Leading the News
Californians Protest “Sham” Offshore Drilling Hearing In Sacramento.
The AP (2/9, Cooper) reports demonstrators that numbered in the hundreds “converged on the California state capitol in Sacramento Thursday voicing their opposition to a Trump administration plan to expand offshore drilling.” The protests came ahead of a public hearing scheduled for the same day hosted by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The San Jose (CA) Mercury News (2/8, Krieger) reports demonstrators at the state capitol “carried large inflatable turtles and whales and waved placards saying ‘Drills = Spills’ and ‘Oil Money Out.’” Protesters were joined by California state legislators and effectively turned the gathering into “a Peoples Town Hall,” with demonstrators “speaking into megaphones and rallying around...environmental leaders like Charles Lester, former director of the California Coastal Commission.” Additional coverage was provided by Reuters (2/8, Bernstein), Sacramento (CA) Bee (2/8, Hart) reports,
The San Francisco Chronicle (2/9, Gutierrez) reports Californians who attended a BOEM public hearing in Sacramento on Thursday “left...in anger and disbelief that there was no microphone or panel of federal officials to listen to their concerns. Instead, the public hearing by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management took the format of an open house consisting of science-fair type displays — including one labeled ‘Why is Oil Important.’” The hearing “began as a polite and quiet gathering” at the Sacramento public library, but “[t]he peace didn’t last long” as the attendees began to chant in favor of a hearing.
The AP (2/8) reports members of the California Assembly “overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing the Trump administration’s push to renew oil drilling off the Pacific coast.” The vote of 55-8 “came on the same day as the only federal hearing in California on the plan.”
California’s Response To Drilling Plan May Be Blueprint For Other States. CNBC (2/8, DiChristopher) reports the stated refusal of the California State Lands Commission “to issue permits for infrastructure that drillers need to bring oil and gas from offshore fields to land” may eventually “serve as a blueprint for the governors and congressional delegations of coastal states, who are overwhelmingly united in bipartisan opposition to Trump’s plan to open nearly all of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas development.” UPI (2/8, Graeber) reports Greenpeace issued a call on other US coastal governors “to follow California’s example and take similar actions to block the use of pipelines for oil from new offshore drilling,” according to a statement from Greenpeace campaigner Vicky Wyatt.
Panetta: Protecting US Coasts From Offshore Drilling Is A Bipartisan Responsibility. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times (2/8, Panetta), former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says “Californians know better” in response to the federal offshore drilling plan. Panetta recalls the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill and says California’s elected representatives should “strongly oppose efforts by the Trump administration to roll back the boundaries or regulations that protect California’s national marine sanctuaries.”
University Of Houston To Host Conference On Attracting More Hispanic Students To STEM Fields.
The Houston Chronicle (2/8, Ellis) reports that the University of Houston and other Hispanic-serving institutions are trying “to figure out how to attract students to science, technology, engineering and math fields – and how to best support them in those studies.” The school is hosting a conference with “students, faculty and staff from Hispanic-serving institutions” on addressing underrepresentation of Hispanic students in STEM education. The piece quotes Associate Dean for Student Success Andrew Hamilton saying, “If we can get Hispanic students to enter the STEM workforce at the same rate as white students, problem solved.”
ED Report: First Generation Students Less Likely To Graduate College.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer (2/8) reports according to an ED report released on Thursday, “youths whose parents never attended college are less likely to enroll in college and more likely to drop out.” The report, compiled from National Center for Education Statistics data, said, “Although it has become proportionally smaller over time, the group of U.S. undergraduates whose parents had not attended college remains sizeable: one-third of students enrolled in U.S. postsecondary institutions in 2011-12.”
Colleges Offering Cryptocurrency Courses.
The New York Times (2/8, Popper, Subscription Publication) reports that a number of universities – including Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Duke, UC Berkeley, and MIT – are offering cryptocurrency or blockchain course this semester. Demand for spots in these classes is high, spanning business, law, engineering, computer science, and economics departments.
ED Proposes Compromise In Student Debt Relief Negotiations.
Inside Higher Ed (2/8) reports ED negotiators are “proposing a change to evidentiary standards for debt relief claims that would be a compromise between the positions of colleges and student advocates.” As negotiated rulemaking over the borrower-defense rule continue, “a panel of negotiators representing a range of higher education stakeholders is set to meet next week for a third negotiating session, where the department will propose that borrowers filing a loan forgiveness claim meet a ‘substantial weight of the evidence’ standard – essentially, the borrower’s claim they were defrauded, plus some form of evidence. That would be a compromise position between the tougher ‘clear and convincing’ standard sought by college representatives and the lower ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard pushed by student advocates.”
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
Musk’s Tesla May Not Reach Asteroid Belt.
Fortune (2/8, Segarra) reports that astronomers have disputed SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s assertion that the Tesla Roadster his company launched into space “seemed to be on its way to the asteroid belt.” Musk tweeted a map of the projected “path Tuesday after the successful Falcon Heavy launch, showing the car moving past Mars’ orbit and toward the asteroid belt.” In the days following, some astronomers “have pointed out what they say are discrepancies between the figures SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk reported and where the Tesla Roadster is actually going.” Some believe that the rocket “overshot the intended trajectory,” and will not reach the asteroid belt as expected.
Space Scientists Conduct Mars Simulations In Oman Desert.
The AP (2/8, McNeil) reports that the desert region in southern Oman “resembles Mars so much that more than 200 scientists from 25 nations chose it as their location for the next four weeks, to field-test technology for a manned mission to Mars.” As nations and private enterprises “are racing toward Mars,” “cosmonauts and astronauts are learning valuable spacefaring skills on the International Space Station — and the U.S. is using virtual reality to train scientists.” However, “the majority of work to prepare for interplanetary expeditions is being done on Earth.” The Dhofar Desert “is a flat, brown expanse” whose “surface resembles Mars so much, it’s hard to tell the difference,” according to astronaut trainee Kartik Kumar.
Researchers Capture 3D Images Of Electronically Excited Quantum Dots.
Nanowerk (2/8) reports on a new study published in the Journal of Chemical Physics, entitled “Orientation-dependent imaging of electronically excited quantum dots ,” in which researchers from the University of Illinois and the University of Washington “demonstrated imaging of an electronically excited quantum dot at multiple orientations.” Study co-author Martin Gruebele of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign said, “Understanding how the presence of defects localizes excited electronic states of quantum dots will help to advance the engineering of these nanoparticles.”
Certification Of Falcon Heavy Next For SpaceX.
The Los Angeles Times (2/8, Masunaga) reports that with a successful maiden flight of its Falcon Heavy “in the books,” SpaceX has said it will seek “qualification for its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket to launch classified payloads for the US government.” The Falcon Heavy can carry a payload of 140,000 pounds, compared to 50,000 pounds for the Falcon 9. As part of the certification process, the Air Force will conduct a “technical evaluation and detailed analysis of the rocket and review the company’s manufacturing and systems engineering processes.” The Air Force will also examine data from the rocket’s flight history. The Space and Missile Systems Center has “said it could require anywhere from two to 14 flights during the certification process.”
UPS Provides $40,000 Grant To Support Human Factors, Safety Research At Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech News (2/8, Masella) reports the UPS Foundation provided a $40,000 grant to the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering for the UPS Doctoral Fellowship in Human Factors and Safety at Virginia Tech. The fellowship includes a stipend and tuition “for at least one doctoral student per year in the human factors and safety concentration of industrial and systems engineering.” This year, the fellowship is seeking proposals on “reduction of stress-strain injuries resulting from physical activities in industrial materials handling operations; reduction of vehicle accidents that are related to compromised situational awareness, driver distraction, and/or lack of visibility, including pedestrian-strike accidents; and reduction of warning-related accidents wherein victims were insensitive to, or did not heed, warning signals.”
Rice University Researchers Demonstrate Economical Method Of Radical Polymerization.
Nanowerk (2/8) reports about new research published in the journal of the American Chemical Society, ACS Macro Letters, entitled “Semiconductor Quantum Dots as Photocatalysts for Controlled Light-Mediated Radical Polymerization ,” in which Rice University researchers detail “a stable and economic method to make polymers through photo-controlled atom-transfer radical polymerization.” The story says the new “method could replace molecular catalysts or expensive transition metals currently used to make things like methacrylates (common in plastics), styrene and block copolymers.”
Chinese Regulators Prepare Industry Standards For Autonomous Vehicles.
The South China Morning Post (HKG) (2/8, Dai) reports that while “more than 24 states in the US have introduced legislation on autonomous driving...China is behind on the regulatory front, according to Yvette Lin, an analyst with consultancy TrendForce.” Chinese leaders are working on standards for autonomous vehicles, however. Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng told Central Television, “We are building test fields and working on guidelines for open-road tests.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Florida Monorail Hinges Future On Robot Shuttle.
In an 1,800-word piece, Bloomberg News (2/8, Beene) reports, the Jacksonville, FL Skyway was “supposed to mature into a sleek system moving millions of riders each year from Jacksonville’s core to a historic district on the north side,” but, having failed to achieve that vision, the Jacksonville Transit Agency “has pinned its hopes on driving robots.” Bloomberg says the authority’s new five-year plan recommends “off-ramps to be built at key points along the monorail route, allowing the self-driving shuttles down to reach the street in dedicated traffic lanes.” The project, dubbed the “Ultimate Urban Circulator,” is “the most visible endorsement yet of autonomous vehicles by a public agency at a time when cities around the world are just beginning to experiment with the nascent technology.”
White House Says Energy Infrastructure Permitting Reform Will Be Part Of Infrastructure Plan.
The Washington Examiner (2/8, Siegel) reports that the Trump administration is expected to make energy infrastructure permitting reform one of the “three principles” of a soon to be announced infrastructure investment plan. According a White House official, the proposal will aim to reduce the “burdensome permitting process from an average of 10 years to two,” an initiative that would please the energy industry. American Petroleum Institute president and CEO Jack Gerard “has called for Congress and the administration to improve predictability in permitting, which he said would encourage private investment in energy infrastructure.”
Energy Lobbyists Call On Congress To Speed Up Permitting. The Houston Chronicle (2/8, Osborne) reports that power and pipeline sector lobbyists are calling on Congress to take more action to “encourage companies to build energy infrastructure in this country.” During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, “Don Santa, president of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, said Congress should ‘provide guidance to the appropriate role of the states,’” even as he singled out New York’s decision to “block pipeline projects over climate change concerns.” Santa told lawmakers, “One state’s abuse of its role in this relationship can affect other states,” and he added, “This is not cooperative federalism.” Edison Electric Institute executive Phillip Moeller echoed the call for federal intervention in energy infrastructure projects, even as he insisted that “acquiring land and permits for new transmission lines had become increasingly difficult.”
EPA Report Shows Dramatic Decrease In Polluter Enforcement.
The Hill (2/8, Green) reports that the Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump has fined “far fewer polluters for breaking emissions rules than the Obama administration,” according to the agency’s annual enforcement report. The number of cases the EPA recommended for prosecution also fell from 152 in 2016 to 110 this year, drawing sharp criticism from former agency officials who say a drop in litigation and enforcement could mean lasting consequences for the environment. According to an anonymous EPA official, “in the days leading up to the release of the report the administration worried about how to spin the dipping enforcement numbers as a positive.”
The Washington Post (2/8, Dennis) reports that the EPA said it’s annual enforcement report showed “nearly $5 billion in criminal fines and civil penalties, as well as significant commitments from companies to clean up contaminated sites around the country.” Critics, however, were “quick to point out that many of the action highlighted in the report...were initiated under the Obama administration.”
Kentucky Bill Would Reduce Incentive To Sell Excess Solar Power.
The AP (2/8) reports that under a bill in the Kentucky legislature “people with solar panels on their homes would get less credit for the excess energy they generate.” The legislation “marks the latest effort to scale back a popular incentive program for renewable energy in this coal-producing state.” The bill “would let utility companies buy the electricity from residential solar customers at the cheaper wholesale rate instead of the higher retail rate.”
Wind Industry Set To Capitalize On Solar Panel Tariff.
The Washington Times (2/8, Wolfgang) reports that fewer solar panel installations as a result of President Trump’s decision to impose stiff tariffs on solar panel imports will leave an “unexpected hole in the energy marketplace” that analysts say the wind industry is “best positioned to capitalize” on. Although the sector is “projected to have a banner year and become the nation’s top renewable source of electricity,” analysts still say “it’s foolish to assume that utilities and investors immediately will abandon solar in favor of wind.”
Texas Policy To Drop Algebra 2 Requirement Shows No Effect So Far.
Education Week (2/8, Sawchuck) says new research shows that Algebra 2 completion and failure rates “roughly remain the same” since a controversial state policy was adopted in 2014 which dropped the requirement for high school students to take the course. Education Week says “the main conclusion from the research...is that a change in policy doesn’t immediately lead to a change in the kinds of courses that schools offer.”