ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Harvard Researchers Design Robot Swarm That Collaborates Without Central Guidance.

The Wall Street Journal  (8/15, Hotz, Subscription Publication) reports researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have reported in the journal Science that they have created a swarm of over 1,000 mall robots that can work collaboratively without being guided by a central authority. The Journal explains that the research could lead to such robot teams working to help clean up oil spills, conduct military surveillance, and engage in unmanned space exploration.

Higher Education


ED College Rating System Falls Behind Schedule.

Bloomberg News  (8/14, Lorin) reported that ED, which has been “charged by” President Obama “to create a system rating more than 5,000 campuses on graduation rates, student debt and other outcomes, is finding that calibrating the metrics is complicated,” and has “delayed unveiling a draft until the fall, months later than planned.” According to Bloomberg, the Education Department “has held at least 80 meetings with more than 4,000 participants in the year since Obama ordered up the scorecard,” and “the response from private colleges has been almost uniform: they hate the idea.” But James Kvaal, deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, says, “Colleges should” be “helping students get a good education in the field of their choice without graduating with a mountain of debt,” and “the new rating system would focus colleges on affordability.”

Air Force Academy Launches Cybersecurity Major.

FierceGovernmentIT  (8/15) reports that though it has eliminated several majors in recent years, the Air Force Academy “has developed a new computer network security major designed to help cadets better understand and gain proficiency in cyberspace.” The article cites research pointing to “the need for better education and training for cybersecurity professionals,” and notes that classes within the course of study “will include reverse software engineering, virus and malware analysis, and computer forensics.”

NASA Bestows Public Service Medal To University of Alabama At Huntsville Professor.

WAAY-TV  Huntsville, AL (8/14) reports on its website that University of Alabama at Huntsville professor John Gregory received NASA’s Distinguished Public Service medal. In the past 45 years at UAH, Gregory has “contributed to seven space shuttle missions over and 20 high-altitude balloon research projects by designing and building experiments.” His research “has covered topics ranging from subatomic particles to deep-space investigations.” NASA said, “John has used his research experience, enthusiasm for space research and education, connections across NASA, and leadership in the national Space Grant organization to bring inspirational educational experiences to students across Alabama and the U.S. He has had an indelible impact on NASA’s educational and research success.”

New ASEE-NAE Report on Barriers to Ethnic Diversity
Surmounting the Barriers” has recommendations for the university-level engineering and engineering technology education community to improve diversity.


New Online STEM Sustainability Library
This on-line library of over 1700 juried articles and 300 videos was developed at James Madison University with NSF funding. The site provides resources for those researching or teaching sustainability across contexts.

I-Corps for Learning
NSF will provide up to $1.2 million to support research into how the I-Corps program’s focus on the “ditch of death” between research and development can help address the gap associated with bringing a promising education practice to a common, widespread utilization. Learn more about participating in I-Corps for Learning. Proposals must be submitted by September 30, 2014 to be considered for participation in the January 2015 cohort.

Research and Development


ARPA-E To Boost Support Of Fusion Energy.

Science Magazine  (8/15) reports ARPA-E “is preparing to launch a program to support alternative approaches to fusion energy that have the potential to steal a march on existing mainstream projects.” According to the article “the news will come as a relief to some fusion researchers at government labs, who had their funding cut completely in this fiscal year because of the ballooning cost of the U.S. contribution to the international ITER fusion reactor project in France.” Earlier this week, “ARPA-E gave advanced warning of the new funding stream, called Accelerating Low-cost Plasma Heating and Assembly (ALPHA), so that researchers would have time to form into teams to bid for funding.”


ISEE-3 Data Will Be Compared To STEREO’s To Understand Space Weather.

SPACE  (8/14, Howell) reports that ISEE-3 Reboot Project now plans to use the spacecraft to “study solar weather” as it moves away from Earth. Those measurements will be compared to the ones taken by STEREO. Christopher Scott, a scientist with the STEREO mission, said during a Google+ Hangout lase Sunday that this should lead to a better understanding of “the scale sizes of the turbulence of the solar wind and the structure within the solar wind,” which would improve space weather forecasts. Meanwhile, team leader Dennis Wingo said that University of Iowa researchers are now analyzing the data ISEE-3 took when it passed through the Earth’s “magnetopause (the outer limit of the magnetosphere) and the bow shock (the area between the magnetopause and more neutral space.)”

Industry News


Raytheon To Develop Laser Weapons For Military.

The Los Angeles Business Journal  (8/13, Shamout) reports Raytheon Co. has been awarded an $11 million US Marine Corps contract to develop a “vehicle-mounted, high-energy laser device capable of defeating low-flying threats such as enemy drones.” The effort to use Raytheon’s patented technology that can engage aircraft with lasers about the size of a standard 12-inch ruler will be overseen by the Office of Naval Research.


VTOL Examined As Alternative Mode Of Public Transport.

The Aviation Week  (8/14, Warwick) reports on how the “Hopper electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) regional public transport concept developed by Stanford University and NASA” is just one of the ways to make air travel a “ubiquitous mode of transport.” The concept vehicle would allow for “extreme short-haul flights” that could be taken instead of trips by rail or car. Larry Young, NASA principal investigator, said, “Flying and VTOL are energy intensive transportation modes for short distances, and yet represent a potential way to bypass urban surface-transportation congestion.” This mode of transportation could even be available “within 10 years” under current battery developments, accord to Young. Mark Moore of the Langley Research Center, said the concept could especially work in areas like Los Angeles “and in other metroplexes.”

Engineering and Public Policy


DOE Commits $55 Million To Projects To Boost Fuel Efficiency, Electric Vehicle Batteries.

The Hill  (8/15, Cama) reports that the Obama Administration announced on Thursday that it will “give $55 million to 31 projects that aim to improve electric vehicle technology and increase fuel efficiency for other vehicles.” The Energy Department-funded projects “aim to develop battery technologies other than lithium ion, the dominant technology currently used for cars.” In a statement Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, “Investments in the next generation of vehicle technologies will both strengthen our economy and lead to a more fuel efficient, clean energy future.” Recipients “will also try to make vehicle components lighter and reduce drivetrain friction.”


Union President: EPA Clean Power Plan Would Harm Economy With Little Impact On Global Carbon Emissions.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (8/15, Hill, Subscription Publication), Edwin D. Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, argues against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, noting that while it would have a significant negative impact on the US economy, its effect on global carbon emissions would be minimal.

Elementary/Secondary Education


Washington State Receives $170K Grant For STEM Education, Alliance.

The AP  (8/14) reports that Washington state is due to receive a $170,000 grant from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices for STEM education and to support the launch of Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) STEM Education Innovation Alliance. The state was one of 14 that received grants from the center. In Washington, Inslee said Gene Sharratt, executive director of the Washington Student Achievement Council, would oversee the grant and the initial work of the alliance.


East St. Louis Teachers Participate In STEM Education Conference.

The St. Louis American  (8/15, Price) reports teachers from East St. Louis District 189 of Illinois participated in a two-week-long conference called STEM Teacher Quality (TQ) Initiative. The conference showed teachers how to integrate STEM problems into lessons and connect the lessons to the real world. The conference was created by STEMPpact, a local partnership with the goal of improving STEM education.


SSU Receives Grant To Prepare STEM Teachers.

The Savannah (GA) Tribune  (8/13) reports Savannah State University received a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program that will last 5 years and will help prepare STEM teachers for high-need classrooms. The grant will prepare at least 28 undergraduates from SSU and 10 STEM professionals to become certified in STEM education for grades 6-12. The students will participate in a Summer Educational Internship Program that comes with a $1,000 stipend and work with local school systems to garner experiences in teaching.

Thursday’s Lead Stories



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