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

Leading the News

Hurricane Maria Knocks Out Power To 100% Of Puerto Rico.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Bernal) reports that Hurricane Maria on Wednesday “knocked out power in all of Puerto Rico,” after it made “landfall as a Category 4 storm.” A spokesperson for the office for Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said, “We are 100% without power.” The island was “slammed” by “155 MPH winds that slowed down to 140 mph by 11 a.m., but were still capable of causing structural damage.” Rosselló spokesman Carlos Mercader said, “Puerto Rico, in terms of the infrastructure, will not be the same. … This is something of historic proportions.”

NBC Nightly News (9/20, lead story, 3:15, Holt) reported in its lead story that in Puerto Rico “hundreds of homes are damaged or destroyed, streets are flooded, and 100 percent of that US island is without power after Hurricane Maria slammed ashore with 155-mile-an-hour winds.” In its lead story, the CBS Evening News (9/20, lead story, 2:25, Mason) reported that Maria made landfall “as a Category 4 and touched off catastrophic flooding. The storm is moving away from Puerto Rico tonight, toward the Dominican Republic, and tomorrow, the Bahamas.” CBS (Begnaud) added that “despite the devastation, no deaths or injuries have been reported, so far.”

ABC World News Tonight (9/20, lead story, 2:55, Oquendo) reported in its lead story that Puerto Rico’s emergency management director says “the entire island is destroyed.” Many homes on the island were “not built to withstand any hurricane, let alone a Category 4.” According to officials, “many areas will be uninhabitable for weeks, maybe even months.” Rossello said on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 (9/20), “The damage is very extensive. It is nothing short of a major disaster. We have a lot of flooding, a lot of infrastructure damage. Our tell communications system is partially down. Our energy infrastructure is completely down.”

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Ferré-sadurní, Hartocollis, Subscription Publication) reports that Federal Emergency Management Agency head Brock Long “said that the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico had very fragile power systems and that electricity was expected to remain out for a very long time.” Efforts by Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority “to fix lines and restore power after Irma will almost certainly have been undone by Maria, and the question of how a debt-ridden commonwealth will pay for comprehensive repairs is sure to confound its leaders long after the storm dissipates.” The Miami Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Whitefield, Charles) reports that while Maria “throttled Puerto Rico just before dawn, other Caribbean islands awoke Wednesday to take stock of the effects of the one-two punch of two devastating hurricanes this month.” US Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp “warned residents to stay indoors Wednesday even as hurricane-force and tropical storm winds subside because of the danger of flash floods.” Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit “reported seven confirmed fatalities, a tremendous loss of housing and public buildings, severe damage to the main hospital with patient care compromised, hurricane shelters without roofs, and a desperate need for relief supplies and materials to provide shelter.”

Higher Education


GAO Report Criticizes ED’s Financial Oversight Of Colleges.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the Government Accountability Office has released a report saying that ED “could do more to guard against” the implosion of such schools as ITT Technical Institutes and Corinthian Colleges. The Post explains that ED assesses the financial stability of colleges participating in federal student aid programs every year, including “calculating what’s known as a financial responsibility composite score, a set of ratios derived from a school’s audited financial statements.” However, the GAO report “said the composite score has serious limitations” and “does not reflect updates in accounting practices or incorporate financial metrics, such as available cash, that would offer a broader indication of a school’s health.”

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports the GAO “is recommending in a report out today that the Education Department update the financial composite score used to measure a college or university’s financial health — a recommendation rejected by the department.” The report says that under the current system, “schools are able to manipulate it by taking out loans to avoid requirements to post letters of credit.”

California State University Faculty Oppose Changes In Remedial, Math Instruction.

EdSource Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/19) reports that faculty members at California State University are “rebelling” against plans to change remedial education and math requirements, calling for a delay of at least a year. Though school officials show “no indication of slowing down,” if the CSU governing board “agrees with the faculty, one of the most ambitious education reform efforts in California higher education in decades could be delayed or overhauled.”

Report: California College Students Borrow Less Than Nearly All Other States.

EdSource Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/19) reports that according to a new report from The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), California college graduates “finish school with some of the lowest average debt in the nation.” The report “shows that 53 percent of students who started at a four-year, not-for-profit college in California and graduated there in 2016 had incurred any student debt and that their average loan total was $22,744.” The piece says this data reinforces “a long trend of relatively modest student debt in California.” Researchers cite “a strong tradition of public university attendance, relatively low tuition at the CSU system and generous state financial aid.”

Michigan Borrowing Mainly Steady. The Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports that the report indicates that “the average Michigan graduate with loans owes $30,852 in student loans,” saying this is “almost the same as the class of 2015, which owed $30,045.”

LIVE WEBINAR – ASEE & National Instruments on “Building a Partnership to Tackle the Challenges in Engineering Education & Research”
On September 26th (2pm eastern), we’ll explore how partnerships between academic institutions and National Instruments are addressing major trends to drive research funding, improve student outcomes, and enable global impact. Register now.

ASEE Board Reorganization – Feedback Needed
ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents rationale on a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Please leave your feedback (ASEE member login required).

NEW Podcast
One energy solution may be found in looking toward the ocean…not necessarily what you’d expect from researchers at land-locked Penn State.

Research and Development

University Of Nevada Engineers Text Bridge Designs With Simulated Earthquakes.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Sonner) reports that engineers at the University of Nevada, Reno, using a “giant ‘shake table’” tested “tested new bridge designs with connectors they say are innovative and created to better withstand violent temblors and speed reconstruction efforts after major quake damage.” The device simulated “violent motions of an earthquake to rattle a 100-ton (91-metric ton), 70 foot (21-meter) bridge model to determine how well it would hold up.”

University Of Arizona Startup Working On Technology To Lower Costs Of Self-Driving Cars.

The Arizona Daily Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports that the University of Arizona has licensed technology “to improve radar systems for autonomous vehicles to startup Lunewave Inc.” The firm is headed by UA engineering professor Hao Xin, and will develop “the use of inexpensive, high-performing, 3-D printed ‘Luneburg lenses’ — spherical lenses that can replace multiple sensors. … Xin says he sees a huge opportunity for the technology applications including sensing and detection, autonomous cars and drones, pollution, water vapor detection and wireless communication.”

Researchers: AI Could Render Passwords Useless For Data Security.

Inverse Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/19) reports that researchers from the Ne York Institute of Technology and the Stevens Institute “have discovered that artificial intelligence could make it easier than ever for malicious actors to figure out your password and access your online accounts.” The researchers say in a recently released paper that AI “can outdo even the most powerful known password-guessing tools like HashCat and John the Ripper, which just use relatively basic algorithms.”

HPE Says Last Week’s Spacebourne Computer Experiment Was A Success.

CNN Money Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Wattles) reports HPE announced Wednesday that the supercomputer, known as the Spacebourne Computer, that they sent to the ISS last week can function just fine in the harsh environment of outer space. Mark Fernandez, the HPE engineer in charge of the experiment, said that the supercomputer has only run some diagnostic tests so far. Still, the “goal is to keep it running smoothly for one year – or roughly the length of a Mars mission.”

University Of Chicago Researchers Investigate Layer-By-Layer Assembly Of Two-Dimensional Materials In Wafer-Thin Heterostructures.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports on the research out of the University of Chicago, published in Nature Share to FacebookShare to Twitter, that “describes an innovative method to make stacks of semiconductors just a few atoms thick,” giving “scientists and engineers a simple, cost-effective method to make thin, uniform layers of these materials, which could expand capabilities for devices from solar cells to cell phones.”

Autonomous Vehicle Startup Aeva Develops Device To Improve Sensor Technologies.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Metz, Subscription Publication) reports on the research Soroush Salehian, a former engineer at Apple, is doing on autonomous technologies with the co-founder of his startup Aeva, which makes a “small black device” that “aims to fill several…sizeable holes” in existing LiDAR technology by providing a more accurate measurement of object distances and speed. As the co-founder and CTO of self-driving taxi startup Voyage, Tarin Ziyaee, says, “I don’t even think of this as a new kind of lidar” that Aeva is making. “It’s a whole different animal.” The Aeva “device sends out a continuous wave of light,” which “can capture a far more detailed image while also tracking velocity,” almost like “a cross between lidar, which is so good at measuring depth, and radar, which is so good at measuring speed.”

NASA Launches Aerosol-Detection Competition For Air Quality Monitoring.

Forbes Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Parnell) reports that NASA “has launched a $100,000 competition to design a small aerosol-detecting technology that can work in space.” NASA calls particulate monitoring a “gap in its technology roadmap to enable future long-term missions,” and has partnered with the “the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), to launch the Earth and Space Air Prize.” Principal Investigator Paul Mudgett of NASA’s Biomedical Research and Environment Sciences Division said, “Current aerosol instrument technology is too large. It doesn’t offer the necessary level of sensitivity or longevity, along with the ability to operate in reduced-gravity,” and hopes that the competition will improve astronauts’ air quality monitoring technology. NASA seeks lightweight, inexpensive instruments able to survive extended missions. Both “teams and individuals can enter the competition to design and develop the sensor technology, which should be able to operate in space as well as anywhere on Earth. In the first phase, entrants will need to sign up by December 13 and submit their design by January 31, 2018. Three finalists will be chosen by the end of March and awarded $50,000 each to build a prototype.”


Sexual Harassment In Scientific Community Drawing Greater Attention.

Chemical & Engineering News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/18, Wang, Widener) reports that “the culture that allows [sexual] harassment within male-dominated academic chemistry departments has been slow to change.” However, “public harassment investigations into academic scientists” have brought “increased attention” to the problem “in the larger science community.” In a 7,600-word story, the authors provide a variety of statistics about sexual harassment in the scientific community and tell “the stories of chemists who experienced [harassment].” The article also explores what some “chemists, universities, and associations…are doing about the issue.”

Global Developments

University Of Glasgow Researchers Develop Novel Plasmonic Color Filter Technique.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports on new research from the University of Glasgow published in Advanced Functional Materials Share to FacebookShare to Twitter that “outlines how engineers have developed nano-scale plasmonic colour filters that display different colours depending on the orientation of the light which hits it.” The novel approach allowed the researchers to put “two entirely different, but exceptionally detailed, full-colour images within the same surface area – something which has never been done before using ‘structural colour’ techniques.”

Austrian Battery Maker Kreisel Moves In To New Research Center, Assembly Plant.

The Independent (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Behrmann) reports about the growth plans at Austrian startup Kreisel Electric GmbH, which started out of a “three-door garage” and “is now moving into a €10m (£8m) research centre and battery assembly plant in Reinbach, some 100 kilometres (62 miles) east of Innsbruck.” The company’s co-founder, Markus Kreisel, said in Munich that “In the past two years, battery development has really taken off, and it’s now becoming incredibly dynamic,” adding that “We have a different way of going about developing the technology, and we don’t carry any baggage,” compared with battery makers like Tesla. Kreisel plans to start supplying its batteries to automakers starting in 2020 and “promises to squeeze some 65 per cent extra range from standard lithium-ion batteries, thanks to patented laser-welding and thermal-cooling techniques.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Data Suggest H-1B Applicants “Having A Harder Time” Securing Approval.

The San Francisco Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/21, Thadani) reports, “Some H-1B applicants are having a harder time getting approved for the coveted visa, according to data provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.” The data “supports anecdotal claims from immigration lawyers across the country that, under the Trump administration, certain H-1B applications are being challenged far more than in years past. The scrutiny is coming in the form of ‘requests for evidence,’ documents from the government asking lawyers to justify their client’s application.”

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Bowden) reports, “The Trump administration is reportedly challenging a record number of H-1B visa applications for high-skilled workers, a sign that the White House is cracking down on legal immigration.” The Hill cites Reuters, which “reported Wednesday that the U.S. has issued more than 85,000 visa challenges to H-1B visa applicants this year, which is a 45 percent increase from the same period last year.”

DOE Solar Decathlon Promotes Sustainable Doghouse Competition.

The Denver Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Baumann) reports that “sixteen deluxe doghouses — complete with solar panels, heated floors, filtered-water systems and other amenities for pampered pooches,” are on display at the Denver International Airport as part of a sustainable doghouse building competition promoted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. Panasonic donated the solar panels for the competition

NYTimes Analysis: De Blasio Not Following His Own Advice On Climate Policy.

In an analysis, the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Neuman, Subscription Publication) reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio may not be “following his own advice” on energy efficiency standards in buildings, according to city records that show de Blasio seemingly failed to meet such standards in two small buildings he owns in Brooklyn. New York’s Buildings Department database showed one building had a natural gas-fueled boiler and hot water heater, neither appearing to have Energy Star certification, and the other building had “no permits…issued for a boiler replacement, so it is likely the building has an older and potentially less energy-efficient unit.”

Philadelphia Entices Homeowners To Install Solar Panels.

NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Jaramillo) reports that a city-wide solar program in Philadelphia aims to install panels on 500 rooftops within the city by 2018. The program offers “below-market rates and other benefits, to entice homeowners.” Philadelphia Energy Authority Executive Director Emily Schapira said the program could create 75 new jobs.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Eighth Grader Develops Device To Make Solar Panels More Efficient.

Newsday (NY) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Eidler) reports on the Broadcom MASTERS contest for STEM fields, in which Austin Crouchley, 13, is one of 30 finalists after having “researched a way to make solar energy more cost-effective.” He said, “If we can make solar panels more economically sustainable and more efficient, we can actually use solar panels to satisfy basically all of our electric needs in our planet, and that’s very promising.” The contest had 2,500 applicants in “37 states, Puerto Rico and Department of Defense overseas sites.” There were 300 semifinalists and now 30 finalists, who “will compete in Washington, D.C., from Oct. 19-25 for more than $100,000 in prizes.” Crouchley developed “a simple, low-cost solar tracking device that can be used to increase the efficiency of solar panels.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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