Leading the News
Researchers Detect Signals From Universe’s Earliest Stars.
Reuters (2/28, Dunham) reports, “A ground-based radio antenna in western Australia that resembles a dining room table has detected evidence of the earliest-known stars that illuminated an infant universe shrouded in darkness following its formation in the Big Bang.” Researchers say “faint signals of hydrogen gas spotted by the instrument indicated the presence of stars some 180 million years after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 2 percent of its current age.” The research was published in the journal Nature and was funded by the National Science Foundation.
The Washington Post (2/28, Kaplan) reports the signal “is little more than a blip in the radio echo of that ancient era,” but “if confirmed, researchers say it can help explain the events that gave rise to the first stars, black holes, galaxies and, eventually, every other object in existence.” The Post says a companion study “proposes that the unexpected size of the signal suggests it was influenced by dark matter — a potential new clue to one of the most persistent mysteries in the universe.”
The NPR (2/28) “The Two-Way” blog reports the researchers “got a surprise: It was far colder in the young universe, before the first stars blinked on, than astronomers previously thought. What’s more, that cosmic chill may have come from previously unknown interactions between normal matter and mysterious, so-called dark matter.” The researchers “used an instrument with a radio antenna located in a remote, ‘radio quiet’ desert in Western Australia, far from any cities, radio or TV stations, or cell phone networks.” ABC News (2/28) also covers this story.
Confucius Institutes Face Skepticism Amid Current Climate Of Suspicion Of Foreign Governments.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (2/28, Bauman) reports that amid concerns about “Russian interference in the 2016 election and broader efforts to stoke discord in American society, China’s relationship with the nation’s colleges and universities is drawing renewed attention as well.” The article describes Confucius Institutes at US colleges, which are “teaching centers on the language and history of China.” The article describes a number of issues that have been raised about the institutes in recent years, and says “the growing economic and geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China, a rising global power, is likely to be another source of the renewed scrutiny of Confucius Institutes in recent years.”
Survey: Most Parents Saving For College Have Less Than $10,000.
USA Today (2/28, Carrig) reports that according to a recent survey from the firm Student Loan Hero, “the majority of parents who are currently saving for their child’s education have saved less than $10,000.” This, the article says, “would barely cover the tuition and fees for one year at a 4-year public college for in-state students.”
ASEE International Forum
Join international colleagues on June 27 for a ticketed networking luncheon accompanied by a keynote speech from José Carlos Quadrado, immediate-past-president of LACCEI, on issues surrounding international students’ experiences at U.S. institutions and U.S. students’ experiences abroad. A panel session open to all Annual Conference attendees follows; the Forum concludes with a poster session at the President’s Farewell Reception. Separate International Forum registration is also available for anyone not attending the Conference. More information here as it becomes available.
NEW Webinar on Professionalism, Ethics, & Department Climate
This webinar, led by David Mogk (Montana State) and inspired by the National Academies’ Impacts of Sexual Harassment in Academia, explores components of professionalism, introduce topics that contribute to workplace climate, and suggest actions to ensure everyone’s success in your department. The live webinar is March 14 from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM, ET. Register now!
NEW TUEE II Webinar Series — Preparing Tomorrow’s Engineers (March/April 2018)
This free, NSF-supported webinar series explores activities faculty can implement in the classroom to encourage professional skill development, focusing on leadership, ethics, and critical thinking. This series is inspired by the TUEE Phase II workshop, where students shared insights on education experiences. Read more and register: https://www.asee.org/webinars
Advertiser Supplied Content
Missouri S&T Design Teams Earn Accolades On Multiple Challenges.
Missouri S&T, home to 19 student design teams, has made an impact across multiple engineering competitions, coming in first for the Mars Rover Design International University Rover Challenge, and second at both the Formula SAE-Lincoln and Spaceport America Cup. These varied feats demonstrate the strength of Missouri S&T’s design programs, which focus on preparing S&T students for future success across a wide variety of engineering industries. If you’d like to learn more about Missouri S&T’s College of Engineering and Computing and our student-led design teams click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Research and Development
Virginia Tech Research Helped Pave Way For Concussion Blood Test.
The Roanoke (VA) Times (2/28, Rife) reports that Virginia Tech football team physician Gunnar Brolinson, Virginia Tech engineers and athletes, and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine “provided the tests and the test subjects that led to the breakthrough” that cleared the way for the FDA to approve this month “the first blood test to be used in determining whether someone has a brain-injuring concussion.” Brolinson “in 2003 teamed up with Tech biomedical engineering professor Stefan Duma to study how well football helmets protect the brain.”
New Electrode For Supercapacitors Takes Inspiration From Leaves And Branches.
Design Engineering (CAN) (2/27) reports on “the need to develop a highly efficient rechargeable energy storage device” and a new “super-efficient and long-lasting electrode for supercapacitors” developed by “a team from UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and four other institutions.” It is “based on the structure and function of leaves on tree branches.” The new electrode “produced 30 percent better capacitance for its mass...and 30 times better capacitance per area.” In applying “the branch-and-leaves design, the researchers used” for the branches “hollow, cylindrical carbon nanotubes” and for the leaves “sharp-edged petal-like structures, about 100 nanometers wide, that are made of graphene.”
Researchers Use Ultrasound To Insert Molecules Into Cells.
Nanowerk (2/28) reports researchers at Washington University in St. Louis focused on how to insert engineered DNA molecules into cells. The group led by J. Mark Meacham “has developed a method enabling effective insertion of large molecules — such as DNA, RNA and proteins — into cells and propels them into the cell nucleus.” The technique combines Acoustic Shear Poration and electrophoresis, using “ultrasound waves and focused mechanical force to create nanoscale holes, or pores, in the cell membrane that are big enough for large macromolecules or nanoparticles to pass into the cell’s interior.”
Volvo Cars Launches Tech Investment Fund.
Reuters (2/28, Staff) reports Volvo Cars announced the launch of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund on Wednesday, saying it is seeking “high potential” startups for investment, namely those working in AI, electrification, autonomous technologies, and mobility solutions.
University Of Maryland Researchers Engineer Solid-State Lithium Ceramic Battery.
Nanowerk (2/28) reports about new research out of the University of Maryland, published in Joule under the title “Interphase Engineering Enabled All-Ceramic Lithium Battery ,” that demonstrates one potential solution to the interphase problem in solid-state batteries between electrode and electrolyte. The researchers crafted “a ‘sandwich’ of three different solids,” where the middle ceramic layer would melt and then provide conductivity between “the two outer layers” without providing contact. The same material “becomes solid against at normal temperatures.”
Researchers Develop Enabling Technology For Emerging Gene Therapies (UK).
eCancer News (2/28) reports a team of researchers at the School of Engineering & Applied Science have “developed a method enabling effective insertion of large molecules – such as DNA, RNA and proteins – into cells and propels them into the cell nucleus.” By combining a method “known as Acoustic Shear Poration (ASP) with electrophoresis, the approach uses ultrasound waves and focused mechanical force to create nanoscale holes, or pores, in the cell membrane that are big enough for large macromolecules or nanoparticles to pass into the cell’s interior.” Results indicate that “ASP has achieved greater than 75% delivery efficiency of macromolecules. DNA insertion, or transfection, which is of most interest in gene therapy, is significantly more challenging.” The findings were published in Scientific Reports.
Tech Industry Faulted For Lack Of Diversity.
USA Today (2/28, Guynn) reports on diversity in the tech industry, saying that “hundreds of millions of dollars, scores of initiatives and four years later, the technology industry is still staffed largely by white and Asian men.” USA cites Freada Kapor Klein saying, the industry “is doing it wrong.” Klein favors “a comprehensive approach to boosting diversity.” But, “diversity advocates say technology leaders still have not made diversity an urgent business priority.” Melinda Gates said, “The data makes it clear that women and underrepresented minorities face a vast and complicated array of barriers keeping them from careers in tech.” The barriers are said to begin in preschool as “underrepresented students are denied access to a high-quality education” so that by the time high school is ending “only 16% of students who participate in AP computer science courses are African American, Hispanic or Native American, or Alaskan natives.”
MWC Begs Questions Of When 5G Will Be Available.
A video from Reuters (2/28) provides examples of some of the 5G-related technologies being showcased at Mobile World Congress this week, such as autonomous passenger drones from Huawei. Reuters’ Ivor Bennett explains that use cases like these passenger drones are still a ways off, but rollouts of initial 5G devices and some technologies related to advancements like smart cities are due to debut in the US, Japan, and South Korea later this year and in 2019. Thoms Husson, VP and Principle Analyst at Forrester, compares today’s stage of the advent of 5G to 2002 in the process of 3G being built out. He says, it’s going to take time, we’re going to hear about the technology a lot more, and it’s going to be a big deal, but, you know, let’s temper expectation from a consumer standpoint.
USA Today (2/28, Baig) explains that “some 5G deployments” will happen in the US by the end of 2018, but “most [of] the action comes to consumers and businesses in 2019 with broader mainstream and industrial adoption more likely to take off in the early 2020s.” The fixed wireless 5G service Verizon is bringing to five cities this year will be “the first way many will experience 5G,” with devices like 5G smartphones and tablets following in 2019. USA Today says some “early adopter” devices may debut sooner considering, as John Delaney, associate vice president for mobility at IDC Europe, explains, “you’d be frustrating your customers by saying ‘Hey, we’ve got this network, but you can’t use it.’”
The South China Morning Post (HKG) (2/28, Chen) says that at MWC, “companies plastered the venue halls with prominent slogans, from ‘5G is now,’ ‘Leading 5G innovation,’ and ‘Network towards 5G,’ to ‘5G is happening faster than we expected.’” The International Telecommunications Union, however, says it won’t be until 2020 that the first commercial 5G networks come online. Still Huawei is expected to launch the first 5G smartphone in the second half of 2018 and “the release of a range of 5G smartphones that can also work on existing 4G networks is widely expected later next year, after the standards are set and spectrum is allocated.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Judge Explains Order Halting Louisiana Pipeline Construction.
The AP (2/28, Kunzelman) reports the “federal judge who halted construction” of the Bayou Bridge pipeline “through a Louisiana swamp says the project’s irreversible environmental damage outweighs the economic harm that a delay brings to the company building it.” On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick “issued a 61-page ruling...explaining her decision to stop construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in environmentally fragile Atchafalaya Basin.” The judge was asked by Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC “to suspend her order while it appeals, but the judge refused.”
Reuters (2/28) reports the pipeline, which is already being built, “is intended to move crude oil from Lake Charles, Louisiana, to St. James, Louisiana, and pass through the Atchafalaya Basin, a nearly one million acre wetland that is vital to the state’s flood protection system and commercial fishing industry.” The “battle” in court “renews a struggle between the oil industry and environmentalists, who are using lawsuits to halt or delay new infrastructure projects.”
The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate (2/28) reports Dick, in her ruling, criticized “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to consider the cumulative impact of other pipelines already built in the basin, calling it ‘myopic,’” and faulted “the Corps’ lack of an explanation about how the required wetlands mitigation would compensate for the permanent loss of the swamp forests.” A Energy Transfer Partners spokeswoman “disputed the judge’s findings that the Corps ‘did not properly consider the limited impacts of construction’ in the basin.”
Trump’s Offshore Drilling Plan Faces Opposition From GOP Officials In Coastal States.
The Washington Post (2/28, Fears) reports that several Republicans South Carolina legislators have broken “sharply with the president over his plan to offer oil and gas companies leases to drill a few miles off beaches that bring $20 billion in annual revenue to South Carolina and support 600,000 tourism jobs.” At Interior Department public “listening sessions” to “explain its proposed five-year lease plan – which would open 95 percent of the nation’s outer continental shelf to potential drilling – a growing chorus of bipartisan opposition is finding its voice.” The Post says the first wave of opposition came from “Atlantic and Pacific coast governors, congressional delegations and attorneys general,” and now “state lawmakers, mayors and city councils are mobilizing in an attempt to stop the administration’s plan.”
Interior Committee Recommends Reducing Offshore Oil And Gas Royalty Rates. Reuters (2/28) reports that an Interior Department’s royalty policy committee voted Wednesday to recommend to Secretary Zinke that the Department “lower royalty rates for federal offshore oil and gas drilling to 12.5 percent from 18.75 percent through 2024, to spur more production.” In addition, the panel voted “to increase the amount of acreage available for offshore oil and natural gas leasing in the outer continental shelf.”
New Jersey Approves Plan For Offshore Wind Energy.
The AP (2/28) reports the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities “has approved a plan to implement Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order to prepare the state for offshore wind developments.” BPU president Joseph Fiordaliso said, “As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and citizens of New Jersey, we must ensure that the future of energy is clean for the generations to come. ... To this end, the board will take the first step in Governor Murphy’s plan to move New Jersey toward 100 percent clean energy by 2050, and make New Jersey a national leader in offshore wind.”
Anaheim Ducks Teach Students About Energy.
The Orange County (CA) Register (2/28, Rightmire) reports in Anaheim, California, the Anaheim Ducks hosted students from over 170 schools “for the First Flight Field Trip” at which students watched the Ducks skate and had the chance “to try hands-on science experiments that demonstrated the principals of energy at various stations set up in the parking lot of the Honda Center.” The Ducks also demonstrated “the ways the hockey players use different forms of energy in their sport.”
Texas Instruments Teaches San Antonio Students How To Use TI Calculators To Control TI Robot.
The San Antonio Express-News (3/1, Caruba) reports Texas Instruments has conducted “robot coding workshops” at 11 schools in San Antonio reaching “at least 1,200” students. The workshops teach “students how to use the firm’s calculators to program the movements of the TI-Innovator Rover, an educational robot it also makes.” Judson ISD STEM coordinator Deborah Rice “said the workshop gave students an opportunity to practice their problem solving and math skills in an entertaining, hands-on setting.”
Wyoming Legislature Moves To Require Districts To Offer Computer Science.
Wyoming Public Radio (2/28, Watson) reports both the Wyoming House and Senate have approved bills to “require districts to offer computer science courses.” Dicky Shanor, Chief of Staff for the Wyoming Department of Education, “said the Senate’s version of the bill is stronger because it treats computer science has a stand-alone knowledge area, where as the House places it under career and technical education.”
Wednesday's Lead Stories