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

Leading the News


University Of Texas Unveils 3-D Printing Vending Machine.

KXAN-TV  Austin, TX (9/4) reports that officials at the University of Texas Mechanical Engineering Building have unveiled a “new kind of vending machine,” a 3-D printing machine “intended to inspire every U.T. student to be innovative.” The piece quotes Dr. Carolyn Seepersad, associate professor of mechanical engineering at U.T.’s Cockrell School of Engineering, saying, “This is really lowering the barriers to 3-D printing to students. If they have a U.T. identification card they can print out a part.” The Austin (TX) American Statesman  (9/9) and the Daily Texan  (9/4) also cover this story.

Higher Education


Virginia CC Wins NSF Grant To Steer Tech Workers To Jobs.

WDBJ-TV  Roanoke, VA (9/9) reports that the National Science Foundation is giving Virginia Western Community College an $800,000 grant to improve the school’s “Mechatronics” program and “connect students to employers” who “say there is a skills gap between the technology jobs of the future and their ability to fill them.”


Hewlett-Packard Grant Program Aims To Boost Numbers Of Female Computer Science Students.

Fast Company  (9/9) profiles Jessie Pease, a rising senior at Cal Poly who has won a Hewlett-Packard Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security. The piece explains that the scholarship program is “an effort to bridge…the gender gap” in computer science. The piece reports that Pease says that “male classmates regularly undermine her” over her gender.


Mitchell Discusses College Rating System.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (9/9) reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, speaking at an Education Writers Association conference at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said that if ED’s forthcoming college ratings system “creates incentives for colleges to accept fewer at-risk students, ‘then we will have failed.’” The article reports that “colleges are nervously awaiting” the new system, but notes that Mitchell said that Federal aid will not be immediately tied to colleges’ scores. Moreover, Mitchell said, “We’re quite concerned that the ratings systems reflect and incorporate the different missions of institutions.” Mitchell also stressed the need for “judging colleges in a way that doesn’t encourage them to focus recruiting on stronger students who are more likely to succeed at the expense of many poor and minority students.”


“Last Week Tonight” Airs Segment On For-Profit Abuses, Student Debt Crisis.

The Huffington Post  (9/8) reports that on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver ran “an in-depth segment on the student loan crisis in America,” focusing on “the truth about many for-profit colleges, including their astronomical costs, what they spend their profits on and, most shockingly, their recruitment policies.” Oliver projected that most incoming college freshmen will never finish paying their student loans.


UC President Seeks Alumni Financial Support To Counter Decreased State Aid.

The Wall Street Journal  (9/9, Belkin, Subscription Publication) reports second-year University of California president Janet Napolitano seeks to foster a culture of alumni support to offset lost state support, as aggressively selling property names, cutting costs, and admitting out-of-state students are barely financing the $6.5 billion system adequately. The article closes by citing skepticism over a proposed Department of Education college rating system intended to help value schools, which Napolitano sees as potentially manipulable or misleading.

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Research and Development


University Of Pennsylvania Researchers Make Graphene Friction Breakthrough.

R&D Magazine  (9/9) reports that “an interdisciplinary team of engineers from the University of Pennsylvania has made a discovery regarding the surface properties of grapheme,” finding that “on the nanoscale, adding fluorine to graphene had been reported to vastly increase the friction experienced when sliding against the material.”


AAAS To Hold Annual Conference In San Jose In February.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News  (9/9, Krieger) reports that the American Association for the Advancement of Science is holding its annual conference in San Jose, California in February, noting that “thousands of scientists, journalists and educators will flock to” the city for the event. The article quotes an AAAS official saying, “The location in Silicon Valley will allow a specific focus on advances in computer science and technology, such as the privacy implications of big data.”


MSFC Developing The Systems Needed To Go To Mars.

WAAY-TV Huntsville, AL (9/8, 11:10 p.m. ET) broadcast that work at the Marshall Space Flight Center is helping develop the life support systems needed to keep astronauts alive on the way to Mars. The ISS is a “testing ground” for that technology. Morgan Abney, lead aerospace engineer, said that NASA can recover “74% of the water the astronauts use” and “42% of their oxygen back.” While “impressive,” the broadcast notes that this rate has to be increased. Jay Perry, lead aerospace engineer, said that “from the standpoint of what function it needs to provide, and how it would go about providing that function,” t NASA is “really well above 95% there” when it comes to recovering all the oxygen and water needed to go to Mars.



Tech’s Gender Pay Gap Could Narrow With Race For Female Talent.

Brian Fung writes in the Switch blog of the Washington Post  (9/8, Fung) that tech companies have pledged to increase efforts to find female talent, with tech’s “less pronounced” gender pay gap potentially helping to close the larger national gap between male and female wages as recruiting increases. The article continues to cite decreasing pay inequalities and room for improvement both nationally and in Silicon Valley’s tech jobs.

Industry News


Several East Coast Reactors Taken Offline For Maintenance.

Power Engineering  (9/9, Barber) reports that “while 96 of the 100 commercial nuclear units in the United States are generating electricity, a few reactors in the East went offline in recent days and most cited maintenance as the reason.” This included PPL’s Susquehanna 2, PSEG Nuclear’s Hope Creek, Entergy’s James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Plant, and Dominion’s North Anna Unit 2, which Dominion said “was taken offline during the weekend for a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage.”


ORNL Working To 3-D Print A Car This Week.

The Chicago Tribune  (9/8) reports that “tucked in a corner inside McCormick Place engineers from two companies and a national laboratory are furiously working on the final days of a challenge to make, assemble and drive a 3-D printed car on Saturday.” The challenge, which is self-imposed, “showcases the technology of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, machine-maker Cincinnati Inc. and Local Motors, a vehicle-maker based in Phoenix.” The technology, “which has cost each more than $1 million, would finally bring 3-D printing to the floor of industrial firms, mainly because of its size.” ORNL research engineer Lonnie Love “said he envisions the technology being used initially by tool and die makers and later by companies that make planes, cars and other products.”

The Wall Street Journal  (9/9, Hagerty, Subscription Publication) also provides coverage of this story.


Bombardier, Comac Will No Longer Develop Common Cockpit.

Flight Global  (9/8, Toh) reported that Comac and Bombardier will no longer build a common cockpit for their respective C919 and CSeries planes because there were “too many differences between the types.” These “wide disparities” were discovered after the two spent “a large part of last year” examining the issue, according to C919 vice-chief engineer Chen Ying Chun.


Oil, Gas Boom Driving Rust Belt Rebound.

The New York Times  (9/9, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) reports that there is a turnaround in parts of the old Rust Best, such as Canton and Youngstown, “driven by a surge in domestic oil and gas production that is changing the economic calculus for old industries and downtrodden cities alike.” Looking at Ohio, “entire sectors like manufacturing, hotels, real estate and even law are being reshaped” by the fracking boom.

Engineering and Public Policy


DOE Gives Grants To Microgid Projects.

The Hill  (9/9, Cama) reports the Department of Energy said yesterday “that it is giving $8 million to seven projects aimed at developing microgrids in order to improve the resiliency of electrical grids.” The grants “will largely fund research into microgrid control systems, which allow small areas to shut their electrical systems off from their surroundings to mitigate the effects of extreme weather, power disruptions or other instances.” In a statement Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, “Building in grid resiliency has gained greater urgency in recent years, as demonstrated by the economic and personal losses from electricity outages due to severe weather.” Moniz also said, “Keeping the power on during extreme weather events and other electric grid disruptions is essential, particularly so that critical facilities such as hospitals and water treatment plants can continue operating.”


Local Leaders Prepare For Climate Change While Ignoring Political Debate.

The AP  (9/8) reports that “with climate change still a political minefield across the nation despite the strong scientific consensus that it’s happening, some community leaders” are just changing the subject. Small towns and big cities “are shoring up dams and dikes, using roof gardens to absorb rainwater or upgrading sewage treatment plans to prevent overflows” while “others are planting urban forests, providing more shady relief from extreme heat.” In some regions, “especially strongholds of conservative politics, they’re planning for the volatile weather linked to rising temperatures by speaking of ‘sustainability’ or ‘resilience,’ while avoiding no-win arguments with skeptics over whether the planet is warming or that human activity is responsible.”

Elementary/Secondary Education


STEM Network In Washington State Awarded $200,000 Grant.

KAPP-TV  Yakima, WA (9/8) reports the Mid-Columbia STEM Network was awarded a multi-year $200,000 grant from the Washington State STEM Education Foundation. The grant will help the network build STEM awareness and advocacy efforts to improve teaching and learning of STEM.


Panelists At STEM Roundtable Advocate For Integrating Other Subjects Into Curriculum.

US News & World Report  (9/8) reports at a Monday STEM roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill, groups called on schools to integrate different topics into STEM education beginning as early as elementary school. Panelists discussed the need for integrating things like coding, the arts, and business into the education curriculum.


Ohio Competition Will Reward STEM Students With $2 Million.

The AP  (9/9) reports on the Believe in Ohio “roadmap” at the Ohio Academy of Science that “walks STEM students through the” process of developing ideas and pitching them as part of state competition. Contestants will compete for $2 million in cash and scholarships.

Monday’s Lead Stories


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