Leading the News
Patent Docs Showcase Apple’s AR “Smart Glasses” Project.
Forbes (7/31) reports a new patent details Apple’s rumored “AR smart glasses” project. According to documentation from Patently Apple regarding the technology, the glasses would represent “POIs in the view of a real environment on a semi-transparent screen of a head-mounted display (HMD)” and enable users to access a “fully immersive digital world” that “overlays digital aspects” over a real world environment. Patently Apple observes, “It is typically not possible for the user to touch the head-mounted screen in a manner like a touchscreen. However, the camera that captures an image of the real environment may also be used to detect image positions of the user’s finger in the image. The image positions of the user’s finger could be equivalent to touching points touched by the user’s finger on the touchscreen.” The Motley Fool (7/31, Eassa) cited additional evidence of Apple’s AR project, citing an Apple job listing “for a ‘Visual Experience Engineer’” to “lead the development of novel display technologies.”
University Of Michigan Prepares For Construction Of Ford-Sponsored Robotics Building.
“In the not-so-distant future,” reported MLive (MI) (7/26), advanced robotic technologies “are expected to be developed at the Ford Motor Company Robotics Building, a $75-million, four-story, 140,000-square-foot facility set to be built” on the University of Michigan’s North Campus, which is located close to “the Mcity autonomous vehicle testing site” and “will include an obstacle course for robots and space for testing autonomous drones.” College of Engineering Resource Planning and Management Executive Director Deborah Mero said construction on the new facility will likely begin after the university’s Board of Regents reviews the project design this fall. In honor of a $15 million gift grant from Ford to the College of Engineering, the board approved naming the building the Ford Motor Company Robotics Building.
Texas’ Campus Carry Law To Go Into Effect For Community Colleges.
USA Today (8/1, Flores) reports Texas’ Campus Carry Law, which allows permit holders to carry a concealed handgun on public college and university campuses, will apply to public community colleges starting Aug. 1. The law went into effect for four-year public universities last August, but community colleges were granted an extra year to comply. Law enforcement officials in the El Paso Community College system, which serves 28,000 students, “said they are ready to abide by the law while remaining vigilant of possible security problems.” El Paso Community College police Capt. Joseph Barragan remarked, “Any time there is a new law, it’s our job to be vigilant, to make sure that, first of all, nobody is violating the law.” USA Today notes the new law allows community college campuses “to have gun-free zones, including college child care centers, patient care facilities, science labs, intercollegiate athletic events and individual assigned offices.”
Research and Development
Alphabet Researchers Working On Technology To Store Electricity As Thermal Energy.
The Wall Street Journal (7/31, Nicas, Subscription Publication) reports that researchers at Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, are working on a technology to store electricity generated from solar panels or wind turbines in tanks of molten salt and cold liquid as thermal energy. According to experts working on the project, the system makes technical sense, but its success will depend on finances. Fortune (7/31) reports that the project known as Malta “has been ‘de-risked’ enough that the team is now looking for partners to build, operate and connect a commercial-sized prototype to the grid.”
“Novel Technique” Employs Graphene To Create Mountable Solar Cells.
Nanowerk (7/31) discussed a “novel technique” that “uses graphene to create solar cells to be mounted on surfaces.” Up to this point, Nanowerk says transparent solar developers have depended on “expensive, brittle electrodes that tend to crack when the device is flexed,” and “can turn virtually any surface into a source of electric power.” As Professor Jing Kong of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) explained: “It’s rare to find materials in nature that are both electrically conductive and optically transparent.” The technology is not without its challenges, and Nanowerk mentions “two key problems” that “have slowed the wholesale adoption of graphene electrodes.” The first involves difficulties finding a way to deposit those “electrodes onto the solar cell,” while the “second problem…is that the two electrodes need to play different roles.”
A separate graphene-related report from Nanowerk (7/31) describes how scientists are using the technology to create tattoo-like skin biosensors.
New Evidence Suggests Apple “Building Its Own Cellular Modem.”
The Motley Fool (7/31, Eassa) shared new evidence it says suggests Apple could be “building its own cellular modem” supply. An MF article indicates the company is currently seeking a “Sr. Digital IC (PHY) Design Engineer,” who “will be part of a silicon design group responsible for digital baseband logic design in state-of-the-art wireless ICs.” The firm has additional “positions related to RFIC design and layout,” as well as a position for a “Sr. RFIC Design Engineer” who “will be at the center of a wireless SoC [system-on-a-chip] design group.” The description under that listing reads: “You will have a critical impact on getting Apple’s state-of-the-art radios into hundreds of millions of products.”
Automakers Target Silicon Valley For Autonomous Vehicle Research, Testing.
The Silicon Valley (CA) Business Journal (7/31, Elias, Subscription Publication) reports behind a paywall that “more and more” automakers are moving research and testing of autonomous vehicles to Silicon Valley “and, it’s not likely to slow down any time soon.”
University Of Maryland Engineers Invent First Ion-Based, Bio-Compatible Battery.
Science Daily (7/24) reported University of Maryland engineers led by Liangbing Hu, a professor of materials science, member of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center, and principal investigator of the Energy Department-sponsored Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage Energy Frontier Research Center, invented a bio-compatible battery that “produces the same kind of ion-based electrical energy used by humans and other living things” and uses grass to store its energy. Instead of moving positive ions from one electrode to the other, the researchers’ new battery “moves electrons around in the device to deliver energy that is a flow of ions.” An ionic current-generating battery has never before been invented, and Hu said the goal of the project “is for ionic systems to interface with human systems.” The journal Nature Communications published the researchers’ work in its July 24 issue.
Engineering (7/27) also reported on the biocompatible battery.
Vanderbilt Engineering Professor Analyzes How US Infrastructure Compares Globally.
Vanderbilt University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering associate professor Hiba Baroud, in a piece for The Conversation (US) (7/31, Baroud), says the American Society of Civil Engineers gave US infrastructure a D+ in its last two report cards. In this year’s report, ASCE “urged the government and private sector to increase spending by US$2 trillion within the next 10 years, in order to improve not only the physical infrastructure, but the country’s economy overall.” According to the World Economic Forum, however, the US’ overall infrastructure quality ranked 12th out of 138 countries, up from 25. Baroud explains infrastructure quality “can be measured in different ways – including efficiency, safety and how much money is being invested,” but by many standards, the US still “falls short of the rest of the world.” The key to its future, says Baroud, is the resilience and sustainability of infrastructure, and “with the right funding,” a “new class of solutions” to those two deficiencies is possible.
Chinese Solar Tile Company Eyes Mass Production.
Reuters (7/31) reports that China-based Hanergy Thin Film Power has launched “a solar-embedded roof tile, the first such to be mass produced in China.” According to Hanergy founder Li Hejun, “Comparing with Tesla’s flat solar tiles, Hantile is able to incorporate solar cells into both flat and curved-face roof tile.” Hanergy will focus on domestic sales before it begins exporting to the United States later this year.
Engineering and Public Policy
WTimes Analysis: EPA Would Face Tough Fight To Reverse Greenhouse Gas Endangerment Finding.
The Washington Times (7/31, Wolfgang) reports that the Trump Administration’s EPA has not begun “reversing the agency’s 2009 endangerment finding on greenhouse gases,” a task that “would be its toughest fight,” and which “specialists” say would be “an uphill climb” that would “start an unprecedented legal war with environmentalists, states and a host of other litigants.” EPA Administrator Pruitt “hasn’t said one way or the other whether he plans to go after the endangerment finding, which provided the legal underpinning for much of the Obama administration’s agenda inside the EPA.” The Times adds that doing so “could prove a futile exercise” and “sources familiar with the debate inside the EPA say the administrator believes the massive fight to kill the endangerment finding wouldn’t be worth the trouble.”
Klobuchar: Nation Needs Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan.
In an op-ed for USA Today (7/31), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) argues that Republican and Democratic lawmakers must work together to pass a national infrastructure investment plan, recalling her own experience of having a bridge near her home collapse for lack of repairs, killing 13 and injuring 145. She also points to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ “D+” grading of American infrastructure and asserts, “If our deteriorating infrastructure goes unaddressed, it will cost our economy nearly $4 trillion by 2025, leading to the loss of 2.5 million jobs.” She concludes that an infrastructure plan, such as that offered by Senate Democrats, would offer critical renovations and create millions of jobs.
New Technologies Under Development Would Prevent Train Crashes.
TODAY (7/31, Rossen and Foster) reports that the Federal Railroad Administration says there were 11,000 train accidents worldwide last year, which killed 805 and injured almost 4,000. New technologies are currently under development at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado that would help “prevent such crashes and save lives.” Today discusses these new technologies, which include cracked wheel detection, positive train control and sensor-dropping drones.
Additional coverage includes Roads & Bridges (7/31).
North Carolina Outer Banks Power Outage Might Last Two More Weeks.
U.S. News & World Report (7/31, Newman) reports “there are no tourists on Hatteras or Ocracoke Islands” off the coast of North Carolina “following an unresolved power outage Thursday that has forced thousands to evacuate.” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper “issued a state of emergency Thursday evening for visitors of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands after it was determined that electricity would not be restored that day.” Officials in the area “are now estimating that it may take up to two weeks to fix the two damaged power lines, much to the chagrin of local businesses.”
USA Today (7/31, Bohatch) reports Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative signaled in a statement yesterday that “power isn’t expected to be restored to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands for at least one week and possibly longer.” USA Today adds “one of the two damaged lines has been repaired, and all the equipment needed to fix the other cable is located on the islands, which helps cut down on repair time, North Carolina Electric Cooperatives spokeswoman Kristie Aldridge said.” The Wall Street Journal (7/31, Bauerlein, Subscription Publication) also provides coverage of this story.
Environmentalists Speak Out At Public Hearing Against Delaying Coal Plant Pollution Rule.
The AP (7/31, Biesecker) reports that environmental advocates attending a public hearing on the Trump administration’s plans to delay implementation of a 2015 rule limiting water pollution from coal-fired power plants voiced “strong opposition… even as they expressed doubt it would do any good.” Electric utilities have lobbied EPA Administrator Scott to redraft the rule, which they claim is “too costly and burdensome.”
Deepwater Wind Announces Clean Energy Project.
The AP (7/31) reports Rhode Island company Deepwater Wind “has entered the fray of companies vying for the largest renewable energy contract in New England history.” The wind developer “announced plans Monday for a 144-megawatt wind farm about 12 miles off Martha’s Vineyard that it says could power roughly 70,000 homes.” The company “already operates a small wind farm off Block Island” and it “says it’ll pair the proposed farm with a battery storage system provided by Tesla.” Bloomberg News (7/31, Ryan) reports Deepwater Chief Executive Officer Jeff Grybowski in an interview yesterday signaled “the 144-megawatt development would stockpile electricity produced late at night, then deliver it when the grid needs it most.”
Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Starts Solar Farm Amid Station Closing.
The AP (7/31) reports the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority “has taken its first step toward generating electricity by starting a solar farm amid the pending closure of a coal-fired power plant in northeastern Arizona.” The authority “recently started operating the 27.3-megawatt Kayenta Solar Project near Kayenta, Arizona.” It’s “the first large-scale solar energy facility on the reservation.” The AP adds “solar farm project manager Glenn Steiger said the closing of the Navajo Generating Station is leaving a hole in power generation in the region.” Steiger stated, “And we know that part of that hole ultimately will be filled with renewable energy, whether it’s solar or wind.”
Stony Brook University Hosts High School STEM Competition.
The Long Island (NY) Herald (7/27) reported Stony Brook University in New York hosted the 2017 Spellman High Voltage Electronics Clean Tech Competition, managed by the Center for Science Teaching and Learning, for the first time this year. The theme of the competition this year was “Creating a Greener Future,” and nine finalist high school student teams “presented their STEM-based solutions and projects for mitigating environmental challenges.” The competition awarded $30,000 in total monetary awards. Stony Brook College of Engineering and Applied Sciences dean Fotis Sotiropoulos commented, “These students are ambassadors for STEM and I am confident that their compassion, commitment and ingenuity will bring to life how clean tech can make a difference in our world.”
South Florida District Awarded Robotics Education Grant.
The Coral Springs (FL) Talk (7/31) reports the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation and NASA awarded a $227,000 grant to Broward County Public Schools to fund “robotics equipment, materials and teacher professional development for all district schools,” and align feeder schools’ robotics instruction with the district’s Innovation Zones to offer students “seamless opportunities” for building on their skills as they advance from elementary to middle to high school. In the first year of the grant, “the first year of the grant, the new robotic equipment and resources will enhance STEM+Computer Science (STEM+C) opportunities currently offered at 56 schools across the district.” The article notes the National Science Foundation, Code.org, Google, and the Broward Education Foundation helped the district introduce computer science courses, curriculum, and activities in all of its schools.
History Behind College Board’s New AP Computer Science Course Outlined.
NPR ’s (7/31) “NPR Ed” reports that last fall, the College Board introduced a new Advanced Placement course and exam, Computer Science Principles. The course resulted from eight years of planning and was “designed to appeal to people who might have assumed that computers were not for them.” On the latter point, NPR says, it appears to be working. In the 2016-17 school year, “the number of underrepresented minorities who took an AP Computer Science exam nearly tripled, from 8,283 to 22,199,” and the number of girls increased from 12,642 to 29,708. The nonprofit Code.org has assumed “a leadership role in the rollout of AP CSP,” and is one of eight authorized course providers. Last year, Code.org trained 500 teachers, and expects to train another 900 this year. The National Science Foundation, the University of California, Berkeley’s Beauty and Joy of Computing course, and Harvard University’s popular CS50 course provided authorized materials to the AP curriculum.
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Musk Hands Over Keys To First 30 Model 3 EVs At Tesla Launch Event.
• Eversource, UMass Join Together On Campus Energy Efficiency.
• NSF Gives Oregon State $122 Million To Lead Construction Of New Research Vessel.
• Court Rejects EPA’s Waiver Of Biofuel Standards.
• George Mason Professor: US Needs Larger Clean Energy Research Budget.