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

Leading the News

Philae Lands On Comet With Some Difficulties.

NBC Nightly News (11/12, lead story, 3:05, Williams), in its lead story, broadcast that the ESA’s Rosetta mission successfully set down a lander on the surface of a comet, a task that was “anything but easy.” NASA’s Claudia Alexander said, “I think it was bold. It took a certain amount of ambition, shall we say, to even attempt to do this.” However, reporter Katy Tur said that while there was “initial good news,” there is “confusion” over whether the lander was still on the surface. Despite the potential problem, some data has been collected. NASA Planetary Science Director Jim Green, explaining the scientific importance of the mission, said, “A comet was formed before Earth was and it brings an enormous amount of water with it. Now, we are a water planet. Where did our water come from? And one of the ideas is indeed a lot of the water came from outer space through comets and meteorites.” Meanwhile, anchor Brian Williams led the broadcast by stating that the milestone “reminded Americans and people all over the world what it feels like to dream and explore.”

The CBS Evening News (11/12, lead story, 3:15, Pelley) also led its broadcast with the successful landing by the Philae lander, which “bounced” when it first touched down because of a failed landing system. Reporter Matt Taylor said that ESA officials will attempt to regain contact with the lander this morning.

ABC World News (11/12, story 5, 1:50, Muir) broadcast that while the health of the lander is still not known, researchers are “singing the praises” of the mission.

The AP  (11/12, Jordans) notes that it appeared that the Philae landed “almost perfectly” except for the “unexpected bounce” and failed anchoring system. Still, the process was a “huge success.” Because of NASA’s contributions to the mission, John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for science, said this was a breakthrough moment in the exploration of our solar system and a milestone for international cooperation. The data collected by Rosetta will provide the scientific community, and the world, with a treasure-trove of data.”

USA Today  (11/12, Watson) reports that the “jubilation” from the landing was “quickly overshadowed” over the lander’s current situation. Like the AP, the article claimed that the mission is “a victory” no matter what happens at this point.

According to the New York Times  (11/12, Chang, Subscription Publication), Philae is now conducting “64 hours of scientific operations before its batteries drain.”

The Los Angeles Times  (11/12, Netburn, Mai-Duc) reports that while the lander’s status is “uncertain,” it has made “space exploration history.”

Higher Education

Female STEM Researchers Visit Capitol.

Roll Call  (11/13, Rojas, Subscription Publication) reports several research fellows in STEM subjects are in Washington, DC this week to promote women in science fields. In addition to receiving awards, the group of women will be at special events on Capitol Hill, the White, and the National Museum of Natural History. The fellows will also receive $60,000 in research grants.

API San Antonio Provides Engineering Student Scholarships.

In the “Morning Edition” blog the San Antonio Business Journal  (11/12, Thomas, Subscription Publication) reports that the San Antonio Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute recently awarded 10 engineering students scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 as part of its annual scholarships. Over the last two years the chapter “has given more than $500,000 in scholarship funds to local universities.”

Mitchell Says ED Should Have More Regulatory Authority Over Colleges’ Academic Failings.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (11/13) reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, speaking at a panel on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act hosted by the New American Foundation Wednesday, said that a retooled HEA should give ED “new authority to crack down on abuses such as the system of sham ‘paper classes’ at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” The Chronicle quotes Mitchell saying, “Some part of my soul is also a troubled regulator.” Mitchell “echoed suggestions, made by other panelists, that the department punish colleges that do not provide students with a rigorous education.”

College Board: Annual Higher Education Borrowing Drops, Tuition Growth Slows.

The New York Times  (11/13, Pérez-Peña, Subscription Publication) reports that the College Board is releasing a report on Thursday indicating that “after years of steep increases in college prices and student debt, turning both into major economic and public policy concerns, the real costs of college and student borrowing have leveled off.” However, the authors of the report “said they could not tell whether the changes marked the start of a shift toward better news on the economics of higher education or just a temporary pause in more worrisome trends.” Moreover, the report says that college costs are still “dauntingly high” and are likely to remain so.

The Washington Post  (11/12, Anderson) reports that the College Board said Thursday that “annual borrowing for higher education is falling significantly…while growth in the sticker price of college is continuing a recent slowdown.” The report found that college borrowing fell to $106 billion last year, “down nearly 8 percent from the previous year after accounting for inflation, and down 13 percent from a peak of $122.1 billion in 2010-2011.” Meanwhile, after a “spike” in tuition increases attributable to the recession, “the published price of college is rising moderately.”

US Graduate Schools Increasingly Rely On Asia, India.

The Wall Street Journal  (11/13, Belkin, Subscription Publication) reports applications to US graduate schools from Asia have increased 8% this year, led by India. The piece contextualizes the growing demand for master’s degrees in the job market. Ramifications include 40% of the $1.2 trillion in US student debt being owed by graduate students, who make up 14% of university enrollees. Between 2008 and 2013, graduate enrollment increased .7% with international student growth between 7 and 10% each of the past four years; additionally, admission offers to Indian students have increased 30% and 24% the past two years, respectively.

Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post  (11/12) “Answer Sheet” blog, that according to a new report from the nonprofit Council of Graduate Schools, the US “remains a popular destination for international graduate students despite increased competition.” The data show that “China sends the most to U.S. schools, followed by India and South Korea — although the flow of students from China declined for the first time since the data started to be collected a decade ago.” The report also says that “the total graduate enrollment increased by 8 percent between fall 2013 and fall 2014,” and that “17 percent of all graduate students in U.S. graduate institutions come from other countries — up from 14.5 percent in 2012.”

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

Glenn Research Center To Help Businesses Solve Manufacturing Challenges.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer  (11/12, Pledger) reports that the Glenn Research Center has announced the Roadshow, which will make those from Glenn available “to manufacturers in the Akron/Canton areas to solve technical challenges with a new or existing product, or with their manufacturing operations.” The Roadshow “is part of a federally funded, three-year experimental program developed to comply with a White House directive that NASA and other federal agencies accelerate their technology transfer activities.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Media Reports: House, Senate To Vote On Keystone Due To Louisiana Runoff Politics.

McClatchy  (11/13, Lightman, Subscription Publication) reports that on Wednesday, Sen. Mary Landrieu and her Louisiana runoff opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), “staked out strong positions on approving the Keystone XL pipeline, positions that could lead to congressional votes this week.” McClatchy says Landrieu “urged her Senate colleagues to approve the project,” while Cassidy is sponsoring a House bill that would lead to the project’s construction that the House is “expected to consider Thursday.”

USA Today  (11/12, Davis) reports that Landrieu, “with the backing of like-minded Democrats, helped secure an agreement for a vote next Tuesday on legislation that would immediately authorize TransCanada to build the…pipeline,” which “has been under review at the State Department and faces opposition from most congressional Democrats and environmental groups.” USA Today says that in the Senate, 11 Democrats support the project, which brings the total to 56, not enough to override a potential Presidential veto. The AP  (11/13, Cassata) reported that the White House “had no immediate comment” on the House and Senate votes.

The Hill  (11/12, Barron-Lopez) noted that Cassidy released a statement reading: “The House has passed legislation to expedite the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline eight times, The Senate did not consider any of the eight.” Reuters  (11/13) quotes Cassidy as saying, “It is easy to wonder if the Senate is only considering this because of politics. Even so, I hope the Senate and the president do the right thing and pass this legislation.”

Support For Keystone XL, Fracking Declines.

The Hill  (11/12, Barron-Lopez) reports that a Pew Research poll released on Wednesday found that “support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline among Democrats across the US has fallen 11 percentage points since March of last year.” According to the poll, only 43 percent of Democrats support the pipeline, compared to 54 percent in 2013. The poll also found that 59 percent of Americans overall support the pipeline, which is down 7 percent since March 2013.

The National Journal  (11/12, Foran, Subscription Publication) also reported on the new Pew Research poll. The article also noted that there was a “flip in public opinion from March 2013” on the issue of fracking. According to the poll 47 percent of Americans oppose the practice while 41 percent support it, while in March 2013 48 percent were in favor and 38 percent were opposed.

Renewable Energy Loan Program That Funded Solyndra To Generate $5 Billion, Says Report.

Bloomberg News  (11/13, Doom) reports that the renewable-energy loan program “that funded flops including Solyndra LLC,” is expected to generate between $5 billion and $6 billion in returns, according to a new report that will be released Thursday. The results “contradict the widely held view that the US has wasted taxpayer money,” and “adds to Obama’s credibility as he seeks to make climate change a bigger priority.” The Energy Department has no disclosed terms for investments in specific companies, and has declined to estimate how much the rest of its portfolio may earn. Currently, the Energy Department is “finalizing requests for bids on nuclear power projects and considering ones linked to energy-efficiency projects and advanced fuels.”

NPR  (11/13) reports “now that the loan program is turning a profit,” past critics of the program “are silent. They either declined or ignored NPR’s requests for comment. And with that, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz wants to change your perception of his agency’s loan program.” Moniz said, “It literally kick-started the whole utility-scale photovoltaic industry.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

New Programs Launched At Long Island Schools.

Newsday  (11/13) reports on various new programs being launched by elementary and secondary schools in Long Island, including “the district’s first elementary STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) labs” at Moriches Elementary School. Aleida Perez, a virologist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, discussed the importance of science and “what it takes to be a scientist” to kick off the new program.

Nebraska School Uses Club Activity To Teach Math And Science.

KMTV-TV  Omaha, NE (11/13, Theis) reports on its website about a group of students at a local elementary school who explore math and science in creative ways. The students are part of a club that monitors hermit crabs, some fish, and three bearded dragon lizards. Students working with the lizards clean the tanks every day, weigh them, and measure them to learn math and science, “but in a hidden way,” according to a teacher.

Companies Promote STEM Education.

The US News & World Report  (11/12, Golod) reports that the Global STEM Alliance is working to teach students STEM subjects and help them graduate with the skills that companies are looking for. The program pairs students with mentors from around the world and provides corporate-sponsored activities, training, and educational events.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories


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