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

Leading the News

SpaceX Settles Its Lawsuit With The Air Force.

The AP  (1/24) reported that SpaceX and the Air Force announced Friday that they have come to a settlement over SpaceX’s lawsuit alleging that the Air Force “improperly” gave the United Launch Alliance a “lucrative” contract. SpaceX dropped its case after coming to an agreement through sessions mediated by former US Attorney General John Ashcroft, according to court documents.

The Wall Street Journal  (1/23, Cameron, Subscription Publication) noted that under the deal, SpaceX will be able to compete for more launches in the future. According to the article, the new agreement should help SpaceX improve its relationship with the Pentagon.

The Washington Post  (1/23, Davenport) reported that the new agreement followed “months of acrimony.”

Defense News  (1/23, Mehta) reported that while SpaceX criticized the block buy deal the Air Force entered with ULA, that contract would appear to remain as is, which would count “as a win” for ULA and the Air Force. Still, the settlement shewed that it is “clear” ULA will no longer have a guaranteed monopoly, according to the article.

Higher Education

Despite Push, Number Of College Students Pursuing Science, Engineering Stagnates.

The Wall Street Journal  (1/27, Korn, Subscription Publication) cites a study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center as finding that the number of US students who complete degrees in science and engineering increased by only one percentage point between 2004 and 2014, from 33% to 34%, despite a national effort to enhance workers’ skills and in turn strengthen US economic competitiveness. The Journal, noting that the US has regained some strength in its manufacturing base, quotes Gardner Carrick, vice president of strategic initiatives at the NAM-affiliated Manufacturing Institute, as saying that “if we want to solidify our gains and reestablish our position as the manufacturing leader, we need people with those [technical] skills.”

Reagan’s ‘67 Push Seen As Watershed In Move Away From Liberal Education.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (1/27) reports that as governor of California in 1967, Ronald Reagan announced a series of austerity measures, and in doing so, made statements arguing that taxpayers “shouldn’t be ‘subsidizing intellectual curiosity’” in academic settings. The article says that Reagan was taking opposition to “the ideal of liberal education, in which college is a vehicle for intellectual development, for cultivating a flexible mind, and, no matter the focus of study, for fostering a broad set of knowledge and skills whose value is not always immediately apparent.” The piece argues that with Reagan’s statement, “the balance started to tip toward utility in ways not even Reagan may have anticipated.”

Villanova Engineering Students To Display Formula Race Car At Philadelphia Auto Show.

The West Chester (PA) Daily Local News  (1/25) reports that the NovaRacing Team at the Villanova University Center for Engineering Education and Research is nearly finished building “a snazzy formula race car…in a basement garage workshop” at the center. The team “is gearing up to begin testing their 2015 model and will also display their 2014 car at the Philadelphia Auto Show (Jan. 31 to Feb. 8).” The piece explains that students use CAD software “to design their car, and then they weld, fabricate and assemble all the parts.”

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Research and Development

Metamaterials Discovery Brings Invisibility Closer To Reality.

The Phys  (1/27, Brown) reports “Hao Xin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona, has made a discovery” using synthetic metamaterials “that may take engineers one step closer to building microscopes with superlenses that see molecular-level details, or shields that conceal military airplanes and even people.” At the moment, however, “metamaterials remain in the testing phase,” with Xin saying “it will be years before potential fantastical applications like invisibility cloaks actually appear on the market.”


Study Says 100% Of Women Of Color In STEM Fields Experience Bias.

Fortune  (1/26, Gupta) reports that “at the dawn of 2015, gender bias in science, tech, engineering and math (STEM) fields are pervasive, but a new University of California Hastings study finds the difficulties compound if you are a women of color.” According to the study, “a full 100% of the women of color reported gender bias, with 93% of white women saying they’ve experienced gender bias.”

Lockheed Unit VP Speaks About Mentoring The Next Generation.

The Black Engineer  (1/26, Deen) reports on last week’s BEYA STEM webinar that featured Stephanie C. Hill, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems and Global Solutions Civil business. The webinar focused on “mentoring in the workplace,” and Hill spoke about the various mentor roles and mentoring relationships that contribute to career growth.

Engineering and Public Policy

Republicans Fail To Overcome Filibuster On Keystone Legislation.

Politico  (1/26, Schor) reported that on Monday, “The Senate’s first vote to cut off debate on its Keystone XL pipeline legislation failed…on a 53-39 vote, as Democrats mounted their first successful filibuster of the new Congress.” According to Politico, “That means Republicans who had hoped to pass a Keystone bill this week are now preparing for even longer debate,” and “legislation once viewed as an easy layup for the new GOP Senate is now starting to become mired in partisan resistance from as the Democratic minority digs in its heels.”

The Washington Times  (1/27, Dinan) notes that Democrats “accused Republicans of trying to shut down debate too quickly,” although the Times points out that the Senate “has voted on two dozen amendments – more than the chamber considered in all of 2014, when it was under Democratic control.” The Times also notes that on Monday, Republicans “fell six votes shy of the 60 needed,” and that “four Republicans and two Democrats who were co-sponsors of the Keystone bill were absent,” which means that if they had all been there, “the vote might have passed.” According to the Times, “Three other Democrats” – Sens. Carper, Casey and Tester – “who voted for the Keystone pipeline two months ago reversed themselves and voted to filibuster it Monday.”

The Los Angeles Times  (1/27, Mascaro) notes that despite the setback on Monday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, said, “We’ll get this thing done in a matter of a couple of short days.” The Washington Post  (1/27, Sullivan) also reports that “Monday’s vote was more a speed bump than a roadblock,” and that “both parties are expected to continue hashing out their differences on the bill.”

Interior To Propose New Atlantic Drilling, Restrictions On Alaska Waters.

National Journal  (1/27, Subscription Publication) reports that just days after proposing to “permanently declare more than 12 million acres of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness,” the Interior Department is “set to propose allowing new offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, which is currently off-limits to development.” According to the National Journal, “The same plan, a schedule of oil-and-gas drilling lease auctions between 2017 and 2022, will also propose new restrictions against exploration in Arctic waters off the Alaska coastline.”

According to the New York Times  (1/27, Davenport, Subscription Publication), “Opening the Eastern Seaboard to oil companies is a prize the industry has sought for decades and is a blow to environmental groups,” who “argue that the move would put the coasts of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia at risk for an environmental disaster like the BP spill that struck the Gulf Coast in 2010.” The Times adds that “in opening up the Atlantic Coast for drilling while closing areas off Alaska,” President Obama is “deploying a strategy that he has frequently used in forging environmental policy — giving both the oil industry and environmentalists a win and a loss.” The Wall Street Journal  (1/27, Harder, Subscription Publication) also reports on the Interior Department’s pending announcement.

Politico  (1/26, Restuccia) noted that Alaska “gets more than 90 percent of its government revenues from the energy industry, and efforts to open up new areas for oil and gas exploration are backed by both Democrats and Republicans.” According to Politico, “For Alaska lawmakers in both parties, drilling in ANWR is a no-brainer.” Politico also reports that Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, “rarely starts political fights…but she came out swinging on Monday, saying that the Obama administration has ‘effectively declared war on Alaska.’”

In an article tilted, “Plan To Protect Refuge Has Alaskans Offended And Fearful Over Money,” the New York Times  (1/27, Johnson, Subscription Publication) reports that in Alaska, even supporters of the President are criticizing his decision to try to keep ANWR free of the oil drilling that pays for most of the state’s budget. The Times notes that Gov. Bill Walker “said that he first heard the news on Sunday morning, and that only afterward did he receive a call from” Interior Secretary Jewell. According to the Times, Walker added that “their hourlong conversation ‘didn’t go well,’ and he repeated moments from it when, he said, Ms. Jewell seemed uninformed about Alaska.”

The Washington Times  (1/27) also reports that Alaskan lawmakers are “not disguising their disgust” following the announcement that the Administration’s “plan[s] to designate 12.2 million acres of the state’s public land as pristine wilderness” even though it “happens to contain Alaska’s richest oil and natural gas prospects on the Arctic coastal plain.” But the Times adds that others “are delighted by the plan,” and quotes Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice, as saying: “This is a place of incalculable beauty and value, to be protected like Yellowstone and Yosemite, not turned into another polluted oil patch.”

WSJournal: Obama Hopes To Shut Down The Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline. The Wall Street Journal  (1/27, Subscription Publication), in an editorial, charges that the Administration is intent on blocking off as much of Alaska from future oil exploration because it hopes to eventually shut down the Trans-Alaska pipeline, which is already carrying less than a quarter of the oil it did at its volume peak.

House Committees To Look At Hacking.

The Hill  (1/27, Hattem, Trujillo) reports “two separate House panels are scheduled to down to work exploring ways that Congress can protect the country from hackers on Tuesday.” The Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade will start “things off with an exploration of the ‘elements of sound data breach legislation.’” Later on, “the House Science subcommittee on Research and Technology will take a look at the ‘expanding cyber threat.’”

Elementary/Secondary Education

IT Trade Group Working With STEM Career Service To Promote Cybersecurity PD.

THE Journal  (1/26) reports that IT trade association CompTIA is partnering with STEM career guidance service LifeJourney “to promote jobs in cybersecurity to middle and high school students.” The groups are collaborating “to develop ‘Cyber Teacher,’ an online professional development and certificate program to help teachers in grades 6-12 add cybersecurity lessons to their curriculum.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

Alaskan Lawmakers Outraged Over White House ANWR Announcement.
Obama’s Move To Cut 529 College Saving Plans Criticized.
Unmanned Helicopter Under Development Could One Day Act As Scout On Mars.
Boeing Expects To Deliver 900 Planes Per Year.
Agreement Could Shield US Firms That Build Reactors In India.
West Kentucky Regional Science Bowl To Be Held Next Month.

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