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

Leading the News

FCC’s Wheeler Calls For Regulating Broadband As A Public Utility.

In an op-ed published Wednesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler laid out his plan for implementing net neutrality, the focus of which is regulating broadband and wireless data providers as public utilities. Media analyses are casting the move as a significant defeat for service providers. Much of the coverage mentions that Wheeler’s proposal is in line with the plan laid out by President Obama back in November. The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal on February 26.

In an op-ed for Wired  (2/4) published on Wednesday morning, Wheeler announced that he is proposing that the FCC “use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections, banning paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services.” Wheeler made it clear that his proposal will cover both traditional wired broadband services, as well as wireless data service. He also promised that to “preserve incentives for broadband operators to invest in their networks, my proposal will modernize Title II, tailoring it for the 21st century, in order to provide returns necessary to construct competitive networks.” He said that there will “be no rate regulation, no tariffs, no last-mile unbundling.”

The CBS Evening News (2/4, story 7, 0:30, Pelley) reported that in an “unprecedented proposal,” Wheeler “said the Internet should come under Federal regulation” so that the “government can ensure everyone’s access is the same, preventing companies from playing favorites with preferred customers with higher content speed.” The New York Times  (2/5, Lohr, Subscription Publication) reports that that Wheeler “was widely expected to take the Title II approach,” after President Obama called for the FCC to do so back in November. Wheeler’s proposal “will undoubtedly set off further debate and lobbying.” For example, Congressional Republicans have proposed legislation “that would prohibit content blocking and the creation of fast and slow lanes on the Internet, but would prevent the F.C.C. from issuing regulations to achieve those goals.”

Higher Education

ED Releases List Of Sites Experimenting On Alternative Degree Routes.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (2/5) reports that ED “has published a list of experimental sites where it will test the idea of doling out student aid not based on the credit hour,” noting that the institutions are experimenting in “prior-learning assessment and competency-based education, among other things.” The Chronicle reports that such programs “allow for greater flexibility in the pace of coursework and the ability to earn credit for work experience,” and therefore “appeal especially to nontraditional students.”

Digital Badge Concept’s Evolution Explored.

The Hechinger Report  (2/5) reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s comments praising digital badges as “‘a game-changing strategy’ that could trigger ‘a quantum leap forward in education reform’” gave the concept a big boost, noting that the concept is based on the argument that “in today’s world, learning can and should extend beyond school walls — in after-school programs, volunteering, clubs and online — and badges can make all of it count.” The piece describes research conducted into the digital badge concept by the MacArthur Foundation, noting that despite enthusiasm, there is still “a long way to go” before colleges and employers accept badges as evidence of competency.

Helmsley Trust Grant Funds STEM Project Headed By U-Michigan, Georgia Tech.

The AP  (2/5) reports that the University of Michigan announced Wednesday that “15 universities are sharing a $5 million grant to expand research opportunities for undergraduate and master’s students” in STEM fields, and that the Leona and Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust “established the Vertical Integrated Projects trust with the grant.” The College of Engineering at U-M is “co-leading the project with Georgia Institute of Technology.”

Georgia Power Awards $20K To ASU For STEM Initiatives.

Connect Savannah (GA)  (2/3) reports that Georgia Power Coastal Region Vice President Cathy Hill “recently presented Armstrong State University president Dr. Linda M. Bleicken with a check for $20,000 from the Georgia Power Foundation to benefit the university’s College of Science and Technology” and other STEM programs. Hill said, “Georgia Power is proud to support STEM initiatives at Armstrong, which prepare students for high-demand jobs.” The Savannah (GA) Morning News  (2/4) runs similar coverage.

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Research and Development

White Paper Describes Decline In US Corporate Research.

The Washington Post  (2/4, Ehrenfreund) reports in its “Wonkblog” blog about a new white paper from researchers at Duke University and the UK’s University of East Anglia describing the sharp decline in corporate funding in the US, noting that in the past, “some major U.S. corporations functioned almost like universities,” and that “scientists worked in the research departments of firms such as DuPont, AT&T and Merck, and they were largely free to pursue whatever paths their experiments opened for them.” The researchers “found that these days, large firms are less willing to maintain laboratories in house or to buy small companies with promising ideas, and that investors on Wall Street place less value on scientific capability.”

AI Researchers Looking Burnish Reputation.

Bloomberg News  (2/4) reports that though such notables as “billionaire entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates and physicist Stephen Hawking” say that artificial intelligence “is a potential menace to humankind with super-intelligent machines that could run amok,” leading AI backers “include billionaires Paul Allen and Jack Ma.” The piece notes that supporters of artificial intelligence–”led by researchers at Allen’s AI institute and Stanford University – are seeking to give their field an image makeover.” To that end, the AI Institute “recently began touting an AI project aimed at improving medical care,” and Stanford “is undertaking an AI study on ethics and safety set to run for 100 years.”

New Device Uses Tiny Electric Fields To Deliver Chemotherapy Drugs Where Needed.

On its website, NBC News  (2/5, Fox) reports that research published in Science Translational Medicine suggests that “a new device that uses tiny electric fields can help deliver chemotherapy drugs right where they are needed and might make treatments more effective and less toxic.” The device may “be especially helpful for people with” pancreatic cancer, “the researchers report.” NBC News adds, “Tests in dogs and mice suggested it can work safely — and showed it shrinks tumors more quickly than infusing drugs into a vein.”

The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer  (2/5, Price) reports, “Another benefit is that by pushing the drug directly into the tumor, less collects elsewhere in the body,” which suggests that “the new approach has the potential to reduce the sometimes harsh effects of chemotherapy.”

Fox News  (2/5, Cappon) reports, “The device, called an implantable iontophoretic device, can be used either internally after a minimally invasive surgery by implanting the device’s electrodes directly on a tumor, or externally to deliver drugs through the skin, which could be effective for more accessible tumors like inflammatory breast cancers and head and neck cancers.” HealthDay  (2/5, Dotinga) also covers the story.

Industry News

Cable Currently The “Showstopper” In Space Elevator Development.

Annalee Newitz at io9  (2/4) wrote about the possibility of developing space elevators, noting that NASA has put up “over $1 million to people who can come up with materials to make it happen.” Newitz commented that the current “showstopper” is the development of the elevator cable, which requires “an entirely new material,” as well as figuring out of to string it so that it does not break. There are currently only “educated guesses” on when such a cable could be developed.

Engineering and Public Policy

DOE Cuts Funding For “Clean Coal” Plant FutureGen 2.0.

Chris Mooney of the Washington Post  (2/4, Mooney) reported that the Department of Energy will no longer fund the coal plant FutureGen 2.0, “a glittering gem for ‘Clean Coal’ proponents…that, advocates said, would have ‘near-zero emissions.’” Mooney says DOE “planned to fund the FutureGen 2.0 project to the tune of $1 billion in stimulus funds and expended just over $200 million since 2010,” but has now concluded that “delays…had made the project unable to hit deadlines before it ran out of federal funding.” Mooney adds that since President Obama took office, “the DOE’s ‘Clean Coal’ commitments total $6 billion.”

According to the Washington Times  (2/4, Wolfgang), “the decision has led critics to question whether” the Administration “truly support[s] clean-coal technology, as they’ve repeatedly claimed.” The Times notes that the EPA “cited FutureGen when laying out its new regulations on carbon emissions, saying the project could be an example of how to burn coal while creating drastically less pollution.” The Times adds that some Democrats “expressed deep disappointment with the decision to effectively end FutureGen,” and quotes Sen. Richard Durbin as saying, “This is a huge disappointment for both Central Illinois and supporters of clean coal technology.”

Republicans Press EPA To Scrap Clean Water Rule.

McClatchy  (2/4, Adams, Subscription Publication) reports that in an “unusual joint hearing” of the Senate EPW Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Republicans on Wednesday “told top environmental officials they should scrap what was once a fairly obscure proposal to define what is and isn’t considered a body of water by federal law.” Republicans “expressed outrage at what they called a ‘power grab,’ while Democrats countered that opposition to the rule was built on a tower of misconceptions.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Kennewick Students Win National App Development Competition.

The AP  (2/5, Beaver) reports five Tri-Tech Skills Center students won a national app development competition. “The students’ app concept includes a list of hotlines for students to call in an emergency, advice on how to talk to others and work through problems with them, push notifications with tips on how to get through the day, and even a journal feature where students type a note to themselves or even say it verbally and have it transcribed.”

The AP  (2/4) reports “a team of Kentucky middle-schoolers” were also among the winners. “The team at Meyzeek (may-ZEEK’) Middle School in Louisville won tablets, and the school receives $20,000 from the Verizon Foundation.”

South Carolina School Earns STEM Certification.

Myrtle Beach (SC) Online  (2/4) reports “Lower Richland High School is among the first high schools nationwide to earn STEM certification from the AdvancED Accreditation Commission.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Media Analyses: EPA Review Gives Obama A Reason To Reject Keystone Pipeline.
Texas Instruments Donates $3.5M To UT Engineering Program.
Uber, Carnegie Mellon To Partner On Research Lab.
Study: California Has One Of Nation’s Largest Tech Worker Populations.
FAA Intends To Encourage Commercial Activity On the Moon.
White House Encourages Adoption Of Cybersecurity Framework.
NASA Chooses Oklahoma As One Of Ten States For STEM Challenge.

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