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

Leading the News

Automakers Unveil New Electric Cars.

The New York Times  (1/13, Vlasic, Subscription Publication) reports that while overall vehicle sales are “soaring,” electric vehicle sales are “still sputtering along in the slow lane,” though that is “not stopping automakers from continuing to make huge investments in green vehicles, introducing one model after another.” At the Detroit Auto Show on Monday, GM rolled out a revamped Volt, along with the Chevrolet Bolt concept car. In addition, Hyundai said on Monday “it would produce a plug-in hybrid version of its midsize Sonata sedan.” The pair join a variety of other vehicles rolled out over the last year by other makers.

USA Today  (1/13, Woodyard) reports that GM’s Chevrolet Bolt “can run 200 miles on a single charge” and will be priced around $30,000 when it is released. GM’s Mary Barra said that Chevrolet sees “electrification” as a “pillar of future transportation.”

The AP  (1/13) reports that GM is aiming to begin “selling a production version” of the Bolt by 2017. The AP highlights that the car sports a low to the ground battery like the Tesla Model S. The AP also notes that the Bolt could eat into sales of the newly redesigned Chevy Volt, which will now have an electric range of 50 miles.

The Los Angeles Times  (1/13) also reports on the Bolt.

Higher Education

Lifelong Texas Engineering Student Profiled.

The Houston Chronicle  (1/13, Adams) profiles Barry Adkins, who has worked as a mechanical engineer in the oil and gas industry, and as the CEO and project engineer for DaRam Engineers Inc. Adkins “has spent all but 16 of his 53 years as a student,” the Chronicle reports, noting that he and his father both studied engineering at Texas A&M. The article details Adkins’ career, and his several returns to school to study engineering disciplines.

ED To Let 40 Colleges Experiment With Competency-Based Programs.

Inside Higher Ed  (1/13) reports that ED “will allow at least 40 colleges to experiment with competency-based education and prior learning assessment, granting them a waiver from certain rules that govern federal financial aid.” The piece reports that last week, ED “notified colleges that had successfully applied to participate in the latest round of ‘experimental sites,’ which observers said is more expansive than previous ones.”

Muñoz Promotes President’s Community College Plan.

In an op-ed for USA Today  (1/13, Muñoz), Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, defends the President’s plan to make two years of community college free. She says that the plan “will promote skills that can drive decades of economic growth and prosperity — just like expanding access to high school did a century ago.” She says that “no one will get a free ride” as students “must keep their grades up” and colleges “must offer high-quality programs and help more students graduate.”

In an opposing editorial, USA Today  (1/12, Today) says that the President’s plan has “superficial appeal,” but it is “fraught with problems,” starting with its estimated $60 billion cost over 10 years. The White House “has yet to explain how the plan would be financed, or why a pricey new spending program is in order when the government has so many others whose costs are spiraling out of control.” However, the “most troubling aspect is that it would federalize a system that has thrived under state and county management.”

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (1/13, Weise, Subscription Publication), Michelle R. Weise, a senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute, also pans the President’s plan. Weise cites Federal data showing completion rates for degrees at community colleges is very poor (for example, only 21% of first-time, full-year students complete an associate’s degree with three years). In addition, Weise says that many degrees aren’t providing the skills needed in the workplace, and there should be a greater focus on alternative credential systems which focus on giving Americans needed skills.

Progressive Groups Say Plan Should Be “First Step.” The Hill  (1/13, Mccabe) reports in its “Blog Briefing Room” blog that a coalition of progressive groups including the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, Democracy for America, and the Daily Kos website are “hoping that President Obama’s proposal to offer two free years of community college to qualifying students is just a start,” saying that the plan “should be just the first step toward cost-free four-year public colleges.”

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Research and Development

Bucknell Engineering Students Develop Disaster Relief Technologies.

The Milton (PA) Standard-Journal  (1/9) reports that around a dozen Bucknell University engineering students participated in the KEEN Winter Interdisciplinary Design Experience last week, noting that this year’s program was focused on disaster relief. Students devised water purification and transportation systems, along with “a solar power dehydrator, suitable for drying out food, kindling or other items after a flood.”

Rand Paul And Lamar Smith: GOP Is Not Against Science.

In an opinion piece for Politico Magazine  (1/12, Paul, Smith), Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Lamar Smith argue that, “to remain a world leader, the United States must ensure that our investments are funding not just any science but the best science” instead of “research that few Americans would consider to be in the national interest.” They insist that “scrutinizing science funding isn’t the same as attacking science” and call for “increased transparency” in the grant funding process to make it “easier to redirect public research investments to the areas that boost economic growth and job creation: biology, computer science, mathematics and engineering.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Senate Set To Vote On Rash Of Keystone Amendments.

Politico  (1/13, Schor) reports that the Senate voted 63-32 to begin debate on legislation authorizing the Keystone XL project. With that vote, the “floodgates” have been opened for members on both sides to “unleash a torrent of politically sensitive energy amendments on issues such as crude oil exports and climate change.” Politico says that a crowded schedule means that “the first round of voting on amendments to the Keystone bill could easily slip to next week as the two parties haggle over timing.”

The New York Times  (1/13, A16, Davenport, Subscription Publication) says that the floor debate over the legislation “will serve as a showcase for various energy and environmental issues and is expected to involve votes on the science of climate change and humanity’s role in causing it, as well as on a proposal to lift a 42-year-old ban on exporting crude oil.”

The Hill  (1/13, Barron-Lopez) reports that Senate Democrats do not appear to have enough votes to kill the Keystone XL legislation “as they have repeatedly done in the past.” Instead, Senate Democrats opposed to the pipeline “are offering amendments that they think will be tough for the GOP to vote against or that will play well in the 2016 elections.” For example, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he plans to introduce a nonbinding resolution to put on record which senators acknowledge climate-change science.

The National Journal  (1/13, Plautz, Foran, Subscription Publication) reports on the wide range of potential amendments expected to be introduced under the “much-promised open-amendment process.” For example, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said he is “exploring language related to energy-savings performance contracts,” while Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) said he’d introduce an amendment “that would transition the government’s vehicle fleet to alternative fuels and natural gas and another repealing the mandate to blend corn ethanol in vehicle fuel.”

The Wall Street Journal  (1/13, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that the amendments will be aimed at putting members of the opposing party on the record on controversial issues. According to Sen. John Barrasso (R. WY), “We’re going to have a full-throttled debate on energy, and I think it’s a good thing for the country to see where people are on the issues.”

Analysis: Majority Of Republican Voters Support Regulating Carbon Dioxide.

US News & World Report  (1/12, Neuhauser) reports in its “Data Mine” blog on an analysis of polls by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications that “most GOP voters actually support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant,” with “nearly two-thirds of Republican voters” supporting “tax rebates” for purchasing “solar panels or energy-efficient vehicles.” The poll found that 56 percent of Republican voters “supported regulating carbon dioxide,” while 64 percent supported “energy efficiency and solar tax rebates.” The analysis was based on “combining six national surveys from the past three years.”

Mines Becoming Sites For Wind And Solar Installations.

NBC News  (1/12, Roach) reports on the growing use of “green energy” around mines, whether active or former. Some mine owners are installing wind or solar farms atop no longer working mines, while in other cases they are “powering a portion of ongoing operations.” The US government favors such installations for no longer used mines in order to “spur the cleanup of contaminated lands.” In some sites, they are used “to complement diesel-fueled generators” or to replace them for “off-grid operations.” The story cites Jordan Macknick of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory saying that developers are concerned about liability at contaminated sites.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Utah Program Aims To Introduce Elementary Students To STEM Courses.

The Deseret (UT) News  (1/13) reports that some 250 students at Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah, are “involved in a specialized curriculum aimed at introducing them to the attributes of science, technology, engineering and math education.” The Rose Park Ignites STEM Education program was “funded by a $20,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation” and “will expose low-income minority students to STEM through professionals in the fields as well as through STEM camps.”

After Outcry, West Virginia BOE Reevaluating NGSS Climate Science Changes.

Noting that West Virginia was among the first 13 states and the District of Columbia to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, the New York Times  (1/13, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) reports that the state Board of Education “quietly made some changes that science educators say substantially weaken the current state of climate science and introduce far more doubt than is warranted.” The move raised public criticism, and the board is holding a meeting this week to “reconsider its action.”

Also in the News

University Of Delaware Robot Used To Find Submerged WWII Planes.

The Wilmington (DE) News Journal  (1/11, Cavanagh) reports that searchers have used an underwater robot from the University of Delaware, along with “other technology provided by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” to find “a PBM Avenger that went down over the western Pacific archipelago of Palau” during World War II. Searchers also found “a missing Navy Hellcat Fighter and its pilot, amid coral heads back in March.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

Obama Unveils Proposal To Make Community College Free.
Marines Receive Advanced Cyber Warfare Training At Bold Alligator.
In Challenge To Tesla’s Forthcoming Model 3, GM Set To Unveil New Bolt EV.
Regulatory Obstacles Remain For Industries’ Drone Usage.
University Students Team With NASA To Develop STEM Learning Game With $2 Million Grant.

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