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

Leading the News

Obama Releases Plan To Cut Emissions By 28% Over 10 Years.

The President’s blueprint to fight climate change in the US was ignored by the network newscasts and received very little notice on the major cable news shows. Print and online coverage this morning, meanwhile, generally cast the plan in a favorable light, describing it as ambitious and wide-ranging and, as the Christian Science Monitor  (3/31, Gilmour) puts it, “the latest in a series of executive-led efforts to bolster US climate policy ahead of this December’s international talks in Paris – widely seen as a last-ditch opportunity to foster unified global action to curb…emissions.” Analysts also note the swift GOP criticism of the plan, and put the debate in the context of Obama’s ongoing fight with Hill Republicans over his authority to act unilaterally.

The New York Times  (4/1, Davenport, Subscription Publication), for example, reports that the blueprint’s “reliance on executive” action “is an acknowledgment that any proposal to pass climate change legislation would be blocked by…Congress.” The Blaze  (3/31, Lucas), meanwhile, noted that the Administration “says it won’t need Congress’ help in its goals set for an international climate agreement,” and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch  (4/1, Raasch) indicates that “the politics in the climate debate are similar to ongoing battles between Obama and Senate Republicans over nuclear arms talks with Iran.” In both matters, Obama “has said he has acted within clear legal and constitutional authority granted to presidents, while Senate Republicans say that any major agreements on issues like climate or nuclear arms require Senate approval.”

The President, said the Daily Intelligencer (NY)  (3/31, Fuller), “seems determined to make this happen, especially since environmental policy is one of the few arenas where he is able to act alone.” The Washington Times  (4/1, Wolfgang), meanwhile, reports that the Administration “has given no indication it will submit the plan to the Senate for formal approval, meaning the US plan will not be a binding international treaty and theoretically could be rolled back relatively easily by the next president.” The Times adds that “leading Republicans say they expect the White House to seek a congressional green light,” and “they’re also stressing the plan, if submitted to Congress, will die on Capitol Hill.”

Politico  (3/31, Restuccia) notes that Senate Majority Leader McConnell “immediately warned international negotiators to ‘proceed with caution’ before trusting Obama’s promise – the continuation of the GOP’s attempt to undermine the administration’s climate strategy at every turn.” The Hill  (3/31, Cama), meanwhile, reports that Sen. Jim Inhofe said Senate approval for a climate deal “will not happen in the current Senate.” Said Inhofe, “As the Obama administration continues to pursue a radical agenda on global warming, it’s clear Americans are beginning to question if the cost of billions of dollars to our economy and tens of thousands of lost job opportunities is really worth it for potentially no gain.”

US News & World Report  (3/31, Neuhauser) said “the plan the US submitted is not legally binding,” adding that “partisan intransigence and GOP opposition” led Obama to make “robust use of his executive authority,” and the Christian Science Monitor  (3/31, Gilmour) cautioned that the partisan debate “leaves some in the international community wondering if they can rely on a ten-year commitment from an executive who will be in power for less than two of those years.” On its website, the New Republic  (3/31, Leber) similarly reported that a “successful” international “deal rests in part on how well the White House can assure the rest of the world that the Obama administration can overcome political (conservative) intransigence.”

Higher Education

ED Releases List Of Colleges On Heightened Cash Monitoring.

Coverage of ED’s release of a list of colleges on its “heightened cash monitoring” status has expanded today, including reports on one of the network news broadcasts and a variety of other media outlets. The CBS Evening News (3/31, story 9, 2:35, Pelley) reported that ED “put more than 500 colleges on a watch list because the schools are short of cash.” The segment focuses on Virginia’s Sweet Briar College, where” there was no warning before President Jimmy Jones announced that the college…was running out of money” and would close immediately.

Other reports focused more specifically on ED’s announcement. The Chronicle of Higher Education  (4/1) reports that ED “released the names of the more than 550 colleges required to operate under more restrictive conditions and extra scrutiny” because of their handling of Federal financial aid. The piece quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying that the status “is not necessarily a red flag to students and taxpayers, but it can serve as a caution light.” The Chronicle reports that 69 colleges on the list face a more extreme level of scrutiny called HCM 2, and “must first disburse to students the loans and grant money that they are entitled to, and must then provide detailed information on each recipient before being reimbursed by the department.” This article notes that ED had initially refused a request from Inside Higher Ed to release the information, but reports that Mitchell said that ED eventually “decided to release the names in the interest of transparency.”

The Washington Post  (3/31, Douglas-Gabriel) reports in its “Wonkblog” blog that schools can be placed on heightened cash monitoring for “turning in late financial statements, having accreditation issues or operating with a lot of debt.” Mitchell “said the problems ranged from ‘serious to less troublesome,’ and he called the added scrutiny more of a ‘caution light’ than a ‘red flag to students and taxpayers.’” The Post suggests that last year’s collapse of Corinthian Colleges Inc. has increased interest in the watch list and the colleges on it. The Post quotes ED spokesperson Denise Horn saying, “We don’t think the typical school on this list has problems of the breadth and depth of Corinthian. The majority of the schools [being monitored] continue operations without closing.” The Post adds that ED redacted the names of several of the “most endangered” schools, quoting Mitchell saying, “We’re concerned that having those names out would impede those investigations and not allow us to get to the bottom of things at those institutions. However, we will report the status of those reviews . . . and be updating this list as the results of the reviews become clear.”

Columbia University’s Poor Students Post About Life On Campus.

Bloomberg News  (4/1, Otani) reports that low-income students at Columbia University are posting anonymously on a Facebook page that “offer[s] an unfiltered lesson” about the lives of poor students. The page details cases of students working while studying or even “scrounging money” for meals while surrounded by affluent peers, leading some students to “fe[el] isolated.” Leaders of the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership that runs the page have had meetings with administrators in order to help address some issues presented on the site.

Programs Emerging To Give College Students Real-World Skills.

The Washington Post  (3/31, Selingo) reports on the emergence of “so-called boot camps” at college campuses designed to “give students real-world skills” that are not acquired during a typical undergraduate program. The Post notes that many employers are finding that “most college seniors are simply not ready for professional jobs,” often because they lack the technical skills, problem solving, or communication abilities to succeed. However, the article also notes the 3 to 4 week courses, which often involve “rigorous real-world projects, also cost thousands of dollars on top of the undergraduate tuition.”

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Research and Development

NCSU Researchers Develop Cyborg Cockroaches For Search And Rescue.

The Christian Science Monitor  (3/31, Suhay) reports that North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers “developed cyborg cockroaches” that may help find survivors of disasters. According to a NCSU press release, the “bugs” are equipped with “tiny microphones and trackers” that would enable rescuers to locate victims. The Monitor further details the research and related technology being developed at NCSU.

Engineering Prof Wins NIH Grant For Research On Heart Disease.

Western Michigan University News  (4/1, Schwerin) reports that Dr. James Springstead, a Western Michigan University engineering professor, “has been awarded a $416,816 grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue his research into understanding the underlying biological mechanisms that lead to heart disease.” This is the first grant from the NIH ever awarded to WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

NASA Historian Lists The Top Technologies NACA And NASA Helped Develop.

ComputerWorld  (3/31, Gaudin) reports on the 100th anniversary of the establishment of NACA, which eventually became NASA. Bill Barry, NASA’s chief historian, said, “Part of what have been so remarkable about NACA and NASA were their ability to solve problems. … The engineering approach that they took has been dramatically successful … They have been able to apply a disciplined engineering approach to technologies that proliferated throughout industry and society. It has had effect in little ways and also in very big ways that today we take for granted.” According to article, Barry considers the integrated circuit, communication satellites, airplane designs, airplane deicing, and weather satellites to be “the top five technologies that NASA – and NACA – developed or helped develop.”

Global Developments

Commentary: Brasilia Should Focus On Sustainable Solutions To Water Scarcity.

In commentary published in the New York Times  (4/1, Subscription Publication), Council on Foreign Relations fellow Scott Moore says “in trying to engineer their way out of water scarcity, Brazil’s leaders are repeating mistakes made by their American counterparts.” That is, they are relying on “giant feats of engineering.” Instead, argues Moore, Brasilia and other cities throughout the world need to “start focusing on sustainable solutions to water scarcity.”

Engineering and Public Policy

DOE Moving Forward With New Efficiency Rules For Pumps.

The Hill  (4/1, Devaney) reports the Energy Department “is moving forward with new efficiency rules for pumps.” DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy proposed yesterday “to develop new test procedures for measuring the efficiency of pumps.” The “procedures would measure the electric input, hydraulic power, and shaft power of pumps.”

Nevada GOP Budget Plan Cuts Funding To Fight Yucca Mountain.

The Las Vegas Sun  (3/31, Ryan) reports that Republican Assembly members unveiled a “no-new-tax” budget Monday which cuts funds to fight against Yucca Mountain. Gov. Brian Sandoval opposes the cuts saying, “I won’t negotiate on this.”

Global Investment In Renewable Energy Jumps.

The Los Angeles Times  (4/1, Masunaga) reports that new data from the United Nations Environment Programme showed that for the first time in three years, investment in renewable power and fuels jumped, rising 17 percent in 2014 to $270.2 billion globally. The article notes that renewable generation worldwide also made up a greater percentage of the total power generated, rising from 8.5 percent in 2013 to 9.1 percent in 2014. The Times further details the new data, identifying trends specific to areas of the globe and specific types of renewable power.

Texas Republican, California Environmentalist Join Together Over Energy Finance Plan.

Bloomberg News  (3/31, Drajem) reports Texas Republican lawmaker Jim Keffer and California environmentalist Cisco DeVries are “promoting a new financing mechanism that aims to break the partisan deadlock over renewable power and energy efficiency.” DeVries and Keffer “are united behind the plan, touted by Scientific American as an idea that could change the world, that is spreading to states beyond red Texas and blue California.” The Property Assessed Clean Energy plan “lets property owners put the cost of energy upgrades on a property tax bill and pay it off over several years at a low interest rate. The repayment is their responsibility at no cost to other taxpayers and can be passed on if the property is sold.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Mothers Launching Science-Themed Clothing For Girls.

ABC News  (4/1) reports that Jennifer Muhm and Malorie Catchpole, mothers living in Shoreline, Washington, have co-founded a firm called buddingSTEM, which will market “a science-themed clothing line for girls between 18 months old and 8 years old.” The clothing will feature “patterns like rocket ships, trains, and dinosaurs in both blue and pink or teal and gray.” Both mothers have experienced frustration when trying to find science-themed clothing that wasn’t designed specifically for boys.

Broad Majority Of Freshmen At Elite Virginia High School Asian.

The Washington Post  (3/31, Shapiro) reports that 70% of the incoming students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, an “elite magnet school” in Fairfax County, Virginia, will be Asian Americans, noting that this reflects “a widening demographic” at the school, where white students made up 53% of incoming freshmen ten years ago. At that time, only 32% of freshmen were Asian. The Post notes that the school offers “courses in differential equations, artificial intelligence and neuroscience.” The Post notes that a group advocating for black and Hispanic students filed a complaint with ED’s Office for Civil Rights in 2012 “alleging that the admission process discriminates against black, Hispanic and poor students.”

Robotics Club In New Hampshire Receives Grant To Help Growth.

The Valley News (VT)  (4/1, O’Grady) reports that the New Hampshire-based Rogue Robots 4-H technology club has secured a Tech Wizard grant from the National 4-H Council to help grow its mentorships and to foster interest in science and technology.

Amazon Launches New STEM Toy Shop.

TechCrunch  (3/31, Perez) reports that Amazon announced the launch of a new store focused on “STEM toys and games.” STEM toys were reportedly the “second-most visited section and the second highest in terms of sales volume on Amazon’s 2014 Holiday Toy List.”

Fortune  (3/31, Geier) also covers the launch of Amazon’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) toy shop.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Foxx Unveils $478 Billion Highway Bill.
Cards Against Humanity Releases Science-Themed Expansion To Support STEM Scholarships.
Administration Thanks Kelly For Taking Part In One-Year Mission.
Oklahoma Supreme Court Hears Case Alleging Oil And Gas Companies Caused Earthquake.
Art Schools Partnering With Scientists.

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