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

Leading the News

University Of Maryland Student Team Wins Second Place At “Solar Decathlon.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/14, Chandler) reported that a team of University of Maryland students took second place on Saturday at a nine-day “Solar Decathlon” sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. During the event, teams of students built homes that were evaluated for their energy efficiency, livability and market potential. The UMD team’s house “stood out for its water-reuse system and emphasis on home gardening.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15) reports that the “house also features a composting toilet, a hydroponic garden and greenhouse, and water filtration system, as well as a solar-powered dryer and food dehydrator.” The competition was won by a team from Switzerland.

University Of Denver/UC Berkeley Team Finishes Third.The Denver Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/14) reports that the partnership between the University of Denver and UC Berkeley came in third “for the group’s house designed specifically for the city of Richmond, Calif.” The article explains that the Solar Decathlon “is a challenge for college teams to build and operate highly energy-efficient and innovative solar houses.”

Higher Education

Most Students, Faculty In University Of Wyoming STEM Courses Male.

The Laramie (WY) Boomerang Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15, Victior) reports that according to Ph. D. student Emily Beagle, the University of Wyoming mechanical engineering department “supports roughly 40 to 50 graduate students…but only about seven of those students are women.” According to Shawna McBride, who oversees the university’s WiMSE – or Women in Math, Science and Engineering – initiative, this “disparity is not unique to mechanical engineering, but is common among the STEM fields.”

FTC, State AGs Fight Student Debt Relief Scams.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/13, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that on Friday the Federal Trade Commission announced it has formed a task force along with 12 state attorneys general in order to fight “student debt relief scams.” The new task force is so far “responsible for five cases against companies, such as Student Debt Doctor and American Student Loan Consolidators, accused of misleading borrowers about their ability to lower student-loan payments or illegally charging upfront fees before providing the service.”

Declining Research Funding For Midwest Universities Threatens Economic Troubles.

The Atlantic Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15) reports that declining federal funding for basic research at universities is especially pronounced at “public institutions in the Midwest, which have historically conducted some of the nation’s most important research. These schools are desperately needed to diversify economies that rely disproportionately on manufacturing and agriculture and lack the wealthy private institutions that fuel the knowledge industries found in Silicon Valley.” However, “many flagship Midwestern research universities are being weakened by deep state budget cuts” and other financial pressures.

Minnesota Delegation Pushes Non-College Postsecondary Options.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15, Spencer) reports on the difficulty Minnesota manufacturers have in finding qualified workers and touches on how four-year college programs are not appropriate fits for all families. The piece reports that Sens. Al Franken (D) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) “have each offered multiple bills to try to encourage high school graduates to consider credentialing or community and technical college programs that lead to well-paying, stable jobs that don’t require four-year degrees.” The legislation has proposed such things as “classes that give high school students college credit, partnerships between schools and employers that provide money, equipment and apprenticeships, and federal grants to start more pathway programs.”

University Of Kansas Faculty Group Sounds Warning About Student Hack.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/14) reports that a University of Kansas faculty group is expressing concerns that “a recent cybersecurity breach…could lead to other attacks, not just at the university, but across higher education.” Aerospace engineering professor Ron Barrett-Gonzalez said “an apparently disgruntled engineering student” used a keystroke logger to hack into school computers to raise his failing grades.

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!

Start Smart with “Smart Start”
Researchers and innovators will want to be in this two-week course to improve STEM education at all levels. Courses offered in the spring of 2018. Learn more and apply here.

New Safe Zone Online Workshops – Coming Next Month!
Don’t miss the Fall 2017 Safe Zone Ally Training online workshops! These free online workshops help faculty, staff and students build knowledge and skills to create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ individuals in STEM. Each workshop emphasizes tips and action strategies for allies. Tune in on Nov. 7 to learn LGBTQ terms and concepts, the steps of the coming out process, and more. Register today.

Research and Development

Robots’ “Odd” Driving Habits Lead To Fender Benders.

The Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15) reports that a number of “low-speed fender benders” in which human drivers have collided with robot-controlled cars in California “highlight an emerging culture clash between humans who often treat traffic laws as guidelines and autonomous cars that refuse to roll through a stop sign or exceed the speed limit.” The people quotes Mike Ramsey, an analyst for Gartner, says, “They don’t drive like people. They drive like robots. They’re odd, and that’s why they get hit.”

Roboteq Introduces Simulator To Accelerate Design Of Magnetic Guided AGVs.

Process and Control Engineering (AUS) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/8) reports that Roboteq has introduced RoboAGVSim, a free simulator which allows PC-based programming, testing, and fine-tuning by AGV designers. The article explains that only two Roboteq components are needed to create a magnetic track guided AGV: “an MGS1600 magnetic guide sensor and any Roboteq dual-channel motor controller.” The simulator allows any track design to be drawn or loaded in were a virtual AGV representation can then test the track configuration with “real physical characteristics, such as wheel base, gear ratio, wheel diameter and sensor distance from the pivot point” all taken into account. THe article says “a source code editor is available for writing the program that will be simulated” and “once the program has been verified in the simulator, it can be loaded into the Roboteq controller that is on the real AGV.”

Northrop, Raytheon BBN Awarded Contracts To Develop Swarming Unmanned Systems.

ExecutiveBiz Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/13, Adams) reported the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced Thursday that it “has awarded contracts to teams led by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon’s BBN Technologies subsidiary to support a program that aims to equip small infantry forces with swarms of small unmanned aircraft and ground vehicles.” The agency “said Thursday [that] the two teams will perform work under the first phase of the OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics program, which seeks to create and deploy swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming technologies to the field.”

NASA Langley Tests Supersonic QueSST Aircraft Design.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15) reported that the NASA Langley Research Center conducted wind tunnel testing on a prototype supersonic plane, the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST), that may one day be able to travel at supersonic speeds without “that infamous sonic boom that can startle livestock, shatter windows and anger anyone within earshot.” Supersonic flights over the US were banned in 1973 due to noise concerns. QueSST Planning Lead David Richwine said, “We’re trying to lift those regulations, and we need data. In order to get the data, you need an airplane that can do that.” Developed with Lockheed Martin, QueSST is being tested “at slower speeds to study its performance under different flap configurations and, especially, how it handles at lower speeds during take-off and landing.” Richwine said, “Being a very fast airplane, it doesn’t like to fly slow. So understanding how to fly slow is very important.” QueSST is designed to fly at speeds of up to Mach 1.4, speeds that could cut long-distance flights in half. NASA has solicited industry bids from manufacturers to use the agency’s data to draft and build a final aircraft design. Langley hopes to choose a contractor for the project early next year, although the project’s estimated $390 million budget has not been approved by Congress.

Vermont Professor Receives Climate Change Research Grant.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15) reports a professor at Norwich University in Vermont “has won a $132,000 federal grant for research on the impacts of past climate change on the state’s lakes.” Professor Laurie Griggs “will use the National Science Foundation grant to study sediment cores from the bottom of a central Vermont lake.” Griggs “then aims to reconstruct how the aquatic ecosystems have responded to climatic changes during the last 10,000 years.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Experts Say Termination Of CPP Does Not Mean End To EPA Carbon Regulation.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15, Wolfgang) reports that environmental groups and legal experts say that the EPA’s repeal of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan “doesn’t necessarily let the Trump administration off the hook,” and the federal government “may have to show courts that it intends to address carbon pollution from power plants in some way, shape or form.” They say that just because EPA Administrator Pruitt “is dismantling the flawed CPP doesn’t mean he’ll be able to ignore power plant pollution altogether.” The EPA “seemed to acknowledge as much last week when it left open the door to another rule addressing carbon.” Nonetheless, Steve Milloy, author of “Scare Pollution: Why And How To Fix The EPA,” writes in the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15, Subscription Publication), that Pruitt’s action is significant because no previous GOP Administration has rolled back a major EPA regulation.

Analysis: Trump Administration Supporting Coal Industry. In a piece titled “Trump’s Love Affair With Coal,” Politico Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15, Grunwald) reports that “as the Trump administration has battled internally and seesawed publicly over issues like trade, health care, infrastructure and even immigration, there’s no issue where it’s been more consistent and emphatic than its support for coal.” Coal miners showed up “at his raucous campaign rallies, and sure enough, he’s been a relentless advocate for this small and beleaguered industry.” The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15, Halper) reports that despite the attempts of the Trump Administration to end what it calls the “war on coal,” coal communities have yet to really benefit.

FERC Chair “Sympathetic” To Components Of Perry’s Proposal On Coal, Nuclear.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/13, Cama) reports Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Neil Chatterjee told reporters on Friday that “he is ‘sympathetic’ to parts of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to prop up coal and nuclear power plants,” but said that “he would not put in place a policy stemming from the proposal if it would ‘blow up’ competitive electricity markets or not withstand court challenges.” According to The Hill, “Chatterjee’s comments were the first time he has weighed in on Perry’s proposal from last month.”

Administration Seeks To Break Impasse Over ANWR Drilling.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/13, Fountain, Subscription Publication) reports that the Trump Administration and congressional Republicans “in recent weeks have renewed the fight over opening part” of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration. The battle over the refuge, “which pits Republicans in Washington and much of the political and business establishment in Alaska against congressional Democrats and environmental and conservation groups, has been going on for decades.” Now, “with Republicans holding both houses of Congress and the presidency, the prospects for opening the refuge, at least to studies of its oil and gas potential, are better than they have been in years.” The article notes that “a budget resolution introduced late last month, and supported by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, may help pave the way.”

Fracking Battle In Texas Pits Rare Lizard Against Oil Industry. The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/13, Matthews, Subscription Publication) reports on the looming battle between frackers in the Permian Basin of Texas and the rare dunes sagebrush lizard, which environmentalists are seeking to classify as an endangered species.

FAA Speeds Up Implementation Of Automated Drone-Flight Approval Procedures To Deal With Backlogs.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/13, Levin) reports the increase in reported “safety incidents involving civilian drones” to about 250 a month on average has led to “emergency” action by the Federal Aviation Administration “to approve drone flights in restricted areas” due to the “pent-up demand for obtaining special permission to fly drones.” FAA says it has received so many applications for commercial drone approvals that people are starting to operate illegally rather than wait for permission, leading to the “increase in safety reports due to non-compliant operations,” the agency said. The aim of the emergency measure is “to sidestep normal regulatory requirements” so the agency “can more quickly adopt an automated system,” or what FAA calls Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, “for approving low-level drone flights in restricted areas” in as little as five minutes, as opposed to 60-90 days.

NYTimes: Safety Regulators Need Resources To Deal With Industry Push For Autonomous Vehicles.

An editorial by the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/14, Subscription Publication) discusses the low level of public trust in autonomous vehicles, saying it “would be a mistake” for “corporate executives and proponents” of driverless vehicles “to dismiss these concerns as part of humanity’s aversion to change and argue that this resistance will soften once people see the benefits of self-driving technologies.” Citing various challenges with integrating autonomous vehicles onto public roads, the Times specifically mentions NHTSA’s “underfunded” budget and that it is “woefully unprepared to regulate self-driving cars, particularly at the scale proponents hope to see down the line,” with a need at the agency for “more electrical engineers, programmers and cybersecurity specialists who can evaluate such cars.”

NYTimes: Safety Regulators Need Resources To Deal With Industry Push For Autonomous Vehicles.

An editorial by the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/14, Subscription Publication) discusses the low level of public trust in autonomous vehicles, saying it “would be a mistake” for “corporate executives and proponents” of driverless vehicles “to dismiss these concerns as part of humanity’s aversion to change and argue that this resistance will soften once people see the benefits of self-driving technologies.” Citing various challenges with integrating autonomous vehicles onto public roads, the Times specifically mentions NHTSA’s “underfunded” budget and that it is “woefully unprepared to regulate self-driving cars, particularly at the scale proponents hope to see down the line,” with a need at the agency for “more electrical engineers, programmers and cybersecurity specialists who can evaluate such cars.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

New Mexico Scientists Protest Proposed State-Level Edits To National Science Standards.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/13) reported that on Friday outside the New Mexico Public Education Department’s headquarters, a group of “scientists delivered a mini-seminar on climate change, evolution, astrophysics and carbon dating” to protest the PED’s proposed adjustments to the national Next Generation Science Standards. The Santa Fe Public School Board of Education unanimously supported the mini-seminar. PED’s proposed changes include replacing a reference to the Earth’s “4.6 billion-year history” with “geological history” at the middle school level; replaces a reference to a “rise in global temperatures” with “fluctuations” in temperature; and omits “evolution” in favor or “biological diversity.” The scientists maintained that the proposed changes conflict with well-established knowledge. Meanwhile, the state’s secretary-designate for public education, Christopher Ruszkowki, “criticized participants in the protest for ‘public posturing’ rather than working with the PED on the new standards.”

Santa Fe New Mexican Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/14) reported that the Friday “event was a low-key, personal affair, featuring speakers who used a combination of facts, humor and scientific babble to entertain a gathering of about 30 people and spotlight the proposed omissions.” Santa Fe Public Schools and several other districts have already “publicly challenged the new standards, as have Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists and the LANL Foundation, which for years has provided science materials and curriculum for hundreds of elementary school classrooms across Northern New Mexico.” The teach-in “came as the nonprofit Environmental Education Association of New Mexico sent a letter to the education department, asking state officials to adopt, instead, a set of national science standards created by the National Research Council and the National Science Teachers Association.” The New Mexico Science Teachers Association has also petitioned PED to adopt the national standards in full.

Dallas School District To Introduce Computer Science Curriculum At All Elementary Schools.

Under the guidance of its Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math executive director, Oswaldo Alvarenga, Dallas ISD launched “a three-year plan to expand computer science curriculum to all 151 elementary campuses,” reports the Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/15, Smith, Writer). Last year, Frederick Douglass Elementary launched a pilot program granting students “the opportunity to learn computer science concepts – such as coding and robotics instruction – in class every day.” Thirty-one other DISD elementary schools are now following suit. The district-wide initiative will cost “$4.4 million over the next three years, not counting nearly $600,000 in professional teacher development through a partnership with national computer science nonprofit” The funding “averages out to $10,000 per campus per year, not nearly enough to provide each of the district’s 73,000 K-5 students with a device.” Once the expansion is complete, however, “DISD will offer computer science instruction at every school, across all grade levels.”

Edison Presents STEM Grant To Central Coast Girl Scouts.

The Ventura County (CA) Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/14) reported that Edison International recently presented a $10,000 grant to the Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast “to help fund Girl Scout science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs across Ventura County.” The funds “will allow 325 girls and 25 related adults in Ventura County to engage in digital and nondigital STEM activities in a fun and exploratory way while also having opportunities to care for the environment.” Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast CEO Jody Skenderian said, “At Girl Scouts, research findings show that girls are overwhelmingly interested in STEM, and they like to explore how things work, so we are very grateful to receive this grant from Edison International to support STEM programming.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

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