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

Leading the News

Georgia State University College Of Education Receives $7.5 Million Federal Grant.

The Digital Journal  (10/20) reports the US Department of Education has awarded the Georgia State University College of Education $7.5 million for its Collaboration and Resources for Encouraging and Supporting Transformations in Education program. The program is designed to increase the number of teachers committed to high-need schools in urban and rural settings by partnering partner with Albany State University, Columbus State University, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and nine county school systems to recruit, train and support 250-300 students who want to teach in STEM fields in conjunction with the college’s Federally funded Network for Chancing Teacher Quality. The college and its partners will also pair graduates with mentors, offer professional development, and provide support.

Higher Education

New College Rating System May Use Flawed Graduation Rates.

An analysis in the Chronicle of Higher Education  (10/20) reports on speculation that new US Department of Education college-ratings will include graduation rates only including first-time, full-time students to graduate within a certain time frame. First-time, full-time students comprised only 55% of students newly enrolled in 2012 and only 41% at community colleges, excluding millions. The piece moves onto better data collected by the National Student Clearinghouse, which follows students over longer periods and across schools, doubling community college graduation rates. The clearinghouse can only provide the data to the Education Department with institutions’ permission, however, while lawmakers currently only allow for students who received Federal grants or loans to be included.

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Research and Development

Mazanek Shows Off Prototype System That Could One Day Be Used On ARM.

The Newport News (VA) Daily Press  (10/18, Dietrich) reported on the work by a team led by Dan Mazanek of the Langley Research Center “to develop a full-scale, prototype robotic system” for the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). This is just one of the concepts currently under consideration. Speaking about ARM in general and its potential toward pushing people to Mars one day, Mazanek said, “The promise of this type of a mission in the big scheme of things — in terms of opening up space for exploration and space resources — this is like the Wright brothers’ first flight, in some sense.” Mazanek displayed the system to officials including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who “had just helped launch a new $52 million integrated engineering services building” at Langley, Langley Director Steve Jurczyk, and NASA Deputy Associate Administrator Lesa Roe, Reps. Scott Rigell and Bobby Scott, and Hampton Mayor George Wallace. According to the article, NASA is expected to choose which system will be used for ARM by the end of the year.

CASIS Awards Grants For New Research Platforms At The ISS.

The PC Magazine  (10/19, Poeter) reported that the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) announced several grants for the development of “an augmented reality (AR) system for conducting scientific experiments, a hardware-based solution for dampening fluctuations and disturbances in the microgravity environment of the space station, and a ‘spacecraft-on-a-chip experimental satellite platform’” at the ISS. CASIS chief operating officer Duane Ratliff said that the projects will bring “world-class facilities and innovative platforms” for research at the station, which is “already…an unparalleled platform.”

SCE’s Energy Storage Projects Profiled.

The Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun  (10/17, Roth) reports that “affordable battery storage is on the verge of becoming a reality — and several businesses and research groups with a footprint in the Coachella Valley are helping lead the charge.” The article notes that Southern California Edison “plans to install a storage test project in the city of Orange next year,” according to SCE’s Mark Irwin. The project “will supplement Orange’s particularly stressed distribution system with 3.9 megawatt-hours of energy storage.” Regarding home energy storage, Irwin says it could help consumers “reduce their electricity costs or power their homes during blackouts,” but SCE executives “don’t believe the technology will become cheap enough to allow most consumers to leave the grid.” The article also notes SCE’s “record-breaking” Tehachapi Energy Storage Project.

NSF Funds Massachusetts Wind Energy Research Center.

Lowell (MA) Sun  (10/20, Silver) reports that the University of Massachusetts-Lowell has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to create a new research center to bring “industry and university experts in wind energy together to solve mutual problems and advance the field.” The article reports that the Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Wind Energy Science, Technology and Research “was established earlier this year with the goal of enhancing research and development in the field of wind energy and providing world-class training to students at the undergraduate and graduate level.”

California Project Seeks To Store Renewable Energy.

Bloomberg News  (10/18, McFerron) reports Southern California Edison has collected over 600,000 lithium-ion battery cells at a substation in order to collect power generated from the area’s 5,000 wind turbines and store it for future use. The two-year test project will help find the “Holy Grail” of cost-effective storage for wind and solar energy

Industry News

Aerojet Rocketdyne Making Parts For Mars 2020 Rover.

The Sacramento (CA) Business Journal  (10/17, Wiese, Subscription Publication) reported that Aerojet Rocketdyne has been given a contract by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop the motors for the rover launching to Mars in 2020. The company has also been tasked by the Department of Energy to make the rover’s power supply that is “nuclear, with no moving parts,” according to Larry Trager, director of advanced power systems.

Engineering and Public Policy

Virginia SCC Staff: EPA Carbon Rules Would Lead To Higher Electricity Prices, Reliability Concerns.

The AP  (10/17) reports that in comments filed this week with the EPA, the staff of the Virginia State Corporation Commission said that the EPA’s proposed carbon-cutting rules would “would lead to a rise in electricity prices” because they would require replacing currently electricity production with “costly generation and expensive programs to decrease energy use.” Virginia utilities “will have to shut down fossil-fuel power plants reliably producing 2,851 megawatts of electricity, and replace that generation with just 351 megawatts of wind power,” which the SCC staff says “raises alarming regional reliability concerns.” Drawing coverage from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the article reports that the SCC staff says it made an “indicative cost analysis” that complying with the rules would cost Dominion Virginia Power customers “an extra $5.5 to $6 billion.” Environmental groups said the SCC staff analysis “is just plain wrong.” The SCC staff said its comments “should not be construed” as representing the SCC commissioners’ views.

Deaths Of Birds At Southern California Solar Plant Being Investigated.

The AP  (10/17) reported that “federal wildlife officials are investigating as many as 60 bird deaths at a Southern California solar plant.” According to US Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Jane Hendron “the birds apparently got caught up in an oily substance in evaporation ponds at the Genesis solar plant west of Blythe near the Arizona border.” It is “not yet known what species of birds died.” Hendron said, “We are still gathering facts.” NextEra Energy Resources spokesman Steven Stengel said that “between 50 and 60 birds were found dead Monday in two ponds” and “the company is cooperating with the investigation.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Newman Reportedly Expects To Advocate For STEM As NASA Deputy.

The Helena (MT) Independent Record  (10/18, Deedy) continued coverage of how Dava Newman of MIT has been nominated by President Obama to be the next NASA Deputy Administrator. According to the article, Newman “certainly” expects to be an advocate for science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEM) education, as well as “incorporating the field of commercial space travel and moving toward NASA’s long range goal of sending astronauts to Mars.”

Girls Only STEM Workshop Provides Hands-On Experience For Students.

The Baltimore Sun  (10/18) reports the Naval Academy hosted another Girls Only STEM Workshop consisting of activities that “are similar to what undergraduates are taught at the academy.” The girls participated in hands-on activities while parents sat in lectures about STEM education and college preparation. Students gathered information using graphing calculators, programmed robots, and simulated how to test for infections diseases.

Kansas Faces Shortage Of Math, Science Teachers Amid Retirements.

The Greenfield (IN) Daily Reporter  (10/20) reports on increasing shortages of science and math teachers in Kansas, expected among increasing retirements. A University of Kansas Center for STEM Learning study found nearly 20% of middle- and high-school math and science teachers will be eligible for retirement in three years, with an average 140 becoming eligible each year between now and 2030; Kansas will need to recruit over 200 annually to offset the losses, but only recruits 125 currently. The article also mentions the growing popularity of STEM classes among students. To help with recruitment, new state laws allow for professionals who lack traditional preparation to teach with at least five years of work experience in science or math.

Also in the News

Curiosity Chief Engineer Writes “Firsthand Account” About Rover.

Science News  (10/18, Crockett) reviewed “Mars Rover Curiosity,” a “firsthand account” of the rover’s mission written by its chief engineer Rob Manning and coauthor William L. Simon. The book describes how the Curiosity team designed “the most complex piece of machinery ever to land on another planet.” The story is told “within the context of previous Mars missions and the culture at NASA,” noting that it is “more than just a story about a nuclear-powered, laser-wielding robot, the book is about the people who brought Curiosity to life.”

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