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

Leading the News

US Oil Industry Teams Up With Tech Companies.

Reuters  (3/27, Scheyder) reports that with plummeting oil prices, companies in the oil industry are looking to the tech industry for innovations to boost output and improve drilling techniques. Scott Johnson, a petroleum engineering professor at the University of North Dakota said that oil companies “want the engineers to think out of the box and take new opportunities especially when prices are low.” GroundMetrics, which provides services to BP and Statoil, says its technology will allow oil firms to drill 10 percent fewer wells, which could save the industry more than $20 billion per year. “Oil companies drill more wells than they need to,” said George Eiskamp, the GroundMetrics chief executive. “We can help reduce the number of wells that are fracked without reducing production, thus cutting costs.” WellDog Inc, another company that was founded to work with coalbed methane producers, is now applying its technology to shale to help clients tell cheap reserves of methane apart from ethane, propane and butane reserves.

The Houston Chronicle  (3/28, Eaton) reported that oil drillers are looking to ways to increase oil production. Proppant suppliers are calling for fracking companies “to reinvent the oil industry again,” according to Jim Venditto, VP of technical services at Trican Well Service, a fracking company. “Producers have been talking more about finding ways to bolster well productivity, he said,” according to the Houston Chronicle. Michael O’Neill, CEO of Radnor, whose company last year launched an iPhone app to track wells in North America and information regarding their exploitation by the industry, said, “It’s going to have to become very scientific.” Baker Hughes and Halliburton too have called for innovative ways to “re-frack” old wells. “I don’t think people will be able to afford not to do it,” said O’Neil. But not all companies are interested in spending more. “When oil was $100 a barrel, a lot more people were interested in experimenting,” said Samir Nangia, a principal with PacWest Consulting Partners. “Now they’re more focused on costs.”

Higher Education

ED Set To Name Colleges On Cash Monitoring List.

Inside Higher Ed  (3/28) reports that ED has announced that it is planning to name the colleges on its cash monitoring list, explaining that these schools’ access to Federal student aid has been “restricted because of concerns about the risk they pose to students and taxpayers.” The piece notes that newly published Federal records indicate that most of the “institutions placed on those financial sanctions in recent years have been for-profit colleges.” The article reports that ED Press Secretary Dorie Nolt said that the department will release the list sometime next week.

Wisconsin For-Profit School Regulator In Governor’s Sights.

The Madison (WI) Capital Times  (3/30) reports that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is pushing for the elimination of the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board, noting that the agency’s executive secretary, David Dies, said that should the bid succeed, “the for-profit schools it oversees will ramp up practices that could harm students.” Walker’s budget proposal includes language doing away with the agency, and Dies is lobbying state legislators to reject the plan. The article describes some of the recruiting abuses that the for-profit sector has been criticized for in the past, and touches on ED’s enforcement standards designed to prevent such activities.

Tuition At Private Colleges Heading Toward $70,000.

The Washington Post  (3/27, Anderson, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that as college “sticker prices” steadily rise, several private colleges have risen above $60,000 per year, and “prices will surpass $70,000” in the near future. The piece reports that students could spend up to $300,000 for a four-year degree, including such expenses as “books, plane tickets, other expenses and inflation.” However, the Post reports that the data can be “misleading” because many such schools offer deep discounts and attractive aid packages.

IG Report: ED Failing To Enforce Incentive Compensation Rules.

Inside Higher Ed  (3/27) reports that ED’s inspector general has released a “highly critical audit” saying that ED’s Federal Student Aid office has “done too little to carry out regulatory changes adopted five years ago to crack down on colleges’ use of incentive compensation to reward employees.” The rules are part of the Administration’s “package of ‘program integrity’ regulations aimed at limiting fraud and abuse in federal financial aid programs.” The audit said that ED has failed to take advantage of “‘an excellent opportunity to revise its enforcement policies and practices’ regarding incentive compensation.”

Wisconsin For-Profit School Regulator In Governor’s Sights.

The Madison (WI) Capital Times  (3/30) reports that Wisconsin Gov. Rick Scott is pushing for the elimination of the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board, noting that the agency’s executive secretary, David Dies, said that should the bid succeed, “the for-profit schools it oversees will ramp up practices that could harm students.” Walker’s budget proposal includes language doing away with the agency, and Dies is lobbying state legislators to reject the plan. The article describes some of the recruiting abuses that the for-profit sector has been criticized for in the past, and touches on ED’s enforcement standards designed to prevent such activities.

From ASEE
Twelve ASEE members win NSF CAREER Awards.
Read the full list of winners.

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

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

Workforce

Jury Rules Against Plaintiff In Silicon Valley Gender Discrimination Case.

On Friday, a jury in San Francisco determined that venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers “did not discriminate or retaliate against” employee Ellen Pao, 45, the AP  (3/28, Thanawala) reports. During closing arguments, “jurors heard conflicting portraits of Pao.” While Pao’s “attorneys said she was an accomplished junior partner who was passed over for a promotion and fired because the firm used different standards to judge men and women,” Kleiner Perkins attorney Lynne Hermle “countered that Pao failed as an investor at the company and sued to get a big payout as she was being shown the door.”

The New York Times  (3/28, Streitfeld, Subscription Publication) reports that the Pao case, which “was the most prominent trial in Silicon Valley within memory,” came to a head “as the freewheeling ways of the male-dominated technology industry increasingly drew scrutiny.”

The Wall Street Journal  (3/28, A1, Elder, Subscription Publication), Los Angeles Times  (3/28, Chang, Lien), and Bloomberg News  (3/28, Blumberg) also report on the verdict.

Media Analyses: Despite Verdict, Pao Case Hurt Silicon Valley’s Image. ABC World News (3/28, story 8, 2:00, Evans) reported that “even though Ellen Pao’s claim of gender discrimination against Kleiner Perkins…was dismissed by the jury, she says there is a larger message.” Pao said after the verdict, “I have told my story and thousands of people have heard it.”

The AP  (3/29, Thanawala) reports that even with Pao’s loss, Silicon Valley observers assert that her case will “embolden women in the industry and continue to spur firms to examine their practices and cultures for gender bias.” The AP adds that experts assert that “Kleiner Perkins and the venture capital industry in general did not come out looking good even though they won the case” and that over the past 10 months a variety of employment statistics have highlighted the “technology industry’s lack of diversity into sharper focus.”

NYTimes: Pao Lawsuit Highlights The Importance Of Documenting Ideas. The New York Times  (3/29, Streitfeld, Dougherty, Subscription Publication) reports that success in the courtroom in Silicon Valley is a “tricky thing” and Kleiner’s win “contains perils” that the company will have to overcome, including its image as an exclusive boys’ club. The Times says that other fallout from the case will likely be a new push to document an idea by various mediums, including emails, memos, etc. to retain intellectual ownership. The story adds that the testimony by Pao in the trial “repeatedly circled back to the issue of who got credit for profitable investments.”

Engineering and Public Policy

US Broadband Infrastructure Lacking Redundancies.

The AP  (3/28, Fonseca, Lieb) reports on broadband infrastructure vulnerabilities, especially in many rural areas and small cities. The AP adds that according to industry analysts, broadband companies usually “do not build alternative routes, or redundancies, unless they believe it is worthwhile financially.” The AP says that the FCC indicates that around 50 percent of rural America “lacks access to high-speed Internet service” but the agency plans to “distribute about $20 billion over the next five years to support rural broadband,” but even so the FCC “does not require recipients to build network backup systems against outages.”

Foxx’s Comment On “Obsolete” Bridge Noted In Story Celebrating Different, Still-Standing Bridge In Illinois.

The Moline (IL) Dispatch-Argus  (3/28, Smith) reports on the 12th annual Henry Farnam dinner in Rock Island, Illinois, which honored the legacy of the Government Bridge, “a monument to its designer’s masterful skills as an engineer,” because the structure is still standing “more than 100 years later.” The story mentions on the note of the building of a new I-74 bridge that “during a visit” to Illinois “last year, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx called the I-74 bridge ‘functionally obsolete.’” On the other hand, Government Bridge “is expected to continue in working order for the next 100 years.”

Wind Power Advocates Question New Jersey’s Commitment To Wind Power.

On its front page, the Washington Post  (3/30, A1, Warrick) reports from Atlantic City, New Jersey that the state’s lack of progress on wind energy development is “the subject of intense debate here.” According to the article, “some blame the governor, whose enthusiasm for wind energy appeared to flag around the time he began exploring a run for the Republican presidential nomination.” The article notes that although the difficulties in wind power development “also reflect broader struggles for a U.S. offshore wind industry that is many years behind counterparts” overseas, the Obama Administration has “aggressively promoted wind and solar energy as part of its larger effort to reduce carbon emissions.”

WSJournal: Obama, Reid Deal On Yucca Mountain Has Hurt Senate Democrats.

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal  (3/30, Subscription Publication) argues that Senate Majority Leader Reid has pushed the President’s agenda on Capitol Hill as part of a political bargain under which the President blocked the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in return. The Journal adds that while the arrangement was beneficial for the President and Reid, it has been damaging to Senate Democrats, who will likely remain in the minority after the next election as a result.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Study: Girls’ Earnings Get Bigger Boost From Studying STEM.

Forbes  (3/30, Morrison) reports that a study by the UK DOE shows that taking two or more STEM classes adds 7.8% to male earnings but over 33% to female earnings, creating a “powerful incentive” for girls to study science. Women are underrepresented in scientific careers, and the participation gap appears to be widening in England. Forbes concludes that universities can work with female students to overturn the “masculine image” of science.

Virginia War Memorial To Host Women In STEM Careers Program.

The AP  (3/28) reports that the Virginia War Memorial is hosting a free program to promote women in STEM careers Tuesday along with the U.S. Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee to celebrate Women’s History Month. The program will emphasize the importance of women in STEM careers for the workforce and will have a panel discussion featuring the military and civilian businesses.

North Carolinian Girls Win Awards For Scientific Aptitude.

The Charlotte (NC) Observer  (3/30, Lezin) reports on the winners of the National Center for Women & Information Technology award, which is designed to help girls pursue careers and opportunities in engineering and technology.

Mississippi School Hosts STEM-based Activities Program.

The MLive  (3/30, Smith) reports that students at a Mississippi Elementary School enjoyed after school activities to promote STEM subjects.

Kansas Children’s Discovery Center Enters Partnership To Promote Engineering.

The Topeka (KS) Capital-Journal  (3/30, Deines) reports that the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center (KCDC), school district curriculum directors and an engineering firm have partnered to prepare Kansans for engineering careers and Common Core standards. The KCDC tailored its programs to promote what Margaret Hennessey Springe, KCDC’s director of education and programs, describes as an “informal learning environment” that gives students a chance to receive instruction they “can’t get in the classroom.”

Hartford Hosts Qualifier For New England Robotics Competition.

The Hartford (CT) Courant  (3/30, Porter) reports that Hartford hosted 39 high school teams for the final district qualifier for the New England For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology robotics competition.

Friday’s Lead Stories

California’s Clean Energy Growing Faster Than Ability To Store It.
Zakaria Questions Focus On STEM Education.
Bloomberg Analysis: Corporate America Saw Surge In R&D Spending Last Year.
Report Warns Of Growing Tech Workforce Gender Gap.
Steel Makers Seek Congressional Help Against Foreign Rivals.
Kansans Appeal Lawsuit Over Evolution, Climate Change In Curriculum.

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