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

Leading the News

Law Experts: EPA’s Clean Power Plan Verges On Illegal Breach Of States’ Rights.

Writing in the Washington Post  (3/18, Adler) “Volokh Conspiracy” blog, Case Western University law professor Jonathan Adler analyzes how “the federalism arguments deployed on behalf of the IRS rule authorizing tax credits on federal exchanges have the potential to disrupt other federal programs if adopted by the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell.” Some of these “other” programs fall under the Administration’s environmental agenda and “portions of the Clean Air Act,” a point also made by Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe in testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee regarding the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Adler depicts the Clean Power Plan as a “bait-and-switch” that “no state could have anticipated” at the time of the enactment or the revision of the Clean Air Act in 1970 and 1990, respectively.

The Washington Times  (3/18, Wolfgang) reports specifically on Tribe’s testimony to the House committee Tuesday. As the Administration moves ahead with “unprecedented restrictions on the nation’s power plants,” the article reports, Tribe cautioned that the Administration’s approach is “akin to ‘burning the Constitution’ in an effort to advance environmental goals.” Tribe also told the committee that the EPA’s “plan to limit greenhouse-gas emissions far exceeds its authority under federal law and strikes a blow to the 10th amendment by essentially making states subservient to Washington on energy and environmental matters.”

The Hill  (3/18, Wheeler) reports that Tribe testified, “In my considered view, EPA is off on a constitutionally reckless mission” with its Clean Power Plan. The Hill points out that Peabody Energy Corp., the largest private coal company in the world, hired Tribe to “write comments on the rule.” In Tribe’s view, EPA is proposing a “submissive role for the states” that “confounds the political accountability that the Tenth Amendment is meant to protect.” The Hill adds that “not everyone on the committee views the rule as a federal overreach.”

Higher Education

Award Winners Hear From NASA Engineer.

The Massillon (OH) Independent  (3/17, Pritchard) reported on the awards and scholarships given out by the Timken Co. Charitable and Education Fund. The article noted that scholarship winners “heard from Eric Hendricks, who received a scholarship in 2003.” Hendricks “studied at the Georgia Institute of Technology and now works as an aerospace engineer at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.”

Penn State Fraternity Suspended Over Facebook Page With Lewd Content.

The CBS Evening News (3/17, lead story, 1:55, Pelley) reported that the Kappa Delta Rho chapter at Penn State “was suspended for a year” over a secret Facebook page containing “photos of nude women who did not know they had been photographed.” The page featured “images of women either passed out or asleep, some of them in sexual poses,” and “lewd comments bragging about sexual acts.” other photos “showed drug use, including cocaine, marijuana, and ADD medication.” ABC World News (3/17, story 9, 1:40, Muir) reported that police records indicate that “a former member of the fraternity gave police printouts from the page, which also allegedly includes drugs and hazing.”

The New York Times  (3/18, Garrity, Blinder, Subscription Publication) reports that the page was “supposed to be among its brotherhood’s secrets,” but “has, since mid-January, been the subject of a police inquiry that this month led to the suspension of the fraternity’s Penn State chapter.” The Times notes that criminal charges could be pending as well, and reports that the page was reported by a former fraternity member who “walked into a police station and asked to meet with the authorities about what he thought might be criminal conduct.”

The Washington Post  (3/17, Svrluga) also covers this story, noting that the suspension and allegations come amid recent “investigations into inappropriate conduct among members of fraternities at the University of Oklahoma and at the University of Maryland.”

American Bar Association Tightening Rules Governing Law Schools’ Employment Statistics.

The Wall Street Journal  (3/18, Gershman, Subscription Publication) reports that the American Bar Association has adopted a new rule restricting law schools from subsidizing temporary employment for graduates by paying nonprofits to hire them, noting that the practice is used to bolster colleges’ employment numbers for their graduates.

Adams Raises Minority Student Issues At House Higher Education Hearing.

McClatchy  (3/17, Ordoñez, Subscription Publication) reports North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams, filling in for ranking member Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, made sure a House Education and Workforce Training subcommittee hearing on reauthorizing and improving the Higher Education Act considered minority students and historically black colleges (HBCU). She not only raised the issue, but she also “questioned whether current success measures are appropriate for HBCU students,” with their often lower-income backgrounds. Adams also said that changes to the Federal loan programs in 2001 have hurt students at HBCU.

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Research and Development

Defects In Graphene Help To Transfer Protons.

The Chemical & Engineering News  (3/18) reports that according to a new study, “molecular species residing at defects in graphene work together to shuttle protons from one side of the ultrathin form of carbon to the other.” The “investigation surprisingly shows that single layers of graphene, on their own, can selectively transmit protons in water.”

NBC News  (3/18) reports that “tiny imperfections in the graphene sheet may reduce its strength, but if they’re the right size, they also act as pores through which particles can pass — particles as small as protons or as large as salts and water pollutants.”

NASA Testing Experimental Wing With 18 Motors.

TIME  (3/17, Fitzpatrick) reports on the experimental wing NASA is testing as part of the Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology (LEAPTech) program. The wing, made out of a carbon composite material, has “18 electric motors placed along the leading edge.” NASA said, “Each motor can be operated independently at different speeds for optimized performance. Key potential benefits of LEAPTech include decreased reliance on fossil fuels, improved aircraft performance and ride quality, and aircraft noise reduction.” The tests, which currently involve “mounting it on top of a truck and driving across a lakebed at up to 70 m.p.h.,” could lead to flight tests on a Tecnam P2006T “within two years.” Langley Research Center’s Mark Moore said, “LEAPTech has the potential to achieve transformational capabilities in the near-term for general aviation aircraft, as well as for transport aircraft in the longer-term.”

Industry News

Boeing Wins $30 Million Navy Contract For Laser System.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (3/17) reports that the Office of Naval Research has given Boeing Co. a $29.5 million contract “to build a precision beam control system for ship-mounted solid-state lasers – building on truck-mounted laser systems developed for the Army.” The firm’s Directed Energy Systems division in Albuquerque is leading the effort.

Skybox To Be Vega Rocket’s First US Customer.

Aviation Week  (3/17, Svitak) reports that Skybox will be the Vega rocket’s first American client with a contract to launch four Skybox satellites next year. Arianespace stated that it will reveal the “co-passenger for the mission” shortly. The article notes that Joe Rothenberg, director of engineering and operations at Skybox, said that the “one of Skybox’s biggest challenges” has been locating an affordable launcher that can accommodate several small satellites as secondary payloads.

Space News  (3/17, Foust, Subscription Publication) also covers the story.

Engineering and Public Policy

House Committee Members To Tour Yucca Mountain.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal  (3/18, Stephens) reports that chairman of the House Subcommittee on Environment and Economy Rep. John Shimkus and ranking Democrat Rep. Paul Tonko invited other committee members to join a tour in April of Yucca Mountain and to look at research conducted there. Rep. Shimkus is a proponent of developing Yucca Mountain into a nuclear repository.

GOP Accuses FCC Of “Bowing” To White House On Net Neutrality.

The AP  (3/18, Flaherty) reports that on Tuesday, House Republicans “accused” the FCC of “bowing” to pressure from the White House in crafting its net neutrality rules. Republicans said that the FCC’s IG “has opened an investigation into whether the FCC had violated any rules.” The AP says that “samples” of 1,600 pages of documents released by the House Oversight Committee, while “falling short of any blatant impropriety,” raise “questions about whether senior Obama aides went to unusual lengths to engage independent regulators on a popular issue.”

Meanwhile, The Hill  (3/17, Trujillo) reports that David Krone, then Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s chief of staff, last May asked the White House to “back off” its support for regulating Internet service providers as public utilities in its net neutrality rules. Krone “anticipated the ‘problems it creates for us,’ noting it would be hard to defend the idea that ‘regulations written in the 1930s will work fine for 2014 technology’ — copying a common Republican talking point.”

Rubio Lays Out Case Against Net Neutrality Rules. In an op-ed for Politico Magazine  (3/17), Sen. Marco Rubio says that with the FCC’s net neutrality rule, the ability to pick favorites in the Internet world gives power to the government, which “is adept at rigging the economy in favor of powerful interests.” In addition, he argues that the “fast lanes” deals that the rules are meant to block are rare, and might actually be a positive for consumers. Finally, he argues that the use of Title II regulations gives the government immense power to interfere in Internet operations.

House Passes Legislation Overhauling EPA Scientific Board.

The Hill  (3/17, Marcos) reports in its “Floor Action” blog that on a “largely” party line vote of 236-181 on Tuesday the House passed legislation to “modify the selection process for members of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Scientific Advisory Board.” The bill “would prohibit the board, which advises the EPA on its regulations, from appointing members who are registered lobbyists” and would “also require that at least 10 percent of board members be from state, local or tribal governments.”

Harvard’s Tribe Critical Of EPA Carbon Rules. The Washington Times  (3/18, Wolfgang) reports that as the Administration moves ahead with “unprecedented restrictions on the nation’s power plants,” Laurence H. Tribe, a “leading Harvard Law School scholar,” said that the Administration’s approach is “akin to ‘burning the Constitution’ in an effort to advance environmental goals.” In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday, Tribe said that the EPA’s “plan to limit greenhouse-gas emissions far exceeds its authority under federal law and strikes a blow to the 10th amendment by essentially making states subservient to Washington on energy and environmental matters.”

Two Carbon Capture Projects Threatened By AARA Spending Deadlines.

Bloomberg BNA  (3/18, Natter) reported that the Energy Department will revoke $1 billion in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for two carbon capture “demonstration projects” if they do not “meet spending deadlines set out in the law” that require moneys “to be committed by July 1 and spent by Sept. 30.” Energy Secretary Moniz stated that “we have some other challenges in the portfolio, and I think you’ll be seeing our responses” on the Hydrogen Energy California project and the Texas Clean Energy Project “soon.” Moniz added that he could not “discuss the specifics of these projects with companies until we make decisions,” but the AARA deadline does present “some additional challenges.”

DOE To Fund Wind Turbine Blade Projects.

The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico  (3/18) reports the Department of Energy “has $1.8 million to hand out to projects working on making wind turbine blades longer than 60 meters. Increasing blade length isn’t just an academic exercise.” The area that is “covered by a wind turbine is determined by the squared length of the blades — meaning even small increases in blade length can significantly increase potential output.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Michigan High School Students Part Of HUNCH Program.

The Macomb County (MI) Advisor and Source Newspapers  (3/17, Fahr) reports “U.S. Rep. Candice Miller got a chance to see a variety of trade skills being performed by students at the Romeo Engineering and Technology Center in Romeo on March 12.” Among other things “the congresswoman got a firsthand look at parts Romeo students are making for the International Space Station.” The school is part of the High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program, where its students are “supervised and guided by staff from NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.”

Teachers Look to Incorporate Video Games In Classroom Instruction.

The Juneau (AK) Empire  (3/17, Griffiths) reports that many teachers are “embracing kids’ tech-obsession” by integrating video games into classroom instruction, noting that the game Minecraft is exceptionally popular. The article explains the nature of the game, noting that it is “possible to explore engineering and physics, even calculus” within the game. The piece notes that teachers from across Alaska recently “had the opportunity to train in using Minecraft in the classroom” at a conference of the Alaska Society for Technology in Education.

Coding “Boot Camp” Movement Gains Momentum In Dallas.

The Dallas Morning News  (3/16, Schnurman) reports that the rise of coding “boot camps” in Dallas indicates the city is becoming a startup and tech center. The coding education business, driven by nonprofit efforts, has recently “picked up new momentum” as new programs move to Dallas and recruit students. These camps will help meet a need “for companies that can’t fill jobs and workers who want to earn more than minimum wage” by equipping students with the skills for jobs as developers.

Bay Area Teachers Reforming Math Instruction.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News  (3/18, Noguchi) reports that a “vanguard” of math teachers in the Bay Area is reforming math instruction by incorporating “more visual and creative exercises, discussions of ideas and procedures” and individually customized lessons instead of focusing on “memorization and speed.” Although there are only “small-scale reports” and “anecdotal evidence” so far, individual school test results indicate that shifting the teaching focus to “individualized approaches” and “real-life applications” is improving students’ success in math classes.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Durbin Announces Bill That Would Boost Scientific Research Funding.
Experts Offer Advice To Engineering Students Considering Graduate Programs.
MESSENGER Observing New Features On Mercury.
Working Group Aims To Promote Retention Of Women In STEM Fields.
Jordanian Engineering Students To Create CubeSat.
Eleven GOP Governors Challenge EPA Ozone Rule.

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