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

Leading the News

Dominion To Build Biggest Solar Farm In Virginia On Land Leased From Phillip Morris USA.

Bloomberg News  (3/18, Doom) reported that Dominion Resources “is building the biggest solar farm in Virginia” in Chester, on land “leased from Philip Morris International Inc.” The 2.45-megawatt, 8,000-panel project “is part of a program in which Dominion leases land or rooftops for solar installations, the company said Wednesday in a statement.” Ken Barker, Dominion’s vice president of technical solutions, said in the statement, “This initiative is another step toward fulfilling Dominion’s commitment to substantially increase our solar generation portfolio in the commonwealth.”

Bloomberg New Energy Finance  (3/18, Doom) also carried the story.

The Washington (DC) Business Journal  (3/19, Clabaugh, Subscription Publication) reported that “under similar agreements, Dominion has completed solar projects on land or rooftops at the Canon Industrial Resources Technologies facility in Gloucester, Old Dominion University in Norfolk and Virginia Union University and Capital One in Richmond.” The article reports that “combined, Dominion’s Virginia solar installations and others under construction will generate 4.8 megawatts of solar power.” Dominion “hopes to be producing as much as 400 megawatts of power from large-scale solar projects in Virginia by 2020.”

Power Engineering  (3/19) and Danville (VA) Go Dan River  (3/19, Blackwell) also covered the story.

Higher Education

Bipartisan Bill Proposed To Establish “Manufacturing Universities”.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (3/19, Herzog) reports a bipartisan bill was introduced by lawmakers on Wednesday “that would designate 25 manufacturing universities across the country” and give each of those universities $5 million per year for four years “to step up advanced manufacturing in engineering programs.” The Sentinel notes that the bill will give incentives to universities that “focus engineering programs on manufacturing,” build partnerships with manufacturing firms in their area, “increase training opportunities and foster manufacturing entrepreneurship,” according to Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

ED Mulls Parallel College Rating Systems.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (3/19) reports that Melanie Muenzer, ED’s deputy assistant secretary for planning and policy development, said Monday at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual policy briefing that the department is “considering creating two systems” for rating colleges, noting that one “would be geared toward consumers and be based on raw outcomes metrics,” while the other “would be geared toward policy makers and researchers, and would rely on metrics adjusted for student and institutional characteristics.” The Chronicle reports that the announcement could be a response to “criticism that the department was trying to do too much with one system,” noting that Muenzer “noted the ‘inherent tensions’ in crafting a system that both guides consumer behavior and holds colleges accountable for student outcomes.”

Warren Proposes Bill To Reduce Student Loan Interest Rate.

The AP  (3/19, Press) reports that Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed a bill that would lower interest rates on student loans to around 3.9 percent from 7 percent or higher. Warren filed an identical bill last year, which was blocked by Republicans who argued it “wouldn’t have lowered education costs or reduced borrowing.”

The Boston Globe  (3/18, Linskey) reports that Warren said, “A problem that was bad a year ago has gotten worse,” adding that the loans “produce obscene profits” for the Federal government and large banks. According to Federal Reserve data, student loan debt in the last year increased by $100 billion. Warren said that “broader public awareness” of student loan debt could help gain the support needed to pass the bill.

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Research and Development

Mercury News: US Must Boost R&D Spending.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News  (3/19) editorializes that the US “is surrendering the research and development advantage that has fueled its economy for six decades.” The Mercury News says “Sen. Dick Durbin has the solution,” but that it “it faces rough sailing in Congress.” Durbin earlier this week “outlined the American Innovation Act to increase funding for basic scientific research by 5 percent – $100 billion – over the next 10 years for five agencies: the National Science Foundation; the Department of Defense, Science and Technology Departments; the NASA Science Directorate; the National Institute of Standards and Technology Scientific and Technical Research; and the Department of Energy Office of Science.” The Mercury News concludes “China increased its research spending by 20 percent between 2001 and 2011. The United States is lagging in a race it can’t afford to lose.”

Utah State Professor Working On “Smart Antenna.”

The Logan (UT) Herald Journal  (3/19) reports that Utah State associate professor Bedri Cetiner, a member of the school’s department of electrical and computer engineering, “is working to change the way antennas function, allowing for a singular, more-powerful transmitting system that could be used in areas like military and law enforcement — and beyond.” Cetiner’s “smart antenna” is able to “physically adapt to more efficiently detect signals.”

SAU Engineering Chair Gets $265,000 Grant To Study Space Radiation.

The AP  (3/18) reports that “the chairman of the Department of Engineering and Engineering Physics at Southern Arkansas University has been awarded a research development grant for $265,000 to explore the effect of space radiation in a near-zero gravity environment on human chromosomes.” The grant is funded by the National Institutes of Health.


Tech Workforce Diversity Increasingly A Focus Of SXSW.

An article in USA Today  (3/18, Jervis) explores issues related to diversity in the tech sector, profiling Joshua Mitchell, who “came to SXSW this year hoping to discover an African-American venture capitalist firm willing to fund his startup, jeniusLogic, which builds mobile applications for the music and entertainment industry.” The paper reports that Mitchell, who is black found that “black venture capitalists are a rare species and the overall tech sector is not a very diverse place.” The article notes that “diversity in the tech sector – and its lack thereof” has been a growing focus at SXSW.

Engineering and Public Policy

FCC Set To Reform Rules On Spectrum Auctions.

The Wall Street Journal  (3/19, Knutson, Subscription Publication) reports FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler intends to alter the rules that govern wireless spectrum auctions so as to prevent large companies from receiving discounts meant for smaller businesses. Wheeler said before a Senate Committee that he was against “slick lawyers” that are “taking advantage” of the discounts.

GOP Passes EPA “Secret Science” Bills In House.

The AP  (3/19, Daly) reports that two Republican-backed laws affecting the Environmental Protection Agency, one requiring the disclosure of scientific data related to proposed regulations and the other forbidding registered lobbyists from appointment to the agency’s Science Advisory Board, have passed the House along party lines and are on their way to the Senate. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy cited concerns over “secret science” and transparency as the cause for the new legislation. The White House has threatened to veto the measures, citing concerns about delays in implementation of regulation and privacy concerns.

Google’s Schmidt Urges Increase In High-Skilled Work Visas.

The AP  (3/19, Freking) reports that on Wednesday, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt “urged” Congress to “increase the number of high-skilled work visas made available to foreigners and to deal with other immigration issues later on.” Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, Schmidt “said he believes the United States is better off having more immigrants, not fewer,” particularly those with “specialized technical skills.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

STEM Program Expands To Ohio Elementary Schools.

The New Philadelphia (OH) Times-Reporter  (3/18, Carmany) reports that New Philadelphia, OH elementary school students will participate in a new program, “Project Lead the Way,” that aims to improve students’ “critical-thinking skills” and introduce them to STEM fields. Project Lead the Way, a nationwide program that already has a presence in the town’s middle and high schools, will be implemented in all five New Philadelphia elementary schools that applied for program grants.

Army’s “STEM Van” Showcases Opportunities In Technology.

WWJ-TV  Detroit (3/18, Cardenas) reports that the US Army is promoting STEM opportunities by visiting high schools with its “STEM van,” which it uses to showcase “how cutting edge technology is used to protect the troops and the nation.” The Army created its “interactive STEM Experience” to show students “real-world applications of present-day classes.” The STEM van, which stopped at Warren Mott High School, IL on Wednesday, makes a nationwide tour of “nearly 310 days a year” to promote STEM careers and opportunities with the Army.

Michigan State University Releases Online Science Teaching Program.

The AP  (3/19) reports that Michigan State University is “leading an effort to improve science teaching” with a grant from the National Science Foundation. The program, called “Carbon: Transformations in Matter and Energy,” was created by a professor to teach middle and high school students about topics like fossil fuel combustion and photosynthesis. According to Michigan State University, 125 teachers have already tested the program, which will be “available free to teachers online.”

NSF Fellow Advocates Integrating Arts Into STEM Curriculum.

Sarah D. Sparks, writing at the Education Week  (3/19) “Curriculum Matters” blog, profiles Aomawa Shelds, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in Astronomy and astrophysics whose nonprofit, Rising Stargirls, “works to get girls, particularly those from poor and minority backgrounds, interested in astronomy careers.” Sparks writes that Shields argues that attempts to engage students in STEM subjects “should incorporate more art, drama, and other ‘soft’ subjects.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Law Experts: EPA’s Clean Power Plan Verges On Illegal Breach Of States’ Rights.
Award Winners Hear From NASA Engineer.
Defects In Graphene Help To Transfer Protons.
Boeing Wins $30 Million Navy Contract For Laser System.
House Committee Members To Tour Yucca Mountain.
Michigan High School Students Part Of HUNCH Program.

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