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

Leading the News

Academics Decry FAA Limits On Drones.

The Boston Globe  (8/17, Meyers) reports, “A regulatory battle in Washington has compelled professors to ground their research drones, the tiny aircraft academics consider vital for archaeological surveys, river mapping, and countless other discoveries.” The Globe explains that the FAA “recently clarified that only hobbyists can fly unmanned aircraft without a special permit,” however, “now scholars warn the FAA’s action jeopardizes their work and undermines basic education.” The Globe says that Paul Voss, an associate professor of engineering at Smith College, has coordinated a protest letter signed by nearly 30 researchers. “If you go to Walmart and buy a 15-inch remote-controlled helicopter and use it for fun, it’s a toy,” Voss said. “If you use it for education or research from 4 feet off the grass, it’s an unmanned aircraft system.”

Higher Education


Efforts To List Schools Not Recommended For Veterans Sparks Backlash.

The Air Force Times  (8/18, Altman) reports that Student Veterans of America attempted to create a list of colleges that are not recommended for veterans over concerns about poor quality, adding that the “backlash that followed may explain why others have been reluctant” to create such lists. The article notes that the group’s list “included only three schools,” all of which were campuses owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc., and reports that even after Corinthian entered into an agreement with ED to close of sell its campuses, “the school’s representatives continued to attend education fairs at some military bases and try to get service members to enroll.”


College Food Pantries Face Challenges.

MSNBC  (8/19) reports on the challenges faced by food pantries at college campuses, including “battling stigma” in an environment with traditional trappings of “relative privilege.” The article reports that Feeding America has recently released data indicating that millions of US college students require emergency food assistance.


Startup Uses Natural Language Algorithm To Connect Students And Prevent Dropouts.

The TechCrunch  (8/18, Lomas) reports an edtech startup aimed at reducing college drop-out rates called GetSet is making its debut at Arizona State University this year. The program uses a natural language approach to ask students about their background, goals and problems, and then matches them with other students who are having or had similar issues and overcame them. The program ultimately gives students a social platform to connect students and help them make friends before and after they come to their first day of college.

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.

Former ASEE President Ernest Smerdon Dies
Smerdon was dean of engineering at the University of Arizona, vice-chancellor for the University of Texas System in Austin, and senior education associate in the Engineering Directorate of the National Science Foundation, among other roles. Read his obituary.

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.

Accreditation and Professional Development


ASEE Ranks VCU Ninth In Nation For Degrees Awarded To Women.

The Virginia Engineer  (8/19) reports the ASEE has ranked Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Engineering as the nation’s No. 9 engineering school for the percentage of doctoral degrees that are awarded to women. The school awarded over 32 percent of its doctoral degrees to women in the last year.

Research and Development


“Swarmies” Could One Day Help Find Resources On Other Planets.

Glen Tickle at the Mary Sue  (8/18) wrote that NASA engineers have used ant behavior to develop four robots called “Swarmies” to see if they can “autonomously and effectively scout an area for resources.” To see whether the Swarmies can accomplish the task, the robots will search for pieces of paper with barcodes around the Kennedy Space Center Launch Control Center parking lot. If successful, engineers will add the “experimental NASA mining robot RASSOR” to see how resources discovered by the Swarmies could be extracted, thus serving as a “proof of concept” for missions on other planets. Kurt Leucht, who is a member of the team working on the project, said, “People are realizing you can have much smaller, much simpler robots that can work together and achieve a task.”


High-Risk Brain Research Wins NSF Backing.

Nature  (8/19, Reardon) reports that the National Science Foundation “awarded 36 small grants totaling $10.8 million to projects studying everything from electrodes that measure chemical and electronic signals to artificial intelligence programs to identify brain structures” as part of its participation in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. James Deshler, deputy director of the NSF’s Division of Biological Infrastructure, said, “The response was overwhelming” to the Foundation’s call for proposals, and that “the NSF funded nearly all the winning projects at the maximum amount of $300,000 over two years.” Deshler also noted that “in future years, NSF may make some larger, more targeted investments, and may at some point create a brain-research roadmap like that of the NIH.”



Robots Might Replace Human Jobs.

The US News & World Report  (8/18, Risen) reports in its “Data Mine” blog on the likelihood of jobs being replaced by machines. The blog writes that robots and artificial intelligence could replace jobs in manufacturing, telemarketing, construction, and transportation. The blog cites several studies and surveys that make varied predictions as to how many jobs will be replaced by machines.

Engineering and Public Policy


Despite Its Cost, Ohio River Dam Project Seen As Too Big, Economically Important To Fail.

The New York Times  (8/19, Schneider, Subscription Publication) reports on the Olmsted Locks and Dam Project on the Ohio River, which is “the largest and most expensive inland water navigation installation ever built in the United States,” noting that the project “was first authorized by Congress in 1988 at a cost of $775 million,” and is “now scheduled to be completed in 2020 at a cost approaching $3 billion.” While Presidents and lawmakers “reached a consensus long ago that the project…was, in effect, too big and too economically important to fail,” there is “much less consensus on whether the project is an outstanding example of American technical excellence and persistence, or a folly of engineering overconfidence that has put the country’s inland water transport network in peril.”

Elementary/Secondary Education


Alabama High School Launches Maritime, Engineering And Entrepreneurship Academy.

Alabama Live  (8/19, Ericson) reports that officials at Williamson High School, which has 630 students, “believe enrollment will grow as they implement career tracks with the school’s new Maritime, Engineering and Entrepreneurship signature academy. Teachers have already met with the school’s business partners, including Alabama Power, Austal, PNC Bank and the University of South Alabama’s Small Business Development Center, said Principal Robert Likely.” Alabama Live adds, “Business representatives will be guest speakers and students will be invited to tour the businesses and apply for internships…said” Monique Ray, who’s in charge of the academy.


Connecticut School Focuses On STEM.

The Hartford (CT) Courant  (8/18, Coffey) reports a STEM coordinator and STEM instructional coach at Quinebaug Middle College in Connecticut “tore apart the curriculum” at the school and remade it to align with national and state STEM initiatives. The school has plans to order a mobile science lab and its association with the Quinebaug Valley Community College affords students the opportunity to focus on hands-on learning.


Charlotte STEM School Opens For First Time.

The Triangle (NC) Time Warner Cable News  (8/19) reports a Charlotte-Mecklenburg School focusing on STEM education is opening for the first time this school year. The Palisades Park Elementary school will offer K-5 STEM education to more than 700 students. The principal of the school and a project manager for the county commented on the schools goals and some unique aspects of STEM education .


Texas State San Marcos Will Use $15M NASA Grant For STEM Teacher Development.

THE Journal  (8/18, Bolkan) reports that Texas State University San Marcos will use a $15 million NASA grant to provide teachers with STEM professional development. The university plans to “create experiential learning opportunities…with a strong emphasis on digital technology for accessing and using NASA content.” The university “is an emerging research university serving 35,000 students,” many of them Hispanic. NASA sought applications from institutions that served minority populations.


New Mexico Student Launch Program Receives $500,000 NASA Grant.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (8/19) reports US Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) announced Monday that NASA has awarded a $500,000 grant to the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium. The grant will help students design and launch experiments into space from Spaceport America. The grant will go to support the Community College Technical Schools Student Launch Program.

Monday’s Lead Stories


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