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

Leading the News

Retired General: For-Profit Technical Colleges Help Veterans Gain Career Skills.

In commentary for the Army Times  (8/20), retired Army Lt. Gen. William J. Lennox Jr., who serves on the Universal Technical Institute Inc. board of directors, writes about the high numbers of US servicemembers who will be leaving the service in the coming years, noting that many of them are likely to face unemployment. Therefore, “it’s imperative that we provide vets with the tools, resources and support to obtain meaningful employment.” Lennox takes oblique aim at ED’s push for gainful employment rules for “private-sector technical and vocational institutions,” noting that though “there have certainly been missteps,” the broad majority of such schools “provide excellent outcomes for students.”

Higher Education


College Factual Lists Top Ten Engineering Colleges.

Noting that “engineering is one of the highest paid degrees you can get” and “a popular choice for students who are interested in building and developing products,” USA Today  (8/20) runs a feature presenting a list of “the top 10 places to get an engineering degree in the US” as compiled by College Factual. The list includes the Colorado School of Mines, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and others.


Congress Makes Headway On Higher Ed Act, But Problems Loom In The Distance.

Education Week  (8/20, Camera) reports members of Congress are “priming higher education for the spotlight” during the upcoming lame-duck session when the entity “typically…accomplishes very little.” Both chambers have “made headway” on the Higher Education Act’s path to becoming a law with the House taking a piece-meal approach to passage while the Senate takes on a more “holistic” strategy. However, there are “significant policy chasms” between the different proposals that could create problems with passage down the road.


Senate To Give Student Loan Bill Another Vote.

The Hill  (8/21, Cirilli) reports Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced that the Senate will be giving her student loan bill a second vote in September. Warren told Rolling Stone the news in an interview Wednesday. The Bill would allow 25 million people to refinance student loans and would pay for it through a “Buffett Rule” tax. Democrats think the “issue can bolster support from young voters ahead of November’s elections.” While Republicans “have balked at the legislation.”

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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.

Research and Development


CubeSats May Change The Way The Solar System Is Explored.

Air & Space Smithsonian Magazine  (8/21, Betancourt), for its September edition, reports on the rise in use of CubeSats and how they could change they was the solar system is explored because of their cost. Paula Pingree of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said, “The new age that’s dawning right now comes at a time when billion-dollar flagship missions are not being funded at the rate that they were in the past. … The CubeSat opportunity does give us a chance to get that access to space.” JPL’s Robert Staehle added, “The fact that you have this limited-size box is part of the engine of innovation. … If you can’t figure out how to get it in the size box it is, then you’re not going [to space]. And that has been a tremendous forcing function of innovation.” Furthermore, there is a “more—and more diverse—engineering talent” coming to the industry because of CubeSats’ affordability. This is leading to new startups like Raptor Space Services, which is developing a way to allow CubeSats launched form the ISS to enter higher orbits. According to the article, limited launch opportunities will likely hamper developments that will allow CubeSats to reach deeper into the solar system than they can do today.


Centrifugal Force Amplification Vehicles Explored.

The Newport News (VA) Daily Press  (8/20, Hubbard) reports that Bill Crowe has designed a centrifugal force amplification vehicle he says might be used to build more efficient spacecraft and long-distance aircraft. The Daily Press notes that NASA has been working on a similar design. Tom Benson, a senior aerospace engineer at the Glenn Research Center, said that the issue with such a design is that “you have to get it moving to get it to start working. … . It becomes a problem. That’s why there are not a lot of these type of vehicles flying around.”


IBM To Help German Research Firm With “Massive” X-Ray Analytics Project.

The ZDNet  (8/20, King) “Between the Lines” blog reports that IBM will work with the German scientific research organization Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) “to produce a new big data and analytics architecture for uploading ‘massive amounts of x-ray data’ to the cloud.” The project seeks to give scientists worldwide “faster and better insights into the atomic structure of novel semiconductors, catalysts, biological cells and other samples.”

Industry News


NSF Grant Awarded To Create Phone With Health Diagnostic Capability.

The Washington Times  (8/20, Harper) reports a National Science Foundation grant of $3 million was given to Cornell University (NY) engineering professor David Erickson to perfect a smart phone called “Stress-Phone” that could monitor the human body through built-in diagnostics. Erickson believes the device “could fundamentally alter the domestic healthcare landscape.”


Groundwork Set For Feasible Way Of Achieving Optimal Image Quality In PET/MRI Scans.

Aunt Minnie  (8/21, Forrest) reports that according to research published in the August issue of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine, “researchers have set the groundwork for what they believe is a feasible way to achieve optimal image quality in PET/MRI scans: balancing lower radiotracer dose with prolonged PET image acquisition time to match the longer duration needed for MR image acquisition.” Investigators “used a specially designed phantom to continually reduce FDG activity by 50% while simultaneously lengthening image acquisition time from two minutes (when FDG activity was 100%) to 16 minutes (when FDG activity was 12.5%).” Even though “the exams occurred under ‘idealized’ experimental conditions, the results ‘identify a further advantage of integrated PET/MR hybrid imaging in the context of reducing patient radiation exposure,’” the study authors concluded.

Engineering and Public Policy


Moniz Touts Nuclear Power At Idaho Energy Summit.

The AP  (8/20, Kruesi) reports Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz at the Intermountain Energy Summit on Wednesday “championed the use of nuclear power and urged politicians and leaders in the energy industry to adapt and modernize energy production to help minimize the fallout from global warming.” Moniz stated, “The predictions of a world where we do nothing predict unhealthy outcomes for our forests. … Working hard on it means innovating energy technology. And I want to emphasize, the goal of energy is very simple, keep the costs down. As we have seen, that will make the policy-making easier.” Moniz “repeating the Obama administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy” added “the United States isn’t shunning coal or oil energy sources.” Rather, “officials are finding ways to reduce the fuels’ carbon emissions.” He “added that funding and improving the nation’s 17 nuclear laboratories must also become a higher priority.”

The Idaho Falls (ID) Post Register  (8/20) also provides coverage of this story.

DOE To Direct $67M Toward Advanced Nuclear Energy Research Awards. E&E News PM  (8/20, Ling) reports on the Energy Department’s announced plan to award “$67 million for advanced nuclear energy research including a cheaper method to extract uranium from seawater using wind power.” The 83 projects “will help support President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, boost U.S. energy security, and help train the next generation of nuclear scientists and engineers, according to DOE.” The agency said it would provide $30 million to support 44 projects led by 30 universities in 24 states “to develop ‘innovative technologies and solutions’ and to upgrade the nation’s 25 research reactors and infrastructure.” The awards are expected to range from “about $300,000 to $800,000 each.”

Elementary/Secondary Education


California DOE Grant Allows Schools To Implement Robotics Programs.

The Davis (CA) Enterprise  (8/21, Hudson) reports that as part of a $1.5 million grant from the California Department of Education, robotics is being incorporated into participating California public schools. Sharon McCorkell of King High School said the program “levels the playing field,” as students “learn a skill that is marketable.” Students compete collaboratively to accomplish tasks by programming modular robots, “using math to do problem-solving rather than rote memorization.” Kim Stowell of Sacramento’s Albert Einstein Middle School said it benefits students from households of lower income or parental backgrounds outside math and science.

Neuroscientist TV Star Bialik Launches Texas Instruments’ STEM Contest.

The Dallas Morning News  (8/20, Jean) reports that Texas Instruments launched a STEM back-to-school effort Wednesday by borrowing TV actress and real-life neuroscientist Mayim Bialik from “The Big Bang Theory” to talk about the company’s calculators and an “Express Your Selfie” contest. Winners receive “a set of graphing calculators for his or her class and a video-conference call in class from Bialik.” She said she used a TI graphing calculator in college while pursuing her degrees in neuroscience.


Tennessee Elementary Will Be Part Of PLTW Launch Pilot Program.

The website Chalkbeat Tennessee  (8/20, Cheshier) reports that Whitehaven Elementary School will use the curriculum of Project Lead the Way to help develop its STEM lessons this year in a PLTW Launch pilot program. The school is “one of a handful of schools across the country” that will receive the associated “curriculum, teacher training materials” and access to “a network of educators to test and provide feedback on the program before its full launch in 2015-16.”


Girls’ Robotics Summer Camp Encourages Female Engineers.

The Davis (CA) Enterprise  (8/21, Case) reports on a week-long robotics and leadership summer camp for middle-school-aged girls, run by electrical engineers and robotics majors dedicated to filling the field with women. Creator Harry Cheng, mechanical engineering professor at UC Davis, believes programming becomes applicable when combined with other subjects; at camp, the girls’ lessons in robotics challenge them to “design solutions to world problems.”


Chicago Public Schools Will Retain Electrical Training Program.

The Chicago Sun-Times  (8/20, Schlikerman) reports that Chicago Public Schools said Wednesday that they would revive an electrical training program at Simeon Career Academy High School after the system said earlier that there was little demand for the program. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the school system decided to retain the program “after hearing from students, parents and the community.” The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is a partner in the program and provides its graduates with “a path to apprenticeship.” The program accepts as many as 28 students a year.


Movement To Teach Computer Coding To Young Students Grows In New Jersey.

The New Jersey Local News  (8/20, Bloom) reports on the growing trend of teaching computer coding in elementary schools, a movement that “began building speed about a year ago, when twin brothers Ali and Hadi Partovi launched” during Computer Science Education Week and “helped to jump-start the push to expand computer science learning among young people. Less than a year later, nearly 40 million kids have tapped into the science of code.” The twins initially urged teachers to use a “special ‘Hour of Code’ on their website” as the basis for teaching. The report examines how New Jersey teachers are adopting the idea.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories


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