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

Leading the News

Obama Unveils Initiative To Boost Tech Job Hiring And Training.

The President’s unveiling of TechHire, an initiative that aims to boost job training and growth in the tech sector, was not mentioned on the network newscasts, and was largely overshadowed by the Iran debate on national print and online outlets. The program, however, received very positive coverage from local newspaper reporters, who cast it as a innovative approach to job creation with the potential to boost their local economies. Typical of the tone of the local coverage is the Kansas City (MO) Star  (3/10, Wise, Zhang, Subscription Publication), which says “long-term unemployed people in Kansas City…and other places around the country will get a chance to update their skills and land coveted tech-sector jobs as part of” the White House initiative.

Moreover, a number of local papers in the 21 communities participating in TechHire cited their localities as providing part of the inspiration TechHire. The Wilmington (DE) News Journal  (3/9), for example, reports Delaware TechHire “won’t launch until the fall,” but “it’s already being recognized by President Barack Obama as a model for the nation.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch  (3/10) says “a St. Louis effort to train coders through the nonprofit LaunchCode was cited Monday by…Obama as a model for” the program, and the Louisville (KY) Business First  (3/10, Aretakis, Subscription Publication) notes “Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and the city’s Code Louisville program were recognized Monday by the White House for their approach to meeting the local demand for technology talent.” Jeff Zients, director of the White House National Economic Council, said TechHire “focuses on new training models to teach software development and coding, much like Code Louisville.” The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal  (3/9, Kitchen) also notes Obama “briefly mentioned Louisville in his speech,” while the Salt Lake (UT) Tribune  (3/10) similarly reports that Obama “singled out Salt Lake City for its focus on the high-tech sector as an economic engine.”

USA Today  (3/10, Korte) says TechHire “relies on commitments from more than 300 employers and local governments to train and hire people for jobs in software development, network administration and cybersecurity.” According to the White House, “there are 5 million jobs available in the United States today,” and “about 500,000 are in tech-related fields where the average salary is 50% higher than the average private-sector American job – ‘which means they’re a ticket into the middle class,’” as Obama said. In comments to a conference of the National League of Cities in Washington, notes the New York Times  (3/10, Baker, Subscription Publication), Obama also said, “We are going to more effectively capture what is the boundless energy and talent of Americans who have the will but sometimes need a little help clearing out the way. … Help them get on a path to fill the new jobs of this century. And that’s what middle-class economics looks like.”

The AP  (3/10, Morrison) says that “under the program, the Obama administration will provide $100 million in competitive grants to joint initiatives by employers, training institutions and local governments that target workers who don’t have easy access to training.” The funds come “from fees companies pay to the government to hire higher-skilled foreign workers under the H-1B visa program.”

Bloomberg News  (3/10, Olorunnipa) reports that Zients told reporters on a conference call, “Too many Americans think that these jobs are out of their reach, that these jobs are only in places like Silicon Valley or that they all require an advanced degree in computer science. … That’s just not the case.”

H-1B Funded Tech Program Draws Criticism. ComputerWorld  (3/9, Thibodeau) reports on the federal program TechHire, a “$100 million program that endorses fast-track, boot camp IT training efforts and other four-year degree alternatives.” According to the article, however, the plan “is drawing criticism because of the underlying message it sends in the H-1B battle.” TechHire “get its money from H-1B visa fees, and the major users of this visa are IT services firms that outsource jobs.” The article notes, “Southern California Edison, for instance, is in the final phase of cutting 500 IT jobs as it shifts work to two India-based offshore providers.” The program is also creating controversy due to the White House’s unexplained assertion that there are “545,000 unfilled IT jobs,” an estimate that “will likely be used as a talking point by lawmakers seeking to raise the H-1B cap.”

Higher Education

Colleges Make Few Changes To Align With Common Core.

Politico  (3/10) reports that five years after states began implementing the Common Core Standards, “colleges have done little to align their admissions criteria, curricula or educational policies with the new standards.” The piece explains that education experts say that this disconnect could stymie students’ efforts to transition to college. The piece notes that colleges were involved in the crafting of this standards, and some states’ higher education boards have “certified that the Common Core was rigorous enough to prepare students for life after high school.” However, some university systems, such as the state systems in California and Washington, “are slowly embracing the Common Core as a universal standard of college readiness.”

Vitter Faults State Department Over Student Visas For Iranian Nationals.

The Washington Post  (3/9, Svrluga) reports that Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is questioning the State Department’s decision to allow Iranian nationals to have student visas for US grad schools. The piece refers to the controversy last month when UMass Amherst “announced it would ban Iranian students from some science and engineering graduate programs, an effort to comply with U.S. sanctions which prohibit advancing Iranians’ education in nuclear engineering and energy in particular,” noting that the school “quickly reversed the decision” amid public outcry.

Women’s Colleges Seek To Address Gender Imbalance In STEM Subjects.

Boston  (3/9) reports that Massachusetts’ women’s colleges have actively sought to promote computer and information sciences coursework to their students, noting that “the trouble is often getting women interested in a career that can seem so overwhelmingly male.” According to the report, these colleges have been successful in increasing STEM majors and challenging cultural “expectations for what a computer science major is supposed to look like,” because “any barriers based on gender become nearly eliminated in a classroom of like-minded women.”

Undocumented Hispanic Winners Of 2004 National Robotics Competition Struggle To Finish Education, Find Employment.

USA Today  (3/9) reports that the four undocumented Hispanic high school students from Arizona who earned national acclaim after winning the 2004 Marine Advanced Technology Education Center ROV have since faced deportation threats, while struggling to continue their education and secure employment. The report draws heavily upon an interview with Cristian Arcega, one of the former competition winners.

Public Interest Groups Back Education Department’s “Gainful Employment” Regulations.

The Hill  (3/10, Devaney) reports that public interest groups are backing the Education Department’s “gainful employment” regulations issued last October, which seek “to ensure colleges do not unfairly bury students in debt to obtain inadequate degrees.” According to Julie Murray, an attorney at Public Citizen, “The rule is absolutely essential to curb some of the most egregious abuses of unethical for-profit schools.”

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Research and Development

CNES Invests In All-Electric-Propulsion Satellite Development.

Space News  (3/9, de Selding, Subscription Publication) reported that CNES, the French space agency, said that it has provided $30 million for the first phase of a program to help French companies develop all-electric-propulsion satellites, “with more to come to help with in-flight technology validation.” According to the article, the “principal beneficiaries” of the money so far were Airbus Defense and Space, Thales Alenia Space, and Safran’s Snecma division. The article noted that initially, there were concerns that Boeing would “run away with the market” by being the first to develop all-electric satellites, but lack of sales has allowed Airbus to catch up, “at least in commercial sales.”

Orion’s Heat Shield About To Become “Even Better” With More Testing.

The Newport News (VA) Daily Press  (3/9, Dietrich, Subscription Publication) reported that is about the be taken off the capsule, processed at the Marshall Space Flight Center, and then shipped off to the Langley Research Center “to undergo even more water impact tests.” According to the article, tests like the ones at Langley should make the heat shield “even better” in the future.


Raytheon To Move 250 Jobs From Virginia To Indianapolis.

The Los Angeles (CA) Times  (3/9, Masunaga) reports that Raytheon Company will move about 250 jobs from sites in Chula Vista and Norfolk, Virginia sites to Indianapolis. Raytheon spokesman Mike Doble says employees were notified last week, which is intended to “consolidate jobs in depot work such as systems engineering, installation and upgrades and will take up to a year to complete,” according to the article. Doble is quoted: “The move allows us to improve our efficiency and competitiveness for our customers.”

Industry News

Boeing Outlines Upgrades To The 777 Before Release Of 777X.

The Wall Street Journal  (3/9, Ostrower, Subscription Publication) reported that Boeing has decided that in order to increase sales before the release of the 777X, it will upgrade the 777 so that it is more fuel-efficient and has more seats. In a talk hosted by the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT), Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president of marketing, stated that Boeing will be implementing incremental changes to the General Electric engines, installing larger carbon-fiber composite wings, and reducing the plane’s weight.

Reuters  (3/9, Hepher) noted that Tinseth also discussed a possible new product that would fall between its current narrow-body and wide-body models, but this would not be an exact replacement for the discontinued 757. According to the article, there has been speculation about what Boeing wants to do about the niche left behind by the 757, which Airbus has been encroaching on with its A321neo.

According to Aviation Week  (3/9, Norris), the range of upgrades showed that Boeing is being “ever careful with its stewardship of the cash-generating 777 program.” According to the story, 777 Chief Project Engineer and Vice President Larry Schneider said that because of the continuous nature of the roll-outs, there will not be “a single block point in 2016” when a plane has all of the upgrades. Schneider added that some of the technologies that will be incorporated into the 777 were initially developed for the 787, such as changes to the lower wing and elevator trim bias.

Bombardier More Than Halfway Through CSeries Testing Program. Flightglobal  (3/9, Trimble) reported that Ross Mitchell, Bombardier’s vice-president of business acquisition, told the ISTAT conference yesterday that the CSeries program is more than halfway through its testing program, “with four to 10 months remaining.” According to the article, even though the entry into service has been delayed, Mitchell stated that the four CS100s and one CS300 are “performing successfully” and meeting “original performance targets.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Florida Governor Accused Of Banning Official Use Of “Climate Change,” “Global Warming.”

Citing a story in Sunday’s Miami Herald by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, USA Today  (3/10, Rice) says that Florida Gov. Rick Scott “banned the use” of the terms “global warming” and “climate change” in state publications and communications beginning in 2011. The article quotes Christopher Byrd, formerly with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of General Counsel, who said, “we were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability.’ “

The Miami Herald  (3/10, Mazzei) reports that Scott denied claims that state environmental officials were prohibited from using the terms, telling reporters, “It’s not true,” but declining to provide specifics. Scott also underscored his administration’s environmental accomplishments. “We’ve had significant investments in beach renourishment, in flood mitigation. Look at what we’ve done with the Everglades: We settled a lawsuit over the Everglades. That litigation had been going on for decades. We put money in the Tamiami Trail, to raise that, to push water south. We’ve had — I think we’ve had record investments in our springs.”

Justices Send Amtrak Case Back To Appeals Court.

The New York Times  (3/10, Liptak, Subscription Publication) reports on Monday the Supreme Court sent back to an appeals court a case in which “a trade group…had challenged a 2008 federal law giving Amtrak…a role in setting standards for freight railroad companies.” The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in 2013 that “Congress had improperly delegated legislative authority to Amtrak,” which that court considered a private company. However, “Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in a majority opinion joined by seven other justices,” wrote that Amtrak qualifies in this case as a governmental entity. Justices also raised a list of “constitutional issues for the appeals court to consider,” adds the piece.

Elementary/Secondary Education

ED Officials Praise Baltimore’s Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center.

Technically Baltimore  (3/9) reports on a recent visit by Margaret Romer, Deputy Director for the Division of Academic and Technical Education in ED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education to Digital Harbor Foundation’s Tech Center in Baltimore last week, where she “got a glimpse of a makerspace in Baltimore that’s offering technology education outside of the school system.” The piece notes that Romer “is involved in developing policy that will help expand access to STEM education.” Meanwhile, Acting Assistant Secretary for OCTAE Johan Uvin “took in the details of the tech center tour” and broke out in appreciative laughter when he heard “the name of the all-girls tech group that meets every Friday: the Makerettes.”

Wyoming Education Board To Reconsider “Next Gen” Science Initiative.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle  (3/8) reports that the Wyoming House’s successful repeal of the Legislature’s 2014 budget footnote that “halted any discussion of the Next Generation Science Standards and brought to a halt the state-level review of science guidelines” has reignited discussion about revamping Wyoming’s science standards. Though the state’s Education Board has not defined a timeline for “restarting the process,” it will begin looking into the matter at its March 17 meeting.

High School Experimental Science Class Constructs Solar-Powered Electric Car.

The Miami Herald  (3/10) reports that an experimental science class at Cutler Bay Academy High School has constructed a solar-powered electric kit car that will compete in Saturday’s FIA Formula E Miami ePrix. Using this class project as an example, the report notes that the school’s COAST curriculum, which focuses on marine and environmental science, has helped inspire student interest in STEM subjects.

Port Edwards Fifth-Graders Learn Math Through Spheros.

The Washington Times  (3/10, Lawder) reports that Port Edwards Elementary School fifth-graders have “learned math by experimenting with Spheros, which are robotic balls controlled by an application and Bluetooth technology.” Students program the balls to roll at a certain speed for a certain period of time, and then measure their distance traveled.

Also in the News

Cal Poly Alum Part Of Dawn Engineering Team Management.

KSBY-TV  San Luis Obispo, CA (3/10) profiles Timothy Weise, a graduate of Cal Poly who “now teaches Spacecraft System Design at the school” and is currently “serving as the Mission Manager of the ‘Dawn Spacecraft’ engineering team.” The piece explains that the Dawn Spacecraft has “entered orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres.” Weise’s “job as the Deputy Mission Manager includes sending commands to the spacecraft, and reviewing the engineering data.”

KCBX-FM  San Luis Obispo, CA (3/10) reports that Weise “is among the lead team members as NASA prepares to enter a historic orbit Friday morning of a dwarf planet,” noting that he “says the information gained from Dawn’s study of Ceres and previously of an asteroid named Vesta could be very revealing.” Weise is quoted saying, “We’ll be able to compare these two massive bodies that really are proto-planets that kind of hold the building blocks of the Solar System when it formed. So really these are like looking at fossils of the Solar System and being able to figure out, how mainly the inner-planets formed, so kind of the origin of the Earth.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

Dawn Becomes The First Spacecraft To Visit A Dwarf Planet.
Bakersfield College Highlights STEM careers.
Research Ties Texas Earthquakes To Oil, Gas Extraction.
Obama Criticizes Keystone XL, Canadian Oil Sands.
Study: Female Students’ Low Self-Confidence In STEM Subjects Leads To Underachievement, Hurts Economy.

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