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

Leading the News

Former University Of Maryland Student Makes Record Donation For New Computer Science Lab.

The Washington Post  (9/11, Anderson) reports that Brendan Iribe, who “dropped out of college during his freshman year at the University of Maryland to join a throng of young entrepreneurs hoping to shake up the world with high-tech start-ups,” recently attended a “school-sponsored ‘hackathon’” at the college, and had been impressed with students, but considered the computer science center on campus “‘depressing’ and ‘a lot worse than I remembered it.’” As a result of this impression, Iribe “has pledged $31 million to the University of Maryland to fund scholarships and a new computer science building on the College Park campus, a record donation for the school.”

The Baltimore Sun  (9/11, Bowie) reports that while at school, Iribe “found other creative geniuses and best friends as he tinkered in the computer science department there.” The article reports that the new computer science center “will be designed as a hub for research in the field and will encourage collaboration in ‘hacker/maker’ spaces, where students can come together to work on new ideas.” WJLA-TV  Washington (9/15) also covers this story.

Higher Education

NSF Grant Helps University Of San Diego Recruit Eight Female STEM Faculty.

The U-T San Diego  (9/14, Vista) reports, the University of San Diego has hired eight female professors in STEM fields thanks to a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The hiring is an effort by USD to “Become a model” for other institutions looking to add diversity and women in STEM programs. The money was used to help recruit the new faculty at the private Catholic university.

Hispanic Leadership Fund Chief Pans ED Gainful Employment Rules.

In commentary for The Hill  (9/15) “Pundits Blog,” Mario H. Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, criticizes ED’s “ill-conceived” gainful employment rules for for-profit colleges, arguing that if allowed to take effect, the rules “will prove a huge blow for low-income working families and students from underserved communities, including single parents, veterans and minorities.” Lopez agrees with the “stated intention” to keep students from being “saddled with debt they cannot repay,” but argues that the rules “will limit opportunities for millions of students to earn a degree and seek better careers.” Lopez defends the for-profit sector in general, and laments that the “Obama administration and Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan would deny nearly 3.4 million students access to career programs of their choice through the remainder of this decade.”

Indiana Higher Education Advocate: ED Rating System Could Hurt Tribal Colleges.

US News & World Report  (9/12) reports that according to Carrie Billy, president and chief executive officer of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, ED’s proposed college rating system would “be harmful to tribal colleges” and “would be of no use to college-bound students.” Noting that Billy was testifying at an ED hearing on Friday, said that American Indiana students prioritize “cost, whether a Pell Grant will cover tuition prices, accessibility, location and the possibility of transferring to another school,” and says that these things “can be made available to students without a rating system.” The article notes that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said last week that “the initial draft may or may not name specific institutions,” and “could also be simply a description of the proposed methodology for the ratings.” Meanwhile, the piece quotes deputy Under Secretary Jamienne Studley saying, “The president’s north star goal is to regain our global leadership in college education. In short, the status quo isn’t working when it comes to helping all students afford and complete college.”

ED “Rewards” Navient With New Contract.

The Huffington Post  (9/12, Nasiripour) reports that ED “has rewarded” Navient Corp. “with more taxpayer-provided business even after the loan servicer…was accused by federal prosecutors in May of intentionally cheating troops on their federal student loans.” The announcement of the new contract “comes despite the Education Department’s own pending probe into evidence amassed by the Justice Department that Sallie Mae and Navient overcharged some 60,000 troops by tens of millions of dollars.” The piece notes that ED said last week that “Navient had improved its standing relative to the department’s three other major loan servicers.”

Oregon Treasurer Looks To Start Education Aid Endowment.

The AP  (9/15, Cooper) reports Oregon’s state treasure has proposed a measure on November’s ballot that would amend the state constitution to create a $100 million endowment to be used only for student financial aid and would allow the state to take on debt in order to help fund it. The ballot initiative would not be binding as lawmakers have no obligation to commit funds for the initiative. The state treasurer has said that Oregon does not do as much to aid students as other states do and notes that funding the initiative could be done through direct appropriation, issuing bonds, and raising philanthropic money.

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

Experts State Which Sci-Fi Concepts They Want In Real Life.

TIME  (9/14) asked experts like Jet Propulsion Laboratory systems engineer Bobak Ferdowsi, former ISS commander Leroy Chiao, NEOWISE principal investigator Amy Mainzer, and others what science fiction concepts they think should be brought into reality. Among these were instantaneous communication, personalized spacecraft, and Star Trek’s replicators.

Navy Partners With University Of Hawaii On $2.5M Power Grid Study.

The Pacific Business News  (9/14, Shimogawa, Subscription Publication) reports the Office of Naval Research has contracted with the Applied Research Laboratory at the University Hawaii to develop a $2.5 million power grid modernization strategy and action plan to meet the future reliability and power quality demands of the Navy’s three shipyards in Hawaii, the largest electricity user in the islands. The research will be conducted in multiple phases by the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute’s Grid System Technologies Advanced Research Team.

MIT’s Breast Pump Hackathon Upcoming.  (9/15, Levingston) reports on MIT’s upcoming Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon, which hopes to improve both the breast pump’s functionality and acceptance in everyday life. The event is scheduled for the weekend of September 20-21 with over 150 users, engineers, designers, educators, healthcare and lactation specialists prepared to collaborate at the MIT Media Lab, where as many as 40% of participants are expected to be MIT students. The first, second, and third place ideas will win $3,000, $2,000, and $1,000 respectively.

Industry News

General Dynamics Subsidiary Wins $234M Contract For Nuclear Sub Support Work.

Seapower Magazine  (9/12) reported that a General Dynamics subsidiary, GD Electric Boat, was awarded a $234 million contract by the US Navy for nuclear submarine support work. Under the contract, which could potentially reach $1.5 billion over five years if all options are exercised, GD Electric Boat will provide “design, engineering, material and logistics support, and research and development activities for active U.S. submarines and submersibles,” as well as “information services, planning, scheduling and technical support for submarine maintenance and modernization activities, training and facility support, and affordability and cost reduction support.”

Firm Behind Advanced Prosthetic Arm Stymied By Medicare, Big Insurers.

Boston Globe  (9/13) columnist Scott Kirsner, noting that engineers in New Hampshire are developing “the Tesla of artificial limbs” – the DEKA Arm System, capable of taking an egg from a carton or picking up a credit card from a desk. But despite FDA approval of a prototype and high satisfaction among amputees who have tested DEKA, or “Luke” (for Skywalker), Medicare and most private insurers haven’t yet been persuaded to pay for the “most advanced prosthetic” available. DEKA founder Dean Kamen said he hopes to get a purchase commitment from the Pentagon or the VA, and that prices decrease per unit based on volume: “If you want one, it’s $10 million, but two is $5 million, and 100 would be much less.”

Engineering and Public Policy

NHTSA Said To Be Slow To Identify Problems, Tentative To Act.

On its front page, the New York Times  (9/15, A1, Stout, Ivory, Ruiz., Subscription Publication) reports that NHTSA “has a record of missteps that goes well beyond its failure to detect an ignition switch defect in several models of G.M. cars now linked to at least 13 deaths.” A Times investigation found that the agency “frequently has been slow to identify problems, tentative to act and reluctant to employ its full legal powers against companies.” The Times’ analysis found that in “many of the major vehicle safety issues of recent years…the agency did not take a leading role until well after the problems had reached a crisis level, safety advocates had sounded alarms and motorists were injured or died.”

DOE Spending Money To Protect Wildlife From Renewable Energy.

Roll Call  (9/13, Leonard) reported that the Department of Energy “is spending millions of dollars to figure out how to protect wildlife from renewable energy technology, following reports of birds and bats injured or killed at solar and wind sites.” DOE announced last week that “it would give $1.1 million to the Biodiversity Research Institute of Gorham in Maine and First Wind to refine a three dimensional camera system to evaluate eagle and bat flight behavior around wind turbines.” First Wind vice president of environmental affairs Dave Cowan said, “There is more to be learned about how these species behave in the vicinity of a wind farm. … For example, how close do they fly, and at what point do they exhibit avoidance behavior? Answering such questions will help wind farms reduce risks to wildlife over the long run.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Mississippi Power Engineers Participate In Science Event For Kids.

Gulf Live  (9/14, Havens) reports, “Pascagoula School District hosted its highly popular Mad Scientist Super Saturday today at the Aaron Jones Family Interactive Center,” in which “engineers from Chevron Corp., Ingalls Shipbuilding, Mississippi Power Co., and others volunteered to engage children with interesting experiments meant spark a love of science.” The article adds that “Mississippi Power’s Plant Daniel chemists manned the busy fog bubble experiment,” noting, “They chose the experiment ‘because we enjoyed it and knew the kids would too,’ chemist Jimmy Dennis said.”

WLOX-TV  Biloxi, MS (9/14) also reported on the event on their website.

Space Walk Of Fame Museum Holds Its First STEM Saturday.

Florida Today  (9/13, Gunnerson) reported on the STEM Saturday workshop at the US Space Walk of Fame Museum this past weekend. This was the first in a series of events, with Saturday’s workshop focusing on the activities at the ISS. Future events will discuss “NASA spinoffs and robotics, launch pad engineering and design and rocket trajectories.”

Advocate: Los Angeles Students Need Better Libraries More Than iPads.

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times  (9/15), Rebecca Constantino, founder and executive director of Access Books, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of school libraries, writes that while the Los Angeles Unified School District’s “iPad-for-every-student controversy has gotten much media coverage lately,” and laments that the story has overshadowed a “lack of equal access to a quality school library” within the district, noting that a 2011 investigation by ED’s Office for Civil Rights found “that thousands of LAUSD students were being denied equal educational opportunities, which included libraries with sufficient books and staffing.”

White House Holds “Game Jam” To Promote Educational Video Game Development.

USA Today  (9/12, Toppo) reports that the White House “just brought 100 top game designers to town to show off their skills,” noting that Administration “science and technology advisors fed the group pizza, coffee and Red Bull in a two-day, red-eyed effort to develop a batch of cutting-edge educational games.” The piece notes that the weekend event “was part of a broader effort by the administration to get technology companies interested in investing, even experimentally, in education.” Noting that the developers get to keep the rights to the game, the paper reports that according to Richard Culatta, director of the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Educational Technology, “that’s the idea.” The piece quotes Culatta saying, “The point here is to show what’s possible. Our goal is to show that this can change education.”

Eastern Iowa STEM Center’s Construction Moving Toward Finish Line.

The Iowa City (IA) Press-Citizen  (9/14, Hines) reports that construction of STEM centers in Eastern Iowa “are moving toward the finish line.” The article notes that the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa in Coralville is still under construction and will open in 2015. Meanwhile, several other STEM centers in the area have opened between 2009 and 2013 and are serving hundreds of area students. The centers offer programs in health care and welding, as well as courses to prepare students for college education.

Online Education Company Pairs With NHL To Bring STEM To Students.

The Washington Post  (9/12, Overly) reports EverFi, an online education company signed a deal with the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association that will bring STEM instruction to cities with hockey teams in the US and Canada. The program, called “Future Goals” will use hockey to “teach such concepts as acceleration, thermodynamics and geometry,” according to a company spokesman. The company aims to target students in fourth through eighth grade to get them interested in STEM classes and learning.

Deere Partners With Mechanic Training Program.

KSAT-TV  San Antonio (9/12, Moritz) reported on Alamo Academies’ partnership with Texas school districts and Alamo colleges to train skilled mechanics. The program to rectify the skills deficit facing the industry, and the article notes that Deere is one of the supporters of the school’s heavy equipment program.

More Schools Adopting BYOD Policies.

The Washington Post  (9/14, George) reports on the use of “bring your own device” technology programs in schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, noting that “the idea of allowing students to use their own technology in schools to enhance academic instruction is a significant departure from” past policies banning cell phone use in the classroom. The piece presents the approach as an alternative to “investing heavily in laptops and tablets, with an eye toward one-to-one computing, which provides a device to each student,” and notes that some districts are “taking a blended approach that they say is more affordable and sustainable: supporting BYOD practices as they also buy” laptops and tablets.

Pennsylvania Unveils STEM Competition.

WESA-FM  Pittsburgh (9/15, Gavin) reports on its website that Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq unveiled a statewide STEM competition on Friday. The competition is open to public, nonpublic, and private schools for students in grades 9-12 who will “select a real-world problem, conduct research and design and build a prototype device that can improve the quality of life for residents.” The competition will award students cash prizes for first second and third place winners as well as scholarships to state universities. Teams from low-income areas will also be eligible for a stipend to cover costs.

California Passes Law Limiting Data Collection By Educational Technology Companies.

The New York Times  (9/15, Singer, Subscription Publication) reports that as more and more schools are using technology to collect data on students, California is trying to “become the first state to comprehensively restrict how such information is exploited by the growing education technology industry.” The state passed a law last month that would prevent educational websites and apps from selling or disclosing personal information about students. The bills have not been signed by the Governor, and will become law at the end of the month if he takes no action on them.

Also in the News

Former Google VP Megan Smith To Take On Chief Technology Officer Job.

The Washington Post  (9/12, Jayakumar) reports that members of the Washington, DC tech community are watching former Google vice president Megan Smith as she “is set to become the nation’s third chief technology officer and the first woman to take on the role that was created by President Obama in 2009.” Noting that “defining the chief technology officer’s job and how it relates to the private sector has been tricky,” the Post reports on how her predecessors, Aneesh Chopra and Todd Park handled the job, and notes that “industry members said they liked the fact that Smith has an extensive background in the private sector.” The Post reports that according to Northern Virginia Technology Council President Bobbie Kilberg, “Smith’s appointment also makes her a role model who can encourage girls and women in technology.”

Friday’s Lead Stories


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