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

Leading the News

Despite Veto Threat, Congress Sends Obama A Keystone Pipeline Bill.

Media coverage of Congress’ passage of legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline notes that, given the President’s expected veto, it holds little to no chance of becoming the law of the land. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Cappiello), for example, notes that while “the House voted 270-152 to send the bill to the president…neither chamber has enough support to overcome a veto, and supporters were already strategizing on how to secure the pipeline’s approval using other legislative means.”

NBC Nightly News (2/11, story 3, 0:10, Holt) was the only network newscast to briefly note the House vote and Obama’s veto threat. The expected veto, says the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/12, Davenport, Subscription Publication), “will be the first major” one “of his administration – marking the start of a slew of legislative clashes with the Republican Congress during his remaining two years in office.” At the House, adds the Times, 29 Democrats “voted with Republicans in favor of the bill,” short of the two-thirds majority required to override. Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/12, Gardner) headlines its dispatch on the House vote “Republican-passed Keystone Pipeline Bill Is Headed For Certain Death.”

The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/12, Roberts) also notes that “near-certain veto from…Obama,” and says “the project is estimated to create 42,000 temporary construction jobs, and 35-50 permanent jobs.” USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Singer) reports that Democrats “chided Republicans for pushing legislation they know Obama will not sign,” while Rep. Bobby Rush, top Democrat on the House Energy and Power subcommittee, asserted that it “is not a jobs bill,” as it “would create mostly short-term construction jobs and only about 35 long-term slots.” Rep. Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, replied that “‘all infrastructure jobs are temporary,’ and the same argument could be made about road construction.” Also weighing in on that issue of jobs, the New Orleans Times-Picayune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Alpert) reports, Sen. Barbara Boxer said yesterday, “Instead of building this pipeline, which will only create 35 permanent jobs, we should pass a long-term transportation bill that will support millions of jobs.”

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Gilmour) reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “who made the pipeline his first legislative priority after Republicans captured the Senate,” last night “took to the Senate floor…to urge Obama to reconsider his veto threat,” but the Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/12) says “environmentalists have drawn lines in the sand” on the matter, “arguing that approving the pipeline could doom the president’s environmental record.”

Boehner: Obama Listening To “Anarchists” On Keystone Issue. The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Dinan) reported that ahead of the vote, Speaker Boehner yesterday “accused President Obama of ‘listening to…anarchists’ in his threat to veto the bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.”

TransCanada CEO, Canadian Ambassador Respond To EPA. The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/12, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that in separate letters to the State Department, TransCanada CEO and president Russ Girling and Canadian Amb. Gary Doer took issue with the EPA’s suggestion that week that the pipeline could have a bigger impact on climate change than originally believed. The letters came in the form of a response to the EPA’s comment on the State Department’s final environmental review for the project.

Higher Education

Washington U Researcher Wins $1.7 Million Grant For Spinal Cord Study.

The St. Louis Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/12, Noles, Subscription Publication) reports in its “Health Care Inc.” blog that the National Institutes of Health “awarded a $1.7 million grant” to Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science professor of biomedical engineering Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert “to research how nerve cells grow in an effort to aid in spinal cord injury recovery.”

Supreme Court Asked To Reconsider Texas Affirmative Action Case.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Wolf) reports that lawyers for Abigail Fisher, a white woman who sued the University of Texas in 2012 over its affirmative action admissions policy, are asking the US Supreme Court to consider her case a second time. After the justices “sent her challenge back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit” in 2013, the latter “court once again upheld the school’s limited use of racial preferences.” Because the Supreme Court has also been petitioned regarding “affirmative action policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina,” it is “more likely the justices will agree to hear at least one of the cases,” says USA Today.

Lawmakers Seek 2-year Closure For South Carolina State University.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Jaschik) reports “a legislative panel in South Carolina stunned and angered supporters of South Carolina State University Tuesday by passing a measure that would shut the institution down for two years.” The measure is not yet law, “its approval by the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees state appropriations for higher education sparked protests by supporters of the institution.” Lawmakers “said that closing South Carolina State for the next two academic years would provide a “clean slate” for the institution.”

Report Shows Disparity In College Degree Rates Between Income Groups.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/12, Perna, Contributor) reports in its “Pundits Blog” blog that “students from high-income families are considerably more likely than students from low-income families to earn a college degree,” according to a February 2015 report by the Pell Institute and the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD). The report indicates that “dependent students from families in the highest income quartile are now eight times more likely than dependent students from families in the lowest income quartile to earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24.”

From ASEE
ASEE Members Elected to National Academy of Engineering. Mory Gharib (Cal Tech), Jack Hu (University of Michigan), Clayton Radke (UC Berkeley), Vigor Yang (Georgia Tech), and Ajit Yoganathan (Georgia Tech) were elected to the honorific society.

#ASEEYoADiversity. These institutions have model programs for student retention, many focused on minorities and women.

Diversity Committee Newsletter. Read the Winter edition, with updates on the Year of Action.

ASEE Perks
Learn about the broad collection of benefits available to ASEE members.

Research and Development

Researchers Discover Four Stars Forming From The Same Gas Filament.

SPACE Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Cofield) reports that a team led by Jaime Pineda at the Max Planck Institute of Theoretical Physics has discovered the first example of four stars being formed by the same gas cloud filament, which supports previous theories that stars typically do not form by themselves. According to the article, there is “little observational evidence” about how “multi-star systems” form.

Russia To Launch Four Earth Research Satellites In 2015.

Sputnik News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11) reports that Roscosmos said in a statement that Russia will launch four Earth research satellites this year. These are the Resurs-P 3, Meteor-M 2-1, Kanopus-V-IK, and Electro-L 2 satellites. The article highlights that Roscosmos believes that “decision to declassify Earth sensing data” has improved image quality from satellites like these.

Industry News

New Device Would Allow Hearing With The Tongue.

CBS News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/12, Lee) reports mechanical engineer John Williams and CSU graduate student J.J. Moritz are working on developing an aid to hearing impairment involving the tongue. Noting that “the tongue is a highly sensitive organ, Williams surmised it could be used as a substitute for the cochlea.” Having developed a proto-type, “after determining which parts of the tongue detect electrical impulses and whether that’s consistent from person to person, the goal is to optimize the design and do what the implantable devices cannot: customize the retainer for each individual, according Moritz.”

VW Purchases Fuel-Cell Tech From Ballard Power.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Rauwald) reports that Volkswagen has purchased fuel-cell technology from Ballard Power Systems “in a deal worth as much as $112 million to advance the German automaker’s development of clean-running vehicles.” Ballard “will transfer automotive-related patents to VW for $50 million and will provide engineering services through March 2019, the Canadian technology company said today in a statement.”

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/12) reports that the deal also extends Ballard’s existing deal to design and manufacture fuel cell stacks for Volkswagen through 2019.

Engineering and Public Policy

DOE Wants Updated Efficiency Standards For Natural Gas-Powered Furnaces.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Cama) reports the Energy Department “wants to update efficiency standards for residential natural gas-powered furnace[s] for the first time in more than 20 years.” New furnaces “under the new regulations…would have to reach a 92 percent fuel utilization efficiency rate.” Unveiled earlier this week, the proposed rule “would be similar to standards released last week for commercial furnaces.” DOE estimates that “the residential rule would result in net savings of up to $16.1 billion for consumers.”

Ameren Offers Support For Clean Power Plan In Exchange For A Few Revisions.

EnergyWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/12, Subscription Publication) reports Ameren Corp. “is laying out changes” the Environmental Protection Agency “could make to its proposed Clean Power Plan to earn the company’s support for the proposed rule.” Ameren, “in a white paper released” yesterday, does not “hold back any criticism but is overall conciliatory, asking for revisions that mirror requests from both defenders and opponents of the power plant regulations.” Ameren has become “the first coal-dependent utility to refine its position on paper and to make a formal move toward developing consensus on the controversial rule.” Ameren wants the agency “to replace interim goals that would begin in 2020 with a more flexible glide path and let states extend their final 2030 deadline if a ‘clear path to meaningful reductions is evident within a reasonable timeframe.’” In addition, the company “wants states to get clearer credit for shutting down coal-fired power plants.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Battle Over Transportation Bill Heating Up.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11, Halsey) reports that the current round of transportation funding expires on May 31, but the “bipartisan chorus” calling for rapid adoption of new legislation “may face speed bumps over paying for transit systems, and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.” A major point of contention is that those representing areas outside “of the megalopolises that include Chicago and the East and West Coasts challenged using cash from the trust fund for anything but roadways.”

Minnesota School District Launches STEM Program.

The Hutchinson (MN) Leader Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/12, Jones) reports “a new STEM program at Hutchinson Middle School is connecting lessons from elementary school to advanced classes in the high school.” The program “has been designed to fill a gap in the district, and give students hands-on experiences all through their time in the district.” The first project assigned to eighth-graders “is the construction of a ping pong ball launcher.”

Massachusetts School Wins Regional LEGO Award.

The Weymouth (MA) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11) reports the St. Jerome school’s “LEGO Lions Team B earned the regional award for Overall Excellence and was singled out by judges at the Dec. 20 state competition for the Core Values Teamwork award.” The competition asked teams “to design and build a robot to negotiate obstacles on a game board, using only pieces from LEGO kits that include programmable parts.”

Also in the News

Lifting Patients Becoming A Danger To Nurses.

NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/11) reports that scientists are increasingly saying that nursing schools and hospitals are incorrectly “teaching nursing employees how to lift and move patients in ways that could inadvertently result in career-ending back injuries.” William Marras, a professor of engineering and the director of the Spine Research Institute at The Ohio State University, says “there is no safe way” to lift patients “with body mechanics.” According to Marras, “hospital staff can lift and move patients safely only if they stop doing it manually — with their own human strength — and use machines and other equipment instead.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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