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

Leading the News

Philae Lander Could Revive This Spring.

The AP  (11/17, Jordans) reports that there were “raised hopes” on Monday that the ESA’s Philae lander, now resting on a comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, could revive again next spring. Scientists believe that they may have been able to reposition its solar panels before it went silent, allowing it to collect power when it is closer to the sun. However, the article notes that mission managers now will have to locate the lander’s final resting place to be sure. New images of the landing taken by the Rosetta orbiter give “very good clues” of where Philae ended up after bouncing twice.

According to BBC News  (11/17, Amos), it appears that before it enter sleep mode, Philae was able to finish “over 80% of its planned primary science campaign.”

Reuters  (11/17, Klotz) notes that first results from the mission likely will be announced at the upcoming American Geophysical Union conference.

Also covering the story are SPACE  (11/17, Wall), New Scientist  (11/17, Aron), Spaceflight Now  (11/17, Ray), Age (AUS)  (11/18, Phillips), Vox  (11/17, Stromberg), Sen  (11/17, Howell), Discovery News  (11/17, Klotz), and Universe Today  (11/17, Howell).

Higher Education

Cal State Student Selected For NASA’s 2014 Aeronautics Scholarship.

The Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram  (11/17, Tompkins) reports that 16-year-old mechanical and aerospace engineering major Joaquin Martinez “is among 20 undergraduate students in the nation selected for NASA’s 2014 Aeronautics Scholarship Program,” the first to earn the two-year, $15,000-per-year scholarship from Cal State Long Beach. Next summer Martinez will participate in an internship at one of NASA’s research facilities as part of the program, the Press-Telegram reports. The article goes on to profile Martinez.

Affirmative Action Opponent Sues Harvard, UNC-Chapel Hill Alleging Admissions Bias.

The Washington Post  (11/17, Anderson) reports that Edward Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation and a “prominent opponent of racial preferences in college admissions,” has announced that his group Students for Fair Admissions is filing separate lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill “alleging unlawful bias in admission policies” at the schools. Noting that Blum’s group “backed the plaintiff in a recent affirmative action case in Texas that reached the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Post reports that Blum alleges that Harvard “discriminates against Asian Americans, and that UNC-Chapel Hill failed to give adequate consideration to race-neutral admissions.” The Post quotes a UNC-Chapel Hill spokesperson saying, “the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights determined in 2012 that UNC-Chapel Hill’s use of race in the admissions process is consistent with federal law.”

Mark Walsh writes at the Education Week  (11/18) “School Law” blog that both lawsuits allege that the schools’ admissions policies “do not meet the strict scrutiny standard for race-based admissions called for in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.” He notes that the an unidentified Asian-American student is a plaintiff in the Harvard complaint, while an unidentified white student is a plaintiff in the UNC-Chapel Hill case.

The Durham (NC) Herald Sun  (11/18), the Charlotte (NC) Observer  (11/17, Stancil), WRAL-TV  Raleigh, NC (11/18), Reuters  (11/18, Jenkins), and the Business Insider  (11/18) run similar reports.

Harvey Mudd Professors Experimenting With Flipped Classes.

The Los Angeles Times  (11/16, Song) reports that professors at Harvey Mudd College, “known for its science and engineering experiments,” are experimenting with the flipped class model, noting that in recent years, “three professors have split some of their classes in half,” with one group taking online classes and the other having traditional classroom instruction. Noting that the study was funded by the Federal government, the Times reports that “there hasn’t been much difference” in academic performance thus far.

Rising Remedial Course Enrollment Raises Questions About Cost, Effectiveness.

The Wall Street Journal  (11/18, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) reports that amid rising numbers of college freshmen taking remedial courses–paid for in many cases with Federal student aid–observers are questioning the effectiveness of such courses, and whether they are contributing to increased dropout rates.

Cal Poly Aerospace Program Has Long, Distinguished History.

The San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune  (11/15) runs an article examining the history of the aeronautics program at Cal Poly, stretching back to 1927. The paper describes some of the program’s history, noting that today, “the program’s students and alumni continue to reach new heights, doing everything from designing commercial and military jets to creating small satellites that are launched into outer space to piloting some of the most daring aircraft ever flown.” Graduates work for such industry leaders as Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and in “younger companies working in the cutting-edge industry of private space tourism.”

Candidates for ASEE’s Board of Directors
Positions include President; Vice President for Finance; and Vice President for External Relation.

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

Research Funding May Lead To Better Economy For Connecticut.

The Hartford Business Journal  (11/17, Kane) reported on the $1 billion Bioscience Connecticut investment that “will more than double the amount of incubator space at UConn, giving students, researchers, and the bioscience community greater opportunity to cultivate ideas and patents into startups and eventually full-fledged businesses.” Cato Laurencin, director of the UConn Institute for Regenerative Engineering, “said for every $1 million in grant funding UCHC receives from the National Institutes of Health, 10 jobs will be created along with one invention disclosure. Those disclosures can lead to patents and eventually full-fledged companies.” Laurencin said, “This can be a real economic driver for the state.”

Novartis Advancing Technology Research.

Reuters  (11/17, Hirschler) reports that Novartis is focusing increasing levels of R&D on medical technology. The world’s best-selling pharmaceutical company wants to find ways to assess and increase medication compliance. Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez views technology as a vital component of the pharmaceutical industry of the future, telling Reuters “We’ve done more than most but certainly not enough. You’re going to see a continued focus from this company that will be quite technology agnostic. It may be niche today but in the future I think it is going to be front and center as to how diseases are managed.” While pharma is moving into technology, the opposite is also true: tech players like Apple, Google, and others are increasingly trying to find ways into healthcare.

Engineering and Public Policy

Senate Keystone Backers One Vote Shy Of Filibuster-Proof Majority.

The Hill  (11/17, Barron-Lopez) reports that Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and other backers of the Keystone XL pipeline “are stuck at 59 votes,” just shy of the 60 they need to advance the bill on Tuesday. On Monday, Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Jay Rockefeller said they wouldn’t back the legislation, “making it unclear whether supporters had a path to the magic number.” The “best hope” for the legislation may be Maine Sen. Angus King (I), though he “told reporters on Monday that he is leaning against the measure.”

Politico  (11/17, Schor, Goode) calls Landrieu’s search for a 60th vote “the culmination of a desperate week of arm-twisting by a lawmaker whose political career is on the line in the lame-duck Congress.” Landrieu “has turned into a one-woman Senate whip, seeking a vote set for Tuesday night that would show her clout in oil-rich Louisiana ahead of her Dec. 6 runoff.” The Wall Street Journal  (11/18, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that the fact that the vote has been scheduled at all has been seen as an effort to help Landrieu win reelection in a state with a massive energy industry.

In an earlier report, Reuters  (11/18, Gardner, Cowan) says that the task of rallying support for the pipeline was made more difficult after the President weighed in against the project during his trip to Asia. That message was reiterated by John Podesta in a call with reporters on Monday. Podesta said, “I would just repeat what he said, which is we ought to take the time to let the process play out and let the analysis come in.”

More broadly, the Washington Times  (11/18, Wolfgang) reports that the White House on Monday “essentially dared” the GOP to try and block the President’s “climate-change agenda,” with “officials bragging that even after the GOP takes control of the Senate in January, there is nothing that can be done to stop a host of controversial new actions.” Podesta “said the administration will move ahead on the issue despite Republican efforts to stand in the way.” Podesta said, “I believe the president will complete actions. It is a top priority of his and I don’t believe they can stop us. Not withstanding Sen. McConnell making this a top priority to leave the status quo, to leave the air dirtier.”

In an analysis piece, the Christian Science Monitor  (11/17, Feldmann) looks at what the pipeline project means for the President’s “legacy.” The CSM says “sooner or later, Obama will probably have to go public with a final verdict on Keystone,” and his only “out” would be for Congress to “override a veto, green-lighting the completion of the pipeline without the president’s blessing.” However, if the President “wants a clear legacy on energy and climate-change policy, he may feel compelled to say something.”

USA Today Says Administration Needs To Approve Pipeline. In an editorial, USA Today  (11/18) argues that the Keystone project is “just a pipeline, not an environmental cataclysm or a panacea for a struggling economy,” but that has been obscured as “critics and defenders alike have hijacked” the issue “to serve their larger agendas.” USA Today says that “on the merits,” the Administration “should long ago have said yes,” but it “seems to have been paralyzed by its fear of angering ally Canada if it says no or infuriating Democratic environmentalists if it says yes.”

In an opposing op-ed in USA Today  (11/18, Pica), Erich Pica, head of Friends of the Earth US, says that the pipeline would carry oil that is “the most environmentally destructive on the planet” and “would traverse the American agricultural heartland, only to then be exported.” He argues that “all supposed benefits” have been “debunked, time and again.”

Wind Energy Tax Credit May Be Targeted By GOP.

Bloomberg News  (11/18, Rubin) reports that “the new era in Congress may mean trouble for some old tax breaks” like the wind energy tax credit. The tax break for the industry “expired at the end of 2013, and lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden will have less influence starting in January with Republicans in control of both chambers.” Some in the GOP are targeting “the break as a potential target now, as a way to take a stand against President Barack Obama’s climate policies and a few tax breaks.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Human Exploration Rover Challenge Registration Now Open.

On its website, WHNT-TV  Huntsville, AL (11/17) reported that team registration for NASA’s 2015 Human Exploration Rover Challenge is now open to high school, college, and university students. The students will “compete to design, engineer and test a human-powered rover on a mock course designed to simulate the harsh and demanding terrains future NASA explorers may find on distant planets, moons and asteroids.”

Seventy BBH City School Students Attend Young Astronauts Day At Glenn.

The Cleveland Sun News  (11/17, Sprague) reports on the 70 Brecksville-Broadview Heights (BBH) City School students who participated in Young Astronauts Day at the Glenn Research Center on November 1. Hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, BBH came in first for the Overall Team Award.

3-D Printing Incorporated Into A Minnesota Elementary School Curriculum.

KSTP-TV  Minneapolis-St.Paul, MN (11/18, Powell) reports on the use of a $2,000 3-D printing in an engineering-based, problem-solving program for third, fourth, and fifth grade students at Poplar Bridge Elementary in Bloomington, Minnesota. The printer was funded through a partnership with and Almost Home. Poplar is among the first elementary schools in the state to receive a 3-D printer; St. Paul School District has three, Anoka-Hennepin has 12, South Washington County has five, and Edina has three.

Federal Initiatives Increasingly Supporting Hispanic Representation In STEM Fields, Education.

Hispanic Network Magazine  (11/18) reports on growing interest in STEM fields among Hispanic students, framed within a growing national demand for STEM jobs and the fact that only 2% of the current STEM workforce is Hispanic. The piece details several White House initiative expansions to increase Hispanic representation in STEM fields, including a proposed $415 million budget for the STEM Innovation Initiative, the continuation of the $100 million Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM and Articulation Program, Upward Bound Math-Science, the Teacher Incentive Fund, and the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program.

Wisconsin Regional Lego Robotics Competition Strengthens STEM Interests, Problem Solving.

The Green Bay (WI) Press-Gazette  (11/16, Bock) reports on student participation in Lakeshore Technical College’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League regional competition, which challenged students to complete as many of 12 robotics challenges in 2.5 minutes as possible. Roughly 22,840 teams of 160,000 students participated worldwide this year. The piece features inventions for the research presentation component of the competition as well as individual stories of deepening interests in engineering, inspired by participation in the challenge.

UC Davis Hosts Conference On 7-12 STEM Innovations.

The Davis (CA) Enterprise  (11/18) reports that on a recent conference at which educators, engineers, and professionals met “to examine the next steps in middle and high school” STEM education at the University of California-Davis. The article reports that UC Davis’ Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education, “which has pioneered the integration of low-cost robots and computer programming to teach math and science,” organized the event.

Monday’s Lead Stories


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