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


Leading the News


Obama Talks About College Preparedness During Weekly Address.

The Hill  (8/16, Sullivan) “Briefing Room” blog reports on President Obama’s weekly address on Saturday, in which he “stressed the importance of students preparing themselves for college.” During the address, Obama touted his proposal for “a plan to tie federal financial aid to a college’s performance, and create a new college scorecard so that students and parents can see which schools provide the biggest bang for [their] buck.” The proposal has been criticized by “some colleges,” which are concerned “about an expanding federal government role in college education.”

The Washington Times  (8/16) reports that during his address, Obama “challenged the nation’s students to excel in class this fall while also pushing Congress to back a bill that would allow college graduates to refinance their student loans.” Noting that the bill is sponsored by “rising star” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the Times reports that the bill “would allow about 25 million Americas with college loans to refinance their debt at today’s lower interest rates.”

Higher Education


ED’s Gainful Employment Rules Criticized.

In commentary for The Hill  (8/18) “Pundits Blog,” Harry C. Alford, cofounder, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, blasts ED’s plans to impose “gainful employment” rules on the for-profit college industry, suggesting that it would disproportionately harm residents of “neighborhoods with older populations, higher percentages of people living in poverty, and larger numbers of Latino and African-American residents.”

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


LLNL, MIT Researchers Use 3D Printing To Develop Metamaterials.

Design News  (8/15, Thryft) reports, 3D printing is “enabling the development of new metamaterials that don’t exist in nature” and that can be designed to do specific manufacturing jobs. “Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and MIT have used 3D printing to engineer a new class: super-lightweight, high-stiffness, high-strength metamaterials with the same weight and density as aerogels, but about 10,000 times the stiffness.” The “new LLNL/MIT materials were made using an additive micro-manufacturing technique called projection micro-stereolithography.” In partnership with “researchers at MIT, Harvard, and the University of Illinois, the LLNL team is working with four different additive manufacturing (AM) micro-manufacturing processes to create new materials composed of microstructures with micrometer resolutions.”



NYTimes A1: Bipartisan Workforce Investment Act “Leaves Many Jobless And In Debt.”

In a front-page article titled, “Seeking News Start, Finding Steep Cost: Workforce Investment Act Leaves Many Jobless And In Debt,” the New York Times  (8/18, A1, Williams, Subscription Publication) reports that “millions of unemployed Americans…have trained for new careers as part of the Workforce Investment Act, a $3.1 billion federal program that, in an unusual act of bipartisanship, was reauthorized by Congress last month with little public discussion about its effectiveness.” However, according to the Times, “Many graduates wind up significantly worse off than when they started — mired in unemployment and debt from training for positions that do not exist, and they end up working elsewhere for minimum wage.” The Times reports that in order to “avoid any appearance of favoritism, federal job counselors are not allowed to recommend schools to job seekers,” which “leav[es] many of the unemployed to unwittingly select institutions that are expensive, have a history of legal trouble or are academically substandard.”


Perez Touts Reports Showing Hiring Gains In Higher-Wage Sectors.

According to the Washington Post  (8/18, A1, Mui), “The recovery in America’s job market is finally spreading to industries with good pay after years of being concentrated in fields with low wages.” The Post notes that “hiring has picked up steam in areas such as construction, manufacturing and professional services…sectors with a median hourly wage of at least $20,” and “nearly 40 percent of the jobs created over the past six months have been in high-wage industries, compared with just a quarter during the last half of 2013.” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is quoted as saying, “I often hear that the recovery is only in low-wage jobs. That is categorically inaccurate. … This recovery is creating a lot of good jobs.”


Manufacturers Adding Jobs.

The AP  (8/16) reports that BorgWarner is investing $9.4 million to expand a plant in Dixon, Illinois. The new plant will add 40 new jobs over the next three years.

The AP  (8/15) reports that Mayville Engineering Company is investing $10 million to open a new facility in Smyth County, Virginia. The new facility will create 160 jobs.

The AP  (8/15) reports that Glaz-Tech industries is investing $4 million to create a new glass manufacturing facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The new plant will create 50 new jobs with an average salary of $34,000 per year, plus benefits.

Industry News


Lab Develops More Comfortable Wearable Pregnancy Monitor.

The Philadelphia Inquirer  (8/17, Kim) reported that Drexel University’s Shima Seiki Haute Technology Laboratory is “working at the intersection of fashion design, engineering, and medicine on what could be the next generation of wearable technology” by developing “smart garments” in which “the clothes themselves become a monitor that is flexible, comfortable, and soft.” Their “first venture is the belly band, a stretchy piece of knitted cloth that wraps around an expectant mother’s abdomen to measure uterine contractions.”

Engineering and Public Policy


Nationwide Communities Debate Fracking.

CBS News  (8/17, Kennedy) reports that while “fracking has had amazing results,” it remains a contentious issue in many communities that worry about the long-term environmental and economic threats associated with the process. Pro- and anti-fracking measures in California and Colorado are examples of the contention between jobs and risk “that appears to be keeping a lot of people on the fence” when it comes to fracking. According to Ken Carlson, professor of environmental and civil engineering, the key to compromise is finding a middle ground “that has practices, that has regulations, that has rules acceptable to all the stakeholders.”


Benefits Of Alternative Nuclear Power Process Touted.

In a segment on the Obama Administration’s move to cut carbon emissions from power plants, Dr. Lesli Dewan, co-founder and chief science officer of Transatomic Power, stated on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS (8/18): “Each conventional nuclear power plant produces about 20 metric tons of high level waste that is radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years and there isn’t really a solution for it yet.” Touting her Waste Annihilating Molton Salt Reactor (WAMSR), Dewan noted that the waste from reactors “is radioactive for just a few hundred years.” Dewan also claimed that WAMSR is “actually about half the cost per megawatt…of conventional nuclear reactors,” and “can be on par with coal.” It was noted on CNN that the Energy Department “recently awarded Transatomic Power’s founders the first ever energy innovation award.”


ANGA Cautious On EPA Power Plant Emissions Rule.

The Hill  (8/17, Cama, Goad) reports that natural gas producers have kept “quiet about the controversial power plant rules” the EPA has proposed out of concern “they could become the next target” for regulation. America’s Natural Gas Alliance “hasn’t taken a position on the power plant standards.” ANGA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Frank Macchiarola said, “It’s a proposed rule, it’s a very complicated rule, and it’s a rule that will require a lot of input on the state level. And so for all of those reasons, we’re going to want to digest it, we’re going to want to comment on it, and the specifics of it will really matter when it goes into final rule stage and implementation.” Macchiarola continued, “We’re an industry that’s already heavily regulated, so we’re cautious about any regulation and we want to be careful in really examining that regulation and its impact on our businesses.”

Elementary/Secondary Education


PLTW Cardboard Boat Race Tests Engineering Skills In Missouri.

The Southeast Missourian  (8/17, Maue) reports that cardboard boats tested engineering skills on Saturday because four teams of two people in a Project Lead the Way program “then had to use that boat to navigate obstacles and make it across the pool at Southeast Missouri State University’s Student Aquatic Center.” The top two winning teams “were brothers Creighton, 9, and Wiley Edmundson, 7, for their boat Creighton and Wiley University and The Vikings, Marco Otten and Henning Bollerslev.” The boat race was hosted by PLTW and the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center with Southeast Missouri State University Recreation Services.


New Jersey Museums Jump At Chance To Link To New Science Standard.

The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger  (8/17, McGlone) reports on how New Jersey museums are embracing the Next General Science Standards for K-12 and devising or revising STEM-related programs for students and teachers. The new standard “has museum officials across the state cheering the opportunity to build new partnerships” with project such as the Energy Quest exhibit at the Liberty Science Center that allows visitors to “experiment with rising and falling tides to create energy” or “design a school that uses cleaner energy.” Teachers have ideas on partnerships too, with one suggesting linking “in-house scientists to teachers to show them doing their research.”


Career Centers In Northern Indiana Ready Students For Workforce.

The AP  (8/17, McCollum) reports on three career center programs and some high school districts in northern Indiana that are preparing students for the workforce. The centers are the Gary Career Center, Hammond Area Career Center, and Porter County Career Center. One student at the Porter center started working part-time at the Urschel Laboratory in Valparaiso and won the first-ever Urschel Next Generation scholarship, which allowed Cole Ozbolt to be independent while he attends Vincennes University. Ozbolt, 20, “is part of a growing number of region students taking advantage of vocational opportunities targeting high-demand fields,” such as CNC (computer numerical control) machining, which Ozbolt learned in Portage.


NYTimes Analysis: Federal Training Programs Often Unsuccessful.

The New York Times  (8/18, Williams, Subscription Publication) reports that millions of unemployed Americans have not “found the promised jobs” from a Federal workforce training program. A New York Times analysis shows that “many graduates wind up significantly worse off than when they started.” The paper argues that the training programs lack oversight from both Federal and state governments, and that schools are professing graduation and employment rates that “do not hold up to scrutiny.”

A more in depth, 2522 word, New York Times  (8/18, Williams, Subscription Publication) article shares the stories of several people who graduated the programs and were unable to find jobs and now carry large amounts of debt. The article also contains responses from officials at the colleges who implement the work training programs defending the costs as “consequential,” but not a proverbial mountain of debt.

Friday’s Lead Stories

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