|Good morning || February 10, 2020|
Leading the News
NASA, ESA Launch Solar Orbiter
Space News (2/10, Foust, Subscription Publication) reports that NASA and the ESA successfully launched the Solar Orbiter mission late Sunday. The ULA “Atlas 5 411 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 11:03 p.m. Eastern. The Solar Orbiter spacecraft separated from the Centaur upper stage nearly 53 minutes later, and the European Space Agency acquired the first signals from the spacecraft a few minutes later.” The Solar Orbiter “carries 10 instruments to study the sun and the environment around the spacecraft.” Scientists hope to investigate issues such as the sun’s “magnetic field, the formation of the solar wind, and how solar activity like flares and coronal mass ejections affect solar weather at the Earth.”
The AP (2/9) reports that “nearly 1,000 scientists and engineers from across Europe gathered with their U.S. colleagues” to watch the launch. The Atlas V rocket “was visible for four full minutes after liftoff, a brilliant star piercing the night sky.” NASA “declared success 1 1/2 hours later, once the Solar Orbiter’s solar wings were unfurled.”
SPACE (2/9, Thompson) reports that the mission “is expected to return unprecedented data and images, as well as our first views of the sun’s polar regions.” ESA Director of Science Günther Hasinger said of the launch, “Whenever you launch something, it’s incredibly exciting. The biggest relief comes when you see the light from the rocket and then when the sounds waves hit you.”
Spaceflight Now (2/10, Harwood) reports that the Solar Orbiter “will fly inside the orbit of Mercury in a highly elliptical orbit that will carry it within 26 million miles of the sun.” ESA Solar Orbiter Mission Project Scientist Daniel Mueller said that the mission represents “the first time that we send a satellite out to take images of the sun’s poles and in addition, getting the first ever data of the polar magnetic field. We believe this really holds the keys to unraveling the mysteries of the sun’s (11-year) activity cycle.” Mueller also highlighted the capacity of the probe to monitor the far side of the sun.
Reuters (2/9, Roulette) reports that Meuller said after lift-off, “This was picture perfect. And suddenly you really felt you are connected to the rest of the solar system.”
CNET News (2/9, Ryan) reports that Airbus collaboarated with NASA and the ESA to develop the Solar Orbiter.
Students Should Consider Several Variables Before Applying To Career-Related Work Programs
The Wall Street Journal (2/9, Munk, Subscription Publication) reports that just 10% of college graduates spent time working in their fields of interest as undergrads even though employers find such experience wildly appealing. Today, approximately 60 universities offer a formal cooperative-education, or co-op, program. They are not all created equally, however. And students should consider several variables before applying to a career-related work program, including whether it requires them to leave school for a semester and work full time.
Analysis: Today’s College Students Being Thwarted By Too Many Choices
The Washington Post (2/7, Marcus) reports for today’s generation of college students, a “surprising new problem is thwarting their success: too many choices.” These students are “increasingly the children of parents who helicoptered them through elementary, middle and high school, or who didn’t go to college and can’t provide much help with it.” And for these and other reasons, “some take courses they don’t need, pick majors they will later change and don’t know what to do when the resulting problems leave them on the brink of flunking out.” Therefore, some institutions that “once let students sink or swim are trying to confront this problem by taking critical choices away from them” and a “small but growing number of schools have even started picking their students’ first-year courses for them.”
Pennsylvania Governor Proposes Scholarship Program For Public College Students Who Remain In-State After Graduation
The AP (2/8, Levy) reported that by “just about every measure there is, Pennsylvania is ranked at the bottom among states in the level of higher education aid, size of student debt and affordability of its colleges.” In response, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) last week “requested a new, $200 million-a-year scholarship program for low- and middle-income state-system students who stay in-state after they graduate.” The proposal “serves several purposes: combating growing student debt; attracting more students to state system schools; and keeping more college grads in a state that desperately needs them.” However, a “major complication of Wolf’s plan is the cash source: Wolf is proposing to divert it from subsidies for the horse-racing industry,” which has “defenders and top Republicans and Democrats acknowledging that the idea is divisive within their caucuses.”
New ASEE Publication on Diversity in STEM
ASEE, with funding from the National Science Foundation, released a publication on the NSF GOLD program, seeking to diversify the Geosciences. The publication features five GOLD projects, with a deep look at two in particular. Lessons learned from these initiatives are applicable to engineering and all STEM disciplines.
March 2020 – Free Webinar on Insights for DEI Project Evaluation
March 10 at 1 PM, ET: Evaluation is critical for DEI-focused projects. In this webinar, Liz Litzler and Cara Margherio (University of Washington Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity) will help develop the capacity of researchers to work with evaluators on their DEI projects, sharing best practices for developing evaluation language, working alongside evaluators, and interpreting results. Register today.
ASEE Mid-Atlantic Spring 2020 Conference
The conference is at Johns Hopkins University on March 27th and 28th with the theme Inter- and Multi-Disciplinary Engineering Education. Register, learn more, and and submit an abstract here.
Research and Development
USF Professor Builds Autonomous Vehicles
WFLA-TV Tampa, FL (2/8, Halperin) reports University of South Florida Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Shaw Li “has built two autonomous vehicles.” Li received a grant from the National Science Foundation. Li said, “If we can advance this technology to a certain level, we hope to achieve a zero-fatality goal. Also, mobility, autonomous vehicles may drive in smarter ways. They can route themselves smarter and they can control their speed smarter.” Li also said, “We can communicate with infrastructure like traffic signals, it can communicate with other vehicles and can be better controlled in the stream of traffic.” Li added, “We have demonstrated this to stakeholders like U.S. DOT officers (U.S. Department of Transportation) and local legislators.”
Portable Smartphone Lab Can Diagnosis Infectious Diseases, Other Health Conditions
SciTech Daily (2/6) reported University of Cincinnati engineers have developed a “tiny portable lab that plugs into your phone, connecting it automatically to a doctor’s office through a custom app UC developed.” The lab is the size of a credit card and can “diagnose infectious diseases such as coronavirus, malaria, HIV, or Lyme disease or countless other health conditions like depression and anxiety.” Patients place a “single-use plastic lab chip into his or her mouth and then plugs that into a slot in the box to test the saliva.” UC doctoral student Sthitodhi Ghosh, the study’s lead author, “said the biggest advancement in the device is in the novel design of its tiny channels that naturally draw the sample through the sensor arrays using capillary flow.” UC professor Chong Ahn and the research team used the device to test for malaria, but it can be “used for smart point of care testing for countless chronic or infectious diseases or to measure hormones related to stress.” The study was published in the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering.
Researchers Work On Solutions To Mitigate High Salt Content In Farm Soil, Irrigation Water
KERA-TV Dallas (2/4, Martin) interviewed Miguel Acevdeo, an electrical engineering professor and researcher at University of North Texas, about his research “to combat food insecurity by finding solutions for the high salt content in farm soil and irrigation water in the western U.S.” He said the most important effect of this research “will be for people who do not have access now to water to irrigate their crops.” He adds, “It also means that people who already have water but that water is of low quality, can increase the yield of crops by using this higher quality water for irrigation.”
UT-Arlington Researchers Investigate Potential Sources Of Groundwater Contamination In Private Wells
In a press release carried by Phys (UK) (2/7), the University of Texas at Arlington announced a team of environmental researchers are examining “a disconnect between the perception of groundwater contamination and the extent to which that contamination is attributable to oil and natural gas extraction.” The release stated, “Members of the Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation (CLEAR) at UTA found that samples from only five of 36 private water wells showed any potential indications of contamination from unconventional oil and gas development, a multifaceted process that includes hydraulic fracturing.” Study co-lead Kevin Schug, Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry, said, “We found that the water quality data very rarely aligned with the perceptions that the well owners had of their individual situations.” He added, “This disconnect between perception and reality is possibly attributed to prevailing negative sentiments toward hydraulic fracturing as well as myriad environmental factors that make point source attribution very challenging.” The study appears in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
The release was also carried by Scienmag (2/3) and BioPortfolio (2/5).
University Of North Texas Scientist Uses Reverse Electro-Wetting To Recharge Fitness Tracker
In a press release carried by Phys (UK) (1/16), University of North Texas announced that assistant professor of electrical engineering Ifana Mahbub is utilizing the “latest energy-harvesting technology to develop a wireless, wearable fitness tracker that will never need to be charged.” This process is called reverse electro-wetting and it “works by compressing and decompressing a liquid between two plates.” Mahbub said, “Reverse electro-wetting takes advantage of motion, any motion. For my fitness tracker, that motion will come from a person moving their arms and legs.” She added, “I believe the reverse electro-wetting concept, like other sustainable energy-harvesting methods, will play a key role in the future of mobile devices. And, it is especially important to people, like me, who never remember to charge their Fitbit.”
Airbus In Talks To Acquire Bombardier’s Share Of A220 Program
The Wall Street Journal (2/7, McNish, Katz, Subscription Publication) reported that according to people familiar with the matter, Airbus and Bombardier are conducting talks which could result in the sale of Bombardier’s 34% stake in the two companies’ joint A220 program to Airbus. The people indicated that a deal could be reached as soon as next week – prior to the release of earnings reports for both companies.
Reuters (2/7, Lampert, Hepher) reported that Airbus and Bombardier “declined to comment.” The “terms of a potential deal that would mark Bombardier’s exit from commercial aviation were unclear.” Airbus’ investment in the program has led to an increase in orders for the A220, but the venture has “not seen the cost declines expected from Airbus applying its greater purchasing power with suppliers, one of the sources said.” Quebec has a 16% stake in the A220 program and “would not invest further.” The province “is trying to protect the program’s estimated 2,700 jobs, along with the province’s $1 billion investment in the program, Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said on Monday.” Bombardier shares closed up 2.8% Friday.
Northrop Grumman Cygnus Launch Postponed Due To Issue With Ground Support Sensor
Space News (2/9, Foust, Subscription Publication) reports that “a technical issue” led Sunday’s planned launch of Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft to be rescheduled for February 13 at 4:06 p.m. Eastern. The launch, designated NG-13, was scheduled to occur using a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket at 5:39 p.m. Eastern Sunday. However, “the launch was first pushed to the end of its five-minute window, and then scrubbed a few minutes before the revised launch time.” NASA and Northrop Grumman said that the launch was postponed because of “off-nominal readings from a ground support sensor.” Cygnus will carry “3,633 kilograms of cargo, including about 1,600 kilograms of vehicle hardware and nearly 1,000 kilograms of science payloads. Crew supplies and other equipment constitute the rest of the cargo on the spacecraft.”
Spaceflight Now (2/10, Clark) reports that it was “not immediately clear whether the reason for the earlier five-minute delay and the cause of the aborted countdown were related.” NASA’s Johnson Space Center mission control team “informed astronaut Drew Morgan on the” ISS “that the Antares launch did not happen as planned Sunday. Mission control radioed Morgan that cause of the scrub was a ‘regulator issue’ on the launch pad.”
SPACE (2/9, Bartels, Malik) reports that “there were launch opportunities on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but Northrop Grumman opted to skip them ‘due to an unfavorable weather forecast over the next two days, and time required to address the ground support issue,’ the company said.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Trump To Propose NASA Budget Increase To More Than $25 Billion
The Washington Post (2/7, Davenport) reported that on Monday, the Trump Administration “will propose one of the largest NASA budget increases in years.” The Administration’s budget request “would top out at more than $25 billion, with almost $3 billion to develop the vehicles necessary to get astronauts to and from the lunar surface as part of NASA’s ‘Artemis’ program, The Washington Post confirmed.” By comparison, NASA’s budget this year was $22 billion. The budget proposal “is also expected to lay out the full cost of Artemis with a detailed plan for how [NASA] expects to achieve the 2024 deadline.”
The Wall Street Journal (2/7, Pasztor, Subscription Publication) reported that the White House’s proposal is in contrast to that of House Democrats’, which has focused on the expansion of NASA’s efforts to explore Mars.
FAA To Survey Industry Regarding Interaction Of UAV Remote ID, Crewed Aircraft
Aviation Today (2/7, Garrett) reported that the FAA “is planning to ask industry how manned aviation can interact with remote identification signals emitted by” UAVs as it works to integrate UAV technology into the “national airspace.” FAA UAS Integration Office Executive Director Jay Merkle said at a Royal Aeronautical Society event, “We are in discussion inside the FAA about producing a request for information on how manned aviation could take advantage of remote identification signals. At the moment, we’re a little busy with remote identification and getting that implemented. We hope to do that early this year, but it’s still on our plate.” The FAA’s remote identification UAV program will “assist in de-conflicting unmanned traffic and enabling law enforcement to locate disruptive operators.” However, how the FAA will “ensure safe interactions between manned and unmanned aviation is still a question.”
DOJ Drops Antitrust Probe Against Automakers That Backed California On Emissions Policy, Sources Say
The New York Times (2/7, Davenport) reported the Justice Department “has dropped its antitrust inquiry into four automakers that had sided with California in its dispute with the Trump administration over reducing climate-warming vehicle pollution, deciding that the companies had violated no laws, according to people familiar with the matter.” The Times reported the six-month-old investigation “had escalated a dispute over one of President Trump’s most significant rollbacks of global warming regulations” and it “was one of a slew of seemingly retributive actions by the White House against California, as the state worked with the four automakers – Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen of America, Honda and BMW – to defy Mr. Trump’s planned rollback of national fuel economy standards.”
The Wall Street Journal (2/7, Kendall, Puko, Subscription Publication) provided similar coverage.
Government Agencies Divided Over Chinese-Made UAVs
The New York Times (2/7, McCabe) reported that government agencies “are split on how best to handle national security concerns surrounding popular and ubiquitous Chinese-made” UAVs. The Department of the Interior “grounded all those made in China or built with Chinese parts” in October and “reaffirmed” the decision in January. However, last year, both the Department of Agriculture and the Office of Management and Budget “raised warnings...about congressional legislation that would make it impossible for the United States government to buy Chinese drones at all.” The debate demonstrates how the Trump Administration’s “attempts to ‘decouple’ America from Chinese industry can crash into the realities of the global tech supply chain.” Chinese company DJI, for example, is estimated by analysts to have a market share of 70 percent.
Climate Models Predict “Nightmare” Warming Scenario, Puzzling Scientists
Axios (2/7, Knutson) says Bloomberg has reported several climate models from reputable global institutions “are suddenly predicting the world will warm by 5°C (9°F) by 2100, a possible ‘nightmare scenario,’ and scientists aren’t sure why.” The findings are especially significant as the Paris agreement’s goals “would already be well out of reach” if the newest estimates turn out to be accurate. Researchers don’t yet agree on the best way to interpret the new results and “some believe they may have ‘overshot.’”
South Carolina All-Girls Middle School Team Selected For Spaceflight Experiments Program
The AP (2/10) reports an all-girl team at Alice Drive Middle School in Sumter, South Carolina “discovered its experiment had been selected by a national review board of researchers and distinguished educators to participate in a student spaceflight experiments program. The experiment will be on board a space shuttle flight to the International Space Station in July.” Only 33 schools across the US, Canada, and Brazil are participating in the “Mission 14 Student Spaceflight Experiments Program put on by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education in Washington, D.C.” Their experiment “will determine the effects of microgravity – that’s no gravity in space – on the growth rate of Artemia franciscana – also known as brine shrimp.”
Friday's Lead Stories
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