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

Leading the News

Dragon Capsule Splashes Down In The Pacific.

The AP  (10/25) reported that SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft left the ISS on Saturday ans splashed down into the Pacific Ocean “with 3,300 pounds of gear for NASA, including valuable science samples.”

Florida Today  (10/25, Dean) noted that the spacecraft was scheduled to head to port in order to retrieve the “time-sensitive cargo within 48 hours.”

CNN  (10/25, Erdman) reported that Sam Scimemi, director of the International Space Station division at NASA Headquarters, summarized the Dragon’s time at the ISS by saying, “This mission enabled research critical to achieving NASA’s goal of long-duration human spaceflight in deep space.” According to the article, the part of the Rodent Research-1 experiment returned with the Dragon. NASA said that the experiment was part of “ongoing research on how microgravity affects animals, providing information relevant to human spaceflight, discoveries in basic biology and knowledge that may directly affect human health on Earth.” The article also highlighted that the Dragon carried the ISS-RapidScat instrument to the station. Scimemi said, “The delivery of the ISS RapidScatterometer advances our understanding of Earth science, and the 3-D printer will enable a critical technology demonstration.” SpaceX’s next launch is now scheduled for December.

Spaceflight Insider  (10/25, Rhian) listed some of the other experiments brought back to Earth.

SpaceX Will Try To land Booster On Floating Platform. Florida Today  (10/24, Dean) reported that when SpaceX next launches to the ISS in December, it will try to land its Falcon 9 booster on a floating landing platform 300 feet by 170 feet long, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk during a talk at MIT. According to the article, Musk estimates that there is a “50-50 chance” the booster will be able to land on the platform successfully when it makes the attempt for the first time.

Aviation Week  (10/25, Norris) called the platform landing an “interim step” toward a booster able to return to land.

Antares Rocket Brought Out To Pad For Monday’s Launch. Florida Today  (10/25, Dean), in its “Space Notebook” section continues coverage of today’s launch of an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket with a Cygnus cargo spacecraft from the Wallops Flight Facility. The rocket for the ISS cargo mission was moved to the launch pad on Friday. Meanwhile, in other news, the article reported that Jeff Goldstein, director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and its Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), responded to Sen. Tom Coburn’s criticism that student experiments are a waste of taxpayer’s money. Goldstein said that Coburn was “misinformed” and “dead wrong” about the program’s importance, noting that only $50,000 of its $622,500 budget came from the Federal government.

AFP  (10/26) reported that NASA said there is “a 98 percent chance of favorable weather at the time of launch.” The Cygnus spacecraft will be carrying among its cargo the “Drain Brain” experiment, which will look at “how blood flows from the brain to the heart in the absence of gravity.” The article noted that this launch is coming “during a heavy traffic period” of several launches to the ISS.

Prototype Space Telescope Also Launching On Antares Rocket. New Scientist  (10/24, Marks) reported that aboard the Antares rocket will be Planetary Resources’ Arkyd 3 space telescope, a “test vehicle” for the fleet of 10 Arkyd 100 telescopes that the company hopes to one day launch to identify asteroids that could be mined. If the technology test goes well, another prototype will launch in 2015, with the first Arkyd 100 telescope launching the following year. Richard Crowther, chief engineer at the UK Space Agency, said that current UN treaties and conventions will be able to deal with any legal issues that arise from mining asteroids.

Higher Education

New Mexico State, Howard University Aim To Boost Minority Transfer, Retention In Engineering.

The Las Cruces (NM) Sun-News  (10/27, Sullivan) reports a three-year National Science Foundation grant for Broadening Participation in Engineering has launched cooperation between New Mexico State University and Howard University to recruit, catch up, and retain minority engineers from community colleges. Among the program’s key features is a Learn LaunchPad immersive summer course focused on innovation and entrepreneurship to develop research, analytical thinking, and problem-solving skills, as well as senior capstone design course. The piece details NMSU’s multipile transfer agreements with local community colleges, while the partnership will allow Howard University to adopt the NMSU transfer model.

Claremont Graduate University Awarded $3 Million STEM Education Grant.

The San Bernardino (CA) Sun  (10/25, Yarbrough) reports Claremont Graduate University has received a $3 million National Science Foundation grant to pay for the tuition of 15 future STEM teachers, as well as teaching credentials, master degrees, salary, and training for 9 master STEM teachers at the school.

Ohio State University Expands Engineering Program To Sophomores On Its Lima Campus.

WLIO-TV  Lima, OH (10/27, Ferguson) reports Ohio State University will begin offering sophomore engineering classes on its Lima Campus next fall. Presently only freshmen take classes there before transferring to the main campus. On Thursday, almost a dozen local businesses visited OSU Lima to provide more engineering opportunities to students in the way of internships and co-ops.

ED Gives Florida College Grants For Hispanic STEM Students.

The AP  (10/27) reports that ED is giving Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida “$7 million in grants to help Hispanic and other minority students who are pursuing high-demand science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related programs and careers.” The piece notes that the Title V grants “will help increase the number of Hispanic and other students pursuing degrees in the STEM fields and prepare them for careers in these growing sectors and post-baccalaureate computer science-related degrees.” The Winter Haven (FL) News Chief  (10/26) also covers this story.

Trial Set To Open In CCSF Accreditation Lawsuit.

The San Francisco Chronicle  (10/27, Asimov) reports that the trial over whether the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges acted legally in moving to strip City College of San Francisco of its accreditation opens on Monday. The article describes the stakes for an “audience of students, taxpayers, faculty and public officials” who are stakeholders in the case, and fleshes out the arguments in the “emotional debate over the value of a beloved college versus an accrediting commission’s right to hold it accountable.”

WPost: “Phony Classes” Scandal Leads To Questions About Value Of Degrees.

The Washington Post  (10/26) editorializes that the “phony classes” scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows the need for “universities to hold themselves more accountable.” In the aftermath of more than 3,100 students receiving high grades for work they did not perform, the Post says it “see[s] pitfalls in government” mandated tests of college students abilities, but future students, parents paying for tuition, and “employers in search of workers all have a right to know what a degree is worth.”

Candidates Court Recent College Grads Without Jobs.

The Wall Street Journal  (10/27, Belkin, Subscription Publication) reports that politicians, especially Democrats, are increasingly courting recent college graduates who have struggled to find jobs amid high unemployment and record student debt. The Democrats’ strategy involves blaming the GOP for blocking a Democrat-sponsored bill to let borrowers refinance their student debt, according to the Journal. The strategy of targeting young voters may be a risky one, as young voters are among the least likely to vote. A recent WSJ/NBC News poll found that a mere 29 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds were very interested in this election, compared to 64 percent of those 65 and older.

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Research and Development

Cal Poly Shares $1M Telescope Grant For Researching The Solar System’s Origins.

The San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune  (10/25, Wilson) reports Cal Poly and the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado have received a five-year $1 million collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation for telescopes and training in 40 rural communities along the Western United States, measuring the size of Kuiper Belt Objects to better understand the origins of the solar system beginning April 2015. The subset of research is described as relatively new. The project leaders are currently recruiting team members, while 14 pilot communities have already participated in the work as part of the Research and Education Collaborative Occultation Network.

Pinnacle Data Founder Helps Ohio State University Build Potassium-Air Battery Business.

The Columbus (OH) Business First  (10/27, Ghose) reports Pinnacle Data Founder John Bair is helping Ohio State University students and professors bring a 95% efficient, clean potassium-air battery out of the lab and into industry, signing on as CEO of KAir Energy Systems. The company plans to infiltrate the utility industry initially, with six months to develop a moped battery using a $50,000 Ohio Third Frontier grant, eventually to be scaled for larger applications, including the storage of renewable energies. In the meantime, the company is furthering the safety and performance of the battery while striving to keep maintenance simple. It could take up to two years and additional technology to get a product certified for utility usages.

Engineering and Public Policy

Former TVA Chair: GOP Senate Win Could Spur Opening Of Yucca Mountain.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (10/27, Subscription Publication), Glenn McCullough, former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, writes that if the GOP takes control of the Senate, that Chamber might finally act to begin storing long-term nuclear waste at the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada. McCullough says that on October 16, the NRC issued a report arguing that the facility meets all the government’s long-term concerns, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has blocked its use.

Fracking Driving Down The Cost Of Oil.

USA Today  (10/27, Jervis) reports that the national decrease in oil prices is in part due to increases in oil production in Texas, which “topped three million barrels a day this year fr the first time since the late 1970’s,” the Energy Information Administration said. The increased production is thanks to fracking, which can also help mitigate price fluctuation.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Robotics Competition Prepares Local Students For High Tech Future.

North Escambia (FL)  (10/27) reports, “Young scientists from 14 area middle and high schools tested their science, math and problem-solving skills at the seventh annual Emerald Coast BEST Robotics competition Saturday at the University of West Florida.” The article noted, “Gulf Power has sponsored the BEST Robotics competition for the past seven years.” Gulf Power spokesperson Jeff Rogers said, “This annual competition has continued to grow in popularity because it provides local students the opportunity to learn engineering, science and math skills in a hands-on practical setting. … Gulf Power is very proud to sponsor an event that has such a visible impact on local students.”

The Pensacola (FL) News Journal  (10/27, Isern) also reports, “The competition is sponsored by Gulf Power, and aims to promote an interest in the so-call STEM areas of learning, or science, technology, engineering and math, said Gulf Power account manager Vaughn Nichols.” Nichols said, “This is about workforce development for us. … We find that when we hire somebody, they often times need training. If we can get these kids interested in this kind of work early on, maybe they will go on to study in one of these areas in college. They’re going to be better prepared to go to work for us because of programs like this.”

Some Wyoming Districts Revising Science Standards In Wake Of Halt At State Level.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle  (10/26, Curtis) reports that in the wake of a decision by the Wyoming state legislature prohibiting the State Board of Education from using the Next Generation Science Standards in revising state standards, the board has ceased to work on the standards, but some districts have decided to continue to revise science curricula. Arguments regarding the standards in the legislature reportedly have been chiefly about the importance of evolution in biology and the status of man-caused climate change. Wyoming Education Association President Kathy Vetter pointed out that districts have authority under state law to adopt more stringent standard than the state, and around 15 districts are moving in that direction.

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