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

Leading the News

FIRST Global Challenge Ends With Celebration.

US News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Galvin) reports, “As the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge…wound down Tuesday evening in Washington, a deafening roar took over DAR Constitution Hall as more than 150 countries’ flags waved in the air during a closing ceremony that celebrated collaboration, innovation and engineering excellence.” US News says that “the friendly atmosphere at the ‘Robotic Olympics’ made it clear that organizers and teams alike viewed the event as a challenge rather than a competition.” Afghanistan’s team “made headlines this month when its visa requests were denied twice and the group almost missed the competition,” until President Trump intervened. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19) reports that the team “won a silver medal for ‘courageous achievement.’ The award recognized teams that exhibited a ‘can-do’ attitude even under difficult circumstances or when things didn’t go as planned.”

The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Anderson) reports, “Afghanistan was not alone in fielding an all-female team. On Tuesday, first daughter Ivanka Trump stopped by FIRST Global to open the day with a celebration [of] the six all-female teams, which also included Jordan, Ghana, Brunei, Vanuatu, as well as Team USA.”

Higher Education

New York AG Investigates Debt Collection Practices Of Private Student Loan Giant.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Cowley, Subscription Publication) reports New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman opened an investigation into the debt collection practices of the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts. National Collegiate has aggressively pursued borrowers in court, but dozens of lawsuits have been dismissed because of flawed or missing paperwork. A large part of the student loans Collegiate Student owns are from over a decade ago. As the debt was bought and sold, “crucial paperwork documenting the loans’ ownership appears to have been lost, according to court filings.” Schneiderman said, “I won’t allow a generation of New Yorkers to get victimized by the very system that was created to help them get ahead.” Schneiderman added, “We will conduct a full investigation and will hold the perpetrators of any fraud against our students accountable.”

Using National Collegiate as an example, Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19) pens an article about beating student debt collectors. According to the article, National Collegiate’s lawsuits are successful most of the time because the borrower doesn’t show up for court, so the court enters a default judgment against the borrower, forcing them to repay the debt through a court order. David Addleton, who has represented dozens of clients against National Collegiate, said, “All they care about is getting a default judgment,” adding, “All you have to do is show up and defend. They always dismiss.”

Veterans Group Opposes Rollback Of Student Borrower Protections.

In commentary for The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Boulay) “Pundits Blog,” Matthew Boulay, executive director of the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund, writes that despite President Trump’s assurances that he will focus on the needs of veterans, “his administration’s early moves indicate he is willing to keep that pledge as long as it doesn’t cut into the profits of for-profit colleges.” Boulay faults Trump’s ED for “working to roll back policies — implemented with bipartisan support — that protect student veterans from bad actors in the for-profit college industry.”

Some Educators Believe Community Colleges Should Abandon Algebra Requirement.

The NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Lattimore, Depenbrock) website looks at whether community colleges should abolish algebra requirements, writing that algebra “is one of the biggest hurdles to getting a high school or college degree – particularly for students of color and first-generation undergrads” – and is “also the single most failed course in community colleges across the country.” California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley “is among a growing number of educators who view intermediate algebra as an obstacle to students obtaining their credentials – particularly in fields that require no higher level math skills.”

Indian Students Are Concerned About Safety When Studying In US.

The Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Yam) reports that a study by the Institute of International Education “that looked at the number of international students who enroll after being admitted for fall of 2017 showed that 80 percent of colleges and universities in the report indicated that students said physical safety was the most pronounced concern of Indian students looking to potentially study in the country.” Indian students “have a ‘high level of concern’ about potentially studying in the US,” while “those from other countries in Asia were primarily concerned with post-graduation employment opportunities and program affordability.”

Number Of US Colleges Declining.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Belkin, Subscription Publication) reports that the number of colleges in the US that were eligible to award federal financial aid declined by nearly six percent between the past academic year and the one prior, according to an annual survey by the National Center for Education Statistics. The rate of decline is increasing, with 6,760 colleges eligible last year, down from 7,416 in 2012-13.

Norman Fortenberry Letter in Washington Post
ASEE’s ED challenged the Post (and other media outlets) to properly distinguish between engineers and scientists when appropriate.

Global Grand Challenges Summit – July 18-20
Organized by the US, UK, and Chinese Academies of Engineering, topics featured include virtual reality and artificial intelligence, engineering and health care, climate change, and reverse engineering the brain. A live podcast can be viewed at the NAE site.

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.

Research and Development

Army Research Lab Seeking To Build Autonomous UAVs.

ExecutiveGov Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Nicholas) reports that according to Defense One the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) will fund projects to develop autonomous UAVs and “robotic technologies intended for electronic warfare operations.” ARL will attempt to “equip autonomous platforms with onboard tools that will work to counter anti-access/area denial system.” ARL Director Phillip Perconti said that ARL could award contracts later this year.

Researchers From Bechtel-Operated Los Alamos National Laboratory Perform Ultracold Reaction Simulation.

EurekAlert Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18) reports, “Researchers have performed the first ever quantum-mechanical simulation of the benchmark ultracold chemical reaction between potassium-rubidium (KRb) and a potassium atom, opening the door to new controlled chemistry experiments and quantum control of chemical reactions that could spark advances in quantum computing and sensing technologies. The research by a multi-institutional team simulated the ultracold chemical reaction, with results that had not been revealed in experiments.”

Apple Launches Online Machine Learning Journal.

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Novet) reports Apple on Wednesday “introduced the Apple Machine Learning Journal, a website for highlighting its artificial intelligence research.” Similarly, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft all maintain blogs where they publish updates in connection with academic papers and projects. The launch of the online journal “is another sign of Apple’s interest in being seen as an active player in artificial intelligence research.”

Global Developments

Apple Names Isabel Ge Mahe As Vice President Of Greater China.

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Kharpal) reports “Apple has created a major new executive role in China and appointed the head of its wireless technologies unit to run it, reporting into CEO Tim Cook, as the technology giant struggles with falling sales in the world’s second-largest economy.” Isabel Ge Mahe will take up the role of Vice President and Managing Director of Greater China, Apple said in a statement on Tuesday. In Ge Mahe’s role heading up the wireless team, she focused on the development of cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, location, and other technologies for many of Apple’s products. She has also overseen the engineering teams developing Apple Pay, HomeKit and CarPlay. CNET News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Chong) reports the story as well.

Engineering and Public Policy

Fresno County, California To Implement Bio-Engineered Mosquitoes In Effort To Reduce Pest Population.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Wang) reports that officials in Fresno County, CA are teaming with technology companies to release millions of bio-engineered mosquitoes in Fresno. The venture is an effort to reduce the Aedes aegypti population, which carry “Zika, dengue fever, and chikungunya viruses.” The Post says the mosquitoes “will be infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which changes the reproductive ability of males,” causing females’ eggs not to hatch, and officials hope the results will allow a “generation by generation” reduction of the mosquito population.

Report Says July 6 Penn Station Derailment Caused By Track Defect.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Fitzsimmons, Subscription Publication) reports that Amtrak officials on Wednesday said a July 6 train derailment at Pennsylvania Station was caused by a track defect. According to Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert, the derailment was the result of defective timber ties, which help widen the rails. This caused the wheels of a train car to come off the track. In a statement, Tolbert said, “This incident reinforces our decision to accelerate the infrastructure renewal work in this part of New York Penn Station this summer. … This proactive approach – compressing years of planned work into a couple of months – will strengthen operations and restore reliability at North America’s busiest rail station.”

The derailment “occurred in an area where trains emerge from a tunnel under the Hudson River and pass through a crisscrossing network of tracks before they reach the station platforms,” the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Porter) reports. A prior derailment of an NJ Transit train took place on the same area of track on April 3. Then, the derailment was “blamed on aging wood crossties beneath the tracks that allowed the rails to separate,” which “led to a comprehensive review of the station’s entire infrastructure by the Federal Railroad Administration.”

Perry Says Energy Innovation Will Create Jobs, Shape US Energy Future.

The Daily Caller Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Congdon) reports that in a recent interview, Energy Secretary Rick Perry highlighted the role clean coal will play in his U.S. energy agenda. Regarding innovative “cracker plants,” Perry said that these projects will “create jobs while simultaneously making energy cheaper, cleaner and more accessible.”

New Mexico Lawmakers Question PNM’s Plan To Exit Coal.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19) reports lawmakers in New Mexico “from coal industry-dependent regions” of the northwestern part of the state “urged utility regulators to consider the local economic consequences of utility plans to shut down two coal-fired power plants and related mining operations.” Public Service Company of New Mexico is proposing “phasing out the use of coal-fired electricity by retiring the San Juan generating station near Farmington in 2022 and abandoning the Four Corners power plant in Fruitland by 2031.” On Wednesday, Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Patricia Lundstrom “questioned whether it makes sense for the utility to walk away from investments in the San Juan plant.” Lundstrom “says consideration should be given to attracting energy-intensive industries to share the San Juan site.”

U.S. Natural Gas Industry Lobbies Benefits of Gas To Trump Administration.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Dlouhy, Natter, Polson) reports that as the Trump administration pledges to support coal and nuclear energy, lobbyists for the natural gas industry are working to ensure that their fuel source has equal consideration in U.S. energy policy. “We’re not taking shots at coal and nuclear,” but it’s important to “tell the whole story,” said Marty Durbin, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at the American Petroleum Institute.

Pro-Ethanol Bill Creates Unlikely Bedfellows Of Opposition Between Enviros, Republicans.

The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Wolfgang) reports that “an unlikely coalition” that includes environmentalists and “some of the Senate’s most conservative Republicans” are mobilizing against a pro-ethanol bill “that would allow E15 — gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol — to be sold year round.” Support for and against the bill breaks down along “regional, not party, lines.” Republicans that support the bill come from state’s that have experienced significant job growth and economic benefits from the ethanol industry, whereas some opponents want a “full overhaul of the Renewable Fuel Standard…before considering any bill that promotes more ethanol.”

Maryland Green Group Blasts Hurdle Congressman Added For Offshore Wind.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19) reports the Maryland Climate Coalition “is criticizing an amendment added to legislation by U.S. Rep. Andy Harris that they say could stop two offshore wind proposals near Ocean City.” The group said yesterday that “the amendment approved by the House Appropriations Committee this week would prohibit the Interior Department from approving project construction plans, despite six years of debate and approval by state lawmakers and regulators.” The AP adds “the amendment blocks federal funding for reviews of plans to put turbines less than 24 nautical miles from land, where they would be visible from shore.”

South Dakota County Upholds Rules For Wind Turbine Setbacks.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19) reports voters in Lincoln County, South Dakota “have upheld regulations for wind turbine setbacks that renewable energy supporters say will end wind development in the area.” The vote earlier this week “was 57 percent in favor of rules requiring that turbines be at least a half mile from habitable structures in the southeastern South Dakota county.” The AP adds “an investor group called Dakota Power Community Wind wants to build at least 150 turbines to produce 300 megawatts of electricity in Lincoln County.” Opponents are concerned about “property values and potential health effects in opposing the project.”

New Homes In Miami Suburb Required To Have Rooftop Solar Panels.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19) reports “rooftop solar panel installations will be required for all new residential construction, along with some home renovations, in a Miami suburb.” The ordinance in South Miami “that takes effect Sept. 18 was modeled after similar ordinances recently passed by San Francisco and three other California cities.” On Tuesday, “city commissioners voted 4-1” granting approval to “an ordinance requiring 175 square feet of solar panels per 1,000 square feet of roof, or 2.75 kilowatts per 1,000 square feet of living space, whichever is less.” Mayor Philip Stoddard “championed the requirement, which is the first of its kind in Florida.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

States See Opportunities To Improve Science Instruction Under ESSA.

Stephen Sawchuk writes at the Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19) “Curriculum Matters” blog that advocates for science education see ESSA as “an opportunity to get science on the radar screen in a way they couldn’t under” NCLB, which “didn’t count science tests towards anything, thereby relegating the subject, in many advocates’ eyes, to second-tier status.” States now “have a lot more flexibility to emphasize science in particular, and more generally, content in the STEM fields.” Sawchuk writes that such education consulting groups as Achieve and Education First have released white papers offering states advice on how best to improve science instruction under ESSA. The groups advise states to count science testing in their accountability systems, leverage federal funding streams, and too coordinate efforts at the state level.

Kansas City STEAM School To Serve More Students.

The Kansas City (MO) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Subscription Publication) reports that Kansas City Neighborhood Academy, “a STEAM school focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and math, will serve 154 more students, pre-K through fourth grade,” through a two-year, $500,000 investment provided by SchoolSmartKC.

Wisconsin Has Developed K-12 Computer Science Standards.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Axelson) reports that last month, Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers approved state Computer Science Standards for K-12 education, making Wisconsin “the 9th state to establish such a model. Each school district will have the choice to accept the standards in full, use them as a foundation to write their own version, or disregard them.” The document “outlines learning objectives for students, but each district will decide on how to develop their own programs.”

Also in the News

Study: Humans Have Produced 18.2 Trillion Pounds Of Plastic, Most Discarded.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Rice) reports that according to a new study, “Humans have produced 18.2 trillion pounds of plastics since large-scale production began in the early 1950s and we’ve put most of it in the trash.” Researchers project that this figure will increase by 26.5 trillion pounds by 2050. The piece quotes co-author Jenna Jambeck, an associate professor of engineering at the University of Georgia, saying, “Most plastics don’t biodegrade in any meaningful sense, so the plastic waste humans have generated could be with us for hundreds or even thousands of years.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/19, Fears) reports the study, which “tracked the global manufacture and distribution of plastics since they became widespread after World War II found that only 2 billion tons of that plastic is still in use.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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