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

Leading the News

UMass-Amherst Policy Leaves Iranian Students Feeling Uneasy.

The New York Times  (2/23, Bidgood, Subscription Publication) reports on the controversy surrounding the decision by UMass-Amherst to “ban Iranian nationals from admittance to certain science and engineering programs, including physics, chemistry, and electrical and computer engineering, citing a 2012 federal law that limits the fields Iranians can study at American universities.” While the school announced last week “that they would revise the policy, saying that Iranian nationals will not be banned outright from pursuing any academic disciplines, but that the university will develop ‘individualized study plans’ that do not run afoul of sanctions,” the policy “not only shocked students, but gained international attention and prompted the State Department to contact UMass officials.” The Times adds that “even the revised policy has left many here with enduring unease.”

Higher Education

Ohio State Program Gives Students Free Access To 3-D Printers.

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch  (2/22, Binkley) reports on a program at Ohio State University in which “students can make whatever they want” on the school’s new 3-D printers for free. The program is an experiment to measure demand “among a wide pool of students and workers, not just the engineering, architecture and art students who use 3-D printers every day for class work.” The program is also “a test of creativity — to see what students, with no bounds, want to build.”

Asian Americans Counseled On How To Differentiate Themselves For College Admissions.

In a 1,500 word article, the Los Angeles Times  (2/22) writes about how Asian Americans, who “form a larger share of the student body” at elite US universities “than they do of the population as a whole,” have increasingly “turned against affirmative action policies that could alter those ratios, and accuse admissions committees of discriminating against Asian American applicants.” However, “that perspective has pitted them against advocates for diversity: More college berths for Asian American students mean fewer for black and Latino students, who are statistically underrepresented at top universities.” As a result, college prep businesses such as HS2 Academy have opened. These centers assume “that racial bias is a fact of college admissions and counsels students accordingly.” They “teach countermeasures to Asian American applicants,” with a goal “to help prospective college students avoid coming off like another ‘cookie-cutter Asian.’”

NY Federal Reserve Study: Student Loan Borrowers Struggling Pay Down Debts.

The Hill  (2/21, Schroeder) reports that according to a new Federal Reserve Bank of New York study, only 37% of student loan borrowers are “actively repaying their loans on time.” An additional 17% are paying down the loans but are “delinquent,” and 33% are “seeing their loan balances go up” even though they are current on payments, as they “are likely still in school or in some sort of deferral program, so they are not making payments as interest mounts.” The study also found that as of the end of 2014, students who stopped receiving loan payments in 2010 had 91% of the balance left to pay down, while those who have been loan-free since 2005 are still paying back 62% of their balance.

The Washington Post  (2/20, Marte) notes that the study found that 34% of 2009 graduates “with less than $5,000 in student loans defaulted early on their debt,” compared with just 18% of those with at least $100,000 in debt. However, just 3% of students had more than $100,000 in debt after 2009 graduation, compared to 20% of students with less than $5,000 in loans. The Post notes that the study didn’t examine actual rates of graduation, so “it’s possible that some of these people had balances on the low end because they didn’t graduate, which would leave them with some of the debt and none of the benefits that would help them to pay those loans off.” The Washington Post Magazine  (2/19) and St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch  (2/21) also cover the story.

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

Watchdog Group Accuses Fracking Industry Of Distorting Research.

The Huffington Post  (2/21, Peeples) reports that the nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative says that “the oil and gas industry sponsors and spins research to shape the scientific debate over horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.” The group analyzed “more than 130 documents distributed to policymakers by industry representatives,” noting that the industry’s Energy in Depth public information branch “presents its list of documents as evidence of the safety of a process that has been ‘closely regulated and extensively studied.’”

Research Explores How Video Games Impact Emotions.

The Popular Science  (2/23) reports on the efforts of video game designers to get players into “a flow state,” which is “what makes the difference between a hit game that fans play for hours on end and something they’re done with after 20 minutes.” The article describes the research of New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering doctoral student Edward Melcer, who “may have a new way to understand players’ needs–even better than the players understand themselves.” The piece explains that scientists “have found that the brain associates certain shapes with particular emotions,” and reports that Melcer says that game developers could use this concept “to get a better sense of how users’ emotions change as they play the game.”

Workforce

Dearth Of Female Tech Workers Could Grow Worse.

The Los Angeles Times  (2/22) reports on a number of talented female tech workers who abandoned their careers “citing a hostile and unwelcoming environment for women,” saying that the trend is “a huge problem for the tech economy.” The article cites recent reports about leading teach firms with low numbers of female employees, and argues that if there is a continued trend of women departing the tech workforce, “an already dire shortage of qualified tech workers will grow worse.”

Report: Bethesda Employees Receive Better Pay Than Those In Silicon Valley.

The Washington Post  (2/23) reports a new study has found that employers in the Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick area, including the National Institutes of Health and contractors such as Lockheed Martin, feature “higher average pay for those who work in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics” than employers in Silicon Valley, California.

Industry News

NSF Selects University Of Alabama As Innovation Corps Site.

The Tuscaloosa (AL) News  (2/21) reports that the National Science Foundation has selected the University of Alabama as an Innovation Corps site, which “will help UA broaden its efforts to help commercialize new technologies developed by students and employees.” The article explains that the Alabama Innovation and Mentoring of Entrepreneurs Center “helps faculty, staff and students commercialize inventions and innovations.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Obama Administration Proposes New Rules On Arctic Energy Exploration.

The Washington Post  (2/21, Warrick) reports the Obama Administration has moved “to impose stringent safety standards on future offshore oil and gas exploration” in the Arctic on Friday, with the Interior Department officials unveiling proposed rules that they say will “guard against environment damage” while still allowing companies access to oil and gas reserves. According to the Post, the requirements included having companies “demonstrate an ability to respond quickly to mishaps in harsh Arctic conditions.” The article notes the rules “drew mixed reactions” from environmentalists, energy industry representatives, and elected officials.

NYTimes: Improvements In Transportation Of Oil Needed.

The New York Times  (2/21, Subscription Publication) editorializes that “tough new standards” are needed for oil transporting “tank cars,” saying “improving valves and brakes and generally making them more resilient” is necessary. In addition, according to the Times, efforts must be undertaken to “make the crude oil itself less volatile.”

State Legislatures Seek Alternative Funds For Transportation Infrastructure.

Figures compiled by the AP  (2/22, Lieb) show that the funds given to states from the “Federal Highway Trust Fund has declined 3.5 percent” from 2008 to 2013, causing state officials to become “frustrated” and look to increase “their drive for new taxes, tolls and fees to repair an aging road system.” The AP reports that a third of the states may be seeking to increase transportation funding this year, including through state gas tax increases, a “stark contrast to the inaction in Congress.”

Administration Reportedly “Warming Up” To LNG Exports.

The Washington Times  (2/23, Boyer, Wolfgang) reports that the Administration is “warming up increasingly” to the export of LNG after “years of blocking greater access by domestic producers to the international market.” The Times says that inside the White House’s “latest economic report to Congress,” the Administration embraces “the concept of boosting natural gas exports as a driver of job growth, even as it would likely drive up prices paid by U.S. consumers and businesses.”

Lawyers: FAA Too Slow To Develop Proper Commercial Drone Regulations.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (2/23, Subscription Publication), Joseph R. Palmore and Christopher J. Carr, members of a law firm’s unmanned aircraft group, write that the FAA is failing to create a proper regulatory environment for development of the commercial drone industry. They argue that if there aren’t updated, simple regulations, the FAA could kill a nascent industry.

Dayton’s Hoopla STEM Challenge Event For NCAA First Four Weekend Promotes High-Tech Education.

The Dayton (OH) Business Journal  (2/20, Cogliano, Subscription Publication) reports on the Hoopla STEM Challenge in Dayton, Ohio, which is one of the “core events” of the First Four Local Organizing Committee that organizes events for the opening round of the Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Challenge allows kids to go through technology demonstrations and earn stickers that qualify them for a basketball “hot shot” contest and prizes. The article says the challenge, which has grown 100 percent each year, aligns Dayton “with the core of the NCAA’s mission: education.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

NASCAR Launches STEM Initiative.

The AP  (2/21, Hefling) reports that NASCAR “announced Friday a commitment to promote” STEM education “inside classrooms and out.” The organization’s Acceleration Nation program “focuses on the three D’s of speed – downforce, drafting and drag – and includes instructional materials for teachers.” NASCAR COO Brent Dewar said that “the effort is a way for NASCAR to show the fun side of engineering and math and to encourage fans to view NASCAR in a new way.”

Kentucky Senate Passes Bill To Boost Computer Science Classes.

The AP  (2/20) reports that a bill passed Friday by the Kentucky state Senate creates “a bigger role for computer programming in public schools by getting more computer science teachers into classrooms and boosting network capacities at schools.” The latest version of the bill drops a “push to have computer programming classes count toward fulfilling foreign-language requirements in public schools” which had “stirred a backlash from foreign-language advocates, including teachers.”

Technology Is Being Introduced Into Even Elementary School Lesson Plans.

The AP  (2/22) reports on a third-grade class at Our Lady of Fatima Elementary School in which students “are learning how to design a basic computer game,” while “also learning math – about sets and X-Y axes – and seeing the abstract concepts come to life in front of them.” Experts say the introduction of technology in younger and younger grades is becoming more commonplace, and with the accelerating growth of the technology sector, many experts “say it makes sense add coding skills to even elementary school curriculums.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

“New MacGyver Project” Aims To Cast “Iconic Female Engineer” To Inspire Next Generation.
Napolitano Postpones UC Tuition Increase.
UMass Chemical Engineer Receives NIH Grant To Create Nontoxic Salmonella Bacteria That Deliver Cancer-killing Agents Inside Tumors.
Apple Reportedly Looking To Begin Car Production By 2020.
WPost Calls For Stringent Oil Train Standards.
Cliffside Park High School Selected For NASA Secondary Students Program.

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