Leading the News
Nebraska PSC Approves Alternative Keystone XL Route.
The AP (11/20) reports that on Monday the Nebraska Public Service Commission voted and approved a route for TransCanada’s Keystone XL oil pipeline. Although a route was approved, it is “five miles longer” than the company’s preferred path and also requires another pumping station. In a statement, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said the company will be studying “how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project.” The 3-2 PSC decision will likely face a legal challenge and may also require another route analysis for federal approval. The only Democrat in the PSC, Crystal Rhoades, said that the company did not show how the project was in the public interest. Rhoades also expressed concerns over the alternative route that was approved and how it will impact landowners. As a result of the approval, TransCanada will now be able “to gain access to the land of holdout landowners through eminent domain proceedings.”
Reuters (11/20, O’Hanlon, Lou) reports that the Nebraska PSC has lifted “the last big regulatory obstacle for the long-delayed project that U.S. President Donald Trump wants built.” The PSC’s decision leaves it “unclear whether the alternative route lacks any state or federal permits that the preferred route had already obtained, a situation that could drag out the regulatory process.” In response to the PSC decision, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the project “will mean greater energy security for all North Americans.” Meanwhile, Nebraska Democratic Party Chair and Bold Alliance President Jane Kleeb swore, “we are going to fight like hell to make sure this pipeline never gets built.”
State Department May Need To Reapprove Keystone XL Pipeline. The Washington Examiner (11/20, Siegel) reports that “the State Department is considering whether it needs to reapprove the Keystone XL pipeline” following Monday’s decision. State Department spokesperson Vincent Campos said, “we won’t know about any impacts until we learn precisely the extent of any changes, something we are currently engaged in.” The Hill (11/20, Henry) reports that as the Nebraska PSC decided to approve the Keystone XL pipeline’s alternative route, “the State Department is reviewing its cross-border permit” for the project. Meanwhile, two federal agencies must “still…approve permits for” the Keystone XL project.
Financial Aid Association Wants End To Origination Fees For Student Loans.
The Washington Post (11/20, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators wants the federal government to stop charging loan origination fees for student loans, a system through which the “government makes billions of dollars a year.” Justin Draeger, the president of the association, said, “It makes sense with commercial loans because the fee covers the cost of processing the loan. That’s moot when you’re talking about a federal loan, where eligibility is determined by law.”
University Of Louisville Receives Cybersecurity Training Grant.
The AP (11/20) reports, “Training for cybersecurity specialists will get a boost at a Kentucky university with a $580,000 federal grant to expand programs.” The University of Louisville “says one program will teach cybersecurity measures to public safety employees, while another will use common hardware and software to come up with new teaching methods.” DHS and the NSA awarded the grant.
Philadelphia Coding Boot Camp Trains Students On Income Share Basis.
Philly (PA) (11/20) reports that the New York Code and Design Academy branch in Philadelphia recently “began offering students a you-can’t-lose financing promise called an income share agreement.” The piece quotes Jeremy Snepar, the CEO and founder of the for-profit coding boot camp, saying, “An ISA puts the burden back on the school to do its job, to turn out skilled graduates who can apply what they’ve learned to actually make a living. When, and only when, you start to make a minimum salary of $40,000, you start to pay us back — with 8 percent taken out of your salary.”
Research and Development
Aerospace Firms Working On Satellite Repair Technology.
The Los Angeles Times (11/20, Masunaga) reports on the predicament facing satellite operators when their devices break down in orbit. Aerospace firms and government agencies are working on technology in which “robotic spacecraft essentially act as the AAA roadside service trucks of space, traveling from satellite to satellite to refuel them and fix problems.” Earlier this year, “30 companies gathered at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to learn about the technology and view hardware for on-orbit satellite servicing. They ranged from spacecraft makers to purveyors of robot arms and even insurance brokers.”
University Of Texas Using Literature To Forge Emotional Bonds Between Humans, Robots.
The Dallas Morning News (11/20, Brumfield) reports the University of Texas at Arlington’s Emotional Robotics Living Lab “is using the work of none other than William Shakespeare” to determine whether robots can be trusted to interact safety with humans and to “learn how robots can be integrated into homes to provide emotional as well as physical support.” The piece quotes UTA theater arts professor Julienne Greer saying, “The idea here is not to replace humans but to fill a gap. We are using theater arts to design ways for robots to create bonds of trust and emotion with humans of different ages and improve their quality of life.”
National Eye Institute Gives Arkansas Firm Grant To Develop Roboglasses For Blind.
Arkansas Business (11/20) reports the National Eye Institute has given Fauxsee Innovations of Magnolia, Arkansas a $226,000 grant “to continue developing its first product, Roboglasses.” Fauxsee President and CEO Brandon Foshee says that because he is blind, “since his company hopes to produce devices for the blind and visually impaired, he’ll not only be creating products, but using them himself.” The device works “using linear resonant actuators that provide a touch sensation” to “alert the user when he or she is a certain distance from an object or person.”
Researchers Consider How To Adapt Self-Driving Technology To Chaotic India Streets.
Quartz (11/19) reports on the advancement of autonomous vehicle technology in India, but notes that “there’s been one major hurdle to self-driving technology in India: a legion of lawbreakers, from rash drivers and jaywalkers to cattle. But University of Michigan dean of engineering Alec Gallimore believes this isn’t an insurmountable problem.” He says “the technology can work in India as long as ‘we’re not copy-and-pasting from the West.’” The Gallimore says “the trick is to teach the machines to follow the” unspoken rules of Indian roads.
Prototype Spacesuit Undergoes Zero-G Testing In Preparation For Commercial Flights.
SPACE (11/20, Howell) reports that a spacesuit designed by Final Frontier Design completes a third round of flight testing in Canada last month in preparation for “eventual space tourist flights.” The company submitted its 3G Intra-Vehicular Activity suit for testing on Falcon 20 jets between October 2-5, including “visor down” testing for the first time, “meaning that the subjects were fully sealed inside.” Southern called the plans of commercial companies – including Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin – to take customers into space without pressurized suits “crazy,” arguing that suits “are just like the oxygen masks that fall down from a commercial airliner when you’re at 35,000 feet.” Final Frontier Southern plans to conduct additional testing in coming weeks with Zero Gravity Corp. and with the Canadian National Research Council in 2018. National Research Council Research Flight Test Engineer Derek Gowanlock said that one potential application “of this research and knowledge development would be commercial space providers such as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin,” who would benefit from understanding how to prevent space sickness. Microgravity data is “nationally controlled,” Gowanlock explained, as NASA “gathers data, but it’s not widely published for research purposes.” Final Frontier’s funding includes “four Small Business Innovation Research grants, a NASA Space Act Agreement, a NASA fixed-price contract and a Flight Opportunities Program grant for microgravity testing.”
Researchers Use Quantum Dot Films To Amplify Light.
Nanowerk (11/20) reports scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory “in a breakthrough development…have shown that they can successfully amplify light using electrically excited films of the chemically synthesized semiconductor nanocrystals known as quantum dots.” According to Nanowerk, these films “are integrated into devices much like the now-ubiquitous light-emitting diodes (LEDs), but, in this case designed to sustain the high current densities required for achieving the optical-gain regime.” Victor Klimov, head of the quantum dot team at LANL, said, “By using our specially designed dots, we can avoid energy losses created by Auger recombination.” The research was published in Nature Materials.
Aerospace Firms Call For Investing In Future Workforce.
The Orlando (FL) Sentinel (11/20) reports that officials with space industry firms “say bolstering the industry’s future workforce to offset an expected wave of retirements must become a priority, or some firms will be left scrambling for workers.” The piece reports that the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast “found last year that 61.9 percent of all engineers in Brevard were 45 or older, meaning a majority could retire in the next decade or two — and slow innovation.”
Guggenheim Upgrades GM Shares Over “Advanced” Autonomous Technology.
CNBC (11/20, Franck) reports Guggenheim analyst Emmanuel Rosner “upgraded shares of General Motors to buy from neutral on Monday, citing the company’s ‘vision for an autonomous future’ as well as a ‘comfortable’ 2018 outlook.”
Former Pittsburgh Steel Mill To Be Converted To Robotics, Manufacturing Site
The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (11/20, Wardle) reports, “A long-empty steel mill in southeastern Pittsburgh will be revived as a robotics and manufacturing hub.” The site, called Hazelwood Green, “is the last urban brownfield in the city limits,” and “soon, three new buildings will join the site, ushering in a new era of manufacturing.” The new site “is expected to open in spring 2019.” The article quotes Mayor Bill Peduto saying, “There is possibly no other site in this country that has the potential of looking at the future and understanding where manufacturing is going to have a place. It stands on the shoulders of the tens of thousands that worked on this sacred ground, and appreciates and understands that we can build from it, not take away from it.” The Patriot-News also writes that “the new building will house research, development and offices for Carnegie Mellon University’s Manufacturing Futures Initiative and the nonprofit Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute, which aims to bring new technologies to the modern workforce,” and the institute “will train new employees and retrain skilled workers with new technology.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Science Organizations Condemn GOP Tax Plan.
Newsweek (11/20, Frankel) reports that the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other science groups “are strongly opposing the GOP tax plan, which they say could severely harm American science by making graduate degrees too costly to pursue.” The plan “includes a provision that would force graduate students to pay thousands of dollars more per year in taxes.” The groups say “the increased cost could keep students from continuing their education,” and STEM majors will “likely bear the brunt of it.”
Cuomo Wants Autonomous Vehicles In New York City Over De Blasio’s Objections.
CBS News (11/20, Van Cleave) reports New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to begin test driving autonomous vehicles in New York City next year, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has said “not so fast.” CBS News acknowledges Manhattan driving at best is “unpredictable” and at worst is “chaos,” so “for today’s self-driving cars, that mixture might be too much.”
Unions Say New Mexico Power Plant Contractors Violating Navajo Labor Laws.
The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (11/20) reports “unions that represent Navajo workers in New Mexico” say members of the tribe “are being passed over for jobs at a power plant on the reservation in violation of Navajo labor laws.” Four Corners Power Plant workers “are installing equipment to cut down on haze-causing nitrogen oxide emissions” and the project “requires nearly 1,500 temporary workers through July.” Arizona Public Service Co. spokesman Robert Charles “says contractors and subcontractors must abide by the Navajo Preference in Employment Act, which means qualified Navajos would be considered before other applicants.” The Journal adds “a regional carpenters union and a New Mexico group that represents 15 labor unions say they’re concerned that’s not happening.”
Large New Mexico Wind Energy Project Faces Public Hearing Next Week.
The AP (11/20) reports a wind energy project being proposed in New Mexico “that will be the subject of a public hearing next week has a large group of backers but also faces a substantial number of opponents, including staff at the state’s utility regulation commission.” According to a report by the Santa Fe New Mexican, “hundreds of wind turbines would be erected near the town of Portales close to the Texas border under the proposal by Minnesota-based energy giant Xcel Energy.” Southwestern Public Service Co., a subsidiary of Xcel, “has said the project would create hundreds of construction jobs and more than two dozen permanent ones when it is completed.” The project “is backed by local town leaders, educators, state legislators, village councilors and county commissioners.”
High School Students Design “Chariot” To Carry “Nuclear Waste.”
The Beaver County (PA) Times (11/20, Kurutz) reports about 90 high school students in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, “designed a chariot to contain ‘nuclear waste’ that would attach to a Sphero robot” Monday when the Carnegie Science Center brought its Mobile Fab Lab to campus. Students designed the chariots using “2-D design software and created the pieces using a laser cutter brought in by the science center, said Steve Luciano, an education lead with the Pittsburgh-based science museum.” The article says the project “came straight out of Sunday’s headlines, as robots sent deep into the reactors at the Fukushima power plant were able to access the plant’s uranium fuel.”
Amazon Makes Donations In Support Of STEM At Six North Texas Schools.
KTVT-TV Dallas (11/20) reports online that North Texas Amazon associates embarked upon a “two-day donation tour,” in which they “delivered $15,000 worth of backpacks filled with school supplies and $24,000 to support science, technology, engineering efforts to six schools in Dallas and Fort Worth.” The company said it has an “ongoing commitment to give back in local communities where its employees work and live.”
Berkshire Community College Holds STEM Career Fair For Massachusetts Students.
The Pittsfield (MA) Berkshire Eagle (11/20) reports Berkshire Community College in Massachusetts hosted the 11th annual STEM Career Fair on Friday. The event featured 36 local presenters, “from high-tech manufacturers to environmental and educational institutions based in the community and on college campuses.” Across Berkshire County, “various school and community-based institutions are expanding their STEM offerings to entice students to train, live and work closer to home.” The Berkshire Eagle says that “STEM fields are increasingly touted as growing sustainable job opportunities of the present and for the future,” and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected STEM-related jobs to grow byat least nine million between 2012 and 2022. Furthermore, the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Winter 2016 Salary Survey suggested that “graduates with at least a bachelor’s degree a STEM field were projected to have top earning, over other fields like education, the humanities and communication.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Tesla’s Electric Semi Trucks Include Automatic Braking And Nuke-Proof Glass.
• University Of Minnesota Engineering Students Win Bayer-Big Ten Alka-Rocket Challenge, Earn Guinness Title.
• Florida State Researchers Unveil Nanotube Prototype.
• UK Finance Ministry Plans To Increase Budget For Autonomous, Electric Vehicles.
• Puerto Rico Power Authority CEO Resigns Amid Prolonged Post-Hurricane Blackout.
• Los Angeles Charter School’s STEAM Curriculum Lauded.