Leading the News
Energy Department To Award $36 Million Toward Carbon Capture Research.
The Washington Examiner (9/22) reports Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Friday “issued $36 million” to “advance carbon capture technologies at coal and other plants.” He said, “Carbon capture technologies are one of the most effective ways we can continue to leverage the sustainability of our nation’s fossil fuel resources while advancing environmental stewardship.”
Platts (9/22) reports that the funds, which were provided through Office of Fossil Energy, “will support cost-shared research and cultivate projects to continue development of carbon capture technologies at either the engineering scale or to a commercial design.” Platts notes that “a maximum of six projects will be awarded funding.” The article adds that the CCS “system at the Kemper County Energy Facility first came online in February, but was taken offline by Mississippi Power in late June when it suspended lignite coal gasification at the facility in Mississippi and switched to generation solely by natural gas.”
Alabama Universities Establish German Engineering Exchange Program.
The AP (9/24) reports the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University, and the University of South Alabama signed a memorandum of understanding on Sept. 14 to create a German engineering exchange program. Under the program, slated to begin next spring, about 20 undergraduate students at the Alabama institutions “will be able to take English-taught courses” in mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering at seven applied sciences-focused German universities.
Elizabeth City State University Professors Awarded NSF Grants To Increase Diversity In STEM Fields.
The Elizabeth City (NC) Daily Advance (9/24) reports the National Science Foundation awarded more than $745,000 in grants to Elizabeth City State University professors Ali Khan and Gloria Payne. Khan received “$395,365 from the University of Virginia for ECSU’s participation in the National Science Foundation for a project titled ‘The Virginia-North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation,’” aimed at strengthening and encouraging the “recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of underrepresented students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics – known collectively as the STEM disciplines.” Payne was awarded $350,000 for her participation in “The Vikings Enhancing STEM Innovation and Collaboration Model,” or the VESTEMic Model, aimed at addressing the “national need to increase the number of students pursuing STEM degrees and the quality of their preparation.”
ED Gives Western Michigan University $2 Million To Support Migrant Students.
MLive (MI) (9/23) reports ED has given Western Michigan University a grant for over $2 million “over the next five years to help support first-year, first-generation undergraduate students who are migrant or seasonal farmworkers, or the children of such workers.” The funding will go to the school’s College Assistance Migrant Program and comes from ED’s Office of Migrant Education.
Journalist Touts Legislation Would Let Borrowers With Cancer Defer Student Loan Payments.
In a New York Times (9/22, Subscription Publication) op-ed, journalist Rebecca J. Ritzel touted “the bipartisan Deferment for Active Cancer Treatment Act, which would let borrowers defer their student loan payments when they get a cancer diagnosis – and for six more months after their active treatment is completed.” The legislation was “introduced in June by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, and Ed Perlmutter, Democrat of Colorado,” and “more than 30 members have joined them as co-sponsors.”
Study: Engineering Was Top Major Of World’s Wealthiest People, Including Bezos.
Business Insider (9/23, Wile) reported British recruiting firm Aaron Wallis “broke down the backgrounds of the world’s 100 richest people, and found that 10% of them started out hawking goods and services,” followed by stock trader, while “engineering was the most common university degree on the list, with 22 having studied the subject.” The company said, “There’s a clear trend between the people who studied an engineering subject and the richest 100 in the world. Many of the entrepreneurs who made their money in technology studied engineering, for example Jeff Bezos of Amazon, or Larry Page of Google.”
Research and Development
Samuelson: Digital Hacking Could Make Driverless Cars Dangerous.
In his Washington Post (9/24) column, Robert J. Samuelson writes that despite self-driving vehicles’ powerful appeal as a solution to car accidents and wasted time driving, such vehicles may offer only “modest” benefits, “while the costs could be considerable.” Samuelson highlights the “clear danger” of “digital hacking,” by which criminals, terrorist groups, or hostile nations could hack into cars for purposes ranging from carrying out simple cybercrimes to sowing widespread disorder.
Maryland Doctoral Candidate Uses Robotics To Help Severely Disabled People Gain Independence.
In a more than 2,300-word article, the AP (9/23, Pitts) profiled Kavita Krishnaswamy, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County graduate and computer science doctoral candidate with a rare genetic disorder called spinal muscular atrophy. She is paralyzed from the neck down, and so she “participates in every class and lecture” from 16 miles away “through the Beam, a rolling, two-way-telecasting robot.” Krishnaswamy “designs robotic devices to allow severely disabled people to move their arms and legs simply by moving a computer trackball, speaking or changing their facial expressions.” She has received National Science Foundation and Ford fellowships, and funding for her research from the Microsoft Fellowship and Google Lime Scholarship. Krishnaswamy credited “MESA adviser Marie Boston, who convinced her she could succeed in the IEEE competition, and Fran Dummett, who drove her to the UMBC campus to show her a college she believed would welcome her, and others” for expanding “her sense of what was possible” despite her disability.
University Of Massachusetts Professor Awarded NSF Grant To Develop Drone Detection System.
The Springfield (MA) Republican (9/24) reports University of Massachusetts electrical and computer engineering associate professor and Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere co-director Michael Zink was recently awarded an 18-month, $200,000 National Science Foundation grant to “develop a multipurpose radar system that can detect drones and also serve as a severe weather warning system.” Zink said that a near collision between a drone and helicopter or airplane occurs nearly every week, and he hopes that the technology he will develop with the grant money will help reduce that risk. The system Zink and his team are developing “is designed to scan the airspace closest to the ground, where drones and severe weather are not currently visible to existing weather radar and aircraft surveillance systems.” His technology may “be used to find weather systems that are also close to the ground and go undetected by National Weather Service radar, Zink said.”
Northeastern University Engineer Publishes Study On Mini-Antenna Technology.
Science Magazine (8/22) reported that last month, the journal Nature Communications published a study authored by Northeastern University electrical engineer and materials scientist Nian Sun on two new kinds of acoustic mini-antennas that “can be manufactured together on a single chip.” One of the antennas features “a circular membrane, which works for frequencies in the gigahertz range, including those for WiFi,” and the other features “a rectangular membrane, suitable for megahertz frequencies used for TV and radio.” When the “researchers tested one of the antennas in a specially insulated room, they found that compared to a conventional ring antenna of the same size, it sent and received 2.5 gigahertz signals about 100,000 times more efficiently.” Sun is pursuing practical applications for the development. The advance may “lead to tiny brain implants, micro–medical devices, or phones you can wear on your finger.”
Northeastern University Researchers Create Next-Generation Smart Sensor.
Digital Trends (9/14) reports Northeastern University researchers developed a next-generation smart sensor as part of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, initiative called the Near Zero Power RF and Sensor Operation, or N-ZERO, program. The sensor is “capable of identifying infrared (IR) wavelengths – without having to have its own always-present power source,” as it is instead “powered by the same infrared wavelengths it’s designed to look for.” Its applications could include “detecting approaching human bodies or fuel-burning cars, identifying wildfires before they become uncontrollable, or pairing with laser sources for new types of remote control and communication applications.” The journal Nature Nanotechnology recently published a paper detailing the research.
NYTimes A1: Men’s Groups Believing Gender Equality In Tech Is Going Too Far Are “Gaining Traction.”
A front page story in the New York Times (9/23, Bowles, Subscription Publication) reports that men in Silicon Valley and the tech industry as a whole are more loudly voicing opinions that the push in the industry for equal treatment of women has been taken too far and is infringing on the rights of men. The article explains a group led by Nvidia engineer James Altizer that “he hosts in person and online to discuss men’s issues had grown by a few dozen members this year to more than 200, that the private Facebook pages he frequents on men’s rights were gaining new members and that a radical subculture calling for total male separatism was emerging.” As the industry reportedly comes off of multiple “high-profile sexual harassment and discrimination scandals” and HR and hiring actions respond, these conversations in “a fringe element of men who say women are ruining the tech world” are now “gaining broader traction.”
Israel Authorizes Alternative Fuel Sources In Response to Tamar Supply Issues.
Reuters (9/22) reported that on Friday, Israel’s energy ministry said that Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz has authorized the use of alternative fuel sources for electricity production due to a fault in natural gas supplies from the country’s Tamar offshore field. Supplies from the field were “halted after the fault was discovered during routine maintenance on Thursday.” The energy ministry “did not specify the nature of the fault.” Meanwhile, “The ministry originally stated the fault would be repaired within 24 hours, but a second statement on Friday said engineers from Texas-based Noble Energy, who are working to fix the fault, had said work would be completed next week.”
Editorial: China’s Phaseout Of Fossil Fuel Vehicles Could Devastate Houston Economy.
In an editorial, the Houston Chronicle (9/23) writes China’s move to phaseout vehicles powered by fossil fuels could devastate Houston’s energy industry. The country is joining Britain and France in plans to ban sales of diesel and gasoline cars by 2040. The editorial says, “As the auto industry approaches an electric revolution, we need to start considering how this will affect our petroleum-based economy.” To address the situation, the authors say, “we should ensure that natural gas is a major part of the energy mix.” Adding more export terminals and promoting natural gas infrastructure could help lay the foundation for keeping Texas relevant for the world’s energy mix.
Engineering and Public Policy
CARB Chair Raises Possibility Of Reopening Negotiations Over California Fuel Standards.
Bloomberg News (9/22, Beene) reports about “talk of a possible three-way negotiation between California, carmakers and the federal government” on the issue of vehicle emissions standards as the California Air Resource Board considers reopening negotiation over the standards going up to 2025. What California wants in return, however, for restarting talks is for the automakers and federal government to agree to the “significantly tougher targets the state is seeking for later years.” As CARB Chair Mary Nichols said on Friday, the auto industry has “a whole laundry list of things they’ve asked for” to help adopt the current standards, and so “the price of getting us to the table is talking about post-2025.” Nichols also “said she would want the Environmental Protection Agency, and not just the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to participate” in talks, “since this would ensure that the talks focus on greenhouse gases and not just fuel economy,” the story reports.
Judge Rules Federal Drone Rules Supersede Local Ban.
The Wall Street Journal (9/22, Gershman, Subscription Publication) reports US District Judge William Young in Massachusetts ruled Friday that parts of a local drone law in Newton, Massachusetts could not be enforced, as they go beyond the town’s authority to restrict UAS operation with the intent of safeguarding public safety and privacy. The Newton ordinance, passed last December, limited unmanned aircraft flights for UAVs under 55 pounds while also requiring them to be registered with the city and not to fly below an altitude of 400 feet over private property. Young said in his ruling that the local laws could not directly contradict federal law and that the town could not legislate its way out of FAA efforts to integrate drones into the national airspace.
Engineers Must Consider Climate Change In Dam Designs, Expert Says.
The AP (9/22, Warren) reports that engineers must now consider the impacts of climate change when designing dams, nuclear facilities, and other such structures, according to a climatologist in Texas. John Nielsen-Gammon explained during a “conference of civil engineers Friday in San Marcos that climate change means that powerful storms are unleashing significantly more rain than they did decades ago.” Commenting on how his remarks were received, Nielsen-Gammon said: “I wasn’t thrown out of the room and there wasn’t a standing ovation. … It’s difficult to welcome a message that asks for years of training and certitude to be fundamentally reconsidered,” he added.
Goggin: Wind Industry Provides Economic, Environmental Benefits For Texas.
Michael Goggin, senior director of research at the American Wind Energy Association, writes in the Houston Chronicle (9/23, Goggin) saying wind energy is providing enormous economic benefits to Texas, while also helping to keep air and water clean. The state produces 14 percent of its electricity from wind and will soon reach 20 percent. Oil majors, including Shell and BP, have been making major investments in wind energy. Offshore drilling leaders are also looking to leverage their expertise for the nascent offshore wind industry.
Los Angeles Inspects Thousands Of Buildings In Preparation For Big Quake.
The CBS Weekend News (9/23, story 8, 2:10, Ninan) broadcast about earthquake preparations in Southern California, where “scientists say that many Californian have a false sense of security regarding earthquakes.” In the wake of the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck Mexico City, engineer surveys of the damage found soft-story buildings without “enough steel rebar embedded in the support columns,” which happens to be “common construction, especially here in Los Angeles.” According to the broadcast, Los Angeles “is now targeting more than 13,000 small residential apartment buildings and nearly 1,500 concrete buildings that could need reinforcement,” giving the owners of vulnerable buildings “25 years to reinforce the structures.”
New Mexico Students’ Science Proficiency Rates Drop Amid State Push For New Standards.
Santa Fe New Mexican (9/24) says that the furor over the New Mexico’s proposed “controversial science education standards” has overshadowed students’ declining performance on existing benchmarks. On the most recent Standards Based Assessments, “the rate of students who achieved scores in the level of proficiency on the annual science tests dropped to 40 percent in the 2016-17 school year from 42 percent the previous year.” Gwen Warniment, who oversees Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation’s K-12 science inquiry program, “said part of the problem is that students accustomed to mixing chemicals or testing force and motion by using balls and ramps suddenly find themselves facing a multiple-choice question about those procedures.” Warniment stressed “that if the proposed measures are adopted, the state likely will have to come up with a new test to measure student knowledge of those lessons, one that is better aligned with the standards.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Puerto Rico May Be Without Power For Six Months, Officials Say.
• ED Inspector General Says Western Governors University Must Repay $713 Million.
• NSF Gives Case Western Reserve Professor $5.5 Million To Research “Bioinspired Materials.”
• India, Russia To Build Nuclear Power Plant In Bangladesh.
• BCG: Market For Autonomous Cars To Grow To $42B By 2025.
• Research Team Envisions Preventing Blackouts By Moving Electricity Intercontinentally.
• NSF Gives Baltimore $1.2 Million To Improve High School Chemistry Instruction.