Leading the News
ED Announces Winners Of New “First In The World” Grant Competition.
The AP (9/30) reports in a brief item that ED “has awarded $75 million to 24 colleges and universities to foster innovation in college value and efficiency,” explaining that some 500 schools applied for the new “First in the World” grant competition. The piece explains that schools submitted “plans in areas such as improving graduation rates, making it smoother to transfer between schools and increasing enrollment in science and technology programs.”
Inside Higher Ed (10/1) reports that ED “chose the winners of the grant competition from a pool of nearly 500 applicants,” and notes that there were no “for-profit institutions” eligible. The article reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell “said the grant program is also in part aimed at serving as a testing ground for future federal policy experiments,” and quotes him saying, “We’re pretty clear that that’s one of the things we want to come out here. What are the barriers to innovation – and how does the presence or absence of federal policy help that?”
Diverse Education (10/1) reports that Hampton University is the “lone historically Black school to share in the awards.” The article quotes Mitchell saying, “We were incredibly encouraged that of the winners, six of the winning dockets came from minority serving institutions. These are institutions whose mission it is, and whose demographics make certain, that they serve populations of first-generation students, racial minority [and] low-income students. We are especially gratified that those institutions have taken the innovation challenge.”
Over two dozen media outlets from around the country covered individual colleges’ grant allotments. For example, the Indianapolis Star (9/30) reports that Purdue University and Indiana State University “both won multimillion-dollar grants in a White House-fueled effort to boost college completion rates and make the U.S. ‘first in the world’ for college graduates.” Purdue’s $2.3 million grant will fund research on “the effect of active-learning strategies — thinking, talking or doing, instead of just listening — on retention, graduation and success rates.” The article explains that ED announced that the grants “are aimed at addressing college access and completion, increasing community college transfer rates, increasing STEM enrollment and completion, or reducing time to graduation.”
Northeast State Community College Awarded Grant To Encourage STEM Engagement.
The Kingsport (TN) Times-News (9/30) reports that NASA’s Office of Education gave Northeast State Community College a grant “to increase student and faculty engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics” (STEM). This was part of an award to the Tennessee Community College Space Grant Consortium.
The Bristol (TN/VA) Herald Courier (9/30) and WCYB-TV Bristol, VA (9/30, 5:03 p.m. EDT) also cover the story.
Research and Development
NIH Announces $46 Million In Grants For New BRAIN Initiative Projects.
The Washington Post (9/30, Nutt) reports the NIH has announced grants totaling $46 million to 58 projects in the BRAIN Initiative project. NIH hopes to assist scientists in studying individual neurons and localized brain activity as well as brain function. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said, “In relation to the heart and the kidney, we don’t even have a parts list to the brain.” Speaking from a National Press Club event announcing the grants, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said. “This initial round is a first step in a long journey.”
Additional Sources . The New York Times (10/1, Gorman, Subscription Publication) reports the Obama Administration has recruited a number of new Federal agencies as well as universities, foundations and businesses to help pursue it’s goals associated with the BRAIN Initiative, which the president started in 2013. “For 2015, the Administration has asked for $200 million for all the agencies involved. The National Institutes of Health, part of the initiative, has proposed a $4.5 billion, 12-year program as part of the overall effort.” Other companies and agencies involved include “Google, General Electric, companies involved in optics and other technologies, several universities and the Simons Foundation” along with the Food and Drug Administration and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.
NBC News (9/30, Fox) reports the initial grants of $46 million to be a “down payment” on exploring the brain. “It’s the thing that makes you who you are,” said Dr. Collins. “We think we know how it works, but we don’t.” NBC says President Obama “gave NIH until the end of this year to come up with a plan and got Congress to appropriate special funding despite the budget crunch.”
The Los Angeles Times (9/30, Healy) reports that according to Dr. Collins, “There’s a big gap between what we want to do in brain research and the technologies available to make exploration possible. These initial awards are part of a 12-year scientific plan focused on developing the tools and technologies needed to make the next leap in understanding the brain.”
Bloomberg News (10/1, Edney) reports the BRAIN Initiative stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies and, according to Dr. Collins, NIH has funded less than 10 percent of the over 600 brain research applications received in the past.
Reuters (10/1, Steenhuysen) quotes Dr. Collins as saying, “The human brain is the most complicated biological structure in the known universe. We’ve only just scratched the surface in understanding how it works — or, unfortunately, doesn’t quite work when disorders and disease occur.”
The Scientist (10/1, Vence) reports Dr. Collins as saying “These initial awards are . . . focused on developing the tools and technologies needed to make the next leap in understanding the brain.”
The Boston Globe (9/30, Kotz) quotes Dr. Insel as saying, “We’re all incredibly humble” about our lack of knowledge regarding the brain.
The Wall Street Journal (9/30, Burton, Subscription Publication) reports on some of the goals of the initiative.
Also reporting on the BRAIN Initiative are NPR (9/30, Hamilton), Science Magazine (10/1, Underwood), Nature (10/1, Van Noorden), the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (10/1, Templeton), the San Francisco Business Times (10/1, Leuty, Subscription Publication), U-T San Diego (9/30, Robbins), FierceHealthIT (10/1, Dvorak), the Contra Costa (CA) Times (10/1, Thomas), the Minneapolis Star Tribune (10/1, Browning), the Puget Sound (WA) Business Journal (10/1, Zak, Subscription Publication), the Seattle Times (10/1, Doughton), Bio-IT World (10/1), MedCity News (10/1, Keshavan), LiveScience (10/1), and Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (10/1).
NC State’s Engineering Career Fair Matches Up Graduates To Employers.
The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer (9/30, Murawski) reports that the North Carolina State University’s biannual engineering career fair featured “long lines of résumé hawkers, shoulder-to-shoulder human traffic jams and an upbeat mood” signaling the return of “economic good times, at least for freshly-minted engineers looking for their first jobs after graduation.” Some 373 employers set up booths at the career fair, “regarded by some as a barometer of the technology employment market.” The article adds that Tom DeVore, a Ph.D. in physics “who recently received a layoff notice from GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy in Wilmington,” said he hasn’t “been to a career fair in six years,” adding, “It’s crowded. Lots of students, lots of experience here, too.” DeVore, 36, “was in the minority at the McKimmon Center.” His position “is being eliminated because of a downturn in demand for nuclear services from GE-Hitachi’s Japan market.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Boeing Officials Hits Congress For Lack Of Long-Term Ex-Im Extension.
The Hill (9/30, Cirilli) reports that Boeing Senior VP Timothy Keating on Tuesday hit Congress for “failing to pass a long-term reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank,” arguing “that an extension of the Bank’s charter until next summer leaves supporters in a worse position than they were in before.” He said, “Spending too long in Washington, D.C., can make you a bit jaded and hard to surprise. but it is still amazing to me that the people going after Ex-Im are basically willing to dismantle the U.S. aerospace industry and ship the jobs to France or China all in order to raise some extra money and show their most rabid supporters that it is possible to kill a government program, irrespective of the real-world consequences.”
Senators Seek DOT Expansion Of Crude By Rail Notifications.
McClatchy (9/30, Tate, Subscription Publication) reports that California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, along with Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, on Monday asked the DOT to “expand its requirement for railroads to notify first responders of large shipments of Bakken crude oil to include other hazardous materials.” The senators said that a May emergency order “doesn’t go far enough because it excludes Bakken shipments under 1 million gallons, as well as any quantity of other kinds of crude oils and flammable liquids.”
Alaska Oil Exported For First Time In Decade. The Los Angeles Times (10/1, Muskal) reports that a tanker carrying oil from Alaska to South Korea is underway, and while it is “considered relatively small,” it is the “first such export in a decade.” The Times says it is “significant” because it “focuses attention on the complicated issue of the 40-year-old U.S. ban on exporting crude oil that has been in effect for the Lower 48 states,” though Alaska is exempt.
Exxon Report Acknowledges Fracking Risks, But Defends Practice. The AP (10/1, Fahey) reports that on Tuesday, Exxon Mobil released a report that “acknowledges the environmental risks” of fracking but “also defends the practice as being better for the environment than other types of energy production and generation.” Despite recognizing the problems associated with fracking, the report “reads like a defense of unconventional oil and gas production and fracking.”
University Of Virginia Receives $4.4 Million To Research STEM Education.
The Cavalier Daily (VA) (10/1, Panagopoulos) reports The University of Virginia’s Education School has received three National Science Foundation grants totaling $4.4 million to conduct three separate research studies around the country, aimed at helping to improve teaching methods in STEM fields. The first will examine how novice teachers’ mathematics lesson plans are influenced by peers and superiors. The second plans, over five years, to recruit 40 undergraduate and graduate students pursuing science or engineering degrees, as well as professional scientists and engineers, to become accredited high school teachers through the Noyce Scholarship program. The third will examine skill-development in graduate education, allowing for the restructuring of graduate programs in the natural sciences to improve graduate research skills.
Pennsylvania Elementary Students Learn Coding.
The Ellwood City (PA) Ledger (10/1, Poole) reports Pennsylvania’s Perry and Hartman elementary schools in Ellwood City Area School District are offering coding classes in an effort to engage students increasingly immersed in technology. With the Google platform, students are using Google Chromebooks to blog, make videos, and study. An initial round of Chromebooks cost about $150 each, while future purchases, including add-ons to increase durability and student functionality, raise the price to nearly $300. School principals are pursuing technology acquisition grants, closing with comments on competition for the grants and concerns over the small lifespan of technology.
Also in the News
Sandia National Laboratories Engineer Volunteers With Albuquerque Children.
The Deming (NM) Headlight (10/1, Moorman) reports that Sandia National Laboratories mechanical engineer Mark Howard is a volunteer with several youth engineering programs in the Albuquerque area, such as the 4-H Robotics curriculum, the FIRST Lego League, and FIRST Tech Challenge. The article focuses on the 4-H program, with Howard saying that “the kids learned the steps we engineers use daily…As we do, they came up with an idea, drew it on paper, created it, tested it and returned to the drawing board to improve the design, or start over with a new idea.”
Tuesday’s Lead Stories