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

Leading the News

Navy’s Laser Weapon System Successfully Completes Testing.

The Christian Science Monitor  (12/11, Suhay) reports that the Office of Naval Research’s chief of naval research Matthew L. Klunder announced Wednesday that its Navy Laser Weapon System (LaWS) “locked on and destroyed the targets we designated with near-instantaneous lethality” in tests aboard the USS Ponce between September and November. The announcement stated that “laser weapons are powerful, affordable, and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations,” and could be used against targets including drones, helicopters, and small boats. The Navy has said the LaWS weapon system is safer than conventional weapons and requires fewer crew to operate, costs “less than a dollar per shot,” and will hopefully be deployed in several variations by 2020.

The Florida Times-Union  (12/10) reports that in tests conducted aboard the USS Ponce in the Arabian Gulf, the LaWS system successfully destroyed moving targets on the water and an unmanned Scan Eagle mid-flight. The article notes that sailors claimed the weapon system had flawless performance “even in high winds, heat, and humidity. The system exceeded expectations for reliability and maintainability.”

Other media outlets that cover this story include CBS News  (12/12), Defense News  (12/11, Larter), CNN  (12/12, Lendon), Reuters  (12/10, Alexander).

Higher Education

ED Grant Helps Massachusetts College Implement Online Women’s Bachelor.

The Springfield (MA) Republican  (12/12, Robbins) reports that Bay Bath University has established “The American Women’s College, the first all-women, all-online baccalaureate program in the nation.” The piece notes that ED gave the school a $3.5 million grant “to improve technology to help adult women earn degrees through the new online women’s college.”

Department of Labor Gives $100M Boost to High-Tech Apprenticeship Programs.

The Education Week  (12/12, Herold) reports, US. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez announced Thursday a new “$100 million federal grant competition for public-private partnerships to develop registered apprenticeship programs,” which he described as the largest investment of its kind in the country’s history. The article notes the program is set to target healthcare, biotechnology, information technology, and advanced manufacturing and applications, which will come from “partnerships consisting of employers, business associations, labor and labor-management organizations, community colleges, government agencies, and/or nonprofits,” are due April 30.

Philadelphia Inquirer  (12/12, Graham) reports that Perez called the program a “ticket to the middle class.” The article also profiles the Urban Technology Project, a partnership between Philadelphia School District and the nonprofit Communities in Schools, that has had success providing opportunities for impoverished youths.

CFPB Shuts Down College Debt Relief Scams.

The Hill  (12/12, Wheeler) reports, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed a lawsuit against Student Loan Processing. US and has closed down College Education Services for “illegally marketing student debt relief services.” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said, “Student loans are already a significant debt for many Americans. [These companies] added to that hardship by taking advantage of troubled borrowers and failing to describe their services honestly.” The agency urges student loan borrowers to be skeptical of companies that charge high fees for debt relief services or ask for a Federal student aid PIN number.

Student Prototypes Compete at UNLV Student Engineer Competition.

The Las Vegas Sun  (12/5, Komenda) reports that the Senior Design Competition at UNLV’s Howard Hughes College of Engineering featured students presenting product prototypes they designed to compete for a $4,000 grand prize. The article then lists and explains the prototypes on display at the competition.

Air Force Funding Virginia Tech Research.

The Augusta (VA) Free Press  (12/11) reports, the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research has awarded a $1,199,998 grant to a physics professor, Giti Khodaparast, at Virginia Tech to research “Nonlinear and Terahertz Studies of Electro-Optic and Magneto-Electric Materials.” This is the latest grant awarded in the multidisciplinary, multi-university project, which also involves University of Colorado, Boulder and Texas A&M University. Khodaparast said, “This work is important because experimental and theoretical efforts can be pursued simultaneously toward developing multifunctional devices for our fast-paced, technological world.”

#ASEEYoADiversity One-minute video – Freeman Hrabowski: “We need to change the culture. We assume most people wont make it in STEM.”

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November Prism Online – Now Open to Public
The cover story, “Corporate Blinders,” presents an engineering ethics case study.

Research and Development

Boeing Begins Work On Its New Center For Applied Simulation And Analytics.

Alabama Live  (12/11, Roop) reports that Boeing has begun expansion work on its research and technology center in Huntsville, Alabama. The company announced this week that the Center for Applied Simulation and Analytics (CASA) will open next year at the company’s facilities in the Redstone Gateway complex. The center will include seven labs and one “large collaboration center” and will allow Boeing’s “workers, research partners and academic collaborators to model, simulate and research new products from simulation through operations.” The labs will focus on cybersecurity, data analytics, mobile development, modeling and simulation, system engineering integrated technology, technology integration and immersive visualization.

Battery Researcher Joins UWM.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (12/12, Content) reports that a battery researcher who has “spent time at Rayovac and in academia will lead energy storage research efforts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.” In January, Deyang Qu will start “as the Johnson Controls endowed professor in energy storage research at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the company and university are announcing Thursday. He also will be affiliated with the Wisconsin Energy Institute at UW-Madison.” The Journal Sentinel notes that he “holds three patents and brings existing grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Office of Naval Research.”


Tech Companies Use Startup Software To Improve Workplace Diversity.

Bloomberg News  (12/11, Bass) reports that startup technology companies such as Entelo Inc., Gild Inc., and Pizza Technologies Inc. are selling software to tech corporations like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft, to improve their employee diversity by connecting them with women and minorities with appropriate skills but lack degrees from top universities or premier internship experience. Recent data shows white or Asian staff constitute approximately 85 percent of their staffs, and less than one third are women. Entelo’s chief executive officer Jon Bischke said that “Everyone expects that a year from now Google will release new numbers, and people are going to expect to see improvement.” Knightsbridge Human Capital Management Inc. partner also said that raising the number of women hired would be insufficient if they then faced poor management and promotion refusals. Gild CEO Sheeroy Desai also said that “it is equally important to look at [socioeconomic] backgrounds.”

Industry News

Kurion Decontamination Systems Expected To Accelerate Fukushima Cleanup.

The Tri-City Herald (WA)  (12/10, Cary) reports that the mobile processing system Kurion designed to remove radioactive strontium from water stored in tanks at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has surpassed decontamination targets. The first system was delivered in July, and a second one shipped this week should help the Tokyo Electric Power Co. “meet its goal of accelerating cleanup.” The system, which was “built and tested at HiLine Engineering and Fabrication in Richland,” Washington, can be moved from tank to tank.

Engineering and Public Policy

Senate Passes Critical Infrastructure Cyberdefense Standards Bill.

The Hill  (12/12, Cox) “Floor Action” blog reports the Senate has passed the Cybersecurity Act, which “permits the Secretary of Commerce to develop voluntary standards to reduce cyber risks to critical infrastructure.” The bill also “calls for a public-private partnership with industry leaders” to help develop these standards. The article says the bill will proceed to the House for further consideration.

Craver, Hwang: Despite Low Gas Prices, California Should Embrace EVs.

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Daily News  (12/11, Craver, Hwang), Ted Craver, Edison International President, Chairman and CEO, and Roland Hwang, director of the Transportation Program for Natural Resources Defense Council urge the adoption of electric vehicles despite the current dip in gasoline prices. The nation’s dependency on petroleum is “expensive, polluting, and is making us sick,” while electronic transportation offers a lower cost per gallon and cuts carbon pollution. The authors urge “California stakeholders” in particular to “work together to accelerate the adoption of electric cars” to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas and “move toward energy independence,” and note that the state is “in position to lead the way” on the “win-win-win” idea of electronic transportation. Conclude the authors, “If electric cars reach full speed, we can help improve our health and environment, reduce our dependence on oil, and secure our energy future.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

FCC Adopts E-Rate Expansion.

The New York Times  (12/12, Wyatt, Subscription Publication) reports that the FCC “on Thursday adopted a broad expansion and overhaul of its program to bring high-speed Internet into schools and libraries,” noting that the move will increase the fees attached to US phone bills by under $2 per year. The piece notes that the E-Rate program “will grow by $1.5 billion, to a spending cap of $3.9 billion, the first change in the base spending cap since it was set in 1997.” Noting that the commissioners voted along party lines, with “fiery dissents from the two Republican commissioners,” the Times quotes FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying, “I am aghast at the hostility that is expressed to giving students the tools they need to get a 21st century education.”

The AP  (12/11, Flaherty) reports that the vote will “dramatically boost spending to bring high-speed Internet access to schools and libraries in poor or rural areas.” The piece notes that educators “hailed” the move, and that Wheeler “said he estimates that two-thirds of American schools still don’t have access to high-speed connections, which can affect a child’s ability to do homework, research college scholarships and acquire basic job skills.”

Sean Cavanagh writes at the Education Week  (12/11) “Digital Education” blog, noting that backers of the plan say it “will greatly expand schools’ and libraries’ access to high-speed Web connectivity after years of neglect.” Cavanagh notes that the two Republican commissioners “were both critical of the plan in the period leading up to the vote, questioning the need for more spending and saying it would add to the financial burdens of American families.”

Reuters  (12/12, Selyukh) also covers this story, but notes that the FCC’s efforts to address net neutrality drew some attention away from the E-Rate vote. US News & World Report  (12/11, Bidwell) and the Politico  (12/12, Emma) “Morning Education” blog also cover this story.

New Math Standards Pose Problems For Some Texas Students And Teachers.

The New York Times  (12/12, Smith, Subscription Publication) reports on the “challenging” transition to new math education standards in Texas, which have accelerated some material by as much as two years with a greater focus on the concepts underlying mathematical operations. The piece features criticisms of age-appropriateness levied by teachers and concerned parents alike. The piece also features concerns that math test scores are used in school accountability scores, while some teachers are having trouble preparing to teach the new material.

Girls Who Code Strives To Enlist One Million Students By Decade’s End.

CBS This Morning  (12/11, Duncan) reports the organization “Girls Who Code” aims to enlist one million students in its clubs over the next decade. The piece describes the efforts of the 150 clubs across 23 states, striving to give young girls the foundation in computer science required to lift themselves from poverty and bring greater gender equity to STEM fields. The piece interviews founder Reshma Saujani and features an endorsement from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.

Students Exposed To Computer Science Through “Hour Of Code.”

The Norwalk (CT) Hour  (12/12, Wilson) reports on the nationwide Hour of Code program, co-sponsored by Computer Science Education Week and The program introduces millions of students to one hour of computer science. The piece focuses on Kendall Elementary School’s participation in Norwalk, Connecticut, exposing fourth graders to robotics coding through the “Lightbot” game on Google Chromebooks. The piece features endorsements form Principal Tony Ditrio.

The San Mateo (CA) Daily Journal  (12/11, Swartz) reports the Hour of Code program aims to reach 100 million students, up from 15 million last year. The piece focuses on LEAD Elementary School in San Mateo, where students have iPad access in a state-of-the-art library at a school increasingly prioritizing STEM education. The piece highlights the participation of other California peninsula schools and the opportunities afforded to students who are able to code and create for themselves.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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