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

Leading the News

FCC’s Net Neutrality Push Driven By Lack Of Broadband Options For Many.

With the FCC expected to adopt strong net neutrality rules on Thursday, the New York Times  (2/26, Lohr, Subscription Publication) says that the case for such strong regulations “rests in large part on a perceived market failure – the lack of competition for high-speed Internet service into American homes.” Proponents argue that the FCC’s approach “make sense” because “for genuine high-speed Internet service most American households now have only one choice, and most often it is a cable company.”

The CBS Evening News (2/25, story 7, 1:45, Pelley) provided a broad overview of the net neutrality debate, saying it could “change the Internet for all of us.” CBS interviewed online retailer Etsy’s Althea Erickson, who strongly endorses the FCC’s proposal, along with former FCC Chairman Robert McDowell, who says that the Internet works fine without government regulation.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal  (2/26, Fitzgerald, Subscription Publication) says that questions remain about the new rules. In particular, the Journal says that it while it is clear that broadband companies won’t be able to block or slow content for a fee, it is not clear how much network owners can charge for access in the first place. The FCC has indicated that it will review individual cases as a they appear to make sure the deals are fair and reasonable, but the rules don’t spell out what that might entail.

In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times  (2/26) grudgingly endorses the net neutrality proposal, though with some caveats. First, the Times says that it is important that the FCC “strip down the common carrier rules to make sure they go no further than preserving neutrality in the last mile.” In addition, the Times says that it is “impossible to judge Wheeler’s current proposal because he hasn’t made the details public.”

Higher Education

Negotiated Rulemaking For Income-Based Student Loan Repayment Begins.

Inside Higher Ed  (2/25) reports that an ED negotiated rule-making committee has begun work on “negotiations aimed at drafting new regulations to expand the availability of income-based student loan repayment to more borrowers.” The panel “is charged with carrying out President Obama’s June 2014 memorandum that would make an additional 5 million existing student loan borrowers eligible for the federal government’s most generous income-based repayment program, Pay as You Earn.”

College Leaders Complain About Regulation In Senate Testimony.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (2/26) reports that “a pair of influential college chancellors,” William E. (Brit) Kirwan of the University System of Maryland and Nicholas S. Zeppos of Vanderbilt University, “asked Congress for regulatory relief on Tuesday, two weeks after they issued a report concluding that colleges are ‘enmeshed in a jungle of red tape.’” Speaking before the Senate HELP committee, the leaders “urged the committee to roll back some of the rules and take steps to improve the federal rule-making process.” The piece notes that Chairman Lamar Alexander gave their testimony “a sympathetic ear,” and “expressed shock at Vanderbilt’s estimate that it spends almost $150-million—11 percent of its nonclinical expenses—complying with federal rules each year.”

US News & World Report  (2/25) reports that a new report released by the American Council on Education and a congressional task force says that “when it comes to higher education, the system that oversees it is a tangled, bureaucratic mess.” This article quotes Alexander saying, “America’s 6,000 colleges and universities live in a jungle of red tape that is expensive and confusing and unnecessary.” The article adds that the report “offers recommendations for the federal government on how to modify regulations and streamline programs.”

Inside Higher Ed  (2/25) reports that Alexander “committed to finishing a rewrite of the Higher Education Act by the end of this year as he backed a plan written by colleges and universities to roll back federal requirements on higher education,” adding that he said that he “planned to hold a round of hearings in April, draft a version of the bill by summer, and then have a vote on the Senate floor after the August recess.”

Adjuncts Stage Walkout To Protest Low Pay, Job Insecurity.

The Washington Post  (2/25, Svrluga) reports on Wednesday’s “National Adjunct Walkout Day,” which was “an effort to raise awareness about the disparity in conditions for full- and part-time faculty.” The Post reports that the event was “an effort to call attention to a culture that leaves many academics unsure of how much they’ll earn from year to year, without benefits or with much lower pay than full-time professors.”

Traditional Four-Year Residential College Model Questioned.

The Los Angeles Times  (2/26, Song) reports that “one of the greatest presumptions in US higher education is that a traditional undergraduate degree, earned in four years while living on or near campus, is a good way to prepare young people to get a job and become well-rounded thinkers, at least according” to Stanford University education professor Mitchell Stevens. Stevens argues that “large, prestigious universities like his are too slow to adjust to changing times,” and now “fewer and fewer students actually go to school full time and live on campus.”

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

Universities Worried About Dearth Of Federal Research Funding.

The Washington Post  (2/25, Anderson) reports that US universities “fear that a key engine of U.S. innovation and economic power is in danger of stalling: federal investment in basic research.” They say the government “needs to spend more…in pursuit of discoveries with unknown and long-term payoffs,” and that “lawmakers focus too much on research with short-term goals.” The Post continues to relate the concerns of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

Researchers Reveal First 3D-Printed Jet Engine.

Reuters  (2/26) reports that today, Monash University researchers revealed the first 3D-printed jet engine, which is now being commercialized by Amaero Engineering. Simon Marriott, chief executive of Amaero, said that then engine could be flight tested within a year, with certification to follow two to three years from now. According to the article, if successful, the product could significantly boost Australia’s manufacturing sector.

Scientists Fail To Find Brown Dwarf As Expected.

SPACE  (2/26) reports that scientists using the Very Large Telescope’s Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research (SPHERE) instrument have failed to find a brown dwarf “near the double star V471 Tauri” as expected. Previously, scientists calculated that an object like a brown dwarf had to be close to the stars in order to explain why they did not eclipse each other regularly as predicted. Adam Hardy of Universidad Valparaíso, who led the research, said that while the results are “damaging” to current theories, it was “an excellent” turn of events for the first study using SPHERE data.

Engineering and Public Policy

Keystone XL Veto Discussed.

The Wall Street Journal  (2/25) reports that President Obama’s veto against the Keystone XL pipeline is testing the relationship between the White House and Republican lawmakers and whether they can work together. Republicans criticized the President’s decision, noting he was blocking prospects for new jobs. The Wall Street Journal  (2/25, Harder) also reports on President Obama’s veto against the Keystone XL pipeline, noting that Republicans vowed to fight back by trying to obtain support to override the veto. Despite that, many Democrats in both the House and the Senate still oppose the project, which may make it difficult for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to obtain the support he needs to overturn the President’s veto. The decision will boost crude oil transportation by rail, a report says.

The Washington Post  (2/25, Mooney) reports that President Obama said the bill he received “conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest,” meaning he could still approve the pipeline once the executive processes fall into place.

Bradley: Veto Of Keystone XL Is Shortsighted. Institute for Energy Research founder and CEO Robert Bradley Jr. writes for Forbes  (2/25, Bradley), “President Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline is a shortsighted, politically motivated slap in the face of most Americans in favor of honest work and honest consumption.” Bradley notes that through this veto, President Obama “has chosen to side with fringe environmentalists who put their own horse-out-of-the-barn cause and fundraising ahead of the environment itself.” He continues that the President “alone remains the biggest obstacle to the pipeline’s 42,000 jobs, which would be created by private capital rather than public funds.” He quotes James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who complained: “Keystone has had the most exhaustive review and analysis of any infrastructure project in U.S. history.” He notes that according to a December poll by CNN/ORC, some 57% of respondents want the pipeline to be built, while 28% of Americans oppose it.

Kemp: Keystone Shows Broken Environmental Process For Energy Projects. John Kemp also writes for Reuters  (2/25, Kemp), criticizing the President’s veto of the Keystone pipeline, noting that the environmental review process is broken and that it should be overhauled. “Litigation to enforce new legislative requirements, especially for environmental impact statements, (has) made placing new sources of energy in service much more difficult and expensive,” he quotes Michael Graetz of Columbia Law School Graetz as writing. Kemp further criticized the White House’s strategy to delay and later kill initiatives.

Inhofe Pushing Forward With Long-Term Transportation Bill.

The Washington Post  (2/25, Halsey) reports that James Inhofe, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has “made it clear” that he wants a long-term transportation bill on the President’s desk by May 31. In addition, he has signaled that the bill in the works “would draw heavily on unsuccessful bipartisan legislation drawn up in the last session.” And despite being among the Senate’s “staunch conservatives,” Inhofe has no interest in working in any “radical thinking” as some Republicans have sought, but will instead continue to work closely with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D).

Elementary/Secondary Education

Newport News Shipbuilding Engineer Aims To Encourage Female Students.

McClatchy  (2/25, Subscription Publication) profiles Jennifer Boykin, vice president for engineering and design at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, “where nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines are built for the Navy.” Given the low numbers of female engineers, Boykin “wants to encourage young women and girls to start breaking molds themselves.” Boykin “is a mentor through the women in engineering program at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.,” and “helped start GEMS – Girls With Engineering Minds – a new after-school program at Booker T. Washington Middle School in Newport News.”

Former Junior High Students Promote STEM At Old School.

The US News & World Report  (2/25, Cirincione) reports on the STEM club Project Innovation at Hadley Junior High School, which was started at the former junior high school of its founders, with the goal of filling “the information gap, to rebrand science and technology as not only fun, but practical – to erode whatever ‘uncool’ or derogatory connotations remain.” Last year, “the Glenbard West STEM Club sponsored its first-ever Project I conference, bringing together dozens of top players in STEM fields including Google, Fermilab, BP Oil, Northwestern School of Medicine, University of Chicago Biomedical Research and the Adler Planetarium.” Hadley students heard from representatives “during a series of breakout sessions at the half-day conference, giving the teens a quick introduction to a variety of fields and a chance to hear from real scientists and real engineers.”

Illinois Districts Partner To Run STEM School At Aurora University.

The Chicago Tribune  (2/25) reports that four Illinois districts have formed a partnership to establish and operate the John C. Dunham STEM School at Aurora University. The piece notes that the districts each send “50 students and two teachers to the school, which serves grades three through eight.” Students study regular subjects, “but with an integrated approach that combines math, science and communication skills in all classes.”

Utah House Passes Bill Giving Bonuses To STEM, Special Ed Teachers.

KTVX-TV  Salt Lake City (2/26) reports online that the Utah state House had passed a bill to boost the pay of STEM teachers and special education teachers by $4,100. This would increase by $1,000 per year, “totaling $10,000 by 2021.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Media Analyses: Keystone Veto A Signal To GOP Majorities.
Report: ED College Dropout Statistics May Be Overstated.
Cruz Says Human Space Exploration A National Priority.
Report Points To Lingering Lack Of Diversity In STEM Workforce.
Thune Backs Off Effort To Push Net Neutrality Legislation.
Nashville High Schools Offering Career And Technical Education Classes.

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