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

Leading the News

Turner Construction To Build $23 Million Research Facility At Langley.

The Newport News (VA) Daily Press  (10/16, Brauchle) reports the US Army Corps of Engineers hired New York City-based Turner Construction to build a $23 million data center and “high-density office space” for the Langley Research Center. Langley’s Center Operations Directorate Director Cathy Mangum said the center will allow computer simulations to “anchor the research and development testing that we perform to meet the NASA mission.” The data center, she added, will allow Langley engineers “to perform advanced computational research and development in an energy efficient and sustainable facility.” Construction is set to begin later this month, with an expected opening date of August 2016.

Higher Education

CFPB Vows To Help Private Student Loan Consumers.

The Huffington Post  (10/16, Nasiripour) reports on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s efforts to address the problems facing “distressed” student loan borrowers, and notes that on Thursday, CFPB issued a report that “finally suggested it would do something.” The piece notes that the report describes the “runarounds and hopelessness distressed student loan borrowers are treated to by lenders and loan servicers,” and reports that CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman Rohit Chopra “said it was time for the agency to examine new rules to better police the historically under-regulated student loan market.” The Post quotes Chopra saying, “That’s something that we are going to take a very close look at … and we are going to weigh every option to see that these problems get corrected. This is something we’re taking very seriously, and we do not want to see a repeat of what happened in mortgages happen here.” Several paragraphs down, the Post reports that ED spokeswoman Dorie Nolt did not comment on the report.

Inside Higher Ed  (10/16, Stratford) reports that the report says that “private student lenders are not doing enough to help struggling borrowers avoid default,” and notes that CFPB “reported a 38 percent increase in” complaints about student loan servicers over the past year. The article notes that Chopra faulted servicers for “simply not allowing distressed borrowers to modify their loan or enter into a more flexible repayment plan.”

The AP  (10/16, Gordon) reports that the report says that many borrowers go into default “because the companies servicing the loans aren’t offering reasonable options for improved terms,” and that “distressed borrowers are receiving scant information or help when they run into trouble with their private student loans.” The report also points out that regulators have made “little progress since last year in nudging companies to offer borrowers more reasonable terms.” The Chicago Tribune  (10/16, Chicago (IL), Tribune) and the Washington Post  (10/16, Marte) also cover this story.

Community College In Arkansas Awarded $9.8 Million For Job-Skills Development.

The West Memphis (AR) Evening Times  (10/16, Threm) reports Arkansas’s Mid-South Community College, in conjunction with the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce, has been awarded a $9.8 million Federal grant from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training, for employment training in manufacturing, transportation, distribution, and logistics jobs. MSCC will receive $4,889,241: other members to receive funding are Southwest Tennessee Community College ($1,654,192), William R. Moore College of Technology ($1,672,000), and Tennessee College of Applied Technology (remainder). The piece highlights the plans and history of the alliance, with quotations from various government and organization leaders attesting to the importance of the initiative. MSCC has received TAACCCT funding for four consecutive years, as well as other grants detailed at the article’s close.

Study: Cash Incentives Increase Remedial Math Completion Rates.

NPR  (10/16) reports that a study conducted by social science research firm MDRC found that students in remedial math courses at Florida’s Hillsborough Community College were more likely to successfully complete their courses if offered a $600 bonus to do so. The article indicates that 87% of students being offered bonuses visited tutors, while only 49% of students not in the program did so.

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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

JPL Develops New 3D Printing System.

The Contra Costa (CA) Times  (10/17, Vuong) reports that Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers are the first to have used use “radial, gradient metals” in 3D printing. Douglas Hofmann, a JPL materials scientist and metallurgist, reportedly said that the new materials they can now print together are “more functional” than more standard ones because of the way they can withstand the extreme environment of space. Hoffman added, “We believe that we’re the first people to use this 3-D printing technique to make a part. We’re able to build this part that has symmetry like a ripple in a pond. … Basically anywhere in space, it’s extreme. There may not be an equivalent here on Earth … so how could we buy material from industry where there is no equal.” R. Peter Dillion, mechanical and materials engineer at JPL, similarly noted, “You can put the material you want with the properties you want. .. You don’t have to compromise.”

PEVs With Smart Grid Tech Demonstrated.

Fierce Energy  (10/16, Vergetis Lundin) reported on the demonstration of “an advanced software platform for integrating plug-in electric vehicles with smart grid technologies,” a project which is a collaboration between “the Electric Power Research Institute, utilities, regional transmission organizations, and auto manufacturers.” According to Fierce Energy, the platform “facilitates communication with electric vehicles, enabling utilities to take advantage of the built-in smart charging capabilities and deploy PEVs to support grid reliability, stability, and efficiency.” The article listed Southern California Edison among the “utilities and regional transmission organizations participating in the software and hardware development and demonstration.”


Fed’s Lockhart Calls For More Automation Skills In Workforce.

In the Wall Street Journal  (10/17) “Real Time Economics” blog, Michael Derby writes that Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said it’s increasingly important for workers to learn skills to navigate automation, robotics, production algorithms and digitization throughout the economy.

Engineering and Public Policy

Technology Writer: Citizenship Streamline For H-1B Visa Would Benefit US Economy.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (10/16, Malone, Subscription Publication), Michael S. Malone argues for more citizenship opportunities for the 1.5 million skilled workers with expired international work visas, of whom tens of thousands abandon hopes of obtaining a resident visa or green card and return home annually, having learned enough from US businesses to start their own abroad. Malone decries this loss of talent and its negative affect on the US economy, and proposes making it easier for immigrants to obtain green cards by adding agents and streamlining approvals.

NRC Report Seen As Laying Groundwork To Restart Yucca Repository.

The New York Times  (10/17, Wald, Subscription Publication) reports that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission yesterday issued a “long-delayed report” on Yucca Mountain, “finding that the design met the commission’s requirements, laying the groundwork to restart the project if control of the Senate changes hands in the elections next month.” The report “set off immediate calls among Republicans to bring the project back to life.” President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are said to be the chief obstacles to the project.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Bayer Donates To New Jersey STEM Program.

New Jersey Local News  (10/16, Mazzola) reports that Bayer donated $100,000 to STEM education nonprofit Students 2 Science, Inc., a program that provides “hands-on, real-world science experiment experience” to students in north and central New Jersey. This week, Bayer President Philip Blake joined New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D) and astronaut Mae Jemison to “present the organization” with the grant money, the company announced. Said Booker, “Bayer, Students 2 Science and I all know that increased education in science, technology, engineering and math drives innovation in our communities, in our state, and throughout our country.”

Trustee Member Warns Silicon Valley May Be Left Behind Due To Lack Of STEM Funding.

Member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees Joseph Di Salvo argues in San Jose (CA) Inside  (10/16) that the area needs to improve teacher quality and school leadership in order to fix the “mismatch…between the needs of the 21st century workforce and the skill sets our public school graduates possesses.” He argues that education should be a realm of “constant change, an incessant cycle of failure and success” and says that since the area lost out on STEM funding and is failing to connect learning to careers, students are at risk of “getting left behind.”

Missouri Receives $2.3 Million Grant To Research Math Education.

The AP  (10/17) reports a National Science Foundation has given a four-year grant of $2.3 million to the University of Missouri to study elementary school math education. The research will assign teachers with special math certificates to classrooms and study the effects of their teaching.

Next Generation Science Standards Lead To More Hands-On Teaching.

The Springfield (IL) State Journal-Register  (10/15, Nevel) reports how the Next Generation Science Standards are changing the way that students learn about science. Teachers interviewed say that the Illinois standards mean they have to do more hands-on work on a narrowed amount of content.

Thursday’s Lead Stories


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