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

Leading the News

Draft Report: Renewable Energy Doesn’t Put Grid At Risk.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Dlouhy) reports “wind and solar power don’t pose a significant threat to the reliability of the U.S. power grid,” staff members at the Energy Department “said in a draft report, contradicting statements by their leader Rick Perry.” According to a draft obtained by Bloomberg News, “The power system is more reliable today due to better planning, market discipline, and better operating rules and standards.” The findings of the report, which are still being reviewed by DOE leadership, “contrast with Perry’s arguments that ‘baseload’ sources such as coal and nuclear power that provide constant power are jeopardized by Obama-era incentives for renewable energy, making the grid unreliable.” Two sources “familiar with the report, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations, confirmed the early conclusions though cautioned they were subject to change.” Bloomberg adds it’s “customary for administration officials to put their own stamp on reports prepared by career staff at federal agencies.” The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Siciliano) reports Energy Department spokeswoman Shayln Hynes said, “Those statements as written are not in the current draft.” Hynes added that the draft is “constantly evolving.”

The Daily Caller Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, White) reports the Energy Department “study comes after Perry said in early April that he and international counterparts discussed the need for a diverse supply of electricity during a G-7 Energy Ministerial meeting in Rome.” Axios Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Vavra) and Greentech Media Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Subscription Publication) also provide coverage of this story.

Higher Education

Math Scholar Maryam Mirzakhani Dies At 40.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Schudel) reports Iranian-born mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman ever to win the prestigious Fields Medal, has died at age 40. Mirzakhani’s “work was deeply theoretical, but other mathematicians considered it boldly original and of untold future importance.” After moving to the US, Mirzakhani studied at Harvard and taught at Stanford University.

Noting that the Fields Medal is “often described as the Nobel Prize of mathematics,” the Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16, Chang) reports Princeton University mathematician Peter C. Sarnak said “her death is ‘a big loss and shock to the mathematical community worldwide.’” The San Francisco Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15) also covers this story.

Illinois Budged Deal Grants Public Universities Short-Term Financial Relief.

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16, Rhodes) reports that for the first time in 736 days, public universities in Illinois will “start the school year with the promise of state money from Springfield.” State universities had “received a fraction of their typical state funding before the spigot was shut off in 2017,” triggering “campus shutdowns, layoffs, program cuts, maintenance failures and construction delays along the way.” While the budget provides short-term relief, many school leaders “say they face a daunting challenge to undo the havoc that the impasse wreaked upon the reputation and fiscal stability of public higher education in Illinois.” For example, the University of Illinois “will have to go forward with a $467 million hole in its operations.” Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, which was already in a financial situation “so dire that the administration lent the campus dollars from the Edwardsville site to keep it running,” will still be “in the hole for $37.8 million for 2017.”

Study: Wyoming, New Mexico Universities Offer Best Financial Rate Of Return.

Santa Fe New Mexican Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16) reports the Texas-based student loan management company Student Loan Hero released a study this week that found “New Mexicans with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of $43,257 per year after graduation, while residents with only a high school diploma earn about $26,000 annually.” The state’s average five-year rate of return was more than 150 percent of tuition costs, exceeded only by Wyoming’s nearly 203 percent five-year rate of return.

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

Administration Finalizing Plans To Revamp Military Cyber Operations.

After “months of delay,” the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Baldor) reports, the Administration “is finalizing plans to revamp the nation’s military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America’s ability to wage cyberwar against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials.” Under the plans, US Cyber Command would “eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency.” While details are still being worked out, officials “say they expect a decision and announcement in the coming weeks.” The officials said the goal is to give US Cyber Command more autonomy, which the AP says will free it “from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA” and “put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea and in space.” However, experts “said the command will need time to find its footing.”

UCSD Researchers Create Glove That Translates Sign Language To Text.

Newsweek Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Marcin) reports that a team of researchers at the University of California San Diego has created at glove that can render letters in American Sign Language into text. The researchers built the device “for less than $100 using flexible electronics that are available commercially.” The glove “uses flexible sensors to detect the movement of the signer’s knuckles, which creates a nine-digit binary key (0s and 1s) that corresponds to a letter.”

Researchers Develop High-Resolution Printing Method For Graphene Inks.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16) reports research Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/12) published in ACS Nano demonstrates “a transfer printing method based on a hydrophobic mold suitable for high-resolution patterning of graphene inks.” The researchers found the “robust thermal stability of the mold (∼250°C) allows broad process compatibility, enabling printing of conductive, flexible, sub-5 µm graphene patterns.” The authors conclude: “This promising platform for transfer printing offers significant potential for expanding the design space to integrate functional inks with precise, high-resolution patterning methods, ultimately advancing the development of high-performance, flexible, printed electronic systems.”

Research At Colorado’s Center Of Excellence For Aerial Firefighting Seeks To Give Firefighters Better Location Tools.

The Grand Junction (CO) Daily Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16) reports about how solving “data-transmission challenges” can help firefighters in the western United States fight fires more effectively by providing them with “real-time maps” and “technology to let fire managers know individual firefighters’ locations in relationship to the fire, if that location information can be transmitted.” The story focuses on the data transmission research being conducted by wildland fire technology specialist Brad Schmidt of the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting. Schmidt says, “We really want to help them get the same data an Uber driver has, a FedEx driver has. … I think it’s a shame wildland firefighters don’t have that yet.”


WPost A1: Silicon Valley Uses Technology To Combat Growing Sexual Harassment Problem.

In a front-page article, the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, A1, Dwoskin) reports that some Silicon Valley leaders have devised a new way to deal with the “burgeoning sexual harassment crisis,” which is to “use technology to create a blacklist.” The influential start-up incubator Y Combinator emailed a reporting form to 3,500 entrepreneurs, urging them “to blow the whistle on sexual harassment by venture capitalists.” Y Combinator partner Kat Manalac said, “We don’t call it a blacklist, but that is essentially what is happening. … There has always been a whisper network, where investors and entrepreneurs know which other investors are bad actors.” According to the Post, this effort by Y Combinator and others is “part of the industry’s urgent search for answers in the wake of sexual harassment scandals that have cemented Silicon Valley’s reputation as hostile to women.”

Global Developments

Irish Energy Networks Targeted By Hackers.

The Independent (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Dearden) reports, “Hackers have targeted Irish energy networks amid warnings over the potential impact of intensifying cyber attacks on crucial infrastructure.” Senior engineers at a company that supplies energy to both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland “were sent personalised emails containing malicious software by a group linked to Russia’s GRU intelligence agency, The Times reported.” The Independent adds, “Analysts told the newspaper the cyber attack intended to infiltrate control systems, giving hackers the power to take out part of the electricity grid with similar tactics that have caused mass outrages in Ukraine.”

Chinese Wind Power Giant Outlines Vision Of Digital Platform For Energy World.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Doan) reported that the chief executive of the Chinese wind power giant Envision Energy outlined his vision of a “global ‘ecosystem’ of energy” during an interview in San Francisco. Lei Zhang described a system in which “solar and wind farms, power plants, utilities, big electricity customers and all of the application and software developers that support them are connected to each other on a single, digital platform.” Envision Energy also plans to supply that platform, and recently announced an alliance with companies including Microsoft Corp. and Accenture Plc. To promote digitalization in the energy industry.

Engineering and Public Policy

Some Texans Protest Proposed Use Of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes To Combat Zika.

The Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16, Caldera) reports Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which “carry the Zika virus,” are spreading in Texas, according to a study Share to FacebookShare to Twitter published in the Journal of Medical Entomology in June, and “389 Texans” are “registered in the Centers for Disease Control’s Zika Pregnancy Registry.” According to the article, biotechnology company Oxitec, which genetically modifies mosquitoes to make its “offspring die in the first two to three days of life,” says it can stop the spread of mosquitoes and is awaiting approval to begin a trial in Texas. The article says some Texans are protesting the proposed use of genetically altered mosquitoes, though the FDA last August “found the mosquitoes had ‘no significant impact on the environment and human health.’”

Grants Help South Carolina Cities Upgrade To Low-Emission Vehicles.

The Anderson (SC) Independent-Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Hardesty) reported that public transportation agencies in Clemson and Anderson, South Carolina have received approvals of grant applications that will accelerate the move away from diesel engines and toward low-emission alternatives. The Clemson Area Transit system will use its grant to replace as many as 10 aging diesel buses with new electric ones. Anderson plans to add two additional natural-gas fueled buses to its fleet.

New Nebraska Wind Farm Expected To Significantly Boost Wind Power.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reports a new Northeast Nebraska wind farm “is expected to boost wind power to about 40 percent of the Omaha Public Power District’s electricity generation by the end of 2019.” On Thursday, OPPD President Tim Burke “told the utility’s board of directors…that NextEra Energy Resources will build the Sholes Wind Energy Center in Wayne County.” OPPD “will purchase the electricity generated from the 160-megawatt farm.” It is expected that the project will “boost the utility’s overall renewable generation to more than 1,000 megawatts, which includes hydropower OPPD purchases from the Western Area Power Administration and landfill gas it extracts from the Douglas County landfill.”

Wyoming Wind Projects Short On Workers.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16, Richards) reports that in Wyoming “wind energy has found favor with some and stoked anger in others” as “loyalty to oil, gas and coal is strong, and wind has a reputation for being a liberal industry, propped up by taxpayers’ subsidies, pushed onto the electricity grid by unfair policies in green states.” But some contend “there is another, more fundamental problem with wind: Where will the people come from?” Wind capacity in the state “would double if all the proposals on the table for new farms are realized,” and all the developments “will need workers — first to build the farms and then to staff them for maintenance and repairs.” But the small towns in the rural part of the state “don’t have people, and they can’t keep the new people who arrive, said Gary Jones, a resident of nearby Hanna, population 814.”

California Lawmakers Consider $3B Rebate For Electric Car Purchases.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Lazo, Higgins, Subscription Publication) reported that a bill to provide $3 billion worth of rebates toward electric car purchases has passed in California’s state Assembly, and is now being considered in the state Senate. Assemblyman Phil Ting, who introduced the bill, said the rebates are necessary to reach California’s goal to build 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles by 2025 and meet aggressive mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Critics, however, say the rebates are a giveaway to an industry that is overly reliant on public funding.

North Carolina Gov. To Decide Fate Of State Wind Energy.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Robertson) reported that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper must decide whether to sign or veto a law that would “make solar power production more competitive, and less expensive for Charlotte-based Duke Energy and its customers,” but would also establish a 3½-year moratorium on state permits for wind energy projects. Republicans in the state Senate say the moratorium would give time to chart acreage where wind turbines should be prohibited to ensure they don’t interfere with aircraft training from eastern North Carolina military bases.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Rights Activists, Experts Criticize Trump’s Decision To Grant Visas To Afghan Robotics Students.

President Trump’s “last-minute intervention” to secure US visas for female Afghan robotics students “drew praise from White House counselor Kellyanne Conway,” but human rights activists and critics “pointed to the administration’s travel ban, saying it’s the reason the team was barred in the first place and suggesting that the president shouldn’t take credit for reversing the consequences of his own policies,” reports the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Phillips). A State Department spokesperson, however, clarified visa applications are “adjudicated on a case-by-case basis,” and University of Massachusetts at Amherst political science professor Paul Musgrove described such a correlation between the visa policy and the Afghan girls’ difficulty in entering the US as misplaced criticism. He added, however, that the situation reflects “the kind of policy errors you get from the administration that imposes the travel ban.”

Miami Summer Camp Encourages Latina Girls To Pursue Careers In Technology.

The Miami Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16) reports nearly 30 elementary school-aged girls from Miami’s Little Havana and Hialeah are participating in “an eight-week tech entrepreneurship and coding immersion program for young Latinas, one of the most under-represented groups in the tech world.” The summer camp is sponsored by CODeLLA, the healthcare-technology company CareCloud, and Centro Mater Child Care Services. Nereida Rosado, a software engineer who volunteers at the camp, told the girls, “A lot of people tell me, ‘I’ve never seen anyone like you before.’ There’s a stereotype for people in tech.” She continued, “They’re expecting geeky guys. But these women? We break those stereotypes.”

Alaska’s “Robot Girls” Represent US At FIRST Global Robotics Challenge.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16, Silber) reports profiles 16-year-old Katie Johnson, 18-year-old Colleen Johnson, and 17-year-old Sanjna Ravichandar, the members of Team USA competing at the inaugural FIRST Global Robotics Challenge on Monday and Tuesday. The Post explains the competition is “designed to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) around the world.” The Johnsons began competing in FIRST’s Lego and tech challenges almost as soon as they were eligible, and in 2015, their team, Schrodinger’s Hat, “won the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship Inspire Award, the top award in the international competition.” The two sisters are known in their Fairbanks, Alaska community as the “robot girls,” and they “have taken advantage of their reputation to promote STEM in their community, especially to young girls.”

Clemson University Launches Summer Camps Aimed At Increasing Diversity In STEM Fields.

The Greenville (SC) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15) reported Clemson University’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, with the help of an $85,000 grant from the Duke Foundation, is offering two summer programs aimed at encouraging “more diversity in the ‘STEM’ subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, university officials said recently.” One camp, Project WISE, introduces middle school girls to “the opportunities awaiting them in science, technology, engineering and math.” The second camp, the PEER and WISE Experience, grants “50 incoming freshmen a head start on academics and campus life.” Over the years, the Clemson initiative has received financial assistance from the National Science Foundation’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, Duke Energy, and Clemson’s Emerging Scholars program.

Friday’s Lead Stories

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