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

Leading the News

Pruitt Announces Repeal Of Clean Power Plan.

ABC World News Tonight (10/9, story 7, 0:20, Muir) reported EPA Administrator Pruitt said Monday he would repeal the 2015 Clean Power Plan – President Obama’s “signature climate policy” – starting Tuesday. Before the repeal of the plan, which aimed to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent, there will be a public comment period.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, Friedman, Plumer, Subscription Publication) reports that at an event in eastern Kentucky, Pruitt “said that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in crafting the Clean Power Plan.” He added, “The war on coal is over.” The repeal proposal, set to be filed in the Federal Register Tuesday, “fulfills a promise President Trump made to eradicate his predecessor’s environmental legacy” and “makes it less likely the United States can fulfill its promise as part of the Paris climate agreement to ratchet down emissions.”

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, King) reports that according to climate change expert David Doniger, the repeal of the Clean Power Plan will not be a rapid process. In a Monday blog post, Doniger wrote, “Today’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan just begins the battle. … Pruitt’s EPA must hold hearings and take public comment, and issue a final repeal – with or without a possible replacement. He must respond to all legal, scientific, and economic objections raised, including the issues we lay out here.”

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9) reports that the National Association of Manufacturers and other trade organizations “praised” Pruitt’s announcement. Environmental groups, however, “criticized Monday’s announcement and praised” the Clean Power Plan. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “No matter who is in the White House, the EPA is legally required to limit dangerous carbon pollution, and the Clean Power Plan is an achievable, affordable way to do that.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, Biesecker, Beam) reports that a “coalition of left-leaning states and environmental groups” are promising to fight the Administration’s plans to end the Clean Power Plan. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – among those who have said they will sue – said, “The Trump Administration’s persistent and indefensible denial of climate change – and their continued assault on actions essential to stemming its increasing devastation – is reprehensible, and I will use every available legal tool to fight their dangerous agenda.”

Pruitt Calls For End Of Tax Credits To Wind Industry. Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, Natter) reports Pruitt on Monday also called for the elimination of tax credits to the wind industry. Responding to a question about the effectiveness of renewable energy, Pruitt said he would let wind energy companies “stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas and other sources.”

China Invests In Solar. The CBS Evening News (10/9, story 4, 2:05, Quijano) reported that as Pruitt announced Monday that the US would repeal Obama-era limits on carbon emissions from power plants, China “is doing the opposite.” China recently launched the world’s largest floating solar installation, built on top of a lake, “created by an abandoned coal mine” – a project, like many others, that has helped China double its solar capacity in the past year. According to Panda Green Energy Executive President Maggie Qiu, 28 solar power plants now operate in China. Additionally, the government is “spending hundreds of billions of dollars to subsidize renewable energy as China tries to wean itself off coal, still its dominant power source and the reason for it’s notoriously toxic air.”

WSJournal Backs Repeal Of Clean Power Plan. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/8, Subscription Publication) backs EPA Administrator Pruitt’s expected proposal to repeal the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, arguing that the move will restore federalism and increase competitiveness.

Research and Development

Researchers Develop AI To Detect Objects Hidden By Blind Corners.

Newsweek Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, Cuthbertson) report researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed CornerCameras, an artificial intelligence system “that allows self-driving cars to detect people and objects hidden around blind corners.” An MIT spokesperson told Newsweek, “The technology has a range of applications, from firefighters finding people in burning buildings to self-driving cars detecting pedestrians in their blind spots. … What’s impressive is that this approach works using footage from a smartphone camera, such as an iPhone 8.”

AI Researcher Says Machines Will Do All Of Our Jobs.

Max Tegmark, professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writes at NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/8, Tegmark) on artificial intelligence, arguing that in the not-too-distant future machines “will be able to do not merely some of our jobs, but all of our jobs, forever transforming life on Earth.” He offers four suggestions for AI to ensure that it is developed and deployed in ways that will benefit rather than harm us. They are: “Invest in AI safety research”; “Ban lethal autonomous weapons”; “Ensure that AI-generated wealth makes everyone better off”; and “Think about what sort of future we want.”

University Of Illinois Leading Effort To Develop Military Internet Of Things.

The Urbana/Champaign (IL) News-Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/6) reports that the University of Illinois is leading a group of other universities and institutions in a “five-year, $25 million initiative to develop an ‘internet of battlefield things.’” The goal is “to have humans and technology work together in a seamless network, giving soldiers a competitive edge, and keeping troops and civilians out of harm’s way.” Officials said the school “will lead the effort to develop the scientific foundations for battlefield analytics and services.”

Harvard Scientists Develop Zero-Index Waveguide.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9) reports that a team of scientists from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have built on a 2015 project that resulted in “the first on-chip metamaterial with a refractive index of zero, meaning that the phase of light could be stretched infinitely long,” to now create “a zero-index waveguide compatible with current silicon photonic technologies.” Nanowerk explains that “in doing so, the team observed a physical phenomenon that is usually unobservable – a standing wave of light.” postdoctoral fellow Camayd-Muñoz, who contributed to the breakthrough, is cited saying “This adds an important tool to the silicon photonics toolbox. … There’s exotic physics in the zero-index regime, and now we’re bringing that to integrated photonics. That’s an important step, because it means we can plug directly into conventional optical devices, and find real uses for zero-index phenomena. In the future, quantum computers may be based on networks of excited atoms that communicate via photons.”

Eighty Five Percent Of Puerto Rico Still Without Power.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, Chediak) reports it has been nearly “three weeks since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico and most of the island is still without electricity.” On Monday, the Energy Department said 85 percent of the island is still without power. DOE said that “some portions of feeder lines have been restored and about 30 percent of the island’s substations are back online.”

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, Marcos) reports Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has asked “Congress to consider providing about $1.4 billion in funding beyond the Trump administration’s request last week to help the U.S. territory recover from Hurricane Maria.” In a letter to congressional leaders, “Rosselló requested funding for federal grant and loan programs ‘to meet the immediate emergency needs of Puerto Rico.’”

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, Subscription Publication) reports Ricardo Ramos, CEO of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, “says he did not ask for help from mainland U.S. utilities before and immediately after Hurricane Maria destroyed the island’s grid because the utility couldn’t afford to pay anybody back for equipment and manpower.” Ramos “in an interview with E&E News on Saturday said the specter of running out of cash in 60 days made him instead turn to the Army Corps of Engineers, which will fund and control the territory’s electrical recovery.” Ramos stated, “The day that the Corps of Engineers showed up and offered the assistance, we immediately accepted because we knew that financially it was a better model … The benefit is that I don’t have to spend the remaining dollars that are needed for recuperating the system.”

Photodetecotors Could Yield New Solar Energy Collection, Improved Efficiency.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9) explains that photodetecors, the light-detecting units found in everything from cameras to phones, are a combination of two inorganic materials, measure just microns across, and convert light into electrons. The article says physicists at the University of California, Riverside have created a photodetector that “could revolutionize the way solar energy is collected.” Nathaniel M. Gabor, an assistant professor of physics, who led the research team, explains, “Normally, when an electron jumps between energy states, it wastes energy. In our experiment, the waste energy instead creates another electron, doubling its efficiency.” Nanowerk says, “In existing solar panels models, one photon can at most generate one electron. In the prototype the researchers developed, one photon can generate two electrons or more through a process called electron multiplication.” Furthermore, the researchers are reportedly finding that increased temperatures are helping to more than double electron output. This discovery stands to increase the efficiency of light-to-electricity conversion, something that has reportedly “been one of the primary aims in photodetector construction since their invention.”

ASEE Week of Giving
October 23-27 we’ll ask members to help us get to 25 by 125 – that is, $25K in time for our 125th anniversary next year. More details to come but know that our highest-tier givers get a batch of fresh-baked, from-scratch chocolate chip cookies overnighted to their office or home!

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).

Deans’ Diversity Pledge Website Launches
The site will catalog various ways engineering programs are working to meet diversity goals.


Sephora Uses Simple Approach To Create Majority-Female Technology Team.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, Simons, Subscription Publication), John Simons reports that makeup retailer Sephora has managed to create a technology team where women make up 62 percent of the personnel, a feat that other Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook, Google, and Apple have failed to achieve. Simons says Sephora has achieved the majority female team by encouraging hiring managers to choose new employees based on potential rather than existing concrete skills, in addition to encouraging not only innovation but also failure. Veteran recruiter with Harvey Nash Group PLC Jane Hamner, whose clients include Amazon, Expedia, and Uber says Sephora’s approach is a departure from the norm among large technology companies.

Global Developments

NYTimes Analysis: China Working Towards A Future Of Electric Vehicles.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, A1, Bradsher, Subscription Publication) reports as it has received “vast amounts of government money and visions of dominating next-generation technologies,” China has become the world’s greatest supporter of electric vehicles. The Chinese government has set a goal that one in every five cars sold in China will run on alternative fuel by 2025. Additionally, last month, China “issued new rules that would require the world’s carmakers to sell more alternative-energy cars here if they wanted to continue selling regular ones.” The Times observes that if China succeeds in its electric vehicle promotion efforts, Beijing’s policymakers “will be front and center reimagining the global auto industry, a business that has helped define communities, industries and people’s aspirations for more than a century.”

Industry News

3D Printing Technology Pushes Deeper Into Manufacturing, Enabling More Complex Products.

The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/6, Freeman) reported that HP’s newest 3D printing technologies are a prime example of the production method becoming more applicable and prevalent in manufacturing. The Union-Tribune said, “The company claims its machines can produce dense, intricate parts from engineering grade thermal plastics up to 10 times faster than existing technologies.” the article also explains that with 100 workers, Forecast 3D expects sales of around $15 million for 2017 as it “uses 3D printing – including metal – to serve customers in healthcare, automotive, aerospace and consumer goods,” given “an advantage over injection molding” through HP Multi Jet Fusion machines. Jesse Lea, president of 3D printing company GoProto, is cited saying, “We are truly on the cusp of a sea-change shift in manufacturing. Additive technology innovations are altering the traditional landscape, offering designers and engineers opportunities that haven’t previously existed.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Perry Defends Financing Proposal To Benefit Nuclear, Coal Plants.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/6, Cama) reports Energy Secretary Perry at a meeting of the group Veterans for Energy on Friday “defended his proposal for high payments to nuclear and coal plants” and he also rejected “the idea that his new proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would disrupt a competitive market.” Perry said, “I think it’s really important for people to understand, in general terms, there is no free market in the energy industry.” Perry added, “Anybody that gets up and says that is lying – is not, with all due respect, educated as to what the reality of the market is.”

Study: Harnessing Wind Energy Over Oceans Could Power Human Civilization.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9) reports “there is so much wind energy potential over oceans that it could theoretically be used to generate ‘civilization scale power,’” according to new research published by the Carnegie researchers on Monday. Harnessing that energy would require developers to “cover enormous stretches of the sea with turbines.” The study’s lead author, Ken Caldeira, said he views the study’s conclusion as “kind of a greenlight for that industry from a geophysical point of view.”

Wind Generation Expected To Expand After Successes Of Block Island Wind Farm.

Newsday (NY) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, Guzik) reports that members of the Newsday editorial recently visited the Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Long Island, the first deepwater wind farm in the U.S. There are already two federal leases for offshore wind farms in that area, and New York officials recently “recommended more than 1 million acres for wind power arrays.” If new projects in the region move forward, they could ultimately be producing up to 2,000 megawatts by 2022.

Pruitt Calls For End Of Tax Credits To Wind Industry.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, Natter) reports EPA Administrator Pruitt on Monday called for the elimination of tax credits to the wind industry. Responding to a question about the effectiveness of renewable energy, Pruitt said he would let wind energy companies “stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas and other sources.” The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/9, Cama) reports he did concede “that any move to end the credits would be a ‘policy decision’ for Congress, ‘not an EPA decision.’”

Friday’s Lead Stories

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