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

Leading the News

EPA Water Rule Heads To White House.

The Hill  (4/6, Cama) reports that on Monday, the EPA sent the White House its “controversial regulation to redefine the extent of its authority over water pollution control.” EPA Administrator McCarthy “said the final version of the rule reflects some changes the agency made to the regulation that had been cast as a massive land grab by Republicans, agricultural interests and others.” The new rule will “better define which bodies of water, tributaries, wetlands and other features are covered, while better ensuring that ditches, agricultural practices and municipal storm sewer systems are not covered.”

“Many Democrats,” Harvard Professors See Tribe As “Traitor” For Work Against EPA Rules. The New York Times  (4/7, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports that Laurence H. Tribe, “the highly regarded liberal scholar of constitutional law” who once taught the President and served in the DOJ in Obama’s first term, has left “many in the Obama administration and at Harvard are bewildered and angry” by emerging as a “leading legal opponent” of the Presidents global warming plans. Tribe has been retained by big coal firm Peabody Energy in its effort to block the EPA’s regulation of coal-fired power plants. To “many Democrats and professors at Harvard,” Tribe is a “traitor.”

Higher Education

Starbucks CEO Announces Free College Tuition For Employees.

ABC World News (4/6, story 12, 0:35, Muir) showed Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz offering “full tuition coverage for all four years now, giving employees access to 49 online degree programs.” Schultz was shown saying, “There’s no catch. If you have a high school degree and you are working at Starbucks more than 20 hours a week, you have access to free college tuition. I’m saying, the American dream and the promise of America…must be for everyone.”

Many College Students Participate In Hackathons.

The New York Times  (4/7, Leckart, Subscription Publication) reports on TreeHacks, a hackathon being held at Stanford University, “a 36-hour contest to program mobile apps, websites or hardware, including aerial drones and virtual reality headsets.” The piece reports that the goal of such events is for teams to “build a new piece of tech, either of their choosing or with code provided by one of the sponsors.” Students are encouraged “to tinker with new software and hardware and challenge themselves, and students teach one another.”

March+April Prism now online (members only)
Cover Story: “Growing Pains.” Ethiopia is pushing engineering education harder than any other country In Africa, creating challenges for its academics.

VIDEOS – Watch the speakers and presentations from the Engineering Research Council meeting, held in March.

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.

Research and Development

NRAO, iRobot Spar Over Lawnmower Operations Near Green Bank Telescope.

Bloomberg News  (4/6, Shields) reports that the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which runs the Green Bank Telescope, is opposing a proposal by iRobot Corp. “to sell lawnmowers guided by radio waves” because those waves could interfere with observations. The company thinks that this is an “overblown” concern because the risks are low and it could even take preventative measures. Specifically, iRobot took issue with the NRAO’s petition to the FCC that no wireless lawn robot could operate within 89 kilometers of the observatory.

ORNL Develops Framework For Improved EV Battery Design.

Green Car Congress  (4/6) reports, “As part of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) CAEBAT (Computer Aided Engineering for Batteries) activities, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a flexible, robust, and computationally scalable open-architecture framework that integrates multi-physics and multi-scale battery models.” The framework, dubbed the Virtual Integrated Battery Environment (VIBE), “allows researchers to test lithium-ion batteries under different simulated scenarios before the batteries are built and used in electric vehicles,” the article reports. “This program is bridging the gap between theory and experiment, so that you can now design a battery cell and integrate all the associated processes in order to more accurately predict performance,” said Sreekanth Pannala, technical lead for the CAEBAT team.

Ohio State Opens New Chemistry Facility.

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch  (4/5) reports on the new Chemistry and Biomolecular Engineering Lab at Ohio State, which has modern facilities, proper lighting, and a workspace structure designed to facilitate collaboration. The facility “combines spaces used by chemistry students with those who study chemical and biomolecular engineering,” and has “three floors of modular lab space that can be shifted depending on who is running the lab.”


Couric And WSJ Interview Ellen Pao After Trial.

Ellen Pao, who lost her recent trial, is talking about her experience publicly for the first time since the legal battle ended in interviews with Katie Couric of Yahoo News and the Wall Street Journal. Pao likened her battle to threading a needle that “sometimes [felt] like there’s no hole in the needle,” speaking about her experience not only as a woman but also as an Asian-American. With Couric, she spoke on the gender disparity among engineering and computer science degree recipients. Currently, as CEO of Reddit, she told the Journal that because “of how women tend to fare at negotiating” that she removed cash salary negotiations from the hiring process. She continued, “If you want more equity, we’ll let you swap a little bit of your cash salary for equity, but we aren’t going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation.”

ABC News  (4/6), Wall Street Journal,  (4/7, Elder) Washington Post  (4/6, Mcgregor), Fortune  (4/6), CNET News  (4/6, Collins), CBS’ The Insider (4/6, 7:17 p.m. EDT), ABC’s Good Morning America (4/6, 8:22 a.m. EDT), and ABC’s Nightline (4/7, 12:40 a.m. EDT) all reported on the interviews.

Shortage Of Qualified Energy Workers Discussed.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  (4/6, Dino) reports that Marcellus Shale jobs will be in demand for years to come, but it’s unclear whether there are “enough qualified people to fill those jobs.” Tom Maheady, co-chair of the Northeast Pennsylvania Manufacturers and Employers Association, “said STEM education has to be offered to all high school students, not just those following the academic track of study.” He added, “There is a lot of evidence that the United States has fallen behind in preparing students for science, engineering, technology and math careers.” Bill desRosiers external affairs coordinator Cabot Oil and Gas Co., said, “Pennsylvania has been forever known as a place for natural resources which provided great jobs, whether it was steel or coal. We lost that feeling over the last couple of decades. But we have it back because of natural gas, and wet liquids such as propane, butane and ethylene.”

Industry News

SpiderFab Could Be Constructing Large Structures In Space By Early 2020s.

SPACE  (4/6, Wall) reports that Rob Hoyt, CEO and chief scientist of Tethers Unlimited, spoke to NASA’s Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group on March 4 about its SpiderFab system, which would utilize “arachnidlike robots” to construct large structures in space. Hoyt said that SpiderFab would eliminate the “very expensive and time-consuming” way spacecraft are currently used for construction, and also remove the size limits launching from Earth imposes. Hoyt said that with the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding NASA has already awarded the company, it has “validated” SpiderFab’s “basic feasibility.” Hoyt added that “in a perfect world,” the company could be constructing some large structures “in the early 2020s.”

FAA Grants USAA Permission To Test Small UAVs In San Antonio.

The San Antonio Express-News  (4/6, Danner) reported that insurance company USAA has received the FAA permission’s “to test small drones on its San Antonio campus and in some unpopulated, rural areas south of the city.” USAA “eventually wants to be able to use the drones to expedite insurance claims from customers following natural disasters.”

The San Antonio Business Journal  (4/6, Thomas, Subscription Publication) reported that the USAA applied for an exemption from Federal UAV use laws last year. USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group President Alan Krapf said, “We’re proud to be among the first insurers approved to test this technology. It’s our responsibility to explore every option to improve our members’ experience.” The article noted that the USAA has also submitted another application to use UAVs “during catastrophes.” The FAA’s ruling on that request could come “soon.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Berger Defends Piece On NASA’s Quiet Shift In Policy.

Eric Berger at the Houston Chronicle  (4/6) “SciGuy” blog defended his recent piece claiming that NASA was “quietly” shifting back toward manned lunar exploration, especially from the “pushback from NASA’s media affairs department.” After detailing why his piece correctly reported this as a shift in policy for the agency, and noting its current policy was directed by President Obama, Berger comments that NASA’s “defensive” stance is understandable. He thought that NASA “deserves credit for reconsidering” a moon mission even if it cannot speak about it publicly.

Anderson: NASA Should Go To The Moon. In a post for the Huffington Post  (4/6), astronaut Clayton Anderson thinks that NASA needs to test “needed technology” on the moon before even attempting to go to Mars. He comments that he hopes the rumored shift back to the moon is true so that the US will develop “a viable –and sustainable – human expedition to Mars.”

NHTSA Investigating Nissan Versa For Potential Pedal Safety Issue.

The AP  (4/6) reports the NHTSA has been investigating since June that the “Nissan Versa and Versa Note subcompact cars because the driver’s foot can allegedly get caught in the trim panel that holds the carpet.” The AP says this week, NHTSA said it is “no longer looking at 2012 and 2013 models of the Versa” but it’s still “investigating 360,000 cars from the 2014 and 2015 model years.” The story said that Nissan and NHTSA have received 24 complaints about the problem.

The Leftlane News  (4/6, King) reports that NHTSA opened a preliminary inquiry in 2014 after “receiving a handful of complaints, which have tripled in the last nine months since the investigation was opened.” The article adds that NHTSA is conducting an engineering analysis to review the “scope and frequency of the problem, suggesting a recall may be imminent.”

Reuters  (4/6, Woodall) provides additional coverage.

Elementary/Secondary Education

West Virginia DOE To Readopt School Standards Requiring Climate Change.

The Charleston (WV) Gazette  (4/6, Quinn) reports that the “vast majority” of comments to the West Virginia DOE about new standards requiring the inclusion of global warming were favorable. The board received “local and national criticisms” for “sow[ing] unwarranted doubt” about whether or not greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming in an earlier set of standards, and will likely readopt the standards with the new requirements for the 2016-17 year.

Live-Cam Of Eaglets Hatching Draw Utah Students Towards STEM.

KSTU-TV  Salt Lake City (4/6, Demasters) reports that teachers at a Davis County, Utah school have used a live-cam feed of eaglets hatching to engage students in STEM education.

Arizona Elementary School Offers A Variety Of STEAM Programs.

The Prescott (AZ) Daily Courier  (4/7) reports that students at Mountain View Elementary School in Arizona engage in a STEAM program once a week from first to sixth grades to “enrich their lives physically, mentally and academically.” Students can choose from engineering, robotics, Science Olympiad, and fine arts classes.

High School Shop Students Create NASA Parts.

The AP  (4/7) reports that 77 high school shop classes nationwide are making parts for the International Space Station as part of a NASA program called NASA HUNCH. The program provides students a chance to work with top-caliber machinists and gives them a leg up on their resumes.

Benedictine University Offering Grants For Prospective STEM Teachers.

The Naperville (IL) Sun  (4/8, Baker) reports that Benedictine University is providing extra grants for students that teach STEM subjects in districts with high levels of poverty. The students must work at the district for two years to receive the scholarships. The move is designed to prevent teachers without STEM training from teaching classes they are not as familiar with and try to reverse the decline in students seeking education degrees. STEM careers typically pay better than teaching salaries as well, “compound[ing]” the challenge.

NSF Funding Of Cyberlearning Showing Novel Results.

The Huffington Post  (4/6, Dubrow) reports in a blog post that the NSF has been trying to fund novel ideas at the forefront of technology and spread them across the country. While results of individual grants “have been mixed,” the overall result of its cyberlearning program and lecture series has been to “transform[] what education may look like in the future.” The blog then presents seven of the best new technologies, which include immersive scientific activities, educational software, and robotics.

Mandatory Math Argued Against.

In an op-ed in the Bloomberg View  (4/7), Susan Engel, a senior lecturer on psychology at Williams College, argues that the US should stop requiring math in school. She contends that children naturally learn simple arithmetic and do not need to be taught; that those with a “natural inclination” for math will gravitate towards the field later; that quantitative reasoning is “not necessarily tied to numbers”; and that high school graduates usually have to “unlearn” their early skills in college. Engel concludes that teachers should teach arithmetic until third grade, spend extra time on reading and abstract thinking, and bring students with an inclination for math to the subject at ninth grade.

Monday’s Lead Stories

Obama Announces Initiative To Create Solar Industry Jobs.
Student Debt Activists Rally Around “Defense To Repayment” Clause.
New Plan Could Have Astronauts Orbiting Mars By 2033.
Business Groups Demand Updates To H-1B, H-2A Programs.
Russian Scientists Develop “Bone Cement.”
Foxx: Congress Should Pass Proposed Transportation Bill.
Central Kentucky Nonprofit Offers Students Toy Creation Classes.

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