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

Leading the News

Japanese Researchers Develop Glass That Mends With Hand Pressure.

The Guardian (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Gibbs) reports that researchers led by University of Tokyo professor Takuzo Aida said they developed a new polymer glass that “can heal breaks when pressed together by hand without the need for high heat to melt the material.” Published in Science, the research “promises healable glass that could potentially be used in phone screens and other fragile devices.”

Engadget Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18) reports the research, titled “Mechanically robust, readily repairable polymers via tailored noncovalent cross-linking,” described “polyether-thioureas,” which “can heal itself with only hand pressure. This makes it different than other materials that need high heat to heal up from a break.” The Daily Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Prigg) reports the team found that holding the fractured glass “pieces together for just 30 seconds at 21 degrees [Celsuis] was enough to form a merged sheet capable of withstanding 300g in weight,” and the glass “returned to its original strength within a couple of hours.” The discovery was accidental, made by graduate student Yu Yanagisawa, who originally prepared the material as a glue.

Higher Education

Observers Watching ED’s Changes To Higher Education Policy.

MarketWatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18) reports that ED over the past year has “has attempted to reverse some of the Obama administration’s higher education policies. And in the waning weeks of 2017, Congress took steps to also dramatically overhaul student loan and higher education policy.” Higher education policy experts are closely observing the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, changes ED is making to the student loan servicing system, and the reduction of regulation of the for-profit college sector.

Enrollment Declines In New York State’s Private Colleges.

WVNY-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Burlington, VT (12/18, McKay) reports that enrollment in New York state’s private colleges is declining. According to the state-wide Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, overall enrollment of first-time freshman “was down around eight percent from fall 2016 to fall 2017. It previously had been trending upward by two percent from 2006 to 2016.” While one private school “says New York’s free tuition program may be part of the problem,” the Governor’s office “says this decline in numbers has more to do with rising student loan debt and the high tuition costs of private schools.”

S&P Upgrades Sweet Briar College Two Years After School Nearly Went Under.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Albright) reports S&P Global Ratings upgraded Virginia’s Sweet Briar College last week to B+ status, “two years after its crumbling finances almost forced it to shut down.” This is “still four levels below investment-grade,” but “the outlook for investors looks better than it did in 2015, when the college was veering toward closing and defaulting on its debts.” Bloomberg says the “near collapse” was emblematic of the financial struggles small colleges have faced in recent years.

Is it really reindeer…?
happy holidays video from ASEE staff, exploring the engineering at Santa’s Workshop.

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.

Doctoral Engineering Research Showcase
Registration deadline approaching. The National GEM Consortium (GEM) and ASEE are hosting a Doctoral Engineering Research Showcase for doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and new faculty to display their leading-edge technical research and connect with potential agency sponsors and academic employers. The event is in Washington, DC, January 22-23, 2018. Watch this short video for more details.

Take 30 Seconds
To learn why ASEE may be for you (if you’re not already a member!)


Research and Development

Study On Water Repellency Could Prevent Ice From Accumulating On Windshields, Roads, And Sidewalks.

KETV-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Omaha, NE (12/18) reports on a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which University of Nebraska Chemistry professor Xiao Cheng Zeng said that in order to prevent ice from sticking to windshields, “the key is creating surfaces that bead up water rather than allow it to spread out.” He said that a higher-profile droplet would “freeze more like a snowflake…and can be blown away by the wind.” Zeng said the idea “could also be used in clearing ice of roads and sidewalks.”

NSF Awards Grant To UND To Support STEM Education.

KRDK-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Fargo, ND (12/18) reports the National Science Foundation “has awarded a nearly $1 million grant to the University of North Dakota to support scholarships for undergraduate students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.” Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp “helped secure funding…for programs to enhance STEM education, including the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program at NSF.”

Bucknell Gets Clare Boothe Luce Grant To Support Undergraduate Research For Women In STEM.

The Williamsport (PA) Sun-Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/19) reports Bucknell University has been awarded “a new $216,000 Clare Boothe Luce (CBL) Program Research Award,” which it will use to “support up to 24 Bucknell undergraduate women in STEM” fields, including “summer research projects and professional development activities.” Karen Castle, professor of chemistry and associate dean of faculty, said, “Undergraduate research is one of the best high-impact activities we have. It shows students what it’s like to be a scientist or engineer and what their life could be like.” To qualify, “a student must be a woman intending to complete an undergraduate degree in specific physical sciences or engineering disciplines.”

Researchers Look At Applying Airplane Navigation Systems To Robotic Cars.

Arizona Public Media Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Perkins) reports Aerospace and Mechanical Engineer Mathieu Joerger of the University of Arizona is researching “how aviation standards can be applied to the development of robotic cars.” He is working on navigation systems “with fellow researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology to find ways to make robotic cars safe and reliable.” They are examining “how automated cars can estimate direction and velocity,” and “are developing a system of sensors that can guide a driverless car on the road.”

NYTimes Analysis: EVs Face Challenges To Replacing Gasoline-Powered Vehicles.

New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Ewing, Subscription Publication) analysis outlines “what needs to happen before electric cars take over the world.” According to the Times, automakers will need to reduce power train costs, obtain a reliable and cheap source of natural resources for battery production, build more of, and faster charging stations, reduce consumer nostalgia for gasoline-powered cars, and update their methods of production.

UT Arlington, University Of Vermont Researchers Researching Optical Data Transmission.

International Business Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/16) reports researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Vermont are working on technology that “could cause a dramatic reduction in the cost and energy consumption of high-speed internet connections, making it much more accessible, cheap and super-fast.” Researchers say that “using nonlinear-optical effects, such as intensity-dependent refractive index, data can be transmitted and processed thousands of times faster than we know it now.”

Clemson Researchers Developing Hands-Free Device To Aid Combat Medics.

The Army Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18) reports Clemson University researchers are working on hands-free technology for combat medics “to document battlefield care and ensure troops receive the benefits they deserve.” The technology “includes a hands-free device that records audio and video. The plan is to have the audio automatically transcribed, separating words from battlefield noises, which would let doctors know how to properly care for the patient once they’re off the battlefield. This information would become part of the service member’s permanent record, helping them prove they were injured in battle.”

Autonomous Vehicle Testing Center Launches.

The Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Lawrence) reports, “The launch of self-driving vehicle testing at the American Center for Mobility west of Detroit came with something that frequently confounds human drivers in Michigan” – snow. The center said that it offers the “perfect environment” to test connected or autonomous vehicles. In the first week, the center hosted National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials including Deputy Administrator Heidi King.

NSF Awards Grant To UND To Support STEM Education.

KRDK-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Fargo, ND (12/18) reports the National Science Foundation “has awarded a nearly $1 million grant to the University of North Dakota to support scholarships for undergraduate students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.” Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp “helped secure funding…for programs to enhance STEM education, including the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program at NSF.”

Scientists Discover Larger Porous Nanoparticles Tougher Than Smaller Particles.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18) reports engineers at Rice University found “films made of larger particles approaching 500 nanometers were much tougher and the films and pellets less prone to cracking under pressure.” In particular, they “showed that bigger individual nanoparticles were 120 percent tougher than smaller ones,” which Rice materials scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari “said…was clear evidence of an intrinsic size effect where particles between 300 and 500 nanometers went from brittle to ductile, or pliable, even though they all had the same small pores that were 2 to 4 nanometers. But they were surprised to find that when the same big particles were stacked, the size effect didn’t carry over entirely to the larger structures.” Nanowerk adds they published the results of more than 900 tests in the American Chemical Society’s journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

AI-Based Microscopy System Can Quickly Diagnose BSIs, Researchers Say.

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18) reports on the recent development of “an automated artificial intelligence (AI)-guided microscopy system that can help diagnose serious bloodstream infections (BSIs) quickly and accurately” by using “a trained convolutional neural network (CNN) to recognize the different shapes and distribution of pathogenic bacteria.” Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) researchers published their findings Share to FacebookShare to Twitter in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The piece adds that while “[h]uman technologists provide highly accurate diagnosis and training,” the American Society for Clinical Pathology “estimates that in past years about 9% of trained microbiologist jobs in the U.S. were not filled, and nearly 20% of existing personnel plan to retire within 5 years.”

Reaction Engine Receives DARPA Contract To Test Hypersonic Engine HTX.

The Daily Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Prigg) reports that Reaction Engine has won a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract to develop and test a key technology for a “revolutionary engine that could be used in a spaceplane to take passengers into space in just 15 minutes.” Reaction Engine has begun building a test site at the Front Range Airport testing facility in Colorado, which will be used to test the pre-cooler heat exchanger (HTX) in the company’s “hypersonic air-breathing combined cycle Sabre rocket engine.” Test work is “due to start in 2018,” and will “focus on running the HTX at airflow temperatures in excess of 1,800 deg F (1,000 deg C), representing inlet conditions in the engine at Mach 5.”

Engineering and Public Policy

California Alters Autonomous Vehicle Rules Again.

Car Complaints Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/17, Wood) reports, “California’s proposed driverless car regulations have changed once again, but this time the changes have met approval by auto safety advocates.” The changes made are moving towards recommendations made by automakers and away from being consumer-friendly. For example, California’s new rules states that the legal driver of the vehicle is the computer. Car Complaints states, “Consumer Watchdog says before Hemmersbaugh worked on GM’s behalf, he was general counsel at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and wrote the legal opinion in response in 2016 that said a computer system can qualify as the legal driver of a car.”

EPA Seeks Public Comment On Clean Power Plan Replacement.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18) reports that on Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice seeking public input for a possible replacement of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. The notice specifically asks for comment on measures to reduce carbon emissions directly at a power plant and for comments on “the role and responsibility of states in regulating power plants for greenhouse gas emissions.”

In a statement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wrote, “Consistent with our commitment to the rule of law, we’ve already set in motion an assessment of the previous administration’s questionable legal basis in our proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan. With a clean slate, we can now move forward to provide regulatory certainty,” according to E&E Publishing. Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Subscription Publication)

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Cama) reports that any replacement would “almost certainly be less ambitious than Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which envisioned a 32 percent cut” in carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 2030. The EPA has already made it clear that any replacement plan would “would have to apply solely to the coal- or natural gas-fired power plants themselves, such as improving the efficiency of the generators.”

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Osborne) reports EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s announcement to actually replace the Clean Power Plan may come as a “blow to some conservative supporters” of President Trump who have lobbied the administration to do away with the so-called endangerment finding, which in “effect requires the government to regulate” greenhouse gas emissions.

In the “Harder Line” blog in Axios, Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Harder) Amy Harder says the “move is a tacit acknowledgment by the EPA that it is not, for now anyway, going to try to review a scientific finding concluding that greenhouse gas omissions are endangering the public health and welfare.”

Texas Summer Electricity Bills May Increase Due To Elevated Demand, Decreased Supply.

The Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Mosier) reports that during periods of peak usage in summer 2018, Texas will likely have a smaller buffer of excess available electricity production than was previously anticipated. The state believes it will soon lose approximately 7,000 MW of generation capacity, while at the same time, experience a record amount of summer electricity demand. Texas’ state power grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, says it will be able to cope with the heightened demand, but the reduced supply may lead to higher prices in the wholesale market during certain periods.

LIPA To Delay Segments Of Solar Compensation Plan.

Newsday (NY) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18) reports that for four months, LIPA will halt “elements of a new plan to compensate commercial customers for new solar energy installations following widespread criticism by solar-industry companies last month.” On Tuesday, “LIPA trustees…will be asked to approve an amended introduction for its so-called value of distributed energy resources plan, which now will take effect May 1 instead of Jan. 1 for commercial customers.”

Six Former Employees Of Wind Turbine Maker File Lawsuits.

Greenwire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Subscription Publication) reports six former TPI Composites Inc. employees “have filed suit against” the “manufacturer of wind turbine blades, saying they were injured by chemical exposure at an Iowa factory.” Zarpka “Patience” Green is suing the company “alleging gross negligence, breach of contract and fraud.” Green contends “she began suffering from contact dermatitis while crawling inside turbine blades at the Newton factory to apply a hazardous resin.” She also “alleges that the company fired her after she became ill.” Greenwire adds “five other former employees have filed similar suits, saying they were let go after sustaining chemical injuries such as skin sensitization.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

US High Schools Need To Train Students In Discrete Math, Electronics Education.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/18, Freeman, Gelernter, Subscription Publication) reports that STEM learning is set to receive a significant boost in funding – $200 million from the federal government and another $300 million from large tech firms. However, American education system may not be ready to make the most of it, in part because its math teaching is over five decades out of date. Computer science requires basic skills in electronics and discrete mathematics, and our system’ current classical math curriculum is leading students on track to calculus. While students still need classical math, discrete math is fundamental to computing in the real world.

Texas Students Learn About TV Programming Through CTE Internships.

The Rio Grande Valley (TX) Morning Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/14) reports that high school students in San Benito, Texas are being offered an opportunity to learn about TV at a Texas school district station. KSBG “is the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District’s public access station with monthly and daily programming where the students have an opportunity to receive hands-on experience.” Director of public relations Celia Longoria “said the station consists of a full-time staff as well as student interns who are involved in all aspects of broadcast production.” The internship “is part of the Career Technical Education Program, in which three students are currently enrolled.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

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