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

Leading the News


Tech’s Separation Of Service Workers Creating Black And Hispanic Underclass.

USA Today  (8/25, Guynn) reports on recent findings from Working Partnerships USA, which state Blacks and Hispanics in Santa Clara County comprise 28% of the public work force and a “tiny” percentage of technology professionals, while constituting 40% of security guards, 70% of janitors, and 75% of grounds maintenance workers in Silicon Valley. Derecka Mehrens, executive director of WPUSA, stated service workers should share in the industry’s prosperity “just as the engineers and coders do,” with Santa Clara County median wages for software developers four to five times higher than service workers’, according to the California Employment Development Department. For every tech job, four service workers are separately employed by contract companies, creating what Joint Venture Silicon Valley CEO Russel Hancock calls a “bifurcated…cocoon-like environment.”

Higher Education


Federal Surveys Show Elite Colleges Failing At Recruiting Lower-Income Students.

The New York Times  (8/26, Pérez-Peña, Subscription Publication) reports “elite campuses…remain bastions of privilege” as Federal surveys reveal the number of lower-income students at top schools has not changed since the 1990’s, despite growing income inequality. Critics cite colleges’ financial and ranking concerns as undermining diversity, as well as low application rates from low-income students; merit-based aid has been coupled with local nonprofits devoted to “identifying hidden prospects,” but many contend these well-meaning efforts are ineffective. The article closes by focusing on the varying net-costs of private colleges for families, which have actually decreased for low-income students but is not evident based on tuition listings.


Vassar, West Point Leaders Urge Other Universities To Admit Veterans.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (8/26, Subscription Publication), Robert L. Caslen, superintendent of West Point, and Catharine Bond Hill, president of Vassar College, write that an effort between their two schools aims to close the civilian-military divide, which has been of growing concern to policy makers and educators. Vassar, they write, has committed to bringing in 10 veterans each year, and urge other universities to join the program.


Corinthian Colleges Crumbling Under Liquidity Constraints.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News  (8/26, Murphy) reports California’s Department of Veteran Affairs has revoked approval for millions in GI benefits for Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit company which failed to demonstrate financial stability following Federal financial aid sanctions. The VA’s action, required by law, will exacerbate the company’s liquidity constraints, undermining its attempts to sell 85 of its 97 US campuses before closing as part of a deal reached with the US Department of Education. The decision impacts the 1,400 veterans and veteran-dependents who, as of June, attended Corinthian Colleges in California.

Bloomberg News  (8/26, Staiti) reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau asserts that Corinthian Colleges has violated the Dodd-Frank Act and Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, by selling a student loan portfolio for $19 million, resulting in an impairment charge of about $55 million to $59 million. To enter settlement talks, Corinthian must cease sales or transfers of private student loans, inform the CFPB of potential sales, and better inform students of impending campus closures or sales. Corinthian’s liquidity crisis was launched by a 21-day Education Department waiting period for student aid, following accusations in multiples state of falsifying job placement and marketing data.

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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


New Nail Polish Detects Date-Rape Drugs.

CBS News  (8/26, Blaszczak-Boxe) reports that four Materials Science & Engineering students from North Carolina State University have developed a nail polish line named “Undercover Colors” that changes color when exposed to date-rape drugs such Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB. The students are now raising money to continue development, but some activists say products like “Undercover Colors” are treating the symptom of violence, rather than the cause of its perpetration.



White House CIO Who Helped Fix Leaving For Silicon Valley.

The New York Times  (8/26, Joachim, Subscription Publication) reports that Obama Administration technology adviser Todd Park is leaving his job. Park, President Obama’s chief technology officer, will be leaving his position to return to Silicon Valley, but will continue to help recruit White House engineers. Park rose to prominence during the launch of, and the Times notes he was “an important figure in the emergency effort last year to fix the federal government’s online health care marketplace after a disastrous beginning.”

The Washington Post  (8/25, Scola) reports in its “The Switch” blog on the search for a replacement for Park. The blog post quotes Tim O’Reilly’s job description of the post: “It takes visionary leadership but also incredible persistence in working the levers of the bureaucracy, the ability to create goodwill among colleagues whose existing way of doing things might be threatened by change, a broad network outside of Washington D.C., and the ability to inspire people who wouldn’t otherwise consider government service to come to Washington.”

Engineering and Public Policy


Columbia University Earth Institute Director Criticizes Federal Solar Policies.

A blog post by Steven Cohen, executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, posted by Huffington Post  (8/25, Cohen) provides an overview of the currently improving US solar market and calls for a “comprehensive renewable energy program with national standards, serious funding for research and development, and clear, predictable incentives for adoption of solar power and other renewable energy technologies.” Cohen acknowledges, however, that this is unrealistic with a Tea Party-influenced congress and a president with “a meaningless ‘all-of-the-above’ energy non-strategy.”


Range Engineer Touts US Shale Growth.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  (8/25, Czebiniak) interviews Range Resources senior development engineer Natalya Sachivichik, who has worked in the industry around the world since graduating from school in 1996. After working with Schlumberger and Chevron, she took the job with Range this May, where she works to create “business plans and schedules midstream processes.” She described the industry as “somewhere among ‘achievement,’ ‘resilience’ and ‘relentless,’” noting that as late as 2008 “the whole news world was saying, ‘We’re running out of oil. China’s going to take over.’”


Natural-Gas Trucks Still Trail Behind Diesel.

The Wall Street Journal  (8/26, Tita, Subscription Publication) reports that natural-gas powered trucks’ higher prices and infrequent fueling stations are failing to compete with improving, superior diesel fuel economy. Furthermore, large fleets are replaced before the financial returns from natural-gas trucks can manifest.


WPost Urges Action To Deal With Carbon Emissions.

An editorial in the Washington Post  (8/26) notes that “the country’s leaders remain divided on the need to curb greenhouse emissions, let alone how to do it,” even though there is “now no doubt that the world is warming.” The Post urges action to “deal with carbon emissions,” arguing that waiting to do so “until the effects are clearer or technology improves is not a wise strategy.”


LATimes Takes Issue With Tesla’s Objections To California Environmental Rules.

An editorial from the Los Angeles Times  (8/26) comments on Tesla Motors’ reluctance to build a $5 billion, 6,500 employee battery “gigafactory” in California due to environmental regulations and the cost of clean energy. In particular, the long review process for developments under the California Environmental Quality Act jeopardizes a 2017 completion date, forcing Tesla to pursue the ability to build first and pay environmental damages later, which the Times argues would set a “dangerous precedent.” Furthermore, the Times casts the electric car company’s interest in less energy costly states such as Nevada as hypocritical, citing California’s higher energy costs as the repercussions of renewable energy.

Elementary/Secondary Education


Rampell: Education Key To High-Tech Diversity.

In a column for the Washington Post  (8/26), Catherine Rampell writes that technology firms “are finally spilling some of their most sought-after secrets” in the form of “tightly guarded information they once declared ‘trade secrets’: data about the number of women and minorities on their payrolls.” In May, Google acknowledged “that just 17 percent of its tech employees are female and 5 percent are black or Hispanic,” and since then, “other peer-pressured tech Goliaths rolled out similar metrics” and most “have fessed up to lousy records and committed to making things better.” Rampell adds that the “challenges leading to underrepresentation” of women and minorities “start long before the recruiting process,” and that the problem “begins when kids are young and have access to scant engineering and computer science role models, especially those who are female, black or Hispanic.” Tech firms “certainly have a role to play, but interventions need to start long before the résumé-screening process begins.”


Students Nationwide Finding Success Stemming From CTE Classes.

Bloomberg News  (8/26, Green, Irwin) reports on the resurgence of interest in high school shop classes around the country. The article notes that the US government has “boosted funding” for vocational education emphasizing the need for training high school graduates for middle class jobs that don’t require a college degree. The article profiles a 19-year-old who has found success as a mechanic earning $40,000 a year thanks to training that he received in high school shop class, a wage that “out-earns” most of his peers.


Georgia Governor Urges Computer Programming Satisfy Core Requirements For High School Diploma.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (8/26) reports Georgia Governor Nathan Deal wants the Board of Education “to better emphasize” computer programming with a proposal he unveiled on Monday. His policy proposal “urges the board” to consider computer programming courses as part of the core requirements for earning a high school degree. He is also proposing that the Board of Regents accept the credits.

Monday’s Lead Stories


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