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

Leading the News

More Minorities Students Obtain Tech Degrees, But Do Not Get Hired.

USA Today  (10/13, Weise, Guynn) reports from San Francisco that top universities “turn out black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them, a USA TODAY analysis shows.” Technology firms “blame the pool of job applicants for the severe shortage of blacks and Hispanics in Silicon Valley,” but “these findings show that claim ‘does not hold water,’ said Darrick Hamilton, professor of economics and urban policy at The New School in New York.” USA notes that tech companies “are under growing pressure to diversify their workforces, which are predominantly white, Asian and male,” but figures show that on average, “just 2% of technology workers at seven Silicon Valley companies that have released staffing numbers are black; 3% are Hispanic,” while 4.5% “of all new recipients of bachelor’s degrees in computer science or computer engineering from prestigious research universities were African American, and 6.5% were Hispanic.”

Higher Education

NASA Grant Helps Women Entering Science Education.

The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel  (10/9) reported that Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee will use a grant from NASA to create scholarships for women entering science, technology, engineering, and math programs. The Tennessee Community College Space Grant gave almost $500,000 to five community colleges in the state. Pellissippi State will use a portion of its funds to hire a “completion coach,” for memberships in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and for travel to the IEEE SoutheastCon’s robotics competition and to the NASA Summer Robotics Institute.

Texas State University Wins $600,000 STEM Grant.

The San Marcos (TX) Daily Record  (10/13) reports Texas State University has received a $600,000 grant from the US Department of Education’s Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program to increase the ethnic minority representation in STEM careers.

Advocates Hail Rising Number Of Campus Sexual Assault Reports.

The Huffington Post  (10/13, Kingkade) reports that experts and advocates are calling an increased number of reports of campus sexual assault “a positive sign,” in that “it suggests that more victims are coming forward – rather than that more crime is taking place.” Noting that the reports are part of colleges’ annual Clery Act reports, the Post notes that schools can face up to $35,000 in ED fines for under-reporting. Notably, such schools as California’s Occidental College, which are facing scrutiny from ED’s Office for Civil Rights, reported significant upticks in reports.

Failing To Complete College Leaves Students With Debt, No Improvement In Prospects.

The Wall Street Journal  (10/13, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that Americans are attending college in record numbers in recent years, but the number who don’t complete a degree is also rising. Those that drop out are often saddled with significant debt, and have job prospects not significantly better than their peers who never attended college.

Proposed Higher Education Act Reauthorizations Aim To Reduce Student Loan Debt.

Nerd Wallet  (10/12, Rice) overviews Sen. Tom Harkin’s proposed reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which would increase state contributions to public universities, support community colleges, and expand programs allowing high school students to earn college credit. As part of the reauthorization, the House recently passed three bills including the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, designed to better prepare students taking on student loans as well as allow private loans to be discharged in bankruptcy, establish income-based repayment systems, and make the collections process more consumer-friendly. The Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act would simplify financial aid applications into two questions: one about income and one about household size. The piece closes on the wage gap between high school and college graduates, arguing college remains a worthwhile investment.

ASEE-Developed Resources for K-12 Teachers of Engineering
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ASEE Perks
ASEE launches “ASEE Perks” a new collection of discounted products and services, only for members.

ASEE Members on Professional Leadership Opportunities
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Research and Development

Researchers Create Flexible Conductive Plastics.

R&D Magazine  (10/10) reported that newly developed plastic materials that can conduct electricity called “radical polymers” could “bring low-cost, transparent solar cells, flexible and lightweight batteries, and ultrathin antistatic coatings for consumer electronics and aircraft.” The article notes that researchers have identified “the solid-state electrical properties of one such polymer, called PTMA,” and quotes Purdue University chemical engineering professor Bryan Boudouris saying, “It’s a polymer glass that conducts charge, which seems like a contradiction because glasses are usually insulators.”

NIH Gives University Of Illinois, Mayo Clinic Grant To Develop Gene-Based Data Device.

The Urbana/Champaign (IL) News-Gazette  (10/10) reports that the National Institute of Health has given the University of Illinois and the Mayo Clinic a $9.34 million grant “to develop a new tool to help doctors and biologists better analyze gene-based data.” Noting that the grant is “is part of a $656 million initiative, called Big Data to Knowledge,” the paper reports that NIH gave $32 million “to 12 different centers where researchers will build new software and training programs and develop approaches that will allow scientists to better understand human health and diseases.”

Industry News

University of Kentucky Professor Testifies On UAS Potential.

WDRB-TV  Louisville, KY (10/10, Green) reported online that University of Kentucky mechanical engineering Prof. Suzanne Weaver Smith told Kentucky legislators this past week that the state’s economy would benefit tremendously from opening up the skies to commercial drones, yielding an “economic impact of drone-related activity in the state at $537 million over the next decade, including more than $5 million in new tax revenue and hundreds of jobs.” The article mentioned Secretary Foxx’s comments on the FAA decision to allow six film companies to use drones for filming purposes, with Foxx having described the agency’s permits as a “significant milestone” for integrating UAS into US airspace.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Adoption Of Computers In K-12 Education Becoming More Widespread.

TIME  (10/13) reports on the increasing role computers are playing in K-12 education, noting that President Obama last year “announced a federal effort to get a laptop, tablet or smartphone into the hands of every student in every school in the US and to pipe in enough bandwidth to get all 49.8 million American kids online simultaneously by 2017.” Advocates say students are more engaged because they are using technology that they also use outside of the classroom, and they are able to integrate video into lessons and their work. Critics point out introducing the technology requires more than purchasing devices for students to use, and question the increased exposure to screens, especially among younger students.

University of Tampa Robotics Contest Draws 1,000 Aspiring Engineers.

The Tampa (FL) Tribune  (10/12, Fox) reports the annual Roboticon at The University of Tampa attracted about 1,000 high school-age students from around the state, interviewing members of one particular team of 20 and describing the various competitions. The event was presented by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The weekend was filled with competitions as well as workshops on robot programming and design, with cash prizes and valuable experience for those participating.

Washington State Students Benefiting From Tablets In Classrooms.

The Clark County (WA) Columbian  (10/12) reports Clark County, Washington is introducing tablets to the classroom “rather than using an outdated textbook.” Teachers have seen the benefits as the devices have allowed students to explore topics more in-depth than a normal textbook would and laud how curriculum can be tailored for students and software can be used to enhance learning experiences. The article profiles how several teachers in the area have used the tablets to enhance instruction in Language Arts, Physical Education, and English Language Instruction.

Friday’s Lead Stories


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