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

Leading the News

Aerospace Industry Chief Decries Lack Of Graduates And Diversity.

Reuters  (9/12, Walker) reports on criticisms of STEM industry failures to attract young graduates, women, and minorities from Aerospace Industries Association Chief Executive Officer Marion Blakey at the Reuters Summit. Blakey blames many factors, including poor portrayal of the field to young audiences. Blakey cites urgent needs to increase recruitment, with significant industry growth and a large wave of expected retirements impending. Blakey’s comments follow US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ announced intent to bolster women’s service in the Navy and Marine Corps, currently at 18% and 8% respectively.

HBS Survey: America’s Executives Not Too Keen On Hiring US Workers.

The Washington Post  (9/11, Tankersley) reports that according to a new survey released by Harvard Business School (HBS) this week, top executives do not appear keen on hiring American workers but they rather “invest in new technology,” “rely on vendors for work that can be outsourced,” and “be less able to pay high wages and benefits.” According to the survey respondents, “skilled labor” which is American strength is deteriorating and the education system of the country is cited as a weakness. The report also notes that according to US Managers “hiring techniques…discourage skill development among workers” and majority of business leaders today are not involved in public education. But, according to Harvard Business School alums, innovation is country’s strength, which can attract investments and subsequently jobs, said Michael Mandel, one of the report authors.

Higher Education

University Of South Carolina Awarded $4M Grant To Study Nuclear Energy.

The AP  (9/12) reports the University of South Carolina is receiving “some federal funding to research ways to more effectively store used fuel leftover from the nuclear power making process.” A news release from USC yesterday “said its nuclear engineering program had received a $4 million federal research grant.” USC said the Energy Department “awarded the grants to South Carolina, Georgia Tech, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Wisconsin and Penn State University.”

University Of Texas To Work With Mexican National Council Of Science And Technology, SpaceX.

The New York Times  (9/11, Hamilton, Subscription Publication) reported that the University of Texas has signed a letter of intent to work with the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology “on a space-related project” in Brownsville. Meanwhile, the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, a new university that will result from the merger of the UT campuses in Brownsville and Edinburg, plans to work with SpaceX on cooperative research on satellite communication technology, though the details are still being worked out.

Warren Criticizes ED Over Student Loan Servicer Contracts.

Inside Higher Ed  (9/11) reports in continued coverage that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said on Wednesday that “she is not satisfied with” ED’s “effort to overhaul its agreements” with “the companies it hires to service federal student loans.” The piece notes that ED announced last month that it had renegotiated the contracts with the companies after “pressure from Senate Democrats like Warren, as well as many groups representing students, labor unions, and consumers.” Noting that the contracts increase “the rate at which they are paid for accounts in good standing” and decrease “the amount of money they are paid for delinquent accounts,” the article reports that Warren “grilled” ED’s William Leith on Wednesday, “asking why the loan servicing companies would be paid more.” Leith “said that while the department estimated that the servicers, in aggregate, would receive more money to service loans, the contracts were designed to help borrowers.”

Mitchell Discusses Competency-Based Degrees, ED’s College Rating System.

PBS’ Newshour With Jim Lehrer  (9/12) reports online that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell recently “sat down with the NewsHour to talk about the recent push for experimentation with competency-based college degree programs, the pending federal college rating system, concerns over growing student debt and other issues.” Noting that Mitchell “oversees the Obama administration’s higher education initiatives,” the article continues with a Q&A with Mitchell on whether competency-based degrees will be valued in the workplace, “vocational degrees” for job skills, and who ED will make its forthcoming college rating system stand out from the plethora of other ranking systems.

Academic Inflation Becomes Growing Barrier To Employment.

The Washington Post  (9/11, Depillis) reports on a growing “credentials gap” in numerous fields such as human resources, going on to cite academic inflation in industry hiring practices, with 75% of online HR job postings requiring an undergraduate degree despite only half of those in HR having such credentials. A similar trend is found in administrative support positions, where 45% of listings require degrees that only 20% of current job-holders have, as well as factory supervisors (45% credential gap) and insurance claim clerks (24% gap) among others. These efforts to narrow application pools inadvertently disadvantage certain demographics, as suggested by analysis group Burning Glass.

Advanced Manufacturing Center Soon To Open At Everett Community College.

The Everett (WA) Herald  (9/11, Catchpole) reports the opening of Everett Community College’s $3.75 million Advanced Manufacturing Education and Training Center later this month. The center will prepare students for manufacturing and aerospace jobs through six programs: introduction to manufacturing, precision machining, composite materials, welding and fabrication, technical design, and quality assurance. Funding comes in part from a $900,000 three-year National Science Foundation grant awarded June 2013.

ASEE Perks
ASEE launches “ASEE Perks” a new collection of discounted products and services, only for members.

NSF’s Revolutionizing Engineering Departments
This funding opportunity enables engineering departments to lead the nation by successfully achieving significant sustainable changes necessary to overcome long-standing issues in their undergraduate programs and educate inclusive communities of engineering students prepared to solve 21st century challenges.

International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development
A call for abstracts for EESD15 is now open.

Diversity at ASEE
Learn about ASEE’s Year of Action on Diversity

Research and Development

US Navy Integrates New Software Into NextGen UCLASS System.

Seapower Magazine  (9/11) reports that engineers with the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) installed the latest version of Common Control System (CCS) software earlier this month into the US Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system’s control station. The software is said to be “the first to provide an unmanned command and control capability using the latest Navy Interoperability Profile (NIOP) standards.”


Washington State Employment Security Department Distributes $41M For Job-Training.

The Tacoma (WA) News Tribune  (9/11) reports that Washington state’s Employment Security Department distributed $5.4 million from $41 million in annual funds for “skills training and job-hunting help” to Pierce County’ Workforce Central, which was $200,000 less compared to the previous year. The report notes that the funding will be used to “provide counseling, skills assessments, job-search assistance and training to laid-off workers, low-income adults and disadvantaged young people.”

US Attempts To Use German-Style Apprenticeship Programs Hit Snags.

The Wall Street Journal  (9/12, Böll, Subscription Publication) reports that the Obama Administration and several states are promoting German-style apprenticeship programs as a way to connect the manufacturing sector with skilled workers, but notes that most of the firms taking part in such programs in the US are either from Germany or elsewhere abroad. The piece explains that German career and technical education programs do not suffer from the stigma of poor academic performance, as do similar US programs.

Engineering and Public Policy

Research Suggests Unsafe Benzene Exposure In Fracking.

The Los Angeles Times  (9/12, Banerjee) reports on a study that finds many workers involved in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are regularly exposed to unsafe levels of the carcinogenic gas benzene. The research was conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers visited sites in Wyoming and Colorado last year to take measurements.

Senate Committee To Hold Hearing On Energy Tax Code.

The Hill  (9/12, Cama) reports that a hearing has been scheduled by the Senate Finance Committee “on the ‘outdated’ energy tax code and proposals to reform and improve it.” The hearing next week “will be led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who became chairman of the Finance Committee earlier this year and has committed to comprehensively reforming the entire tax code since he became chairman.” Wyden has long been a supporter of “tax credits that incentivize wind, solar, biofuels and other alternative energy sources. They expired at the end of last year.”

FBI: PGE Substation Attack Wasn’t Terrorism.

The Hill  (9/12, Cama) reports that according to the FBI’s top counterterrorism official in the San Francisco Bay Area John Lightfoot “last year’s sniper attack on a power substation in northern California doesn’t fit the agency’s definition of terrorism.” Lightfoot’s belief “differs with popular conceptions of the April 2013 attack on the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. substation near San Jose.” At an industry conference, Lightfoot said, “We don’t think this was a sophisticated attack. … It doesn’t take a very high degree of training or access to technology to carry out this attack.”

The AP  (9/11) reports former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chief Jon Wellinghoff “has called the attack a sophisticated act of terrorism and raised concerns about the security of the nation’s power grid. Other officials have echoed his concerns.” Lightfoot went on to say “although more than one person may have been involved in the full incident, FBI investigators think there was just one shooter.” In addition, “Lighthouse said many of the shots missed the target.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Pascagoula School District To Host Science Event For Kids.

In continuing coverage, the second item in an “Around South Mississippi” article in the Biloxi (MS) Sun Herald  (9/11) reports that “the Pascagoula School District will host Mad Scientist Super Saturday” this weekend. At the event, “Engineers from Chevron, Ingalls Shipbuilding, Mississippi Power Company, Omega Protein, Mississippi Extension Service and others will be on hand to work with the children on cool science experiments to spark a love of science.”

Senate To Take Up House Education Research Reauthorization Bill.

Sarah D. Sparks writes at the Education Week  (9/12) “Inside School Research” blog that the Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the House version of the Strengthening Education through Research Act next week, noting that the bill “reauthorizes federal education research through the Institute of Education Sciences.” The article outlines the provisions of the House version, noting that the House “opted to reject a call by the American Educational Research Association to move the National Center for Education Statistics out of IES; instead, the bill would confirm the NCES commissioner as a position appointed by the IES director, instead of being a position confirmed by the Senate.”

TV Actress With PhD In Neuroscience Calls For More STEM Education.

CNBC  (9/11) provides STEM education promoting commentary from Mayim Bialik, an author, Texas Instruments brand ambassador, and three-time Emmy nominated actress with her PhD in neuroscience. Bialik cites concerns that students don’t appreciate the significance of STEM job growth and thus the importance of STEM education, arguing “students need access to mentors” as “STEM motivation often comes from outside the confines of school walls.”

Mandatory Robotics Class Returns To Brookstone Middle School.

WRBL-TV  Columbus, GA (9/12, Panko) reports Brookstone Middle School has required all seventh grade students to take a 9-week robotics programming class for the second year. The program provides students the freedom to problem solve while exposing them to robotics; after-school robotics classes are available to those interested.

Thursday’s Lead Stories


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