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

Higher Education

Obama Unveils Proposal To Make Community College Free.

The CBS Evening News (1/9, story 10, 0:20, Pelley) reported, “President Obama today said the surest ticket into the middle class is a college degree and he proposed making community college free for millions of Americans.”

The New York Times  (1/10, Shear, Subscription Publication) reports Obama on Friday “vowed to make college affordable for all Americans by investing $60 billion over the next 10 years to provide free community college tuition” to up to nine million students each year. While speaking at Pellissippi State Community College, Obama said that Congress should join him in creating the program which “he said would better prepare Americans for economic success and would bolster the country’s” economy.

NBC Nightly News (1/9, story 8, 2:10, Williams) reported Obama said, “Two years of college will become as free and universal as high school is today.”

The Wall Street Journal  (1/10, Belkin, Tau, Porter, Subscription Publication) reports Obama said America does to “guarantee equal outcomes. But we do expect that everybody gets an equal shot.” Speaking of the plans by Tennessee and Chicago, Obama said, “If a state with Republican leadership is doing this and a city with Democratic leadership is doing this, how about we all do it,” Mr. Obama said.

The AP  (1/10, Pickler) reports Tennessee’s two Republican senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, attended the event with Obama, but “both said they thought states, not the federal government, should follow Tennessee’s lead.” Corker said, “Creating a federal program…is not the way to get good things to happen in education. You’re always better off letting states mimic each other.”

Noting that Administration officials confirmed a roughly $60 billion price tag for the program for the next ten years, Inside Higher Ed  (1/9) reports that Obama “presented his plan as an economic imperative,” but “said it was based on responsibility – of individual students, of colleges and of states in boosting their spending on higher education.” The piece quotes Obama saying, “This isn’t a blank check. It’s not a free lunch. But for those who are willing to do the work, and states that want to be a part of this, it can be a game-changer.” This article notes that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell was seated with Alexander and Corker.

Oregon State Looks To Better Gender Balance In The Sciences.

The Corvallis (OR) Gazette-Times  (1/12, McInally) reports that “according to statistics from the federal government, women hold only 24 percent of the jobs in the STEM fields. (STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.)” However, a group of Oregon State University “faculty and staff members – armed with a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation – are working to change those numbers.” The group plans to focus their initiative around a series of seminars and other programs, “including a public lecture series featuring renowned women scientists talking about their professional accomplishments and the hurdles they’ve faced.”

Florida Sen. Rubio Continues The Fight To Reform Federal Student Loan Repayment.

The Sunshine State (FL) News  (1/12, Derby) reports “U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., continued his fight for student loan reform this week, even as he folded his bill on the matter into another piece of legislation.” On Wednesday “Rubio announced…that he was backing a bill from U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., which would streamline federal student loan repayment. The bill also has the support of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who served as education secretary under President George H.W. Bush and led the University of Tennessee; U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.”

Research and Development

Marines Receive Advanced Cyber Warfare Training At Bold Alligator.

The Marine Corps Times  (1/11, Sanborn) reports on advanced cyber warfare training at Bold Alligator, utilizing simulations developed by the Office of Naval Research to improve the interception and communication of tactical information. In particular, the advances allow for communications emitted by multiple sources, rather than a single source. The recent simulations also included new heads-up display technology “akin to military Google Glass.” Another demonstration will be held at Camp Lejeune in late January, with further testing in March.

Carbon Capture Research Moves To Phase Two.

The Decatur (IL) Herald & Review  (1/10, Lusvardi) reported in its “Business” blog that the Illinois Basin Decatur Project has confirmed that the “Mount Simon Sandstone underneath” an Archer Daniels Midland Co. ethanol facility “is capable of safely storing carbon dioxide,” with ADM planning to begin operations on phase two, Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage, in late summer. Spokeswoman Jackie Anderson said the sandstone “accepted the CO2 fluid better than anticipated and has proven to be an excellent formation for the geologic storage of CO2.”

Science News  (1/10, Petit) also reported, adding that phase two will be supported by a “DOE grant of $141.4 million plus $66.5 million from ADM and other partners.”

4-Traders  (1/12) also covered this story.

Innovations In Medical Technology Increasing Rapidly.

The Wall Street Journal  (1/10, Wadhwa) reported in its “The Accelerators” blog that with companies such as Google and Apple entering the healthcare market by producing medical devices, companies large and small have realized that the medical field is ripe with the need for IT innovations. This includes the field of genomics where, at the National Human Genome Research Institute, researchers are using DNA technologies to improve diagnostics as well as in clinical practices.

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Industry News

In Challenge To Tesla’s Forthcoming Model 3, GM Set To Unveil New Bolt EV.

The AP  (1/11) reports that General Motors expects to begin “selling an affordable electric car in 2017 that will be able to go 200 miles on a single charge.” The vehicle, called the Chevrolet Bolt, is expected to retail for $30,000 and go on sale in 2017. A “concept version of the car will be unveiled Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the official announcement hasn’t been made.”

The Wall Street Journal  (1/10, Stoll, Subscription Publication) sees the Bolt as a direct challenge to Tesla. Meanwhile, the existing Volt is being upgraded for better performance and a new design.

The Detroit Free Press  (1/11, Priddle) reports that the Bolt “will compete directly with the Tesla Model 3, which will be the electric car makers’ first car aimed at competing in the mass market,” though it is not “due for at least a couple more years.” GM “was trying to keep the news secret until the reveal Monday morning.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Regulatory Obstacles Remain For Industries’ Drone Usage.

The AP  (1/7, Mayerowitz) reports on the current, predominate closure of US airspace to commercial drones. The piece touches on the debate between regulators and advocates, citing the room for economic growth as well as FAA safety concerns. The piece goes on to discuss those who have gained early permission to utilize drones, such as energy, agricultural, and ecological surveyors.

Hoeven Says Keystone Backers Are Four Votes Short Of Override.

The Daily Caller  (1/11, Ross) reports that North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven (R) said on Fox News Sunday that there are only 63 votes, so far, of the 67 needed to override the President’s expected veto of the Keystone XL pipeline legislation. Hoeven said, “Right now we’ve got about 63, but we’re going to the floor with an open amendment process trying to foster more bipartisanship, getting the Senate to work the way it’s supposed to work so that we can pass this measure and other measures and either override the veto or attach the bill to other legislation either that will get 67 votes.”

Asked about the impending “showdown” over the Keystone pipeline between Congress and President Obama, Sen. Chris Coons (D) said on Fox News Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace (1/11), “It’s clear there will not be a veto override. My hope is that the Senate will take up [the Keystone pipeline bill] but we will not override the President’s coming veto, and we will move past this issue and towards a real debate about what Americans want.”

Later on Fox News Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace (1/11), Coons added that Americans “are concerned about the safety implications of so many rail cars and of building new pipelines. They should be concerned about the public safety and the emission implications.” Hoeven added: “If we want to grow our industry and continue to work with Canada rather than get energy from OPEC, we’ve got to be competitive. We need the infrastructure. We’ve got to build that business climate that creates investment to produce more energy here at home.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said on CBS’ Face The Nation (1/11, Schieffer), “Right now, we know there is bipartisan group of 63 senators who support the Keystone XL pipeline. …. We can’t take the bait, we can’t be deterred or dissuaded from doing our job if the President is unwilling to engage with us to try to find a constructive outcome.”

Regarding tomorrow’s procedural vote on the Keystone pipeline bill, Sen. Jerry Moran (R) said on Fox News Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo (1/11), “Every expectation is there are sufficient votes. That number is 60 votes to proceed. … What we expect after that procedural vote is hours of debate, with amendments being offered. … Everybody has the chance to make their case and I think this will help reduce partisanship of the United States Senate.”

With Nebraska Ruling, Pressure Mounting On President To Act On Keystone. The Washington Times  (1/12, Wolfgang) reports that President Obama is “under fresh fire from both sides” in the Keystone debate following a Nebraska court ruling on Friday that “eliminated a major legal obstacle and once again put the project’s fate in the hands of the White House.” Both supporters and opponents of the project “each say now is the time for the president to decide whether to approve or reject Keystone.”

WPost Criticizes Both Parties On Keystone, But Urges President To Strike Deal. In an editorial, the Washington Post  (1/12) criticizes both parties for their handling of the Keystone issue, arguing that as the debate has gone on, it has “moved farther from reality.” While Republicans “oversold the number of jobs the project would create,” the President “descended into rank economic nationalism with claims that the oil the pipeline would transport wouldn’t stay” in the US. The Post says that if the GOP presses ahead with legislation, the President “would be wise to sign the bill and get Keystone off of the national agenda or strike a deal with Republicans in exchange for a concession of environmental significance.”

More Commentary. In his column for the New York Times  (1/12, Krugman, Subscription Publication), Paul Krugman says that the GOP is pushing Keystone in order to repay the oil and gas industry for its campaign support. Krugman says that the GOP is touting the job gains from the project, but they would pale in comparison to those that government “austerity” has cost the economy.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (1/12, Meyer, Brinker, Subscription Publication), Nancy Meyer and Lysle Brinker, both of research firm IHS, dismiss the notion that there has been a carbon investment bubble, arguing that major oil and gas firms have traded at a steep discount in recent years.

NC Executive Backs Propane Use To Power Cars.

The Charlotte (NC) Observer  (1/11, Cronina) reports that Asheville executive Stuart Weidie is working on convincing Americans about the benefits of using propane to power cars, as a “bridge” between gasoline and energy renewables, such as solar and wind power. Weidie is pioneering a research center to further support research that would allow the use of propane to power cars. For Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Center researcher Michael Mann, propane is “not nearly as bad as coal, and not quite as bad as oil, but worse than natural gas, as far as carbon footprint is considered.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

University Students Team With NASA To Develop STEM Learning Game With $2 Million Grant.

KSL-TV  Salt Lake City (1/12, Bench) reports students at Brigham Young University and the University of Maryland are partnering with Tinder Transmedia and NASA to develop an online role-playing video game in which students “interact with real-world media” by gathering and analyzing data to solve problems. The game is designed to promote STEM-based learning in students age 12-18 and is supported by a $2 million National Science Foundation grant.

Students Build Parts For ISS With NASA’s HUNCH Program.

The Macomb County (MI) Advisor and Source Newspapers  (1/11, Fahr) interviewed students from Romeo Engineering and Technology Center, in Romeo Michigan, who are participating in NASA’s High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program to build equipment for the ISS. HUNCH “is a school-based program that partners NASA at Johnson Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center and Langley Research Center with high schools and middle schools in states across the nation. The partnership involves students fabricating real-world products for NASA as they apply their science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills.”

West Virginia Science Teachers Association Unhappy With Changes To Global Warming Education Standards.

The Charleston (WV) Gazette  (1/11, Quinn) reports that the West Virginia Science Teachers Association is unhappy with changes the state Board of Education made to K-12 education standards on climate change, claiming the changes “compromise and misrepresent the science.” The Gazette adds that the WVSTA said it was unaware that the standards, which were based on the national Next Generation Science Standards blueprint, were changed “before news media reported on them.” The article adds, “The Science Teachers Association and the public could have protested the climate change language during the 30-day comment period, but no comments were submitted on the three standards that were changed,” but “perhaps [they] didn’t look closely enough because…they thought they were reviewing a version the association had already seen.”

Amish Students Embrace Technology.

The AP  (1/10, Scholles) reports progressive Amish families are making an effort to introduce their children to technology. Though the culture is generally “based upon shunning technological advancements and modernism, Amish students are highly proficient in terms of tablet usage and enthusiastically open to learning via nontraditional formats,” the article says.

Some Arlington Parents Decry Increasing Presence Of Technology In Education.

Jay Matthews writes in the Washington Post  (1/11, Mathews) on opposition to efforts in Arlington County to provide students greater access to technology, criticizing laptops’ and tablets’ failure to raise student achievement “in any significant way” while recognizing that “they haven’t hurt learning either.” The piece discusses a district funding dispute, parents’ freedom from liability for damages, and compares the “slowly and carefully” deployed Arlington program to the turbulent Los Angeles rollout.

Friday’s Lead Stories

President To Propose Program For Free Community College On Friday.
Decision For CCSF Accreditation Could Come Friday.
Computer System Masters Texas Hold ‘Em, May Have Implications For National Security.
Men On Internet Don’t Believe Sexism Study Results.
NASA, Nissan Team Up To Develop Autonomous Car Technology.
Keystone Legislation Clears Senate Energy Committee.
National Research Council Advises On Next Generation Science Standards’ Implementation.

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