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

Leading the News

Vermont Science Scores Drop.

The AP  (9/26, Rathke) reports that Vermont Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe announced on Thursday that “average science test scores of students in three grades have dropped slightly in Vermont from last year, with the greatest dip among eight-graders.” The article adds that Holcomb said that stagnant science scores suggest “that an emphasis on English language arts and math in the federal No Child Left Behind Act may be overshadowing science instruction.”

Vermont Public Radio  (9/26) reports that Holcombe “says she is not satisfied with scores from standardized science tests given last spring.” The piece notes that “44 percent of fourth graders scored as proficient or higher, but only 25 percent of eighth graders and 30 percent of eleventh graders reached that mark.” Scores across all grades showed a decline. The piece notes that “a section that requires students not only to solve problems, but to explain their reasoning,” seems to be the part that gave students the most trouble.

WCAX-TV  Burlington, VT (9/26) quotes Holcombe saying, “We’re concerned about the heavy emphasis on No Child Left Behind and whether it might be discouraging some districts from really investing in science from the earliest grades.”

The Rutland (VT) Herald  (9/26) also covers this story.

Higher Education

Cal Poly Engineering Grads Successfully Unfurl LightSail Solar Sail.

In an article that includes video on its website, the San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune  (9/25) reports that a team of California Polytechnic State University engineering graduates successfully unfurled their LightSail solar sail designed to propel their CubeSats nano-satellite technology into interplanetary missions. The $4 million project is scheduled to launch two LightSail probes, one in May 2015 and another in May 2016.

Oklahoma State University Gets $3.4 Million Grant For Science Program.

The AP  (9/26, AP) reports Jason F. Kirksey, associate vice president for Institutional Diversity at Oklahoma State University, has received a five-year, $3.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a program designed to provide minority STEM undergraduates with opportunities to have faculty research mentors, attend conferences, and prepare for graduate school. Kirksey is the principal investigator for the Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, a consortium of 11 instate universities developing programs to increase minority student involvement in higher education and other career goals.

New York Solar Energy Firm Partnering With Local Community College For Workforce Training.

The New York Times  (9/26, Hu, Subscription Publication) reports that solar energy firm OnForce Solar “has struggled to hire enough workers for its growing business — even though it is in the Bronx, which has a 9.8 percent unemployment rate.” The Times reports that the firm is planning a partnership with Bronx Community College “to create a technology hub that would give emerging companies room to grow and help develop a skilled local work force.” The hub “would house OnForce Solar along with other companies in a 23,000-square-foot former machine shop that is being reimagined with high-speed fiber optics, 320 work stations, conference rooms, a cafe, a rooftop garden and, of course, solar energy.”

Representative Davis Bill Would Eliminate Student Loan Administrative Fees.

The Hill  (9/26, Marcos) reports in its “Floor Action” blog Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) has introduced legislation removing administrative fees on Federal student loans. Davis argued that the fees would allow students to save $1.5 billion annually and are an “investment in our nation’s future” because it would allow graduates to “contribute to the economy when they leave college.”

Video Interviews – Leaders at NSF and the Navy Discuss the Future of Engineering
Watch interviews with NSF Assistant Director for Engineering Pramod Khargonekar, who talks about exciting NSF projects and opportunities for ASEE members, and Rear Admiral David Johnson, who discusses the importance of technology to the U.S. Navy and where naval research is headed.
ASEE Perks
ASEE launches “ASEE Perks” a new collection of discounted products and services, only for members.

Advances in Engineering Education – New Issue; Call for Papers
AEE released its Fall 2014 issue. In addition, AEE has put out a call for papers on flipped classrooms in STEM. Read more.

ASEE Members on Networking and Peer Learning
Watch the short video

Research and Development

USU Breaks Ground On EV Test Track.

The Los Angeles Times  (9/26, Fleming) reports Utah State University “has broken ground on the country’s first electric vehicle test track fitted for in-motion, wireless electrical charging.” USU workers started construction “Tuesday on a state-of-the-art facility that will include an electrified track, a quarter-mile long oval, that will demonstrate the effectiveness of wireless power charging.” The technology will help to “address at least one of the principal blocks to more widespread adoption of electric vehicles – range, and the range anxiety that accompanies drivers afraid they’ll run out of juice before they have time to recharge.”

“WTF NASA” Website Explains Tech That Has NASA Roots.

The WHNT-TV  Huntsville, AL (9/25) website reports that Jacob Mulligan has made a site called “WTF NASA” that explains the “awesome stuff you have because of NASA.” Mulligan said that he thinks the public does not appreciate how many common items came from NASA research. As part of the piece, the article interviewed NASA Tech Transfer Manager Terry Taylor, who said that NASA was given the mission “to not only build the Saturn V and the Apollo and all these great science missions and things, but to take that technology we develop for those missions and apply it to things that can help people on Earth, like new commercial products, improved commercial products.”

Stepp, Muro Say Labs Need To Be Connected With Regional Innovation Ecosystems.

Matthew Stepp, executive director of the Center for Clean Energy Innovation at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and Mark Muro, senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, write on the “Pundits Blog” of The Hill  (9/26, Stepp, Contributor, Muro) that “tthe modern-era DOE labs are critical centers of U.S. ‘big science’ and breakthrough technology development” but “while the labs are critically important to economic prosperity, they remain largely disconnected from the U.S innovation ecosystem.” But “a window-of-opportunity for lab reform is opening” as “Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has outlined a broad strategy for updating the lab system.” Stepp and Muro conclude that “connecting the labs with regional innovation ecosystems would go a long way toward upgrading their ability to complement the 21st-century innovation economy.”

Engineer Explores Micro-Robot Applications In Variety Of Fields.

National Geographic  (9/26, Daugherty) reports on the bio-inspired initiatives of electrical engineer Robert Wood’s Microrobotics Lab at Harvard University, which is developing colonies of autonomous flying micro-robots called RoboBees for future applications ranging from search-and-rescue to agriculture. The article goes on to describe the reverse engineering of such robots and the complications their size and desired behaviors pose, such as employing self-contained energy sources that can sustain flight without hindering it. Applications explored involve the retrofitting of the small robots with specialized sensors depending on the task. The article goes on to explain the Second Skin initiative, which uses soft robots to stimulate nerves and advances rehabilitation for patients with neuromuscular disorders

Successful Solar Spacecraft Test At Cal Poly Advances Project.

KCBX-FM  San Luis Obispo, CA (9/26, Bell) reports on the successful simulation of all post-launch activities of the high-tech LightSail spacecraft Cal Poly is developing with Stanford University, including the unfurling of its solar sail. The team will analyze results before sending the spacecraft through Cal Poly’s Thermal Vacuum Chamber to simulate a space-like environment.


North Carolina Governor Launches Surveys To Assess Employment Demand.

The Charlotte (NC) Observer  (9/25, Frazier) reports Gov. Pat McCrory and Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker have launched a surveying initiative to assess employment demands among 1,000 companies across North Carolina’s 100 counties in the next 100 days. The results of the “listening tour” will be used to amend programming at two- and four-year colleges, as we all K-12 schools, to address the much-debated “skills gap” in the national workforce. The article then goes on to cite industries struggling to staff open positions.

Engineering and Public Policy

GM Settles With Wisconsin Families Over Cobalt Crash.

The AP  (9/26, Krisher, Forliti) reports that two families in Wisconsin on Thursday accepted settlements from General Motors over a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt crash caused by defective switches. The settlement came from attorney Kenneth Feinberg, hired by GM to settle with crash victims, and the article notes that the incident was one of 21 which Feinberg had “deemed eligible for payments from GM.” The article also explores the families’ decision to drop the lawsuit in favor of settlement.

McCarthy: Economic Concerns Shouldn’t Slow Climate Change Action.

McClatchy  (9/26, Adams, Subscription Publication) reports on comments by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Thursday which sought to alleviate concerns that the effort to combat climate change could harm the US economy. “When it comes to climate change, the most expensive thing we could do, is to do nothing,” McCarthy said in a speech at nonprofit group Resources for the Future. Highlighting the threat climate change could have for commerce, she added, “The bottom line is: We don’t act despite the economy, we act because of it.”

WSJournal Slams Google On Environmental Policy. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (9/26, Subscription Publication) harshly criticizes Google for its perceived hypocrisy on environmental issues. The Journal notes Google’s strong stance against climate change denial and interest in non-fossil fuel power, which it contrasts with the company’s heavy use of non-renewable energy and damage to wildlife in building renewable energy centers; the editorial also asserts that Google’s investments in renewables are made primarily to capitalize on financial incentives.

WSJournal Ridicules De Blasio’s Emissions Commitment. The Wall Street Journal  (9/26, Subscription Publication) editorializes on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pledge this week at the UN carbon summit to reduce city emissions by 80% by 2050. Taking a somewhat mocking tone, the Journal says that de Blasio’s preferred level of carbon emissions, 10.2 million tons, is impossible given the energy needs of the city’s population and that such levels have not been feasible since the 19th century.

Microsoft May Continue Foreign Expansion Due To H-1B Visa Challenges.

Roll Call  (9/26, McGrady, Subscription Publication) provides continued coverage of Microsoft’s speculated continuation of foreign expansion amid troubles with the H-1B Visa program, voiced by William Kamela, who served President Clinton at the Department of Labor and is now Microsoft’s Federal policy lead for workforce readiness and immigration issues. Kamela cited Microsoft’s decision to open a new training and development center in Vancouver, opening late 2015 with an expected 400 new jobs. Kamela cites more decisions like Vancouver if Congress does not raise the 85,000 H-1B visa cap, with sights set on Hong Kong. Some critics argue an H-1B expansion is unnecessary and only to recruit younger and cheaper labor. Last summer’s immigration reform bill proposed to double the cap, but was not taken up in the House. President Obama is considering two proposals, which would help the tech industry by excluding dependents from employment-based green carp caps and recapture unused cards from previous years.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Lockheed Martin CEO Outlines Company’s Collaboration, STEM Initiatives.

Speaking at the Lockheed Martin Fellows Conference on Wednesday, the ExecutiveBiz  (9/25, Forrester) “Featured” blog reports that Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson outlined the company’s “planned strategy for technology initiatives” as she urged greater collaboration and innovation “among Lockheed’s engineering, scientific and technical workforce.” Hewson also highlighted new STEM education efforts.

Article Describes Corinthian’s Downfall.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek  (9/25) runs an article detailing the history of the collapsed for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges Inc., describing how its “late-night TV commercials and Internet ads for vocational certificates and online business degrees” attracted students for years with “the promise that the extra career training would give them a leg up in the job market.” The article discusses how the for-profit sector has “fought allegations by state and federal authorities that it preyed on its students, saddling them with debt they wouldn’t be able to repay,” and details how state officials and ED “have been pressuring Corinthian to change its recruiting practices and improve the accuracy of its government disclosures” in recent years. The article chronicles ED’s revelations that “Corinthian’s finances were in disastrous disarray,” and describes the firm’s collapse.

Opinion: New DC STEM School Is A Game Changer.

Washington Times  (9/26, Simmons) columnist Deborah Simmons writes that Washington, DC’s new STEM-focused Tech Prep charter school “is a game changer” for area education. The author toured the school after it opened recently and marveled at how “Every square inch of Tech Prep is state-of-the-art, focusing on” STEM. The author urges for people in the area to support the school as “anti-school choice and anti-charter elements are on the prowl this election year” and she hopes the school will become one of the leading high schools in the nation.

New York Bond Initiative Would Give Districts Money To Improve Technology.

The Lower Hudson Valley (NY) Journal News  (9/25, Wilson) reports New York voters will have the opportunity to decide on a ballot initiative in November that would let the state borrow $2 billion for technology for classrooms and high-tech security. The Smart Schools Bond Act will allocate funds to school districts based on need to let them implement wireless networks or upgrade existing technologies. Critics say that the “take-it-or-leave-it” one-time spending deal is bound to be inefficient as districts will be getting money earmarked for items that may be low on their priority list.

Thursday’s Lead Stories


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