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

Leading the News

STEM-Related NASA Grant Helps Virginia Community College Students.

The Augusta (VA) Free Press  (10/3, Graham) reported that Virginia community college students who are pursuing STEM degrees now have “access to new scholarships, research experiences, internships and courses thanks to a NASA grant awarded to the Virginia Space Grant Consortium.” The STEM Takes Flight at Virginia’s Community College program is designed to “provide scholarships as well as real-world work and research experiences that foster community college retention in stem academic tracks through graduation with an associate’s degree or transfer to a four-year institution.” Selected students can participate in “hands-on paid research summer research projects” at the Langley Research Center and the Wallops Flight Facility.

Eastern Mennonite University Student Participates In NASA’s inSTEP Education Program. The Augusta (VA) Free Press  (10/3, Graham) reported Eastern Mennonite University student Abby Pennington participated in NASA’s ten-day educators’ camp that’s part of NASA’s “inSTEP,” a two-year program designed to teach the pedagogy of STEM concepts to “a group of carefully selected future teachers.” Pennington and the other inSTEP participants “toured NASA laboratories” and “volunteered at a nearby YMCA, conducting short activities with Norfolk-area children about engineering concepts.” She next plans to complete forty hours of volunteer work at the Harrisonburg Boys and Girls Club, where she will “teach lessons with a LEGO robotics kit and do one-on-one tutoring.”

Higher Education

Two Firms Developing Educational Material For OSIRIS-REx Mission.

The Tuscan (AZ) Daily News  (10/4, Beal) reported that when changes in the Federal budget “penciled out” educational funds for projects like OSIRIS-REx, Dante Lauretta, who leads the project at the University of Arizona, felt “obligated” to establish an educational program on his own. Now, he and entrepreneur Michael Lyon have formed a for-profit and non-profit firm to develop and distribute educational material “across the state, the country and around the world.” The Xtronauts program is now raising money so that material can be handed out to classrooms for free.

Nebraska College Gets Grant To Change Life Sciences Instruction.

The AP  (10/6) reports that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has received a $2.3 million grant to “bring together life science teachers and computational biologists to develop a new approach to the subject.” The article notes that the proposal comes “in response to a report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science” which “stressed the importance of incorporating computer simulations and other teaching techniques into biology education for undergraduate college students.”

ED Giving New Jersey College Grant To Train Newark STEM Teachers.

District Administration  (10/6) reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that ED is giving New Jersey’s Montclair State University $6.2 million “to continue the ‘Newark-Montclair Urban Teacher Residency Program,’ which is aimed at training STEM teachers to work in Newark public schools.” The piece explains that the program “allows participants to earn Masters degrees in early childhood education, teaching students with disabilities, and mathematics and science certifications.”

Focusing On Workplace Skills Could Boost College Graduation Rates.

The Hechinger Report  (10/6, Felton) reports that when Cheryl Hyman took over as chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, “the system of seven community colleges had a graduation crisis,” and Hyman “came in with an idea to fix the problem—the system needed to focus on teaching skills employers were demanding.” After this ideal was implemented, “graduation rates doubled.” The article reports that the policy was implemented amid a national debate over whether a college education should be geared toward workforce needs. The article notes near the end that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell has “endorsed the idea of abbreviated skills-driven programs,” but “conceded that there were legitimate concerns about what would be lost if too many students were consigned into these programs.” The piece quotes Mitchell saying, “I predict there will be many fewer residential four-year colleges. And I worry a lot about what that will mean for the promise of mobility in our society.”

Community Colleges, Students Face Struggles To Graduate.

The New York Times  (10/3, Bellafante, Subscription Publication) reports on the struggles of community colleges and the students as they work towards graduation. The article points out that recent research shows that per-pupil spending on students and funding at community colleges has decreased over time. Students who attend community colleges often come from ethnically diverse backgrounds, are the most economically vulnerable population, and are most in need of remedial courses. The article also elaborates on the struggles that individuals who attend the colleges and the colleges themselves face in order to get students to graduation.

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

ONR Unveils Unmanned Autonomous Swarm Patrol Boats.

The AP  (10/5, Vergakis) reports that the Office of Naval Research has demonstrated “autonomous swarm boat technology,” with which “self-guided unmanned patrol boats that can leave warships they’re protecting and swarm and attack potential threats on the water,” noting that such a system “could join the Navy’s fleet within a year.” The article describes the recent demonstration on the James River in Virginia, noting that ONR program manager Robert Brizzolara “said that the boats can decide for themselves what movements to make once they’re alerted to a threat and work together to encircle or block the path of an opposing vessel, depending on that vessel’s movements and those of other nearby vessels.”

Stars And Stripes (DC)  (10/6) reports on the “technological breakthrough,” noting that the demonstration foreshadows “how the Navy could man and equip itself and fight in the decades ahead.”

Industry News

Officials Optimistic About Progress Of Virgin Galactic, Commercial Spaceflight.

SPACE  (10/3, Wall) reported on how the SpaceShipOne’s Ansari XPrize win 10 years ago started the “era of commercial spaceflight.” Michael Lopez-Alegria, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, noted that there have been other factors that have pushed private spaceflight forward since then. As for how Virgin Galactic, whose SpaceShipTwo is based off of SpaceShipOne, has yet to fly, Lopez-Alegria said that delays are “understandable.” Lopez-Alegria predicted that next year will be “a big year for commercial suborbital spaceflight.” However, even without any progress there, Lopez-Alegria reportedly believes that the industry has made “great strides,” as demonstrated by commercial cargo missions to the ISS and the work toward launch astronauts to the ISS from American soil by 2017.

Another SPACE  (10/5, Kramer) article reported that at the event celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Ansari XPrize win, Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson said the company is “on the verge” of sending SpaceShipTwo into space. Branson stressed that he would not set a date for that event. NBC News  (10/4, Boyle) also details the celebrations.

Engineering and Public Policy

Washington State, DOE Take Legal Action On Hanford.

In continuing coverage the Tri-City Herald (WA)  (10/3, Cary) reported that the Energy Department and Washington state “have turned to federal court to set new deadlines and requirements in the 2010 court-enforced consent decree for Hanford.” On Friday, each filed motions “asking the court to intervene after they failed to reach an agreement by this weekend’s deadline.” In a statement, the Energy Department said, “While the department and the State of Washington share the common objective of completing a successful tank waste cleanup mission at Hanford, we are disappointed that the parties could not agree on a reasonable, achievable path forward.” Gov. Jay Inslee said that he “appreciates the high priority that Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has placed on Hanford environmental cleanup.” However, Inslee said, “The simple fact is the Department of Energy has failed to meet important deadlines. … We need much stronger accountability.”

AEP Asks Ohio Regulators For Guaranteed Income For Four Coal-Fired Power Plants.

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch  (10/3, Gearino) reports Ohio regulators have been asked by American Electric Power “to guarantee income for four coal-fired power plants, adding to a lively debate about how best to maintain an adequate electricity supply.” The proposal “would allow Columbus-based AEP to charge consumers for the cost of operating the plants if the cost exceeds the market value of the electricity generated.” Meanwhile, “consumers would receive a credit if market prices rise above the cost of running the plants.” The Dispatch notes “the plan would lead to a monthly charge of about $2 per month for a typical household starting in June” but, “AEP says there would be a net savings over the first 10 years.”

We Energies Says Existing Solar-Power Users Can Keep Same Plan.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (10/4, Content) reported “responding to feedback from customers who generate their own power from renewable sources, We Energies has agreed to keep the current payment system in place for 10 years.” In the meantime, We Energies “will continue to seek big changes for anyone planning to install a renewable energy system at a home or business.” The company “will formally announce the change in filings with the state Public Service Commission on Tuesday, a day before public hearings that start at 2 and 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Wilson Senior Center in Milwaukee.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Utah Elementary School Launches STEM Promotional Program.

The St. George (UT) Spectrum  (10/4, Sadlier) reports Crimson View Elementary School in St. George, Utah has created a new STEM education initiative, providing hands-on learning through coding, iPad applications, and Legos every Wednesday afternoon for one month. Students were offered choices and signed up by interest, rather than age. The article quotes resounding support for the program.

MIT App Teaches Young Children Basic Computer Coding.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (10/6, Ngowi) reports on Massachusetts Institute of Technology ‘s creation of ScratchJr, an early-coding-education app allowing children as young as five to snap together graphical programming blocks to make customizable characters and settings move, interact, and change size. The article details how the app is being used already by seven-year-olds at Eliot-Pearson Children’s School in Medford, Massachusetts. The project was funded by a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

California STEM Elementary School Scheduled To Grow Amid Demand.

The Sacramento (CA) Bee  (10/4, Kalb) reports on the rapid success of California’s Riverview STEM Academy, a STEM focused charter K-4 elementary school. At 128 students, the school has a waiting list of 150 with plans to double in size and add a fifth grade by 2015. About 15% of students are from outside the district, further illustrating demand. Although boys’ applications outnumbered girls’ 3:1, the classes are split evenly by gender. The article goes on to detail the multidisciplinary and hands-on projects occurring in the classroom, as well as students’ positive receptions. The article also features the credentials and strategies of Principal Tony Peterson, who recruited the school’s five teachers based upon their backgrounds in the sciences.

Friday’s Lead Stories


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