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

Leading the News

Supreme Court To Hear Challenge To Mercury Regulations Wednesday.

Reuters  (3/25, Hurley) reports that on Wednesday, the US Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Administration’s regulations intended to limit emissions of mercury and other pollutants, mainly from coal-fired power plants. After an appeals court upheld the regulations last summer, industry groups and some state governments appealed to the Supreme Court. The case will examine whether the EPA should have considered compliance costs when designing the regulations.

USA Today  (3/25, Wolf) describes the regulations as being able to “could save thousands of lives each year” but at the “cost billions of dollars.” The challenge is the “latest in a series of environmental cases to come before the court,” and while the court’s “conservative majority has tread lightly on President Obama’s initiatives,” a “bigger showdown over ozone regulations could be yet to come.”

In an editorial, the Washington Post  (3/25) says that to overturn the regulations, those challenging them “must convince the court that the agency was wholly unreasonable in the way it interpreted the Clean Air Act’s command to regulate hazardous air pollution when ‘appropriate,’” and that’s a “high legal hurdle” which the challengers “aren’t anywhere close” to clearing.

Higher Education

Rise In Foreign Student Population At US Universities Discussed.

The Wall Street Journal  (3/25, Jordan, Subscription Publication) says that an unprecedented number of foreign students are enrolling in American universities, due to increasing affluence in China, generous scholarships from Gulf states, and aggressive recruitment from cash-strapped public universities. A DHS report to be released Wednesday is cited saying that 1.13 million international students are in the US, overwhelmingly in college-degree programs; the number is 14 percent higher than last year and 50 percent more than in 2010. The article says that a backlash is occurring in some states due to the perception that international and out-of-state students displace in-state residents at public universities, with the University of California and Iowa systems announcing caps.

UVA Board Approves 11% Tuition Hike, More Aid To Needy Students.

The Washington Post  (3/24, Anderson) reports that the University of Virginia Board of Visitors has approved an 11% increase in tuition and fees for next fall, “one of the highest tuition-and-fee increases in the nation.” However, the plan includes a reduction in needy students’ debt burden. In-state tuition will increase from $12,998 to $14,468. The Post describes the plan as a “bold trade-off” in which wealthier students “will pay a higher sticker price, while those who are in need will have to borrow less than previously required” after receiving “larger grants.”

NSF Gives New York School $600,000 STEM Scholarship Grant.

The Potsdam (NY) North Country Now  (3/25) reports that the National Science Foundation has given New York’s St. Lawrence University a $618,524 grant “to create a liberal arts science scholars program that will assist underrepresented groups pursue STEM-related majors and careers.” The school’s Liberal Arts Science Scholars Program “will offer scholarships to 20 underrepresented students in STEM field who will major in mathematics, geology, chemistry, computer science, physics or a non-clinical track of biology.”

Recommendations Can Help Community College STEM Students.

US News & World Report  (3/24, Boyington) reports that according to NCES data, most community college STEM majors never earn their degrees, despite community colleges being good “starting points” for STEM students. The piece cites a Hanover Research report listing a number of obstacles that hinder the progress of many such students, and offers a number of recommendations by which students seeking “the benefits of community college and a STEM career can set themselves up for success.” Such steps include sharpening math skills, finding mentors, and utilizing colleges’ STEM resources beyond the classroom.

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

A funding opportunity for NSF Education Grantees – Attend I-Corps L Webinar, Thursday, March 26
To register for this webinar, email Read more about the program.

ASEE Perks
Learn about the broad collection of benefits available to ASEE members.

Research and Development

Researchers Develop Sidewinding S&R Robot.

The Engineer  (3/25) reports that researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the Georgia Institute of Technology were inspired by sidewinder snakes to develop “a robot designed for entering dangerous environments.” The researchers studied the snakes “to work out how to make their robot take rapid and sharp turns as it moved.” The article reports that snakes are “a popular model for robot builders,” noting that researchers are exploring “how robotic reptiles might be used for dangerous and difficult tasks from decommissioning nuclear power stations to exploring Mars.”

University Of Akron Researcher Gets NIH Grant To Study Heart Healing Technology.

The Crain’s Cleveland Business  (3/24) reports that University of Akron researcher Ge “Christie” Zhang, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, has received a $459,992 grant from the National Institutes of Health “to further research into a technology that could heal cardiac muscle that dies as the result of a heart attack.”

Alexander Says NIH And FDA Must Keep Pace With Today’s Cutting-Edge Scientific Advances.

The Chattanoogan  (3/25) “Living Well” blog carries the text of Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) remarks during the second hearing considering the Senate Health Committee’s “bipartisan initiative to examine the process for getting medical products through discovery and development into medicine cabinets.” He noted that at the last meeting, the committee “heard from Dr. Collins, the head of” the NIH, and FDA Commissioner Dr. Hamburg, who “provided insights into what” the agencies “have been doing to try to improve the discovery, research and development, and regulatory processes from the government perspective.” The purpose of the second meeting, Alexander said, “is to hear from the researchers and innovators that interact with” the agencies “and can tell us how this is working and about potential solutions.” While he concedes that the agencies face “big challenges,” he says that “the NIH and FDA must keep pace with today’s cutting-edge scientific advances.”

Industry News

Jenkins Sees Tesla Eventually Being Bought By Traditional Auto Company.

In his column for the Wall Street Journal  (3/25, Subscription Publication), Holman W. Jenkins Jr. argues that Tesla, despite claims to the contrary, is not a disruptive company, as it doesn’t significantly change the automotive experience. He says that eventually, Tesla, which loses money, may have to sell out to a larger car company that needs the brand name to sell electric vehicles, as demanded by the President’s fuel economy rules.

Engineering and Public Policy

First Research Wind Turbines To Be Placed Off Virginia Coast.

The AP  (3/24) reports that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a lease to Dominion Virginia Power for two 500-foot research wind turbines 25 miles off the coast from Virginia Beach. The turbines will collect data used to determine the wind power potential of the open sea site and both and are expected to be operational in 2017.

The Hampton Roads (VA) Virginian-Pilot  (3/24, Applegate) and the Hampton Roads (VA) Daily Press  (3/24, Dietrich, Subscription Publication) also cover this story.

Bipartisan Cybersecurity Bill Introduced In House.

Reuters  (3/25, Zengerle) reports that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on Tuesday introduced new legislation on Tuesday designed to encourage companies to share information about cybersecurity threats with the government without fear of lawsuits. The Protecting Cyber Networks Act has bipartisan backing, and Reuters says that it has a good chance of passing the House.

McClatchy  (3/25, Doyle, Subscription Publication) reports that that House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes and Ranking Member Adam Schiff approach their jobs differently. Nunes avoids the spotlight, while Schiff regularly appears on the Sunday shows. Still, the piece notes their ability to work together despite their differing approach to the job, on issues such as the cybersecurity bill.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Students’ Hydrofuge To Be Tested On ISS.

KCNC-TV  Denver (3/23) reports on its website that students in the Principles of Engineering class for Warren Tech students at Lakewood, Colorado High School will send their experimental hydrofuge to the ISS through the High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware program. The agency challenged students to find a way to grow things without gravity; the device removed water from roots so they don’t smother in zero gravity.

Maryland County Curriculum Supplement Melds Science, Math, And Reading.

The Baltimore Sun  (3/25, Perl) reports that a new curriculum supplement based on the launch of bottle rockets is being implemented in seven public Baltimore County, Maryland schools as a way to combine science, engineering, math and reading skills. The exercise is meant to teach children about forces such as gravity and drag.

New Jersey District Launches STEM Academy.

The New Jersey Local News  (3/25, Rojas) reports that Hopewell Valley Regional School District in New Jersey has launched its new STEM Academy, a magnet program designed to combine math and science with “collaborative, hands-on learning” to boost critical thinking and creativity. The program was under development for two years prior to launch and will continue to expand to middle and high schools.

Blacks, Latinos Underrepresented In STEM Careers.

The Huffington Post  (3/24, Howard) reports that despite growing as a proportion of the population, African-Americans and Latinos have not become more prevalent in STEM careers since 2001. The Post interviews Rodney Williams and André Walters, two Black innovators, who argue that diversity brings different perspectives and ideas that help boost organizations, that minorities can help drive usage of technology, and that success often comes from the speed of adaptation.

Robot Races Could Pull Students Towards STEM Fields.

Reuters  (3/24, Malone) reports that robot races and competitions are emerging across the US, which can help drive students towards STEM fields. Competitions also generate ideas that have the potential to become inventions, and inventions as prominent as Google’s self-driving cars have arisen from similar challenges.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

At White House Science Fair, Obama Announces New STEM Commitments.
California State Legislator Advocates New, Science-Based UC.
Researchers Make Strides In Metamaterial Applications.
Georgia Legislature Advances Ban On LEED Construction In State Buildings.
HUNCH School Shows Off Work To Congresswoman.

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