Leading the News
Hundreds Of Thousands Still Without Power From Severe Windstorm On East Coast.
The New York Times (3/4, Fortin, Subscription Publication) reports “hundreds of thousands of people remained without electricity” yesterday, following the “fierce storm swept through much of the eastern United States on Friday.” Some customers were informed by utility companies “that power may not be restored until later this week, around the time another storm could strike the region.” According to the Energy Department, over “two million people were affected by power losses, from South Carolina to Michigan to Maine.” As of midafternoon Sunday there “were more than 67,000 in Maryland, 89,000 in New Jersey, and 157,000 in Massachusetts” without power. The AP (3/4) reports that approximately “182,000 New Yorkers were without power on Sunday.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (3/4) reports Peco has brought in crews from out of state to help restore power to 99,000 customers in Pennsylvania.
The Washington Post (3/3, Weintraub, Wootson, Wang) and the Baltimore Sun (3/2) also provide coverage of the power outages on the East Coast.
Georgia State University Opens $6.3M Science Wing.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (3/2, Goldenstein) reported that last week Georgia State University opened a new $6.3 million science wing “full of biology and chemistry labs at its Alpharetta campus.” The new facility “will allow students to collaborate with the area’s growing science and technology industry.” Associate Dean of Academic Services Tina Philpot said, “This is a happening place and a happening region for anyone interested in pursuing a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-related career,” while Physical Sciences Department Chair Solomon Fesseha said, “These labs fulfill an increasing need in the north Fulton area, which has a high demand for employees with backgrounds in chemistry and biology.”
States Push Back Against Potential ED Plan To Protect Student Loan Servicers.
MarketWatch (3/2, Berman) reports that amid reports that ED under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “may issue guidance claiming states don’t have the authority to oversee companies that collect federal student loans,” a number of state officials are signaling that they will continue their efforts to regulate student loan servicers. The piece quotes Connecticut state Rep. Matt Lesser (D) saying, “If the Trump administration decides against better counsel to go ahead with this idea, I think you’ll see some strong action out of Connecticut. We’re going to be making sure that we continue to protect the law and we stand up for our rights as a state.” Meanwhile, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey “expressed a similar sentiment, saying in a statement that she’d continue her probes into student loan companies.”
Maryland State Lawmakers, Education Officials At Odds Over For-Profit College Oversight.
The Washington Post (3/3, Douglas-Gabriel) reported the Maryland state General Assembly held hearings last week on a bill, introduced by state Sen. Paul Pinsky and state Del. Shelly Hettleman, “that would require for-profit colleges to reimburse students the cost of attendance if the school closes” and “provide prospective students information about costs, ability to transfer credits and loan default rates.” The effort marks “the second time in recent years that state lawmakers have asked the Maryland Higher Education Commission to establish the tuition guarantee fund,” and it is “fostering tension between Maryland lawmakers and the state higher education commission.” Career Education Colleges and Universities head Steve Gunderson “called the latest proposed legislation ‘deeply flawed’” and “highly partisan,” however, since efforts are already underway at the federal level. While ED will in many cases “cancel the federal loans of borrowers whose college closed,” limitations of the approach “became evident following the collapse of for-profit giants Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute.”
Purdue University Engineering Students Prepare For FAR-MARS Prize Rocket Contest.
The AP (3/3) reported Purdue University’s Purdue Space Program team “is among numerous university student-engineering teams from around the globe competing in the FAR-MARS Prize contest” this May in the Mojave Desert. At the event, students will be granted “two hours to deploy its launch system, fuel the rocket, and launch a payload that includes an altitude tracking device, and recover it via parachute.” Student teams that successfully “launch a bi-propellant liquid-fueled rocket to 45,000 feet will win $50,000,” and those “using liquid oxygen and liquid methane as fuel will win another $50,000.” The Purdue Space Program team “is preparing to launch a methane-powered rocket.”
Goshen College Planning Campus Solar Energy Project.
The AP (3/4) reports Goshen College in Indiana “is planning to install more than 900 electricity-generating solar panels on its campus.” The college “says the solar panels will be placed atop the school’s Rec-Fitness Center.” According to the college “says it is undertaking the project with the College Mennonite Church, with which it shares the Church-Chapel building on campus.”
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
Research and Development
University Of Maryland Engineers Convert Wood To Carbon Sponge.
Nanowerk (3/1) reports University of Maryland-College Park engineers “have for the first time demonstrated that wood can be directly converted into a carbon sponge capable of enduring repeated compression and other extreme mechanical conditions.” The process “overcomes several limiting factors of other lightweight, compressible carbon sponges because it is simpler, less expensive, and more sustainable to produce. The new sponge can be used in various applications such as energy storage (e.g., batteries), pollutant treatment, and electronic devices and sensors.”
Controlled Environments Magazine (3/2) reports that other carbon sponges “are made from raw materials that are usually nonrenewable fossil resources — such as graphene — and by a complicated fabrication process that involves multiple steps and environmentally unfriendly chemicals. In contrast, the UMD researchers use a simple chemical process to transform balsa wood, a choice biomass-based material that is both renewable and abundant.” The research was published in the journal Chem.
Opinion: Low Latency Will Be 5G’s “Secret Weapon.”
Writing for Venture Beat (3/2), Jeremy Horwitz asserts that ultra-low latency will be 5G’s secret weapon, rather than the faster data speeds on which much of the 5G hype has heavily focused. Horwitz says low latency is “easily understood but hard to market,” but Verizon, Vodafone, and Huawei have shown in the last month that it will “radically improve wireless video, video games, and VR.” According to Horwitz, “The biggest beneficiaries of 5G’s ultra-low latency are expected to be games, VR, factories, medicine, autonomous cars, and traffic systems.” In explaining recent showcases of such changes that 5G will bring, Horwitz explains that “Qualcomm recently demonstrated how 5G will enable multiple industrial machines to be independently remote-controlled with only 1-2ms latency.” 5G will also offer sub-5 or sub-2 ms latency for VR headsets, enabling 3D video to be sent to a wireless headset from cameras around the world in real time, keeping pace with a user’s turning head.
Boeing Believes Flying Cars Will Happen “Faster Than Any Of Us Understand.”
Bloomberg News (3/1, Johnsson, Levin) reports that in an interview, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said that flying vehicle technology “is near enough to occupy the present-day plans of Boeing’s leadership.” Muilenberg said, “I think it will happen faster than any of us understand. Real prototype vehicles are being built right now. So the technology is very doable.” Bloomberg writes that “autonomous air taxis and parcel-hauling drones have the potential to be the next disruption to sweep the aerospace industry, with Boeing and arch-rival Airbus SE among the manufacturers racing to stake a claim,” adding that the Boeing chief sees the new technology “as a rare opening to shape a new transportation ecosystem.”
UC Santa Barbara Engineers Develop Non-Mechanical Light Tuning Method.
Nanowerk (3/1) reports about a new paper published in Nature Communications by UC Santa Barbara engineer Jon Schuller, entitled “Ultrawide thermal free-carrier tuning of dielectric antennas coupled to epsilon-near-zero substrates ,” in which Schuller and fellow researchers at UCSB “describe a technique for applying heat to the semiconductor indium antimonide (InSb) to form an ideal material for controlling the phase of light necessary to achieve tunability.” The research has practical applications in using “sub-wavelength interactions involving any element smaller than the wavelength of light (about one micron) to not only steer light, but also to enable faster, more efficient sensing,” leading to improvements in “remote sensing, autonomous vehicles and holographic displays.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Department Of Interior Documents Show Original Focus On Oil Exploration In National Monument Land.
The New York Times (3/2, Lipton, Friedman, Subscription Publication) reports that internal agency documents show the Department of Interior “was focused on the potential for oil and gas exploration at” the protected Utah Bears Ears Monument “even before President Trump opened his high-profile review” of the National Monuments lands last spring. The documents show that Sen. Orrin Hatch “asked a senior Interior Department official” in March 2017 “to consider reduced boundaries for Bears Ears National Monument...to remove land that contained oil and natural gas deposits that had been set aside to help fund area public schools,” and provided a map of Bears Ears which “was incorporated almost exactly into the much larger reductions President Trump announced in December.” The article provides further detail on the documents.
DOT Holds Listening Session On Autonomous Vehicle Policies.
On Thursday there was a meeting focused on autonomous vehicles in Washington attended by various national stakeholders, including representatives from DOT, FHWA, FMCSA, the American Trucking Associations, and officials from state transportation departments.
Smart Cities Dive (3/2, Musulin) reports “the summit centered around the draft AV 3.0 Framework, which is expected to be released as early as summer 2018.” At the listening session, Secretary Chao “explained the framework, which includes AV guidance for mass transit, rail and trucking,” saying it lays down six fundamental principles for safety and performance. According to Chao, the ADS 2.0 framework was the most-viewed policy document in the history of the Transportation Department.
Supply Chain Dive (3/2, Musulin) reports Undersecretary for Transportation Policy Derek Kan “explained that the three main priorities of AV 3.0 are safety, infrastructure and preparing for the future.”
Land Line Magazine (3/2, Fisher) reports that “in addition to addressing issues relevant to the trucking industry, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will be seeking comments regarding autonomous technology in commercial motor vehicles.”
Environmentalist Group Targets Four GOP Lawmakers For Voting For ANWR Drilling.
The Hill (3/2, Cama) reports the National Resources Defense Council’s campaign arm on Friday “launched a six-figure advertising campaign” against Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, Ryan Costello, Patrick Meehan, and Erik Paulson over their vote “to permit oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)” as part of “the controversial GOP tax overhaul last year, which has a provision that authorizes it.”
E&E Publishing (3/2, Subscription Publication) reports NRDC Action Fund Executive Director Kevin Curtis “said in a statement that by voting for the ANWR provision, the four lawmakers ‘have handed oil companies a long-sought prize, but they’ve turned their backs on vulnerable Arctic wildlife and the indigenous communities who begged Congress not to spoil their sacred lands.’”
San Juan Puerto Rico Hit By Blackout For Second Day In A Row.
The AP (3/2) reports “another power outage has hit the capital of Puerto Rico for the second day in a row after a failure was reported at a substation.” On Friday, the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority “said in a brief tweet that crews were repairing the failure. It is unclear what caused it or how many customers were affected.” PREPA “officials did not return messages for comment.”
Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order For Proposed Solar Farm In Mastic.
Newsday (NY) (3/2) reports New York state Supreme Court Justice “has issued a temporary restraining order to stop clearing and construction at the site of a proposed solar farm in Mastic.” The order by State Supreme Court Justice William G. Ford “temporarily stops tree-clearing that had already begun at the site on Moriches-Middle Island Road in Mastic on Wednesday, when heavy equipment began work just hours after Brookhaven Town issued a building permit for the contested solar farm.” On Friday, Ford issued the order “at the request of The Pine Barrens Society, the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization (ABCO) and residents who live near the planned solar farm and who filed suit to block development of the project last year.” The order blocks “the developer from ‘allowing any construction, including site work preparation such as removal of trees,’ until a court hearing scheduled for April 19.”
Girl Scouts To Introduce Cybersecurity Badges.
On its website, NBC News (3/5) reports that while “Girl Scouts of the USA have been increasing programming in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math in recent years,” its plan to unveil 18 new cybersecurity badges “at various skill levels for girls in grades K-12” constitutes “another step forward.” The program is aimed at inspiring more girls to pursue STEM careers, as females “are vastly underrepresented in cybersecurity, holding only 11 percent of jobs globally, according to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity.” Palo Alto Networks information security senior director Rinki Sethi, an adviser for the cybersecurity badge curriculum, said the program is “going to just make them feel empowered that ‘I can go and do anything.’” Sethi added that “we’re going to need the best and the greatest minds and a really thought-diverse group to go and fill those gaps that we have today in the talent pool.”
Washington High School Students Compete In FIRST Robotics Competition.
The Skagit Valley (WA) Herald (3/4) reports 39 northwestern Washington high school teams gathered at Mount Vernon High School on Friday for the opening of the three-day FIRST Robotics Competition, part of FIRST’s efforts “to inspire youths to be STEM leaders and innovators through working with robotics.” The founding chairman of FIRST Washington, Kevin Ross, said of the program: “We’re looking for the kids who would like to be engineers, but just don’t know it yet.” Of the roughly 24 students “on each high school-level team, eight of them are ‘nerds,’ Ross said good-naturedly, who were already going to be engineers.” Those other 16 students, he said, are the ones most dramatically impacted by the programs.
Friday's Lead Stories