Leading the News
Perry Embraces Electricity Pricing Policy To Benefit Coal, Nuclear Plants.
The Washington Post (9/29, Mufson, Mooney) reports Energy Secretary Perry on Friday “took sweeping steps…to buttress a pair of financially-strapped nuclear plants under construction and redefine how coal and nuclear plants are compensated for the electricity they provide – a move that, if agreed to by independent federal energy regulators, could tilt some of the nation’s complex power markets away from renewables and natural gas.” The Wall Street Journal (9/29, Puko, Subscription Publication) reports that in his letter, Perry said, “Distorted price signals…have resulted in undervaluation of grid reliability and resiliency benefits provided by traditional baseload resources, such as coal and nuclear. … As a first step, it is especially urgent to prevent premature retirements of the resources that have these critical attributes.” According to the Journal, energy lawyers and analysts say the Energy Department’s appeal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is unusual. However, the Journal notes the FERC is not required to implement the proposals.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal (9/29, Bustillo, Subscription Publication) reports Perry on Friday also offered $3.7 billion in additional federal loan guarantees to the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia, bringing the total to $12 billion. While the facility would include the first new nuclear reactors built in US in over 30 years, the Journal says that construction is not expected to be finished until at least February 2021. In a statement, Perry said, “I believe the future of nuclear Energy in the United States is bright and look forward to expanding American leadership in innovative nuclear technologies.”
Walla Walla University Engineering Student Profiled.
The Walla Walla (WA) Union-Bulletin (10/1) profiles Austin Nordman, who expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Walla Walla University this December, after which he will join the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he has interned on the Mars rover mission development project. Nordman credited WWU for nurturing and expanding “many of the skills he’ll be using at NASA.” As a freshman, Nordman arrived with “his own 3-D printer,” which he used to develop a motorized longboard, among other experiments. He also developed “a 3-D printer that recently caught the attention of Key Technology for its compact size, faster output and reasonable price tag,” meaning it was “feasible for colleges to buy 3-D printer kits for students, at a ratio of one to a small group of users.” At the age of six, Nordman received his first Lego Mindstorm set, a so-called “geek’s gateway drug” that led him to create a FIRST regional competition-winning robotics team.
Study Credits College Graduation Gap In Illinois To High In-State Tuition, Fees.
The AP (9/30) reported The Partnership for College Completion found that in 2014, low-income families in Illinois had to “set aside 63 percent of their total income for a student to attend a four-year institution,” while middle-class families set aside 25 percent. Furthermore, the state’s “in-state college tuition and fees ranked fifth highest in the U.S. last year.” PCC executive director Kyle Westbrook said the high cost of college in Illinois has contributed to lower graduation rates among students of color and low-income students. “About 50 percent of our state’s elementary and high school students are low income, and that brings with them some significant challenges as well as lack of resources when they are able to move into higher education,” Westbrook explained. PCC strategy director Lisa Castillo Richmond noted states and institutions have, however, “really focusing on increasing attainment overall, eliminating achievement gaps, racial achievement gaps and socio-economic achievement gaps,” and are “seeing movement” as a result.
Research and Development
New Mexico State University Computer Science Professor Participates In NSF-Funded Augmented Reality Project.
The Las Cruces (NM) Sun-News (9/30) reported New Mexico State University associate professor of computer science Satyajayant Misra is collaborating with University of California-Los Angeles researchers on the ICN-Enabled Secure Edge Networking with Augmented Reality project, which “aims to develop augmented reality applications using Named Data Networking as a foundation.” A multi-campus team of researchers led by UCLA is developing NDN, “a new Internet architecture” that may “address the limitations in performance, scalability and availability of the current TCP/IP architecture, currently the basic communication language of the Internet.” With the help of a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation and Intel Corporation, Misra and her co-researchers hope “to enable wireless networks at the edge of the Internet to support futuristic augmented reality applications to be used by the public on a large scale.”
Nine Alabama Universities To Develop Predictive Plasma-Surface Interaction Technologies.
The Athens (AL) News Courier (9/30) reported The University of Alabama in Huntsville is leading a partnership of nine Alabama universities in a project, titled “Connecting the Plasma Universe to Plasma Technology in Alabama: The Science and Technology of Low-Temperature Plasma,” or CPU2AL, that “seeks to understand, predict, and control the transfer of power from electromagnetic fields to electrons, ions, atoms, molecules and surfaces, and chemical reactions in plasma.” The nine-university coalition recently received a five-year, $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research to “fund the development of new predictive plasma-surface interaction technologies for the nation’s aerospace, manufacturing, energy, environment, and agricultural sectors.”
Notre Dame Professor Develops Simple, Rapid Flu Detection Method.
Inside INdiana Business (9/28) reported Notre Dame University Emil T. Hofman Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Dr. Bradley Smith “has developed what he calls a simpler, faster and more scalable method that makes the [flu] virus ‘light up’ red in a sample.” Smith’s method “requires only a nose or mouth swab, and results could be instantaneous.” Smith said that the method “could also determine if Tamiflu or Relenza, antiviral medications that block the flu virus and lessen symptoms, would be effective in a person’s particular case of the flu.” He cautioned that “the technology is now navigating what researchers call ‘The Valley of Death,’ – the gap between academic discovery and commercialization – where good ideas are shelved for lack of funding and other resources.” Smith is hoping engineers at Notre Dame’s Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics can “shrink” the technology into a smaller, user-friendly kit “that could have a big impact on future flu seasons.”
Hybrid Drone To “Revolutionize” Warfare, Experts Say.
The Daily Mail (9/29) reported that “futuristic hybrid drones with both a helicopter and airplane mode are set to revolutionise warfare, experts claim. Engineers have unveiled an ambitious new concept for adaptable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which are so agile they can take off and land like a helicopter and still fly like plane.” Engineers from BAE Systems and students from Cranfield University “claim the adaptable flight modes will make the craft perfectly suited to the challenges of modern warfare.” Professor Nick Colosimo, BAE Systems’ futurist and technologist, is quoted saying, “The battlefield of the future will require novel solutions to meet emerging threats and to keep human operators safe wherever they may be.”
Thales Opens UK Innovation Hub For Digital Tech Efforts.
ExecutiveBiz (9/29, Nicholas) reported that Thales “has opened a new innovation hub at the One Station Square business center in Cambridge, England, as part of the company’s digital technology growth and expansion efforts.” The company “said Friday its new facility offers a workspace for engineers, research, development and innovation professionals to collaborate with customers, partners and suppliers.” Thales e-Security CEO Alan Kessler is quoted saying, “The move to One the Square is part of Thales’s wider strategic goal to ensure the business delivers sustainable profitability and growth.”
Honda Odyssey Might Go Electric.
Inside EVs (9/30) reports Honda has not said “a plug-in Odyssey is in the works, but rather the automaker believes there’s demand for an electrified minivan.” Tom Sladek, principal engineer-Honda R&D Americas, is quoted as saying, “The electrification initiative is definitely coming, but on which products and which timing is not 100% clear yet.”
Blizzard Job Posting Hints New Mobile Game Is An MMO RTS.
TweakTown (9/29, Strickland) reports that it appears one of Blizzard’s in-progress mobile games will be a “Massively Multiplayer Online RTS.” According to the article, a now-scrubbed job listing from Blizzard’s site said the company was “seeking an experienced Unity mobile client engineer to work on an unannounced MMO RTS project.” TweakTown reports that a mashup of the two genres may have to do with an international release, as “mobile MMOs are absolutely massive in China.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Wind Energy A Growing Source Of Revenue In Ohio.
The AP (10/1) reports Ohio’s clean-energy economy has grown “from near zero to more than $1 billion worth of spending in the past 10 years, with the potential to grow fourfold if every announced project is built.” As wind farms emerge as “a big, and growing, business” in the state, however, “some neighbors view the turbines as an affront, spoiling the landscape with noise, the flicker of shadows from turbine blades and blinking red lights.” Despite the complaints, some school districts have profited from the wind energy market. For example, “Wayne Trace High School, a rural school consolidated from three communities,” received $706,923 in local tax revenue for the 2016-17 budget year. The extra funding accounted for “11 percent of local tax revenue in the K-12 budget,” and “has allowed the district to increase staffing without raising taxes.”
Tesla Considers Expansion Into Caribbean Islands Devastated By Hurricanes.
USA Today (10/1, Kelly) reports Tesla is considering “an expansion into storm-ravaged islands of the Caribbean – and it could become a key player in shaping grids of the future.” Hurricanes Irma and Maria wrought “historic destruction” on Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, downing “once-operational and largely fossil fuel-powered grids” and “opening up the possibility for companies like Tesla to move in and establish a presence.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MIT Energy Initiative director of research Francis O’Sullivan predicted that “entities like Tesla are going to be part of” a renewable energy industry launched on the islands. “They’re building a technology package that will be needed,” O’Sullivan added. Industry analysts and Tesla insiders, however, say the company is interested in the “storm-damaged islands in the Caribbean as a way to expand its influence.” USA Today suggests Tesla’s efforts may not “be as lucrative as they may seem” because the “industry operates on tight margins and uses expensive, research-heavy technologies.”
Alternative Energy Industries Poised To Create Jobs In Wyoming, West Virginia.
The New York Times (9/30, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports on the former mining economies of Wyoming and West Virginia, which have “lost population and had middling economic in recent years” as coal has been “dethroned” by “cheap natural gas, declining demand for electricity, and even green energy.” According to the Times a subsidiary of a Chinese wind turbine company is training technicians in Wyoming “in anticipation of a large power plant it expects to supply,” while in West Virginia the nonprofit Solar Holler is working with a group called Coalfield Development “to train solar panel installers and seed an entire industry.”
University Of Illinois Civil Engineering Professor Assesses Hurricane Damage In Texas.
The Urbana/Champaign (IL) News-Gazette (9/29) reported University of Illinois civil engineering professor Frank Lobardo joined Auburn University and University of Maryland researchers in Rockport, Texas on Thursday “to assess damage from Hurricane Harvey, in hopes of someday improving building safety in hurricane zones.” The National Science Foundation awarded the researchers a “rapid response” grant “to identify factors responsible for building damage,” like wind speed and turbulence, as well as the environment surrounding a house “that might alter the wind’s force on the structure.” The researchers will also analyze the aerodynamics of a house and “other construction features that could affect how it responds to force.” The researchers’ ultimate goal is “to help improve building codes and construction practices.”
Construction Industry Waits For Clarity On Administration’s Infrastructure Plans.
Engineering News-Record (9/29, Ichniowski) reports on the response of “construction industry officials” to the President’s “recently reported comments that seemed to indicate he is moving away from drawing on public-private partnerships (P3s) in his long-promised, still unreleased infrastructure proposal.” The story mentions that Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper wrote a letter with other Democrats to Secretary Chao earlier this week “seeking a meeting with her or other officials ‘to share the administration’s long-awaited infrastructure plan.’” Chao has mostly spoken about infrastructure financing in the past when discussing the Administration’s infrastructure proposals, such as when she said in a May speech before the US Chamber of Commerce that “a key feature of the infrastructure plan will be unleashing the billions of dollars in private capital available for investment in infrastructure.”
Maine DOE Seeks To Expand CTE Access To Middle School Students.
The AP (9/30) reported Maine’s state Department of Education plans to expand career and technical education access to middle school students across the state. A new state law permits, but does not require, middle schools to offer such opportunities this year, but the state agency “wants to ask lawmakers for funding to expand the program in the 2018-2019 school year.” State Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome has “said that 11 other states have expanded their career and technical education programs to include middle-schoolers,” and that “such programs expose students to skills and behaviors they need to compete in technologically advanced workplaces.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• DOE Says Majority Of Puerto Rico Still Without Power.
• Keck Foundation Gives Chapman University $20M For New Science Center.
• Hawaii Authorities Okay Controversial Massive Telescope.
• Pearson Study Downplays Future Job Market Automation.
• IBM Has More Employees In India Than In US.
• Public Figures Urge Apple To Activate FM Radio Chips In iPhones To Help Hurricane Relief Efforts.
• Trump Administration Requires Measuring Of Greenhouse Gases From Cars, Trucks.