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

Leading the News

At White House Science Fair, Obama Announces New STEM Commitments.

The New York Times  (3/23, Shear, Subscription Publication)describes the President as awed by the accomplishments of the children who presented their inventions at the White House Science Fair, and notes that in brief remarks he announced “$240 million in new commitments from the government and private businesses to help children succeed in science, technology and math,” part of an initiative known as STEM. However, adds the Times, “it was clear that” for Obama, “the best part of the day was spending time with the young inventors.” In a brief report, NBC Nightly News (3/23, story 10, 0:20, Holt) said “Obama appeared to be quite impressed by a group of cape-wearing girl scouts from Tulsa, OK,” who showed him “the page-turning robot they built out of Legos designed to help the disabled. Pretty neat stuff.”

The AP  (3/24, Kuhnhenn), meanwhile, notes that “the pledges the president announced include a $150 million philanthropic effort to encourage promising early-career scientists to stay on track and a $90 million campaign to expand STEM opportunities to underrepresented youth, such as minorities and girls.” Said Obama, “It’s not enough for our country just to be proud of you. We’ve got to support you.”

USA Today  (3/23, Jackson, Today) reports that Obama hailed “up to $240 million in private sector pledges for” STEM education, describing his interactions with the participants.

Other media outlets that covered this story include the Huffington Post  (3/24, Bondioli), the Christian Science Monitor  (3/23), the New York Daily News  (3/23, Friedman), US News & World Report  (3/23), TIME  (3/24), and the Arizona Republic  (3/23).

NAE Announces Plan To Graduate 20,000 “Grand Challenge Engineers.” The National Academy of Engineering  has announced that “more than 120 US engineering schools” presented President Obama with a letter of commitment at the White House Science Fair announcing “plans to educate a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century.” The piece explains that these “Grand Challenges” involve “complex yet critical goals such as engineering better medicines, making solar energy cost-competitive with coal, securing cyberspace, and advancing personalized learning tools to deliver better education to more individuals.” Each school pledged to graduate at least 20 students every year “specially prepared to lead the way in solving such large-scale problems, with the goal of training more than 20,000 formally recognized ‘Grand Challenge Engineers’ over the next decade.”

Higher Education

California State Legislator Advocates New, Science-Based UC.

State Rep. Mike Gatto writes an op-ed to the Los Angeles Times  (3/23, Gatto) to counter a previous blog post from the Times’ Karin Klein. Gatto argues that elite UCs are at maximum capacity and will experience growing pressure that could be handled with increased capacity stemming from a new UC that focused on STEAM subjects, “practical subject areas that generate the best-paying jobs.” He notes that many high-merit students are rejected from UCs and often leave the state, which poses a long-term problem, and that students currently at UCs find themselves in a high-cost environment that did not allow ample interaction with professors. While he admits that there are short-term challenges that must be addressed, he notes that California is expected to grow, and the state’s “educational superiority” has always depended on planning for “long-term higher-educational needs.”

VIDEOS – Watch a collection of talks from the Public Policy Colloquium, held in February. (Due to audio problems, not all talks were captured.)

Message from ASEE President Nicholas Altiero on “Strategic Doing”: Members will soon be asked to comment about plans for ASEE’s future.

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Research and Development

Researchers Make Strides In Metamaterial Applications.

The New York Times  (3/24, Markoff, Subscription Publication) reports on advances researchers have made in recent years about the science of metamaterials, noting that they are “generating innovations in an array of fields, including radio antennas, radar, cosmetics, soundproofing and walls that help protect against earthquakes and tsunamis.” The piece explains that such materials are “constructed with subcomponents that are smaller than the wavelength of the type of radiation they are designed to manipulate.” Moreover, there are “obvious markets for the technology in automotive safety and self-driving cars.”

Rochester Institute Of Technology Emerges As Drone Research Leader.

The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle  (3/19) reports that Rochester Institute of Technology, long seen as a leader in aerial and satellite imaging, “has now emerged as one of the world’s leading centers for research on drones, small unmanned aircraft.” The head of the school’s Center for Imaging Science, David Messinger, “says he gets calls almost every week from companies seeking this expertise, and graduating students are in extraordinarily high demand.” The piece notes that graduates from the school’s Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Lab are “highly sought after by government and industry alike.”

Ohio State Researchers Bend Sound, Manipulate Temperature With Magnetic Fields.

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch  (3/23) reports on research published by two Ohio State University researchers in the journal Nature Materials describing “how to bend sound and adjust temperature using magnetic fields.” The article reports that the university says the “researchers are the first to prove that tiny particles of heat and sound are magnetic,” meaning that these acoustic phonons “can be controlled by magnetic fields.”

Northwest University Researchers Working On Underwater Router.

The Boston Herald  (3/24) reports that Northwest University researcher Tommaso Melodia is working on “the first underwater smartphone or wireless router,” noting that the school lured the “highly cited researcher who is pioneering subaquatic Wi-Fi” from SUNY Buffalo. The piece notes that the National Science Foundation has given Melodia a $300,000 grant “to expand his research, this time focusing on the possibility of real-time underwater video streaming.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Georgia Legislature Advances Ban On LEED Construction In State Buildings.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (3/24) reports that that a Georgia state Senate committee on Monday passed legislation under which “state buildings would be effectively banned from using environmentally friendly construction standards known as LEED certification,” noting that the state timber industry has attacked the certification standards as discriminatory “against the use of local wood products that aren’t registered through the Forest Stewardship Council.”

New Fracking Rules Discussed.

Scientific American  (3/23, Lustgarten) reports, “The new rules announced Friday by the Obama administration governing how energy companies frack for oil and gas on federal lands managed to anger environmentalists and the industry alike, but represent a significant step toward protecting drinking water resources in some of the most heavily drilled parts of the country.” “Many of the regulations on the books at the Interior Department have not kept pace with advances in technology and modern drilling methods,” said Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior and a former petroleum engineer, in her statement announcing the new policy. “Our decades-old regulations do not contemplate current techniques in which hydraulic fracturing is increasingly complex.” “The bottom line is: these rules fail to protect the nation’s public lands—home to our last wild places, and sources of drinking water for millions of people—from the risks of fracking,” said Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Bloomberg News  (3/23) reported an interview with Bloomberg’s Rob Barnett, examining how new fracking rules will impact the drilling industry. He says the government is the biggest landowner in the US and describes the difference between state and Federal regulations regarding fracking.

Obama Touts Internet Access Gains, Creates Broadband Opportunity Council.

The Washington Times  (3/24, Wolfgang) reports that during his remarks at the White House Science Fair, President Obama said “98 percent of Americans now have access to fourth-generation mobile broadband,” a goal he had previously laid out to be “accomplished by the time he left office in 2017.” Said the President yesterday, “I can announce that we have achieved that goal and we did it ahead of schedule.” Also yesterday, Obama “signed a presidential memorandum to create the first Broadband Opportunity Council, tasked with extending broadband access and increasing competition.”

The Des Moines (IA) Register  (3/24, Doering) notes that Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Commerce Secretary Pritzker will jointly chair the Council. As part of the initiative, USDA will award “a portion of $35 million in federal loan money to improve broadband infrastructure” to firms in Iowa, Arkansas and New Mexico. Vilsack said, “These telecommunications providers will deliver enhanced broadband services to help attract and grow businesses, as well as to improve educational and health care services. … Time and again, studies show that affordable broadband offers increased economic opportunities in rural areas.”

Broadband Providers Sue FCC Over Net Neutrality Regulations.

The Los Angeles Times  (3/24, Puzzanghera) reports “an expected lengthy court fight” over new net neutrality regulations began with broadband providers alleging in lawsuits against the Federal Communications Commission that rules are “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.” Meanwhile, an FCC spokesperson said the lawsuits “are premature and subject to dismissal.”

EPA’s Power Plant Mercury Emissions Regulations Criticized.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal  (3/24, Subscription Publication), Brian Potts, a partner at the international law firm Foley & Lardner LLP, criticizes the EPA’s regulation of mercury emissions from power plants. The regulations are now being considered by the Supreme Court. Potts argues that the EPA admits that the regulations wouldn’t greatly affect US mercury deposition, and suggests that the agency’s assumptions in calculating the harm from the pollution are ridiculous. He concludes that economic losses due to the children hurt by mercury are outweighed by the costs of complying with the rules.

Elementary/Secondary Education

HUNCH School Shows Off Work To Congresswoman.

The Macomb (MI) Daily  (3/23, Fahr) reports that earlier this month, US Rep. Candice Miller saw what Romeo Engineering and Technology Center students created as part of the High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program under the supervision of Glenn Research Center employees. Glenn Aerospace Engineer Nancy Hall said, “The skills they are learning to build parts are the same skills NASA uses when we are building components for the International Space Station.”

Children Design “Adorable” UAVs As Part Of “Cuddly Drone” Program.

Popular Science  (3/23, Kratochwill) reported that at South by Southwest, the Netherlands’ Setup media lab promoted its “Cuddly Drones” program, where children learn “about drone engineering and surveillance concerns.” The children also design their own “adorable” UAVs, some of which were displayed at the festival. While all could fly, the article noted that it may be “a few years” before they could actually take part in their intended purposes.

Immersive High-Skill And Tech Programs Gaining Ground In Schools.

USA Today  (3/24, Webster) reports that combining “rigorous college preparation with hands-on learning” through direct immersion in a field is an increasingly popular way to reverse drop out rates, get top students experience before they choose a career, and keep students engaged. Proponents argue that this can cut the costs of college, where most students do not graduate on time as they try out different careers. USA Today reports through its own findings that STEM and high-skill blue-collar jobs will account for most new “livable wage” jobs until 2017, which will require “some form of post secondary education, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan notes it is critical for high schoolers to graduate prepared, and that students that drop out of high school are “basically condemned to poverty and social failure.” Schools are pairing with technology companies through programs like IBM’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School and applying for Federal grants to overhaul their systems.

Ten New CTE Programs To Be Awarded In New York This Fall.

The Chalkbeat New York  (3/23, Snyder) reports that a new program will expand or found career and technical education (CTE) programs in 10 high schools in New York in the fall, which will focus on “mastery-based learning programs,” which measure development based on skills and completion of projects rather than attendance alone. Schools with one of New York’s more than 300 ongoing CTE programs or without a program may apply, with new programs awarded on need, desire, and qualifications. Similar programs have focused on technology or in-demand careers like healthcare.

Monday’s Lead Stories

Administration Announces New Fracking Rules.
University Of Illinois Launches College Of Medicine With Engineering Focus.
Engineering Students Build Device To Extinguish Fires With Sound Waves.
Former Female Twitter Engineer Sues Over “Secretive,” Discriminatory Promotional System.
Quakes’ Effect On Infrastructure Examined.
Wyoming Resuming Review Of Science Standards.

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