federal Communications Commission for regulatory cooperation and appealing to the public sector for broader support. Cable and phone companies have in the past rejected such an effort as cost-prohibitive, and the initiative “still faces several challenges, including the costs of setting up antennas and service base stations, as well as the devices individual homes will need.”

DARPA Distributes $65 Million For Brain Implant Development Initiative.

Newsweek Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, Gaffey) reports the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, announced Monday that it is increasing its investment and pursuit of high-functioning implants that “can be developed to link human brains with computers, people who have gone blind or deaf could possibly receive sensory information that would restore some, if not all, of their lost capabilities.” DARPA said it distributed $65 million “to five research organizations and one company working to build brain implants that could revolutionize treatment of people who have lost one or more of their senses.”

Tech Companies Developing Devices To Capture, Analyze, Sterilize Mosquitoes.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, Steenhuysen) reports technology companies are partnering with public health officials in a number of states to test tools aimed at targeting disease-carrying mosquitoes such as Aedes aegypti, which transmits Zika. Microsoft is developing a “smart trap to isolate and capture” the mosquito for researchers to study, and Alphabet’s life sciences company Verily “is speeding the process for creating sterile male mosquitoes to mate with females in the wild, offering a form of birth control for the species.” Alphabet’s life sciences division Verily is also “speeding the process for creating sterile male mosquitoes to mate with females in the wild, offering a form of birth control for the species.” University of California, Riverside associate professor of entomology Anandasankar Ray explained the private sector’s “approach to a biological challenge is to engineer a solution.”

Industry News

Tesla To Add 100 Service Centers, 1,000 Technicians Ahead Of Model 3 Debut.

AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, Durbin) reports Tesla “is adding 350 vans to its mobile service fleet, mostly in the U.S.,” and hiring over 1,000 technicians “to meet expected demand for its new Model 3 sedan,” which goes on sale this month “and is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of new customers to the brand.” A senior executive told Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(7/11, Vartabedian) that Tesla also “would be able to triple its global service capacity by increasing efficiency, adding to mobile service, and adding 100 service centers to its current total of more than 150.”

BI Analysis: “Mania” Around Tesla Has Reached “Comical Level.” Business Insider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, DeBord) argues that while the volatility around Tesla’s stock has returned, “the enthusiasm for Tesla’s wildly overstated disruptive potential hasn’t faded at all.” BI contends the “mania” surrounding Tesla is now at a “comical level,” as illustrated by former Apple analyst Gene Munster, “now an early-stage venture capitalist but is still analyzing companies as he did at Piper Jaffray.” BI lauds Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas for “offering a corrective to Munster’s comical boosterism” in a research note on Tuesday.

Engineering and Public Policy

Media Analysis: Cost Of Hawaii’s Rail Option Examined.

University of Hawaii-Manoa civil engineering professor Panos Prevedouros and retired Honolulu businessman and antirail activist Cliff Slater write in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, Prevedouros and Slater) that the cost to build Hawaii’s rail line is “exorbitant” compared to construction that took place on the H-3 freeway, which included boring “two miles of tunnels through solid rock of the Koolau mountains and erecting 160-foot columns for the windward viaduct.” More specifically, they say the cost to taxpayers will be 34 times greater for rail construction than building the H-3. The freeway, they argue, “connects to existing networks to provide door-to-door transportation options,” which rail will not offer. They maintain that the economy will be “dead” without roads but that it would be better off without rail.

CPA and President of Cycle on Hawaii Natalie Iwasa writes in Honolulu Civil Beat (HI) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, Iwasa) that in order for Hawaii to receive any federal money to help pay for rail costs, the estimates of which have been going up, “the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (and the city prior to HART) is required to demonstrate certain ‘technical and financial capacity and capabilities.’” This includes having employees work directly with the Federal Transit Authority and “add up to a significant portion of the $1.55 billion federal grant when extended out for the duration of the project.” Iwasa argues that “the biggest cost, however, may be not considering alternatives that may result in the best option.”

Coal Industry Attempts To Diminish Health Impact Of Mountaintop Removal, Researchers Say.

The Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11) reports a National Academy of Sciences panel that convened Tuesday discussed new research suggesting coalfield residents who live near mountaintop removal operations are at a higher risk of cancer, birth defects, and premature death. Researcher Michael Hendryx told the panel enough research indicates the practice should be stopped, while Abee Boyles, a health scientist with the National Toxicology Program, told the academy panel that the NTP’s review of material on the subject found that published studies saying the practice creates no adverse health effects “had energy sector funding.” Boyle said, “There is something going on here with funding because we see differences. … There was definitely a difference by funding source.”

Researchers Develop New Method For Controlled Spalling Layer Transfer Technique.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11) reports a research team from IBM has “successfully applied their new ‘controlled spalling’ layer transfer technique to gallium nitride (GaN) crystals, a prevalent semiconductor material, and created a pathway for producing many layers from a single substrate.” As reported in the Journal of Applied Physics, “controlled spalling can be used to produce thin layers from thick GaN crystals without causing crystalline damage,” and this technique “also makes it possible to measure basic physical properties of the material system, like strain-induced optical effects and fracture toughness, which are otherwise difficult to measure.” Stephen W. Bedell, research staff member at IBM Research and one of the paper’s authors explained, “Controlled spalling has already been used to create extremely lightweight, high-efficiency GaAs-based solar cells for aerospace applications and flexible state-of-the-art circuits.”

Ohio EPA Asks State Attorney General To Pursue Rover Pipeline Penalties.

Natural Gas Intelligence Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, Shelor, Subscription Publication) reports the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency asked Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine on Friday “to pursue civil penalties for alleged environmental violations that may have occurred during construction of Energy Transfer Partners LP’s (ETP) Rover Pipeline.” The move comes after the company “allegedly refused to recognize Ohio EPA’s enforcement authority when it cited the 3.25 Bcf/d, 710-mile Rover project for numerous environmental violations earlier this year.” Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee told NGI “that ETP/Rover was maintaining its position that Ohio EPA does not have enforcement authority.” Lee said, “At the direction of Ohio EPA and FERC, Rover has taken some steps to better prepare for future inadvertent returns but has refused to formally agree to implement most of the requirements contained in the proposed orders.”

The Ashland (OH) Times-Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, Hoover) reports the state EPA “accuses Rover of numerous environmental violations, including spills of bentonite clay slurry. The company uses the slurry when it drills a path for the pipeline beneath highways, rivers and other obstacles.”

Ribbon Cutting Held For Naval Construction Battalion Center Solar Project.

The Biloxi (MS) Sun Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11) reports Mississippi Power and the Navy held a ribbon cutting Tuesday for a 3.29 MW solar project at the “Seabee” Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport. The facility “is Mississippi Power’s first solar project in its 92-year history,” according to the article, and “to have it in the company’s hometown of Gulfport and on the Seabee base makes it special, said Anthony Wilson, CEO of Mississippi Power.” He stated, “It is a historic day for us.” Mississippi Power renewable project manager Tony Smith explained that Mississippi Power will purchase the output of the project, but the utility “makes no capital investment.” Smith also noted that the array is not directly connected to the base, but “said a connection could be made if the need arose due to a national security emergency or a hurricane or other natural disaster.”

Also in the News

Microsoft Looks To Expand Broadband Access To Two Million Rural Americans By 2022.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/11, Shaban, Fung) reports Microsoft announced yesterday that it plans to bring broadband Internet to two million rural Americans by 2022 through a now-unused TV spectrum. The Rural Airband Initiative will begin in 12 states, where Microsoft will invest in broadband connectivity alongside local telecom services, according to President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith. The company has opted for the unused TV spectrum over fiber-optic cables or fixed wireless technology because it is much cheaper. Some are skeptical, including National Association of Broadcasters Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton, who said that Microsoft’s “white-space idea has been around for over a decade and has proven to be a [complete] abject failure.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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