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

Leading the News

Trump EPA Vows To Replace Clean Power Plan.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Cama) reports that the EPA is pursuing a replacement for the Clean Power Plan after the Trump administration vowed to repeal the regulation. The Trump administration’s climate rule “is likely to be far weaker than Obama’s, which sought a 32 percent reduction in the power sector’s carbon emissions.”

The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Siegel) reports that in his first testimony before Congress on Thursday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he “plans to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, instead of just killing it outright.” However, Pruitt has also criticized the endangerment finding, – which forces the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas, – saying the endangerment finding was “accelerated” and “short-shrifted.”

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Henry) reports that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt claimed the EPA under the Obama administration engaged in a “breach of process” when it relied on United Nations science for part of its endangerment funding. Pruitt cited a Bush adminstration-era ruling that determined federal law had not declared greenhouse gases as dangerous enough to warrant regulations.

EPA Chief Preparing For Climate Change Debates. Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Volcovici) reports that the EPA could launch a “red team, blue team” debate on climate change as soon as January, according to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Pruitt “is reportedly vetting a list of scientists that have expressed doubts over climate change to take part in the upcoming debates, including some that have been recommended by conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation.”

Higher Education

Sexual Harassment Has Lasting Impact On Some Students’ School Years, Careers.

The Chronicle of Higher Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/6) reports that the recent focus on workplace sexual harassment and “the #MeToo movement, in which people in seemingly every industry are sharing their experiences of sexual abuse by people in power,” extends to the higher education world. “Dozens of professors, many of whom are revered in their fields, have been called out for misconduct.” Victims are calling on colleges to prevent further such abuses and “speak of long-term repercussions to their careers. Students and former students describe carving paths that would allow them to avoid certain professors,” and some have even changed their research paths or left academia altogether.

Much Of Financial Aid Going To More Affluent Students.

The Hechinger Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7) reports that “tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded and privately provided financial aid, along with money universities and colleges dole out directly, flows to” higher-income students. According to Richard Reeves, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution and author of ‘Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust,’ there are misconceptions among the affluent, who often think that poorer students have plenty of other sources of aid.

Singletary: Many Student Loan Borrowers Want A Payment As Holiday Gift.

In her Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7) column, Michelle Singletary writes that “an increasing number of Americans, mired in student loan debt, just want a gift of a student loan payment.” According to a survey conducted by the Student Loan Report, “nearly 70 percent of survey respondents would indeed prefer the generosity of a loan payment made on his or her behalf.” A majority said that monetary gifts would be applied to their debt.

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Research and Development

University Of Michigan Ranks Second Nationally On Research Spending.

MLive (MI) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Slagter) reports that the University of Michigan spent $1.48 billion on research during its 2017 fiscal year, which ranked it as the highest-spending public university and behind only Johns Hopkins University overall. UM received $832 million in federal government research investment, of which “$544.7 million (65.5 percent) came from the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which provided $502 million in 2017, representing a 10 percent increase over the previous year.” The article adds that the NIH gave the university $457 million in 2016, and NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) – through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) – gave a $58 million grant for “up to five years of new funding for the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (MICHR).”

UT Dallas Researchers Reconstructing Apollo Mission Recordings.

Dallas Innovates (TX) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7) reports that University of Texas at Dallas researchers “have taken a giant step in making audio recordings of the U.S. Apollo lunar missions available for all mankind in a five-year project that overcame many technical challenges.” The National Science Foundation in 2012 gave researchers at the Center for Robust Speech Systems in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Sciences a grant “to create speech processing techniques to reconstruct and transform the audio recordings made of communications between astronauts, mission control, and support staff.”

Researchers Demonstrate Technique With Glass Nanofibers To Transmit Light Emissions Between Distant Atoms.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7) reports on a new study from researchers at the Army Research Lab and the National Autonomous University of Mexico published in Nature Communications, “Super-radiance reveals infinite-range dipole interactions through a nanofiber Share to FacebookShare to Twitter,” which demonstrates “that nanofibers can provide a link between far-flung atoms, serving as a light bridge between them.” The story says this “new technique could eventually provide secure communication channels between distant atoms, molecules or even quantum dots.”

BlackBerry, Qualcomm Increase Collaboration On Connected Vehicle Technology.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7) reports BlackBerry is intensifying its partnership with Qualcomm “in areas such as virtual cockpit controllers, electronic control gateways and infotainment systems” for the automotive market, which “is one of the fastest-growing segments of the technology market, as automakers race to add more autonomous features and ultimately seek to build self-driving cars.”

LSU Teams Receive Millions In BP Oil Settlement Funds.

The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Hardy) reports the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine announced the distribution of $10.8 billion in BP oil settlement money. Louisiana researchers received the bulk of the funds as they look to make offshore drilling safer and prevent disasters similar to the Deepwater Horizon. LSU engineering professor Wesley Williams received $4.9 million, the largest share, to study how to prevent oil rigs from accidentally hitting pockets of natural gas. Another LSU-led team received $2.6 million to research ways to stopper unused wells to prevent leaks.

Industry News

Trucking Jobs Threatened By Autonomous Vehicles.

Truckinginfo Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Roberts) reports that the “take-away from a subcommittee hearing on Emerging Highways and Transit in the U.S. House of Representatives” on Thursday was that the introduction of autonomous commercial vehicles could induce some people to enter the trucking industry, autonomous vehicles will eventually displace truck drivers who will require retraining for another field. Larry Willis, president of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, said, “Our economy is not prepared for the job dislocation and downward pressure on wages that will result from the adoption of autonomous vehicle systems.” He also asked Congress to work to protect the “millions” of workers who are expected to be displaced as autonomous technology becomes more prevalent.

Startup AI Chipmakers Drawing Attention From Tech Industry And Financiers.

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Novet) reports startup AI chipmakers – such as Wave, Graphcore, and Cerebras – are increasingly “luring venture capital investments with the promise of serving the next generation of computing.” According to CNBC, artificial intelligence engineers are in need of more powerful processors to perform “a flurry of new and sophisticated workloads.” These new chipmakers were also featured prominently at the 2017 Neural Information Processing Systems conference in California and are facing intense competition from industry majors like Google and Intel.

Engineering and Public Policy

NHTSA To Finalize Autonomous Cybersecurity Guidelines.

The Inside Cybersecurity Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Higgins) reports, behind a pay wall, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is aiming to issue final guidelines on cybersecurity in automobiles in 2018, a NHTSA official said Wednesday, citing that it will mirror similar guidelines developed by the private sector.” NHTSA Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety Research Nat Beuse said at a Wednesday event that the agency has been attempting to “encourage industry to move things along” on autonomous cybersecurity.

NYTimes: Perry’s Plan To Subsidize Coal-fired Power Plants Will Be Costly, With Little Benefit.

New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Subscription Publication) editorial argues that Energy Secretary Perry’s proposal to subsidize power plants “amounts to a devious and reckless attempt to prop up coal-fired plants.” The Times says research suggests the proposal “could add around $11 billion a year to the cost of electricity. … Yet it would do little to improve the electrical grid.” It further asserts that the proposal uses blackouts and electrical reliability “as a ruse to prop up its favored fossil fuel and stick ratepayers with the bill.”

Trump Open To Reforming Biofuel Policy.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Cornwell) reports that President Trump would be “open to reforming the country’s biofuels policy if it can be done in a way that protects jobs in both the refining and agriculture industries, senators said on Thursday after a meeting with Trump on the issue.” The revelation came after a meeting requested by nine lawmakers who argued “that the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, a law requiring refiners to blend increasing amounts of biofuels like corn-based ethanol into the fuel supply every year, was threatening to put refineries in their districts out of business.” Senator Ted Cruz said that the group agreed to reconvene next week.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Cama) reports “senators said there were no major outcomes from the meeting at the White House,” but the President “asked the lawmakers to take the lead themselves on proposals to change the renewable fuel standard in a way that benefits both refineries and corn farmers.”

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Osborne) reports that in attendance at meeting “were Trump, Chief of Staff John Kelly, EPA chief Scott Pruitt, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, and Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn, as well as eleven senators, including Cruz and Cornyn.” The Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Benning, Bureau) reports “Republicans on both sides have held up key Trump appointments over the matter.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Invention Contest Pits Students Against JPL Engineers.

The La Canada Valley (CA) Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7) reports that students in La Cañada, California took part “in an annual Invention Challenge that pits innovative youth against JPL engineers and scientists to see who can build the smartest, most efficient machine.” The contest “required competitors to craft a device that could load 10 plastic balls into a plastic tub exactly 6 meters away within one minute.” The piece reports that “students on some 21 teams smoked their adult counterparts in the 20th annual event, the ‘Wiffle Ball Loft Contest.’”

Philadelphia Launches Computer Science Campaign.

The Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7) reports on events surrounding the “international hour of code event” that took place Wednesday at Ethel Allen Elementary School in Philadelphia, where students “worked while getting coaching from people such as Matt Stem, the state’s deputy secretary of education, and Nefertiti Stanford, a customer engineer at IBM and a champion mentor with Philly CoderDojo, which works with students mostly after school.” Later that day, “prominent figures in the tech industry and civic and governmental leaders, including Stem, came together to launch the CS4Philly campaign, a wide-ranging partnership ‘dedicated to equity and access to computer science learning for all children and youth,’ according to Naomi Houseman, the campaign’s director.”

North Carolina Classroom Uses Robot To Teach Coding And Public Speaking.

The Burlington (NC) Times-News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Williams) reports that a local elementary school teacher in Burlington, North Carolina – Jamie Day of E.M. Holt Elementary School – has partnered with the Alamance-Burlington Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) “to have students from CTEC come into elementary schools to lead basic coding activities.” As part of these activities, one CTEC teacher brought an $8,000 dancing and talking robot – known as NAO – to Day’s classroom. The robot not only exposed the students to coding, but also gave “them the experience of presenting, getting in front of groups,” according to the CTEC teacher.

Tennessee Schools Receive Awards, Collaborate in STEM.

The Tennessean Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Nixon) says Union Elementary STEM and Demonstration School in Gallatin, Tennessee “received national accreditation and STEM certification from AdvanceEd, as did Jack Anderson Elementary School in Hendersonville.” Union has also applied for STEM designation with the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network and has been named a finalist for the Future of Education Technology Conference STEM Excellence 2018 awards. Furthermore, “educators at Union are working hard to collaborate with other STEM schools across the state.” For example, Principal Lance Taylor and Union Lead Educator Susan Rogers became part of a cohort of educators “selected by an application and district recommendation from the Director of Schools to attend a series of workshops, networking opportunities and visit top STEM school programs across the state.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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