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

Leading the News

Former California Rep. Supports Expansion Of Federal Support For Renewable Energy.

Writing in the “Pundits Blog” of The Hill  (3/3, Former Rep. Mary Bono (r-Calif.), Contributor), former Republican congressman and current principal of FaegreBD Consulting Mary Bono questions whether the Federal policy of “all of the above” regarding the nation’s energy plan actually applies to renewable energy sources, citing the near-constant debates over the expedience of Federal subsidies and tax benefits for clean energy sources, a question that rarely comes up when it comes to subsidizing fossil fuels. Bono contends that many in her party are in favor of supporting renewable energy in their own constituencies but argues that “Congress should pass the Production Tax Credit (PTC) extension, extend the solar investment and biodiesel tax credits, and give the renewable energy industry the legal and regulatory certainty that it deserves,” regardless of any “cost-competitiveness issues.”

Lawmakers Debate Fracking In Western Maryland.

The Baltimore Sun  (3/3, Wheeler) reports that environmentalists and Western Marylanders are pressing for legislative action against fracking, while the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee is considering an outright ban on the practice (SB29) or an eight-year hold on drilling permits (SB409). “Another Senate committee heard a bill last week that would hold drilling companies strictly liable for any harm they caused (SB458),” the article says, as the Maryland Department of the Environment considers putting an end to a 3 1/2-year de facto moratorium. Opponents, however, contend that despite the time the state took to study risks associated with fracking, it failed to take into account recent research raising more concerns about risks associated with the practice. A recent poll finds “43 percent of Marylanders favor a long-term hold on fracking, while 25 percent support an outright ban,” the Sun reports.

Higher Education

Grand Rapids Students Engineer Mobility Device For Handicapped Girl.

The Grand Rapids (MI) Business Journal  (3/4, Weick) reports that “Grand Valley State University said last month that a group of engineering and physical therapy students participated in a semester-long project to develop an assistive-technology prototype known as the Play and Mobility Device for” a “young girl who has a genetic disease impacting motor nerve cells.” The device “was designed to give Lylah Gritter, who has type I spinal muscular atrophy, or SPA, the ability to move independently, using a modified joystick attached to a device she can sit in.”

Grad Students At Columbia Push For Union.

The New York Times  (3/4, Greenhouse, Subscription Publication) reports that 60 Columbia University graduate students held a meeting in February “to brainstorm how to persuade Columbia to recognize and bargain with the labor union they are struggling to form.” The students have “gotten 1,700 of Columbia’s 2,800 graduate teaching and research assistants to sign forms saying they want to unionize.” However, “Columbia points to a 2004 ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that concluded that graduate teaching and research assistants were essentially students, not workers,” meaning they’ don’t have to be recognized.

Pennsylvania Governor Boosts College Spending.

The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News  (3/4, Murphy) reports “college students clearly came out winners in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal for 2015-16 with his plan to boost funding to public colleges and universities by $143 million.” However, the boost will come “with strings attached,” as “Wolf expects community colleges and the 14 schools in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education to freeze tuition for a year.” Further, “he also is asking Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln universities to keep their tuition increases to within the rate of inflation.”

George Washington University Opens Massive Science Hall In Effort To Rise In College Research Prominence.

The Washington Post  (3/3, Anderson) reports “George Washington University has two goals this week as it unveils a $275 million science and engineering hall on its Foggy Bottom campus: to enable cutting-edge experiments in fields from biotechnology to civil engineering, and to showcase its ambition to rise into the front ranks of the nation’s research universities.” The 500,000 square foot building “instantly becomes the largest scientific facility among universities in the District and one of the largest in the region.”

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

Volcanic Eruptions’ Cooling Effect On Planet Studied As Part Of Climate Intervention Research.

The Christian Science Monitor  (3/3, Suhay) reports on the ways that Chile’s Villarica volcano “could actually help slow global warming,” as the “smoke and molten rock” pumped into the atmosphere “can produce a global cooling effect that persists for years.” Chief scientists for climate science Phil Rasch of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory even calls volcanic ash that reflects some solar energy away from earth “the planet’s own form of climate engineering.” Rasch was part of the group of National Academy of Sciences researchers who produced “a flurry of research reports on Climate Intervention over the past year” and “says that his work details the possible benefits of climate engineering via various methods, including albedo modification,” as with the volcano.

Concurrent Technologies Researching Better Batteries For Grid And Vehicles.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  (3/4, Conti) profiles Concurrent Technologies Corp., an affiliate of the Department of Energy’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research and leading developer of “battery components and additives that could increase the capacity of energy storage and lower its costs,” particularly for load leveling wind and solar power generation and for electric automobiles. Company vice-president Vicki Barbu states that the affiliation gives CTC’s research “visibility” and provides a platform to “bring a diverse group of minds together” to accelerate the deployment of improved energy storage technologies.

Industry News

EasyJet Would Like To Use UAV To Transport Spare Parts To Grounded Planes.

Flightglobal  (3/3, Stevenson) reported that EasyJet wants to use “a vertical take-off and landing UAV” to shorten the time it takes to bring spare parts “to grounded aircraft.” EasyJet head of engineering Ian Davies reportedly stated that because of the penalties when delays exceed three hours, reducing transport times of parts is “very appealing.” The article notes that Davies thought that a vehicle that could carry 200 kilograms would be “ideal,” but in the short term the airline could manage “with 50kg capacity.”

Uber To Open Engineering Offices In Seattle, Washington.

USA Today  (3/3, della Cava) reports that Uber is “establishing engineering footholds in Seattle,” Washington, which “should be up and running by April,” and is “looking to quickly hire up to 50 engineers.”

Engineering and Public Policy

GOP Planning Next Keystone Steps.

The National Journal  (3/4, Foran, Subscription Publication) reports Republicans have already started to consider “their next move” following “President Obama’s veto of a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline.” Pipeline supporters “are looking past this week’s doomed” effort to override the veto “and have begun to mull attaching Keystone to an appropriations bill, the transportation reauthorization bill, or broader energy legislation.” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said, “Those of us who think it should pass … I think are going to look for other ways to deal with this, either on an appropriations process or some other way legislatively.” The president “has so far not made a final call on whether Keystone should be built but has vowed to veto attempts by Congress to force a decision before the administration’s decision-making process plays out.”

Wheeler Takes To The Road To Defend Net Neutrality Rules.

The AP  (3/3, Arbel) reports that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler gave a speech at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday defending his net neutrality rules, which were passed by the FCC on a party-line vote last week. Wheeler said that there “needs to be a referee” for the Internet, and that the new rules won’t hurt service providers’ “revenue streams” from consumer services.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Rep. Courtney: Promoting STEM Nationally Would Enhance Security, Prosperity.

In a commentary for The Hill  (3/4, Courtney), Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, writes that the US needs a renewed commitment to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, in its schools and higher-education institutions. He notes that the STEM Education Coalition, “a diverse group” that includes the NAM as well as employers and educators, is promoting these four fields’ “critical role” in meeting “the growing demands” of America’s work force. Courtney says he recently introduced an amendment in his committee that would direct federal education funds to “the promotion of STEM from preschool through 12th grade,” but the amendment and the STEM coalition’s “agenda” were rejected by Republican committee members who argued that the federal government should refrain from promoting education priorities at the local level. “This view ignores the reality of the global marketplace, where our competitors do not hamper themselves with such partisan hair-splitting,” Courtney writes.

Study Indicates Biased Teachers Dissuade Girls From STEM Courses.

Education Week  (3/4, Moeny) reports “a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, released in February, has shown that teacher bias early in a girl’s education can have significant effects on her later success in STEM subjects, including whether or not she chooses to take classes in those subjects in high school.” The study analyzed “roughly 3,000 Tel Aviv students from 5th grade through their graduation from high school” and compared their “results on national blind-graded exams in 5th grade to their results a year later on similar internal exams that were not blind-graded.” Although the study found that “the difference between blind and non-blind scores was statistically insignificant” on the Hebrew and English tests, “in math…while girls performed better than boys on the blind math tests, teachers scored boys higher when their gender was known, suggesting a teacher bias against girls in math.”

Egg-Drop Experiment Allows Girls To Demonstrate Engineering Prowess.

The North Andover (MA) Eagle Tribune  (3/4, Tennant) reports “only 14 percent of engineers in the United States are women, according to the National Science Foundation.” However, “that percentage may be destined for a dramatic increase” as “dozens of girls who participated in an egg-drop experiment at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence showed that they have the ability to think like engineers.” Afterwards, “several middle-schoolers said in interviews that they are contemplating careers in engineering or science.”

Also in the News

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions Engineer Named ASME Fellow.

The Aiken (SC) Standard  (3/4) reports that Savannah River Nuclear Solution senior fellow engineer Stephen Hensel has been named an ASME Fellow. SRNS nuclear materials management chief engineer Ted Griffin comments on Hensel’s “active” membership in ASME and his “analytical creativity.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Dawn About To Arrive At One Of Solar System’s “Fossils.”
California Legislator Calls For New UC STEAM Campus.
Study Examines Disconnect Between Science, Politics.
Location Technology Said To Be Needed On All Airliners.
Scientists Turn To Microbes For Fracking Water Cleanup.

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