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

Leading the News

Biden Announces Community College Job Training Grants.

Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement of $450 million in Federal workforce training grants to 270 community colleges around the country generated widespread media coverage, mainly at the local level. USA Today  (9/29, Jackson) reported in a brief item that Biden had been set to announce the grants on Monday, and quotes a White House statement saying that the grants will let colleges “partner with employers to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs that will help job seekers get the skills they need for in-demand jobs in industries like information technology, health care, energy, and advanced manufacturing.” The statement also explained that ED and the Department of labor jointly administer the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program.

In its “Morning Education” blog, The Politico  (9/30, Emma) reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Labor Secretary Tom Perez were scheduled to be on hand, and that many of the grant winners “will focus on IT and cybersecurity, which are experiencing particularly high growth, according to the White House.”

Diverse Education  (9/30) reports that Biden “announced the recipients of $450 million in grants designed to help community colleges and other institutions of higher education provide better job training for students,” and quotes Duncan saying, “This is not some kind of gift. This is an investment in school leaders, in businesses, in people who are trying to do things in a very, very different way. I’ve been to dozens and dozens of community colleges, and they are some of the most inspiring visits that I have, anywhere I go.”

Local coverage tends to be brief and fact-based. For example, the Los Angeles Times  (9/30, Song) reports that $15 million of the $450 million in total funding will go to Chaffey Community College in Rancho Cucamonga, California. The Times reports that the school “will partner with other two-year campuses and UC Riverside to develop a technical workforce for the Inland Empire” region of the state.

Similarly, the Charlotte (NC) Observer  (9/29) reports that Central Piedmont Community College will get nearly $2.5 million, and notes that the funding “will boost CPCC’s program in mechatronics, an emerging field that combines electrical, mechanical and control engineering with computer science and information technology.”

The Bangor (ME) Daily News  (9/29) reports that Kennebec Valley Community College will get $2.5 million “to support job training programs in health care, social work and construction.” This piece quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying, “These grants will play a vital role in supporting community colleges and fostering partnerships to educate and prepare our students to become experienced workers on the path to advancement and upward mobility.”

Other media outlets running similar coverage about local colleges winning grants include the Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (9/30), the Dallas Morning News  (9/30, Jean), an AP  (9/30), an AP  (9/30) article out of Nevada, the Wilkes-Barre (PA) Citizens’ Voice  (9/30, Buffer), the Dayton (OH) Business Journal  (9/29, Subscription Publication), WCBI-TV  Columbus, MS (9/30), the Springfield (OH) News Sun  (9/30), the Elyria (OH) Chronicle-Telegram  (9/29), the Lafayette (IN) Journal and Courier  (9/29, Groppe), the Thomasville (GA) Times-Enterprise  (9/30, Ceneta), the Richmond (IN) Palladium-Item  (9/30), the Cape Cod (MA) Times  (9/30), the Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (9/30), the Youngstown (OH) Vindicator  (9/30), the Milwaukee Business Journal  (9/29, Schuyler, Subscription Publication), WFMZ-TV  Allentown, PA (9/30), the Allentown (PA) Morning Call  (9/29, Olson), the Youngstown (OH) Vindicator  (9/29), KBJR-TV  Duluth, MN (9/30), the Billings (MT) Gazette  (9/30), the Topeka (KS) Capital-Journal  (9/29), the Bangor (ME) Daily News  (9/29), the Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review  (9/29), and the Coeur d’Alene (ID) Press  (9/30).

Higher Education

CoorsTek Gives Colorado School Of Mines $27 Million Grant To Build Science, Engineering Center.

The Denver Post  (9/26, Raabe) reports that technical ceramics firm CoorsTek has given the Colorado School of Mines a $26.9 million grant, the “largest gift in the university’s 140-year history,” for the “construction of the school’s new CoorsTek Center for Applied Science and Engineering.” The piece notes that some $20 million will go toward “the $45 million construction budget for the center’s new 95,000-square-foot building,” while “$6.9 million of the gift will be used to create a research fellowship program and to equip the center’s new 95,000-square-foot building.”

DOJ Investigating Whether Corinthian Defrauded Government.

Inside Higher Ed  (9/29) reports in a brief item that Corinthian Colleges announced on Friday that DOJ is “investigating whether the company defrauded the federal government” under the False Claims Act. In a disclosure to investors, the firm revealed that the investigation is over “allegations related to student attendance and grade record manipulation, graduate job placement rate inflation and non-Title IV funding source misrepresentations.” The piece notes that the firm is seeking “sources of liquidity as it seeks to sell off and close its campuses as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.”

Treasury’s Raskin: Student Debt Growth May Slow.

Bloomberg News  (9/30, Klimasinska) reports that the “growth of student debt may slow as the strengthening economy reduces the number of new loans, Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin said.” She explained in remarks for the National Association for Business Economics annual meeting in Chicago on Monday, “Total federal originations have fallen since their 2012 peak and originations per borrower have fallen since 2010. If these trends continue as the recovery strengthens further, they may noticeably slow the growth of outstanding student-loan debt.” Raskin called “for more data and research on the relationship between student-loan debt and the economy,” and urged steps to reduce “unnecessary” delinquencies and defaults.

Reuters  (9/30, Reuters) adds that Raskin noted borrowing for higher education is higher in the US than anywhere else in the world. “This sobering reality has consequences not just for the individual student carrying large student debt, but for the economy as a whole,” Raskin said. However, she added, “None of us now expects a student loan meltdown because there is a great deal of integrity and stability in the student loan market.”

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

University Of Arkansas, University College London Researchers Demonstrate Powerful Silicon-Based Laser.

Phys  (9/30) reports that a research team from University College London and the University of Arkansas have demonstrated “a silicon-based laser that lases up to a record 111°C, with a threshold current density of 200 A/cm2 and an output power exceeding 100 mW at room temperature.” The article explains that the research “could permit the creation of complex optoelectronic circuits, enabling chip-to-chip and system-to-system communications on Si substrates.”

Industry News

Boeing Plans To Shift Most Defense Work Out Of Washington State.

In an ongoing effort to consolidate its defense operations away from Washington state, the Wall Street Journal  (9/29, Ostrower, Cameron, Subscription Publication) reports that Boeing is planning to relocate as many as 1,400 jobs and change or cut hundreds of others over the next three years. The company made the announcement on Monday and hopes the effort will help to cut more costs for its defense unit as Pentagon spending remains tight. Chris Chadwick, chief executive of the Defense, Space & Security division, noted that the move was a tough decision to make but said it is needed to improve the company’s competitiveness.

The Seattle Times  (9/29, Gates) reports that Boeing’s announcement could affect “about 2,000 employees,” according to sources with knowledge of the matter. One source suggested that the plans will mostly impact jobs in engineering.

Bloomberg News  (9/29, Johnsson) notes that according to Boeing, the company “is moving services and support work for the F-22 Raptor and Airborne Warning and Control Systems command plane, both of which are out of production.” Meanwhile, work for the US Navy’s new P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft and on the KC-46A aerial tanker are expected to stay in the Seattle region.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch  (9/29) notes that about 500 jobs are expected to move to the St. Louis area and about 900 to Oklahoma City, as well as some to Patuxent River, Maryland, and Jacksonville, Florida.

Meanwhile, the Puget Sound (WA) Business Journal  (9/29, Goldsmith, Subscription Publication) reports that Boeing union leaders are angry over the announcement, saying they will call on the state Legislature “to revisit Boeing tax breaks.”

Additional coverage of this story includes Reuters  (9/29, Shalal, Scott), among many others.

Engineering and Public Policy

Faulkner: Anti-Fracking Study Ignores Growing Body Of Research.

In an op-ed in the New York Post  (9/30, Faulkner) Chris Faulkner, CEO of Breitling Energy Corp., writes that a recent study by University of Maryland researchers claiming that pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing could endanger the health of nearby residents “doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.” Faulkner notes that University of Maryland researchers relied on a “flawed dataset” from a previous study by the Colorado School of Public Health and “ignored the growing body of research that shows fracking poses a very low or nonexistent threat to air quality.” He criticizes the study for “sounding a false alarm” when fracking is actually improving public health by “wean[ing] our country off environmentally unfriendly energy like coal.”

Some Nebraskans Express Opposition To Keystone XL.

The New York Times  (9/30, Smith, Subscription Publication) reports on the debate among Nebraska residents over the future of the Keystone XL pipeline, focusing on the opposition and a concert last weekend to voice their concerns. The article details the “unlikely” groups who have banded together to oppose the pipeline, including ranchers, farmers, urban environmentalists, and Native Americans. Although the Times notes that steps toward developing the pipeline have been made, “the debate is far from settled,” as opponents continue to challenge the proposed route of the pipeline.

DOE Considering New Efficiency Standards For Rooftop AC, Heating Units.

The Hill  (9/30, Devaney) reports the Energy Department “is looking at new efficiency standards for rooftop air conditioning and heating units that are commonly used on apartment buildings.” On Monday, the agency’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced “in the Federal Register it is looking at new rules for small, large, and very large air-cooled commercial package air conditioning and heating equipment, though the rules could cost manufacturers more than $300 million.” The Energy Department “is pushing for high-efficiency rooftop air conditioning and heating units that are commonly used to regulate the temperature at apartment buildings, as well as office buildings and warehouses.”

IEA Reports Solar Could Lead Electricity Generation By 2050.

Reuters  (9/30, McFarlane) reports that according to the International Energy Agency, solar energy could be the number one source of electricity generation by 2050, with as much as 16% coming from photovoltaic systems and up to 11% from solar thermal systems. IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven cites the falling costs of photovoltaic systems as a driver of the increase.

Growing Solar Photovoltaic Adoption Prompts Utilities To Call For Policy Reform.

Reuters  (9/30, Rucinski, Kaye) reports on the rising adoption of distributed solar photovoltaic systems around the world, and notes that the trend is beginning to impact the profits of electric utilities as their customers reduce their demand for energy from the grid. Energy utilities have responded by lobbying national and state governments for policy changes, such as reducing subsidies, imposing taxes for connecting solar systems to the grid, and other rate reforms.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Colorado Elementary Students Gain New Skills Though Lego Blocks.

The Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette  (9/30, Kelley) reports motivational Lego toys are being used to teach Palmer Lake Elementary fourth-graders reading, writing, computer and teamwork skills, following a $1,528 grant from the Tri-Lakes Women’s Club to buy Lego Education StoryStarter kits and software. The kits include a toolbox of traditional Lego blocks and characters, with a curriculum and software to teach story composition; students either write a story to fit digital photographs of their creations or create depictions that fit a story they wrote beforehand. The materials align with educational standards, to aid with new assessments in the spring.

South Carolina Conference Focuses On Arts In STEM Studies.

The AP  (9/29, AP) reports the nation’s deputy secretary of energy, Dot Harris, will speak Monday at a two-day conference in South Carolina focusing on the inclusion of art in STEM studies. The event in Spartanburg anticipates 400 state educators, businessmen and lawmakers. Other speakers include the vice president of research for Milliken and Co. and the director of the South Carolina Arts Commission.

Monday’s Lead Stories


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