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

Leading the News

CDC Responds To “Sudden Increase” In Demand For Ebola Protective Equipment.

Reuters  (11/7, Abutaleb) reported on CDC plans to bolster supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) in light of what the agency called a “sudden increase” in demand. A statement issued by the agency said that it will spend $2.7 million on PPE, divided into 50 units that can be deployed to US hospitals. Reuters adds that the supply of PPE in the US is hampered by growing demand in West Africa.

The Hill  (11/7, Ferris) reported that Greg Burel, director of CDC’s Division of Strategic National Stockpile, said in a press release, “We are making certain to not disrupt the orders submitted by states and hospitals, but we are building our stocks so that we can assist when needed.”

Dressmaker Working On Johns Hopkins Challenge For Better Protective Suit. The Washington Post  (11/10, Contrera) reports on bridal gown designer Jill Andrews’ efforts to devise a more effective suit to protect health workers from Ebola infections, focusing on her participation in a design challenge hosted by Johns Hopkins University, which was to submit its best plans to USAID. The Post also highlights some of the new designs, but notes that the “details are secret until Johns Hopkins can secure a patent and submit ideas to USAID,” and adds that the team is continuing work.

Higher Education

Plan Would Restore CCSF Trustees To Power In 2016.

The San Francisco Chronicle  (11/11) reports that under a new plan from California State Chancellor Brice Harris, City College of San Francisco’s elected board of trustees, “stripped of power in 2013, would have to wait until July 2016 before regaining full authority.” The piece notes that Harris replaced the board “with a ‘special trustee with extraordinary powers’ last year after a commission announced it would revoke accreditation from City College in 2014, in part because it considered the elected board to be ineffective at addressing the fiscal and governance problems at the college.” The article explains that ED has pressured the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to give CCSF “two more years to comply with accreditation standards under a new policy called ‘restoration status.’”

Many Schools Facing OCR Investigations Had Received Sexual Violence Prevention Grants.

A FiveThirtyEight  (11/11) article explores the case of a University of Michigan freshmen who in 2009 “was allegedly raped by another freshman, a kicker on the school’s football team,” and describes how the case led to the school “being placed under investigation in February for violations of the gender-equity law Title IX.” The article notes that ED is investigating such cases at 86 colleges nationwide, but says that the University of Michigan case “stands out” because “between 2004 and 2011, Michigan received nearly $1.1 million through a grant program sponsored by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) that gives funding to colleges to better handle and prevent sexual violence on campus.” The piece reports that other schools which have received such grants have had also subsequently “made headlines for their alleged mistreatment of victims, and many of those cases have resulted in pending Title IX investigations.”

Michelle Singletary: Student Loan Debt Shatters Dream Of Owning A Home.

Nationally syndicated columnist Michelle Singletary writes in the Buffalo (NY) News  (11/10, Michelle) on the impact of student loan debt on home ownership, the number one obstacle reported by those with such debt in a recent survey from the nonprofit NeighborWorks America. Out of all surveyed, a lack of a down payment and job security were listed as top barriers, with student debt ranked last. The piece closes with calls for families to consider alternatives such as commuting to school or attending community college.

November Prism Online (ASEE members only)
The cover story, “Corporate Blinders,” presents an engineering ethics case study.

ASEE Perks
ASEE launches “ASEE Perks” a new collection of discounted products and services, only for members.

Research and Development

USA Today Op-eds Debate Worth Of Manned Spaceflight Following Recent Crashes.

USA Today  (11/10) reports that the recent Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crashes highlight the “inherent dangers of the thermal rocketry,” which is still very expensive and not likely to come down in price any time soon. According to the article, the most “exciting things,” whether from NASA or private spaceflight, involve unmanned spacecraft. To the editors, the robots sent into space have “increased exponentially,” whereas they imply that little exciting comes from manned spaceflight.

However, in an opposing op-ed in USA Today  (11/10), Lyn D. Wigbels, president of the American Astronautical Society, writes that there should not be an “either-or” debate of manned versus unmanned spaceflight because both are needed. While manned spaceflight is more costly, it is “unsurpassed” in ‘inspirational benefits and productivity.”

ARM Extremely “Fragile” With Republicans In Control Of Congress.

Scientific American  (11/10, Billings) reported that NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is “more fragile than even,” even though Michele Gates, NASA’s program director for ARM, said that the project is reaching “developmental milestones.” According to the article, the project may be doomed because Congress is now controlled by Republicans who oppose the plan. The article details how NASA reached this position where “almost every key space policy constituency” dislikes the project. If the project is canceled, “inertia and internecine conflict” may send NASA “boldly going nowhere.”

Friedman: NASA Currently Has The Most Sustainable Spaceflight Plan. In an op-ed for the Space Review  (11/10), Louis Friedman, Executive Director-Emeritus of the Planetary Society, wrote that the recent commercial spaceflight accidents show that a “vital” government space program is still needed. Friedman believes that “especially important” is for the public to support NASA’s current manned spaceflight plans, which are more affordable and sustainable than “the unsustainable ‘Apollo on steroids,’ ‘Mars Direct,’ or the National Research Council’s “build me a nuclear rocket” programs that get unrealistic enthusiasm and promotion.” While Friedman does not want the U.S. to abandon commercial spaceflight, he notes that NASA has to be supported because it can do what the private sector cannot at this time: “long-term exploration” not motivated by profit.

Cassini Makes The First Oceanographic Measurements Of An Off-World Sea.

The Christian Science Monitor  (11/10, Spotts) reported on the “Magic Islands” the Cassini spacecraft has observed on one of Titan’s liquid hydrocarbon seas. Alexander Hayes of Cornell University discussed these features, which “appear, disappear, then re-appear,” during a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Planetary Sciences. Hayes also reportedly described how Cassini has been “unexpectedly adept” at determining the depths and compositions of these seas, as well as the topology of the seafloor. Cassini now has the distinction of making “the first-ever oceanographic measurements on another planet.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Commentary: H-1B Visa Cap Too Low.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (11/11, Subscription Publication), Sofia Faurqi, a portfolio manager, argues that the cap on H-1B visas, currently at 85,000, is far too low. This year, more than 172,000 individuals applied for the visas, with winners determined by lottery. She says that demand is high because companies are struggling to find needed talent.

Republicans Vow To Combat EPA, Approve Keystone.

The New York Times  (11/11, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports that the incoming, GOP-controlled Congress is “headed for a clash with the White House over two ambitious” EPA regulations that are “the heart” of the Presidents climate change platform. Republicans are targeting the new regulations restricting coal-fired power plants, while they are also vowing to push through the Keystone pipeline. The Times says that “at this point,” the GOP doesn’t have “the votes to repeal the E.P.A. regulations,” but “say they will use their new powers to delay, defund and otherwise undermine them.”

Democrats Hope To Make Hay Over Inhofe’s Climate Stance. Politico  (11/10, Schor, Burns) says that Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) is “the Hill’s most flamboyant critic of climate research, denouncing the concept of man-made global warming as a ‘hoax’ and a ‘conspiracy.’” Now he is about to take the chairmanship “of the committee that oversees environmental policy,” and Democrats “aspire to make Inhofe the face of GOP know-nothingism.” The “liberal opposition research group American Bridge plans to monitor Inhofe’s every utterance on climate change,” and then use it to attack Republicans in the next election.

Transportation Funding Looms Large For Next Congress.

The Washington Post  (11/11, Halsey) reports that transportation funding hasn’t figured largely in the post-election “discussion,” but it should be near the top of the agenda, as funding is set to run out on May 31. The Post says that an “estimated $6.5 billion would keep highway projects afloat and construction workers employed” until the end of FY15, but “it would take about $100 billion in additional revenue to fund a six-year transportation bill that virtually everyone considers ideal.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

DeKalb County, Georgia Doubles Its Count Of “STEM” Schools To Four.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (11/11, Tagami) reports the DeKalb County, Georgia School District has doubled its number of certified STEM schools from two to four. The piece briefly describes STEM schools’ collaborative, problem solving focuses after listing the new additions.

California State University Northridge Gets $797,000 Grant To Attract STEM Teachers.

The Los Angeles Daily News  (11/10) reports California State University Northridge has received a $797,000 National Science Foundation grant to encourage STEM majors to become middle and high school teachers, offering Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships for up to $12,000 annually and two years per student.

Monday’s Lead Stories


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