Leading the News
Almost A Dozen States File Suit Over Trump Delaying Water Rule.
Bloomberg News (2/6, Larson) reports nearly a dozen states have “sued the Trump administration for suspending a 2015 rule that was billed as a long-overdue update to the definition of lakes, rivers and wetlands designed to improve protection under the Clean Water Act of 1972.” The attorneys general “accused the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of violating federal law by delaying the Obama administration’s ‘Clean Water Rule’ for another two years.” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “The Trump Administration’s suspension of the Clean Water Rule is clearly illegal, threatening New York’s decades-long efforts to ensure our residents have access to safe, healthy water.” Bloomberg adds “the agencies allegedly acted without considering scientific evidence developed in support of the rule.” The EPA, during the Trump Administration, “has often questioned scientific consensus on environmental matters, including the human causes of climate change.” The Hill (2/6, Cama) also provides coverage of this story.
Farm, Industry Groups Monitoring Supreme Court Case For Precedent In Clean Water Act Battles. Greenwire (2/6, Subscription Publication) reports that a Supreme Court decision affecting the scope of the Clean Water Act may rely on the court’s handling of plurality rulings in the case of split decisions, meaning when the court rules 4-1-4. In a 2006 case, the Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia issued a plurality opinion arguing that the Clean Water Act only applied to “navigable waters,” whereas Justice Anthony Kennedy issued a “concurring opinion” but reasoned that the waters must have a “significant nexus” to navigable rivers and seas. The George W. Bush and Obama administrations both relied on the Kennedy interpretation in guiding enforcement actions. Farm and industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, have suggested approaches to clarifying split decisions that would “potentially cast doubt on the Kennedy significant nexus test.” These groups are carefully monitoring the results of an unrelated case that is testing how split decisions are interpreted.
University Of Delaware To Add Tuition Surcharge For Engineering Students.
The AP (2/6) reports the University of Delaware plans to impose “a tuition surcharge for students at its nursing, engineering and business schools...as part of a broader plan to increase enrollment and hire more than 500 faculty over the next five to seven years.” Next fall, “all three schools will implement a $1,000 yearly tuition surcharge. By the fall of 2020, the surcharge will increase to 1,500 for nursing, $2,500 for business and $4,000 for engineering.”
Ohio State University Joins Recently Launched University Climate Change Coalition.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer (2/6) reports Ohio State University has joined the University Climate Change Coalition, “an alliance of 13 leading research universities that will create a collaborative model to help local communities achieve climate goals.” According to a news release from the university, the initial group of universities from the US, Mexico and Canada have “committed to mobilize resources and expertise to accelerate local and regional climate action in partnership with businesses, cities and states.” Each of the universities “have pledged to reduce their institutions’ carbon footprints, with commitments ranging from making more climate-friendly investments to becoming operationally carbon neutral.”
Report: Using BLS Statistics Would Mislead Students About Career Education Programs.
Inside Higher Ed (2/6) reports that according to a new report from New America, “using Bureau of Labor Statistics earnings estimates as an alternative to actual earnings data for gainful-employment programs would seriously mislead prospective students about the value of” career education programs. The piece reports that under President Obama, ED’s gainful employment rule tied “access to Title IV federal student aid to programs’ performance on a debt-to-earnings metric reflecting graduates’ earnings two to three years after leaving a program.” However, “for-profit colleges and the Department of Education have under Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed applying the rule to all higher ed programs using BLS earnings for workers in a given occupation and in a given region.” This, New America says, “would, on average, overstate median annual earnings for career ed programs by 80 percent.”
Two NEW TUEE Reports
Read Phase II, "Insight from Tomorrow’s Engineers,” and Phase III, “Voices on Women’s Participation and Retention.”
The Transforming Undergraduate Education in Engineering project seeks to identify critical components of engineering curricula, pedagogy, and educational culture necessary to support the education of engineers over the next several decades. The project aims to catalyze change by building consensus within our community on a shared vision of the future of engineering education. Phase II was informed by students; Phase III focused on producing more women engineers. (The previously published Phase I focused on industry.)
NEW Webinar on Professionalism, Ethics, & Harassment in the Workplace
Everyone has a right to a safe, inclusive, supportive, and productive work environment on campus. This webinar, led by David Mogk (Montana State University) and inspired by the National Academies’ Impacts of Sexual Harassment in Academia project, will explore components of professionalism, introduce topics that contribute to workplace climate, and offer suggestions for personal and institutional actions that can be taken to ensure everyone’s success in your department. The live webinar is March 14, 2018 from 1 – 2 PM, ET and is free for ASEE members. Register now!
Research and Development
University Of Washington Researchers Working On Neural Technology.
The Seattle Times (2/6, Long) reports on the research efforts of University of Washington scientists to build “connections between computers and human brains” at its Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering. The center, established in 2011 via a 10-year, $40 million grant from the National Science Foundation, is focused on allowing “people who have been paralyzed by injury or stroke to move their limbs again, said Scott Ransom, director of industry relations and innovation for CSNE.” The center has an experimental deep brain stimulation device, manufactured by Medtronic, to control essential tremors “by turning on the stimulation only when a patient moves his or her arms.”
Embark Completes Test Drive Of Autonomous Semi-Truck Between Los Angeles, Jacksonville.
CNBC (2/6) reports that San Francisco-based start-up Embark completed a test drive of its autonomous semi-truck between Los Angeles, California and Jacksonville, Florida. The article explains that Embark does not manufacture its own vehicles, “but instead created a self-driving system that can be integrated into Peterbilt, and possibly other vehicles.”
Researchers Use Nanoparticles To Manipulate Light.
Nanowerk (2/6) reports theoretical physicists at the University of New Mexico created “a powerful model to understand how ordered arrays of nanostructures interact with light” and can “predict the optical response of ensembles of nanoparticles with very complicated patterns, which can be exploited to engineer optical properties useful for many applications.” Nanowerk states that “the overarching goal of the research was to open and further new paths in plasmonics.” The findings were published in ACS Nano.
Engineers Develop Self-Destructing Electronics.
Popular Science (2/6, Baggaley) reports engineers at Cornell University have developed technology “to make electronics disintegrate from far away” that “represents a new kind of transient electronics, which are designed to disappear when they’re no longer needed.” According to Popular Science, the researchers formed “chemicals that can destroy the circuit stay sealed away – until you unlock them with radio waves. This means that if a device containing these electronics were stolen, you could remotely order it to self-destruct, wiping its data.”
PVA Engineer Develops Invention To Reduce Reflection, Glare On Screens.
The Albany (NY) Times Union (2/6, Iszler) reports that Andrew Nally, a senior project engineer at Precision Valve & Automation, on Tuesday was awarded a patent for “a system that reduces the reflection and glare on outdoor electronics.” The Times Union says that via “a process known as optical bonding, machinery at PVA glues a piece of protective glass to a display using a thin layer of liquid adhesive,” which “is applied in certain patterns and the pieces are carefully put together to prevent air bubbles from being caught between the cover glass and the display.”
Startup Focuses On Developing Self-Driving Delivery Vehicles.
CleanTechnica (2/6, Ayre) reports that former Waymo engineers have started Nuro, which is an autonomous vehicle startup company with a focus in designing delivery vehicles. CleanTechnica states, “The idea is” able “to give local businesses who are having a hard time competing with Amazon a leg up.” According to the Verge, “the company will need sign-off from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before it can operate in states where regulation prohibits completely human-free driving.”
Economist Finds Jobs Requiring “Non-Cognitive” Skills Grew Much Faster Than “STEM Occupations” Between 2000 And 2012.
Bloomberg News (2/6, Coy, Gelman) reports that a recent article from the National Bureau of Economic Research states that “new research finds that from 2000 to 2012, jobs that require “non-cognitive” skills, such as the ability to communicate and work in teams, grew much faster than jobs mainly requiring skills measurable by IQ or achievement tests.” Harvard Economist David Deming notes that current views of the job market are “still shaped by the period from 1980 to 2000, when there was strong growth of employment in STEM occupations – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” however, “things went into reverse over the next dozen years.” Deming emphasizes that this does not dismiss STEM occupations, writing, “We are not witnessing an end to the importance of cognitive skills – rather, strong cognitive skills are increasingly a necessary – but not a sufficient – condition for obtaining a good, high-paying job. You also need to have social skills.”
Sandvik To Build New Metal Powder Plant In 3D Printing Push.
Reuters (2/6) reports Swedish engineering company Sandvik “said on Tuesday it will invest about 200 million Swedish crowns ($25 million) in a new titanium and nickel metal powder plant to strengthen its position in the metal 3D printing market.” Additive manufacturing has been used to produce “prototypes across a range of different industries for many years, but is being increasingly eyed for scale production.” Metal-based mass production technology has “mainly gained a foothold in areas such as aerospace and medical implants, where production is typically done in shorter runs and with expensive materials such as titanium.” Sandvik Materials Technology head Goran Bjorkman said the “investment should be viewed as the latest evidence of our commitment to an area that we believe strongly in.” The new plant will be built in Sandiken, Sweden, “where the company also has its center for additive manufacturing,” and is expected to come online in 2020.
Bloomberg Energy Finance Tracks Boom In Vehicles Sold With Onboard Cameras And Radar Sensors.
Bloomberg News (2/7, Wilson) reports about the consistent rise in sales since 2011 of “vehicles outfitted with onboard cameras” or radar sensors “as automakers invest more in technologies to make autonomous driving a reality.” In 2011, just over two million vehicles were sold with onboard cameras; that number surpassed 10 million units in 2014 and “totaled 46 million units in 2017.” At the same time, sales of vehicles with radar sensors went from fewer than 10 million units in 2011 to over 40 million a year by the end of last year.
LG G5’s Removal Battery Cited As Example Of Sustainable Manufacturing.
In a length piece titled “You Can’t Buy An Ethical Smartphone Today,” Engadget (2/6) reports that while phone makers have made advances in sustainability, new devices often have batteries that are difficult to replace, storage that can’t be upgraded, and rare earth metals that are nearly impossible to recycle. Engadget, citing a report by former Dell manager of environmental programs Mark Schaffer, says one solution would be “increased repairability and better durability.” However, Schaffer said manufacturers have “consistently opposed stronger reuse and repair criteria.” iFixit lead teardown engineer Samantha Lionheart said although the LG G5 is a good example of a better way to do things with its “stiffer battery case” that “enable[s] easy removal and provide[s] structural support,” most “manufacturers don’t often take repair or rework into consideration, sometimes to their massive detriment – like the Note 7.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Florida Senate Panel Advances Proposal To Ban Hydraulic Fracturing.
WJCT-FM Jacksonville, FL (2/6, Turner) reports that a Florida Senate panel voted unanimously to advance a ban on hydraulic fracturing in the state. However, the proposal is expected to be sidelined in the House. Sen. David Simmons “cautioned that some compromise may be needed to get the House to act,” and suggested instead a “moratorium of two to five years” on hydraulic fracturing to provide time to evaluate potential impacts. According to Florida Petroleum Council associate director Eric Hamilton, “By banning fracking, you’re sending a message to the rest of the country that fracking is not good.” He also warned that the proposal could prohibit future exploration using a method that “can be done safely” and in recent years has helped increase domestic energy production while lowering consumer costs. Florida Politics (2/5, Ceballos) reports that by advancing the ban on hydraulic fracturing, the Florida Senate panel “unanimously ignored pleas from the oil lobby to stop the measure.”
WGCU-FM Fort Myers, FL (2/6, Davis) reports that SB 462 “calls for an outright ban on ‘advanced well stimulation treatments’ including hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing and matrix acidizing.” Last year, an identical bill did not pass through the state’s legislature “over concerns that to date, there has been no Florida-specific study documenting the risks of fracking in the state’s unique limestone geology.”
Ryan Zinke Says ‘Yes’ To The Biggest Coal Plant In The West.
The Washington Examiner (2/6, Siciliano) reports that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is “working to save the Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal plant in the West, backing a new coalition that is pushing the plant as a vital resource.” Zinke said in a statement Tuesday, “Interior is committed to working with all parties, to include current or any future owners, to keep the power plant operational in support of good-paying tribal jobs.” The United Mine Workers of America announced a national campaign Tuesday called “Yes to NGS,” to “advocate for keeping the plant online long-term to secure Arizona’s energy and water future and protect Navajo and Hopi economies.” The coalition will “advocate to keep the plant open into the 2040s, as envisioned when the plant was built.”
The Arizona Republic (2/6, Randazzo, Nicla) reports that “hundreds of coal miners and their families rallied at the state Capitol on Tuesday to demand the Navajo Generating Station remain open, but the president of the utility company that runs it says it will take the appearance of a ‘unicorn’ to save it.” The supporters of the coal plant “gathered Tuesday around a bronze Navajo Code Talkers monument near the Capitol” and “flooded the Capitol grounds, raising their voices and advocating for the plant to stay open.”
Additional coverage was provided by the AP (2/6) and Cronkite News (2/6, Barbee).
Spokane To Lease Solar Power Trash Bins.
The AP (2/6) reports the Spokane City Council in Oregon “has approved the leasing of about 40 solar-powered trash bins for the city center.” The bins are able to compact trash and also collect recycling. The city of Spokane “has agreed to pay an initial start-up cost of about $10,000, and then $70,000 annually to lease the bins, which use solar energy to power an internal compactor.”
Idaho Lawmakers To Consider Returning Climate Change To State Curriculum.
The New York Times (2/6, Albeck-Ripka, Subscription Publication) reports that Idaho legislators’ decision last year to remove “all mentions of human-caused climate change” from new statewide science teaching standards prompted push back from teachers, parents, and students who are “hoping to convince the Republican-controlled Idaho Legislature to approve revised standards” which “include natural causes of climate change alongside those driven by humans, and, in response to lawmakers’ requests, they emphasize potential solutions to climate change.” A vote on “whether to allow the revised language into the state’s curriculum” could occur in the Idaho House education committee today.