Leading the News
Budget Deal Clears Post-Katrina Debt For Four HBCUs.
The AP (2/10) reports that Dillard University, Xavier University, Southern University at New Orleans – all in New Orleans – and Mississippi’s Tougaloo College “will see about $330 million in post-Katrina debt owed to the federal government cleared under a provision in a congressional budget deal signed by President Donald Trump.” The four HBCUs “borrowed the money in 2007 from the federal Department of Education as they struggled to deal with crippling blows dealt by Hurricane Katrina.” Payments on the loans “were suspended in 2013 under a provision inserted into a 2012 spending bill by former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu but the five-year loan forbearance period was set to expire in April, putting pressure on the universities.”
Senate Legislation Would Build Partnerships Between Technical Colleges, Industry To Advance Workforce Training.
The AP (2/11) reports that Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) “has introduced a bill to support partnerships between community or technical colleges and workforce development partners to assist with job training.” The legislation, called that “Gateway to Careers Act, would support career strategies that combine work, education, and support services.” The AP notes that Sen. Hassan “recently visited Granite State Manufacturing, which partnered with Manchester Community College to develop a welding apprenticeship program.”
Maryland Professor Pushing For Program To Train Workers For Marijuana Industry.
The Washington Post (2/10, Pacella) reports that Shad Ewrart, a professor at Anne Arundel Community College, “is proposing a credit-bearing certificate program at the college to train students for their first jobs in the medical cannabis industry.” According to Tony Toskov, the founder of a nascent Maryland dispensary, “there is a need for such a program. If he had a stack of five résumés, he said, he would call the person with the certificate first because it would show that they are seriously interested in the industry.”
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 Cincinnati Researchers Developing Wearable Sensor Technology.
Phys (UK) (2/7) reports researchers at the University of Cincinnati are “developing cutting-edge methods to overcome” challenges of affixing wearable sensors to human skin “without compromising the skin and its ability to prevent infection and dehydration. By making better noninvasive tests, researchers can open up enormous opportunities in medicine and the fitness industry.” The article explores the physical and chemical challenges to adhering sensors to skin and reports Jason Heikenfeld, assistant vice president in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, said that “biosensors in most wearable devices use technology that has been available for years.”
Robot Delivery Vans On Faster Track Than Self-Driving Cars.
Bloomberg News (2/10, Stock) reports on “the new autonomous vehicle unveiled last week by Nuro,” which “doesn’t have doors or windows to speak of, because it will be carrying packages – not people.” As major automakers and dozens of tech companies “race to replace drivers in Uber cars and taxi fleets, Nuro is ignoring humans altogether and steering for Amazon.com, United Parcel Service, and any retailer looking to build its e-commerce business.” Cofounder Dave Ferguson is quoted saying, “We realized we could make it possible to deliver anything, anytime, anywhere. ... We like to call it a local teleportation service.” The market is massive – UPS alone “delivers about 19 million packages a day. Excluding management and pilots, it employs roughly 353,000 people and spends 57 cents of every sales dollar on compensation and benefits. Robot-cars, meanwhile, are far easier to negotiate with at review time and ask only for some electricity.”
New Research Gives Insight Into Predicting Solar Flares.
The Daily Mail (2/9, Pinkstone) reported on research published last week in the journal Nature which suggests that solar flares are the result of the interaction between magnetic fields within the sun. The findings could help scientists better predict the occurrence of flares, which can “cause devastation on Earth by knocking out satellites and power grids.” Previous research found that “just before a solar flare, magnetic force lines from the sun’s corona – the outer layer of the star’s atmosphere – twist together and resembles a hemp rope,” but researchers at the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris found that “magnetic cages” around the “rope” play a central role in the flares. The authors of “this study are hopeful that the ropes and cages model can be used” to predict flares in the same way that weather predictions are formulated.
Canadian Researchers Seek To Improve EV Battery Technologies.
The Globe and Mail (CAN) (2/9, McCarthy) profiled Canadian researchers working “to improve the performance, extend the life and lower the costs of the battery that powers electric vehicles (EVs),” including Jeff Dahn, a physicist at Dalhousie University, and Karim Zaghib, who “leads Hydro-Québec’s research on advanced batteries at its Montreal-area labs.”
Indian Electronics Ministry Creates AI Planning Committees.
The Economic Times (IND) (2/9, Agarwal) reported Indian Union Minister of Electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad said Friday that his ministry has created four committees to develop an AI plan for India. The committees will focus on “Citizen Centric Services; Data platforms; Skilling, reskilling and R&D; Legal regulatory and cybersecurity,” the Times said. Prasad “said that the ministry will conduct high level research in these areas” and “will assist the government machinery to implement technologies such as these and 3D printing etc.”
After Settling With Uber, Waymo Faces Challenges From Other Companies Using Similar Technology.
The New York Times (2/10, Metz, Subscription Publication) reported that after agreeing to settle a lawsuit in which it accused Uber of stealing its driverless car technology, Waymo must now compete with companies that is using similar AI technology and is being “directed by engineers it used to employ.” The Times states that much of the technology that has been produced from Waymo’s work and from research run by Alphabet “is now available from other sources, making it easier for companies, even start-ups, to compete.” The Times compares Waymo’s potential challenges to the IBM competition with Oracle in the database market.
Engineering and Public Policy
Georgia State Lawmakers Introduce Resolutions Opposed To Offshore Drilling.
The AP (2/11, Bynum, Rico) reports a bipartisan group of Georgian lawmakers are seeking “to fill the political vacuum” created by the inaction of Gov. Nathan Deal on the possible expansion of offshore drilling to Georgia’s coasts and “are pushing resolutions in the state House and Senate that would flat out declare opposition to drilling.” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has opted to stick to “cautious, measured responses to President Donald Trump’s proposal to expand oil drilling into waters off Georgia and its coastal neighbors.” The bipartisan group believes the expansion of offshore drilling to the state’s coastline “would risk fouling Georgia’s pristine salt marshes, threaten endangered right whales that give birth off Georgia and potentially devastate local economies.” The Savannah (GA) Morning News (2/10, Landers) reports identical versions of legislature seeking to prevent “offshore drilling and seismic testing on the Georgia coast are making their way through both chambers of the state legislature.” The bills were sponsored by “[b]ipartisan coastal lawmakers, along with some inland colleagues,” who framed the resolutions “in terms of supporting Georgia’s coastal tourism and fisheries.”
California State Officials Move To Block Offshore Drilling Plan. E&E Publishing (2/9, Subscription Publication) reports officials in California’s state government “are resurrecting an old strategy once used by coastal municipalities to block offshore drilling.” During the Reagan administration, several California cities passed measures that required new oil infrastructure on municipal land to be approved by a public vote. Now, California’s State Lands Commission has said it will “reject permits for offshore pipelines” and state lawmakers “are contemplating a ban on new oil piers and pipelines in state waters.” IHS Markit analyst Bob Fryklund believes the measures could “dampen industry interest in drilling off California’s coast,” but at the same time, “some companies could get oil to market via floating oil rigs, without the need to build infrastructure on land.” The Huffington Post (2/9, Papenfuss) reports the California State Lands Commission issued a warning to the Trump administration on Wednesday that the commission would “not issue the pipeline permits drillers would need.” The Lake County (CA) News (2/11) reports California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, in a letter to the BOEM, issued formal comments opposing the federal offshore drilling proposal.
States, FCC May Be Headed For Legal Battle Over Net Neutrality.
The Washington Post (2/9, Fung) reports on a “new tactic” for restoring the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules which is “gaining momentum among” state governors. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy this week signed “an executive order that effectively forces Internet service providers (ISPs) that do business with the state to abide by strong net neutrality rules,” and Montana and New York officials “signed virtually identical orders.” The Post says such measures “could drive the fight over the Internet’s future into hazy legal territory” by raising new constitutional questions about “where the federal government’s authority ends and state authority begins.”
Nebraska Lawmakers Consider Bill To Establish Autonomous Vehicle Testing Site.
The AP (2/11, Schulte) reports Nebraska lawmakers on Tuesday will consider two measures “that would let researchers test self-driving vehicles...to prepare for an expected surge in such vehicles in the coming decade.” The AP says one bill “would allow automated vehicles on state roads and highways but require that testers be able to continuously monitor them and take immediate control if necessary” while the other measure “would allow researchers to test self-driving vehicles, but only in Lincoln.”
Smart Mobility To Move Forward Development Of Smart Cities.
In an article on moving the development of Smart Cities forward, Mass Transit Magazine (2/10) reports that Smart Mobility “came to the forefront of the conversation” at CES 2018. The “importance of advanced technology and human ingenuity was echoed by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, whose address at CES focused on innovation.” Secretary Chao “reiterated the role autonomous vehicles will play in revolutionizing transportation, and further entrenched the Department of Transportation’s role in cultivating innovation by eliminating obstacles to development and integration of new technology.” Subsequently, she “announced the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) release of automated vehicle requests for public comment, soliciting input from across the transportation industry to identify barriers to innovation and help shape initiatives.”
Transportation Department To Host Conference On Relaxing Autonomous Car Regulations.
Reuters (2/9, Shepardson) reports the Transportation Department will host a conference next month to discuss “potential government actions that could speed the rollout of autonomous cars.” Last month, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao “said the Trump administration plans to unveil revised self-driving car guidelines this summer as the government sets out to rewrite regulations that pose legal barriers to robot vehicles.” The conference will help “identify priority federal and non-federal activities that can accelerate the safe rollout.” Among those expected to attend are auto manufacturers, technology companies, policy makers, and road safety advocates.
NHTSA Seeking Ways To Reduce Future Fuel Economy Standards.
Bloomberg News (2/9, Lippert) reports the Trump Administration is looking at “ways to reduce future fuel economy standards for automobiles in a move to appease carmakers, who have asked to ease targets put in place under President Barack Obama.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “is looking at a range of options to lower future targets, including one that would permit an average fleetwide fuel economy standard of 35.7 miles per gallon by 2026, down from the 46.6 miles per gallon under rules charted by the Obama administration, according to a draft NHTSA analysis obtained by Bloomberg News.” Under that scenario, the agency “projects an estimated 10 percent of new cars and light trucks sold in 2030 would need to be hybrid or plug-in electric to comply with the standards. That compares to 61 percent under the Obama-era proposal, according to the document.”
Report: Trump Administration Considering Use Emergency Authority To Aid Some Coal Plants.
The Hill (2/9, Cama) reported that the Trump administration is weighing “whether to take an obscure action to aid certain coal-fired power plants.” Energy Department officials are considering “whether Energy Secretary Rick Perry should invoke emergency authority to stop FirstEnergy Solutions power plants from closing.” The authority “would let the company charge high enough rates for its coal plants to stay open and not close due to competition from cheaper sources.” The Trump Administration “rejected a call from FirstEnergy and from coal miner Murray Energy Corp. last year to use the authority.”
The Washington Examiner (2/9) reports FirstEnergy “said Friday it doesn’t know of any potential emergency action by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to keep the plants running.” Such a move “is traditionally reserved for when the nation’s electricity supply is threatened by an emergency, such as war or natural disaster.” First Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said, “Though we support actions that would help preserve baseload coal and nuclear plants, I am not aware of any Section 202 effort involving FirstEnergy.”
“Clean Coal” Tax Credit Receives Bipartisan Support In Spending Bill.
The Washington Examiner (2/9) reports the spending bill signed by President Trump on Friday “would extend and expand a tax credit supporting a long-elusive and expensive technology that captures carbon emissions from power plants and stores it underground.” The tax credit “was extended for 12 years, increasing the potential for broader deployment of carbon capture technology.” The language that expanded the credit was sponsored by a bipartisan group of senators. The Examiner notes that it is “not clear what Trump means when he refers to ‘clean coal’” but that “he could be referring to coal plants that capture the carbon dioxide emitted from power plants and store it underground as a way of limiting its impact on global warming.”
New Montana Program Seeks To Prepare Teenagers For Workforce.
The AP (2/11, Rogers) reports that after Montana Public Radio host Brian Khan heard Pope “Francis speak in a 2013 interview about distressingly high unemployment among teenagers and 20-somethings and the growing isolation of the elderly,” he wondered what the community could do to prevent society from “throwing kids away.” Along with “a large group of lawmakers, thinkers, educational experts and business leaders,” Khan developed “American Jobs for American Youth: A Montana Proposal to the Nation.” The plan not only “focuses specifically on helping teens acquire the skills that are vital for a future workforce,” but also aims to “help Montana develop and keep a skilled workforce in the state, rather than losing Montana graduates to jobs in other parts of the country, Kahn said.” An early childhood education component calls for “universal access to preschool and community-based parent counseling programs.” Addressing “Pope Francis’ other concern,” the proposal also “calls for a mentor program that would connect youth with the elderly.”
West Virginia Student 3-D Prints Prosthetic Hand For Friend.
The AP (2/10) profiles 17-year-old Capital High School senior Alex McMillian. McMillian, enrolled in the West Virginia school’s two-year engineering course, “3-D printed a prosthetic hand for 11-year-old Evan Hines, a fifth-grader at Ruffner Elementary School” who “was born without fingers and most of his palm on his left arm.” The two students met through Ruffner’s “Good News Club” and “bonded over their love of ‘Star Wars.’” As such, McMillian modeled the “robotic-looking hand, painted gold and complete with wires,” after the android character C-3PO. During his research on prosthetic hands, McMillian “came across e-NABLE, a web-based community of volunteers that uses 3-D printers to create free prosthetic hands for those in need.” E-NABLE estimates that “its devices are the equivalent of a prosthesis that would cost up to $8,000.” By using his school’s printer and materials and an e-NABLE template, however, McMillian “only spent money on fabric fastener, screws, fishing wire and elastic to help it function.”
South Dakota High School Teacher Launches Drone Club.
The AP (2/10) reports Roosevelt High School teacher Nathan Hofflander launched “the Flight Club during the 2016-17 school year when he realized his personal interest in drones could bring a new learning tool to his classroom, especially with increasing push for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning in education.” Hofflander believes Roosevelt is the only high school in South Dakota “currently using drones in education, but he’s doing everything he can to make the technology accessible to other schools.” Hofflander “purchased a handful of drones after a successful crowdfunding campaign on DonorsChoose.org in the fall of 2016, and the following spring, he received a grant from the Sioux Falls Education Foundation to purchase even more.” The high school now boasts a fleet of 12 drones. Flight Club students “aren’t necessarily the same students taking Hofflander’s computer science or programming classes, but for those involved in both, drones are one way to see practical ways to use what they’re learning.”