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

Leading the News


Trump Administration To Reject Icahn-Backed Overhaul To Biofuel Program.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Dlouhy, Parker) reports that the Trump administration plans to reject a plan supported by special presidential advisor Carl Icahn to “shift the compliance burden for using ethanol and other biofuels away from refiners” and to fuel blenders and other entities instead. Shares of Icahn’s refining company CVR Energy fell by three percent to $19 when the decision was announced.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Shepardson, Renshaw) reports that the decision is a “blow to independent oil refiners like Valero Energy Corp and CVR Energy,” which claim the requirement “costs them hundreds of millions of dollars every year.”

Electric Utility Lobbyists “Flood” Washington In Pursuit Of Tax Support.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Subscription Publication) reports that lobbyists for the electric sector have “flooded” Washington seeking favorable tax provisions, in particular, the continuing ability for companies to deduct interests on financing for capital projects. “The issue is of extreme importance to our industry because we’re the most capital-intensive industry in the country,” said Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute.

Higher Education

Asian Americans Divided On Administration’s Affirmative Action Move.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Kaleem) reports that when the Trump Administration announced on Wednesday “that it planned to investigate racial discrimination against Asians in college admissions,” the Asian American community was “divided on the issue, with several groups criticizing the administration’s announcement. ‘Affirmative action benefits everyone, including Asian Americans,’ said Nicole Gon Ochi, an attorney for the civil rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which has filed arguments in” a challenge to Harvard University’s admission policies. Ochi added, “It especially helps traditionally disadvantaged Asian American students, like Southeast Asian university students and low-income Asian students.” The group “helped sponsor a 2016 poll that found that 64% of Asian American voters supported ‘affirmative action programs designed to help blacks, women, and other minorities get better access to higher education.’”

Administration Could Face Uphill Battle In Fighting Race-Based Admissions Policies. The Chronicle of Higher Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports that news that DOJ could be preparing to “go after race-conscious admissions policies” has led to some consternation among college officials. However, “the fears it has aroused in them may be exaggerated and somewhat misplaced,” the piece says. The article points out that DOJ has refuted the notion that it is “preparing to investigate, and possibly sue, multiple colleges over race-conscious admissions practices.” Moreover, “any broader Trump administration campaign against race-conscious admissions policies will have trouble making much headway” because “such policies simply have too much past U.S. Supreme Court backing for their legality to be easily challenged.”

Cal State Eliminates Math Placement Tests, Remedial Classes.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Xia) reports that Cal State has announced that it is eliminating math placement exams and remedial classes, “a radical move away from the way public universities traditionally support students who come to college less prepared than their peers.” Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White “directed the nation’s largest public university system to revamp its approach to remedial education and assess new freshmen for college readiness and course placement by using high school grades, ACT and SAT scores, previous classroom performance and other measures that administrators say provide a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of students’ knowledge.”

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.

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

New Mexico State Leads Nation In Engineering Funding For Minority-Serving Institutions.

KRWG-FM Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Las Cruces, NM (8/3) reports that according to data from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, “New Mexico State University ranks first in the country for federal obligations for science and engineering activities for minority-serving institutions.” The piece reports the school received “$48.8 million in federal science and engineering obligations during the 2015 fiscal year.”

NASA Reschedules Orbital ATK Cargo Launch To ISS.

Spaceflight Now Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Clark) reports that Director for the International Space Station program at NASA Headquarters Sam Scimemi briefed members of NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee in late July, said the Antaras launch date was rescheduled to October 11. Orbital ATK engineers are preparing for the cargo launch aboard an Antaras rocket. Under the NASA contract, the Cygnus supply ship has more than 10 additional “hardware delivery missions to the space station.” SpaceX and Sierra Nevada also contract “unpiloted commercial cargo transporters” for NASA.

UVA Professor To Build Prototype Of Mega-Wind Turbine.

NBC News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Harris) reports on the future of “super-collossal wind turbines,” which would stand “more than five times higher than the Statue of Liberty.” University of Virginia engineering professor Eric Loth explained, “The larger a turbine, the more powerful and efficient it becomes, and that reduces the cost of energy.” Loth plans to make a small prototype of his proposed mega-turbine using a $3.7 million award from the Energy Department. If successful, “he hopes to raise money for a larger demonstration model and eventually to commercialize his 50MW mega-turbine, which he estimates could cut the cost of wind power in half.”

Seeking Alpha Considers What’s Next In 3D Printing.

Seeking Alpha Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Daniel) offers a lengthy report discussing the future of 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM), which it casts as a “rapidly growing” tech development that is just now taking off. After chronicling the relatively recent history of 3D printed-products, SA suggests medicine could be the next major frontier for AM manufacturing. The article references a study from Global Market Insights indicating the medical industry will “see an over 20% CAGR from 2017 to 2014” amid “higher demand for patient-specific dental, orthopedic, and maxillofacial products in particular.” Elsewhere, in outlining some of the more obvious settings for 3D printing, including industrial machines, automotive vehicles, and customized production tools, SA highlights the “strong performance” posted by machine-focused “Materialise.” The company uses a range of “high-quality AM services” to support industrial equipment, and “assist with manufacturing, including rapid prototyping, co-creation, engineering and design services.”

Researchers Develop Tiny Diaphragm Pump With Applications For Medical Device Innovation.

Mass Device Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Kirsh) reports that researchers have developed a “tiny yet powerful diaphragm pump that can deliver ambient air to gas sensors,” which are “attached to a smartphone that warns a user of heavy exposure to particulate matter.” Martin Richter, department head of microdosing systems at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Microsystems and Solid State Technologies “claims the pump could be used as a medical patch to continuously deliver small amounts of hormones and pain killers or even as an implant to regulate eye pressure in glaucoma treatment.”

New York Holding Smart Gun Competition.

The New York Daily News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/1, Carrega) reports “groups of innovative young adults” in New York City are taking part in a Smart Gun Design Competition that was announced last year by Brooklyn’s Borough president Eric Adams. There are currently “five finalists from local colleges and universities are in the running for the million-dollar grant to further their research.” Their designs “will be evaluated and assessed by the NYPD.” The Daily News describes several of the designs, some of which use biometric technology or wearable accessories to prevent someone other than the owner from firing the weapon.


Women In Tech Fields Face Sexism In Workplace, College.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Bawab) reports that stories about women in the tech sector who experience sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace are “leaving many college-aged women studying computer science worried for what’s to come and thinking twice about pursuing careers in the industry.” The article describes a number of recent “sexual harassment scandals in the industry” and reports that “women studying computer science say the culture of Silicon Valley has already started affecting them in college.”

Global Developments

Toyota “Anything But Subtle” In Recruiting Tech Talent.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Ma, Nobuhiro) reports that “when it comes to recruiting tech talent, Toyota Motor Corp. is anything but subtle.” The article states that “the Japanese automaker recently launched a marketing campaign targeting information technology specialists and software engineers along Tokyo’s suburban Nambu railway line, where the research centers of Japan’s signature tech giants are clustered.” Bloomberg News adds that “Toyota’s talent raid is unusual in a country where lifetime employment is still the norm at many big companies.”

IBM Opens “Machine Learning Hub” In India This Week.

The Economic Times (IND) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports IBM opened its first ever “Machine Learning Hub” in Bengaluru, India on Thursday. The Times reports that the hub will serve as a physical space where “data professionals, business analysts and engineers could work with IBM’s data science experts to understand and learn the technology to visualise, analyse and interpret data.”

Industry News

Ford Sends Engineers To Help Police Departments Around US Inspect Cruiser Vehicles.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Casey) reports with continuing coverage of the police departments across the country that have pulled Ford Explorer patrol SUVs from their fleets over concerns the vehicles may leak carbon monoxide inside the vehicle. Other police departments are testing their fleet vehicles or installing carbon monoxide detectors. Ford, meanwhile, is working with authorities around the country, company spokesperson Elizabeth Weingandt having “said Thursday it has sent engineers” to different parts of the country “to inspect the vehicles and will go ‘to any department that asks for assistance.’”

Engineering and Public Policy

Economics Of New Nuclear Power May Prevent It From Helping To Reduce Emissions.

E&E Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Storrow, Subscription Publication) reports that nuclear power currently provides “60 percent of America’s carbon-free electricity.” But the failure of the Summer plant project dealt a “serious blow” to efforts to increase that number. The decision “sparked an immediate debate among greens seeking to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear advocates said it illustrates the need for further government support, arguing that America risks losing not only the workforce and supply chain needed to service a civilian nuclear industry, but also a valuable tool for decarbonizing the power sector.” John Parsons, executive director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, said, “To say a nuclear plant is going to cost twice what you said it’s going to cost, that’s not sensible engineering or business.” Parsons added, “I hope it will become part of the solution, but in order to do that, it has to be done sensibly and economically.”

NY Regulators Cracking Down On Energy Service Companies.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Subscription Publication) reports that New York utility regulators are “cracking down” on energy service companies, or ESCOs, which sell power and gas services directly to customers. New York Gov. Cuomo “has expressed concern that ESCOs may just be overcharging customers,” and has urged regulators to ramp up an investigation that “may curtail where ESCOs can work and what they’re allowed to do.”

Power Restored To Two North Carolina Islands.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Durando, Bohatch) reports “power was restored” yesterday “to two North Carolina islands hit by a weeklong outage that drove away thousands of tourists and caused economic strains for businesses.” On Facebook, Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative announced “that electricity was flowing again to ‘all of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.’” Officials in Dare County “say visitors can return to Hatteras Island starting at noon Friday.”

OGE Energy Corp Report Higher Profits In Q2.

The Oklahoman Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Monies) reports OGE Energy Corp. is reporting “higher profits in the second quarter” thanks to “lower expenses and a recent rate case resolution in Oklahoma.” OGE “had net income of $104.8 million, or 52 cents per common share, in the second quarter. That compared to net income of $71.5 million, or 35 cents per common share, the second quarter of 2016.” The article adds “operating revenue for the quarter was $586.4 million, up 6 percent from $551.4 million in the year-earlier quarter.”

Puerto Rico Offshore Gas Project Canceled Over Utility’s Financial Problems.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Scurria, Subscription Publication) reports that Puerto Rico’s $9 billion utility bankruptcy is hampering the development of a $380 million offshore gas project. Excelerate Energy LP had planned to build a floating natural gas terminal off Puerto Rico that would accept cheap natural gas imports and help wean the island’s electric utility Prepa off other fossil sources. However, Excelerate recently announced it had canceled the contracts with Prepa due to the utility’s financial struggles.

Texas Republican Pushes Back Against DOE Energy Standards For Light Bulbs.

The Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Benning) reports that Texas Rep. Michael Burgess is actively working to maintain protections for the traditional incandescent light bulb, which has been targeted for a phase-out by the Energy Department’s push to transition to more energy-efficient standards. Rep. Burgess “and other Republicans…have long to the standards as a gross example of how federal overreach distorts the free market.” Meanwhile, proponents of the energy standards say that while LED lights might cost $1 more than traditional light bulbs, they will last a decade longer.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Girl Scouts CEO Focused On STEM Education.

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) profiles Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo, who has had “a career at NASA, IBM, Apple and Dell.” The piece reports that Acevedo’s mission is “to ensure STEM learning is a part of every young woman’s life.” Acevedo describes how she became interested in science at age seven, when a “troop leader saw me looking at the stars” and encouraged her to “get my science badge.” The piece describes her career in engineering and says that she is now “using her work experience to address the lack of exposure girls have to science, technology, engineering and math. In fact, the organization launched 23 new STEM and outdoor-focused badges last month to encourage more girls to build their skills in these fields.”

Google Partners With Mystery Science To Provide Elementary Students With Eclipse Glasses.

TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports that as the August 21st solar eclipse approaches, “a large number of science teachers are…getting ready to turn this into a teachable moment, but to do so, they do need to be able to give their students eclipse glasses – because the last thing you’d want is a bunch of kids staring right into the sun without protection.” In addition to its efforts to provide 2 million sets of such glasses to some 5,000 libraries across the country, “Google has also teamed up with Mystery Science, a Y Combinator-incubated startup that provides lesson plans to teachers, to directly ship up to 15,000 free glasses to elementary schools.”

Elementary Teachers Take Part In STEM Training At Valdosta State University.

The Valdosta (GA) Daily Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports that Valdosta State University science professor Leslie Jones “wants to make teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics easier for elementary school teachers” and led a series of summer workshops for K-5 science teachers.

Also in the News

NYTimes Magazine Explores Voyager Program’s Engineering Challenges.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Tingley, Subscription Publication) magazine runs an article on the engineering teams from NASA that worked on the Voyager I and Voyager II probes, both in the assembly and launch processes and in shepherding them to their destinations of Jupiter and Saturn. The lengthy article narrates the probes’ voyages of discovery and touches on the current administration’s focus on commercializing space rather than just observing it.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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