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

Leading the News

New Fed CAFE Standards, Customer Demand Lead To Development Of Lighter Cars.

NBC News  (4/11, Eisenstein) reported online that for over two decades, cars have been getting heavier and bigger partly due to customer preference, but also to meet Federal safety standards. But according to Cadillac chief engineer Dave Leone, a heavier car mass is the “enemy of efficiency,” delivering lower mileage, and less nimble performance. NBC News reported that current customer demand and tough new Federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have led to automotive engineers “putting the industry newest models on a diet” and in some cases reducing as “much as 700 to 800 pounds off vehicles.” NBC says the “good news for consumers” is that lighter, smaller vehicles get better mileage and deliver better performance.

Michigan Paper Calls For Overhaul Of CAFE Standards. In an editorial, the Detroit News  (4/11) calls for the EPA, the NHTSA, and other Federal agencies reviewing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to “realign current regulations with realistic, marketable goals.” The paper claims that “more stringent rules will only hamper auto companies’ growth and increase vehicle prices for consumers.”

Higher Education

Western Carolina University Establishes Robotics Scholarship.

The Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times  (4/8) reports that Jeffrey L. Ray, the dean of the Western Carolina University Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology, is setting up a scholarship “designed to provide financial support to students majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics” called the Hopkins and Ray FIRST Robotics Endowed Scholarship Fund. The scholarship will go to students who have taken part in FIRST Robotics competitions.

Colleges Looking To Boost Number Of Chemistry Students.

The Wall Street Journal  (4/13, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that Emory University and North Carolina’s Davidson College are working to attract more chemistry students by replacing a traditional class instruction that was based on rigid course selections and rote memorization with a new model that encourages students to pursue side interests and other disciplines.

Biden Touts Free College Tuition Program.

Vice President Biden used the weekly White House address on Saturday to promote the Administration’s plan to provide free community college tuition, The Hill  (4/11, Hensch) “Blog Briefing Room” blog reported. Biden said “free community college was vital for a healthy American economy,” saying the “plan would potentially provide free community college to recipients and cut costs on their higher education later.”

Corinthian Activists Looking To Spark Broader Student Debt Protest.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (4/13) reports that the former students of Corinthian Colleges Inc. who have launched a “debt strike” to protest what they call the firm’s deceptive practices, have succeeded in garnering “widespread” media attention, meeting with top ED officials, and exposing “a little-known government rule that allows for loan forgiveness.” However, the article says that for them to be truly successful, their protest must “have implications beyond Corinthian.” The article reports that social activists with the group Debt Collective want to start a “broader movement for student-debt relief.” The article touches on the students efforts to persuade ED to provide debt relief, and on the firm’s implosion last year amid investigations over accusations of “duping students with false advertising and practicing predatory lending.”

Wyoming Catholic College Refuses To Participate In Federal Student-Aid Programs.

The New York Times  (4/12, Healy, Subscription Publication) reports that an “insurrection is brewing” at Wyoming Catholic College, a tiny university of “cowboy-style Catholicism.” The Times says the college cites concerns about Federal birth control and same-sex marriage as the basis for its decision this winter to “join a handful of other religious colleges in refusing to participate in the federal student-aid programs that help about two-thirds of students afford college.” The decision, says the story, will lead to the school’s students not receiving Federal loans, work-study grants, and help paying student dormitory housing.

Rand Paul Promises To Let Students Deduct Tuition Costs.

Bloomberg Politics  (4/11, Weigel) reports that in a speech at the University of Iowa last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) “came promising free money.” Paul noted President Obama’s proposal to “fund two years of community college,” saying, “Sounds good, at first, until you really think about it. How could it be free? … I’ve got a better idea—let’s let college students deduct the cost of their education over their working career!”

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

NSF Gives UT-Arlington Professor Grant To Build Nanoscale Pillars.

Texas AZoNano  (4/13) reports that UT-Arlington associate professor Seong Jin Koh of the school’s Materials Science & Engineering Department has received a $300,000 National Science foundation grant “to build nanoscale pillars that may lead to the development of more energy-efficient transistors for applications in electronic gadgets and devices.” The research could “reduce energy consumption in smart phones, tablets and laptops by ten times, which could lead to a similar reduction in charging frequency of the batteries suitable for those devices.”

Newsday Calls For Funding Of Intellectual Infrastructure.

In an editorial about how to improve Long Island with $550 million, Newsday  (4/13) recommends boosting “intellectual infrastructure.” With the “amazing work” that is “being done at research institutions such as Cold Spring Harbor and Brookhaven labs, Stony Brook and Hofstra universities, and the North Shore-LIJ Health System’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research…turning their innovations into successful bio-tech businesses would boost our economy by replacing high-paying defense industry jobs that left long ago.” Newsday contends that “new facilities – whether it’s an engineering building at Hofstra, a supercomputing building at Stony Brook or a therapeutic cancer discovery center at Cold Spring Harbor – will help that process.”

Industry News

FAA Permits Amazon To Test Delivery Drones.

The Washington Post  (4/11, Fung) reports the Federal Aviation Administration “gave Amazon the green light to begin testing its Prime Air” delivery drones in the US, which “together with a new federal approval process, could pave the way for other companies interested in drone delivery.” According to the Post, the FAA “told Amazon earlier this week it will be free to conduct research and development…with certain restrictions” regarding height and speed of the aircrafts’ flight.

Engineering and Public Policy

Ocean Desalination Plants Being Studied, Built By Many California Cities.

The New York Times  (4/12, Gillis, Subscription Publication) reports on the new push in California for water desalination plants as part of the solution to the state’s extreme water drought. The story says a $1 billion desalination on San Diego County is under construction and due to open as early as Nov. 2015, “providing a major test of whether California cities will be able to resort” to the Pacific Ocean to relive their water woes. The Times adds that other small ocean desalination plants are already running in a handful of California municipalities and others are planned, including a large plant in Orange County and a possible re-opening of a mothballed plant in Santa Barbara. The story says “more than a dozen communities along the California coast are studying the issue.”

WSJournal, Ameren CEO Raise Questions About Impact Of Anti-Coal Power Drive.

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (4/13, Subscription Publication) says that last week’s DC power outage is a sign of the damage that the anti-coal activists can do to the nation’s power grid. Because of the shuttering of a coal plant in Alexandria, Virginia, under pressure from groups such as the Sierra Club, the Journal says that the power grid in the nation’s capitol is now significantly more vulnerable to disruption.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (4/13, Baxter, Subscription Publication), Warner Baxter, CEO of Ameren Corp., similarly writes that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which limits emissions from existing coal-fired power plants, could jeopardize states’ ability to provide their residents and businesses with sufficient power.

Judge’s ruling on Atlantic Coast Pipeline surveying called a “welcome reprieve” (SNH).

The Suffolk (VA) News Herald  (4/10) reported on a ruling by Fifth Circuit Judge Carl Eason that “surveyors representing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline did not have a right to trespass on private property to mark out and assess potential routes, because the letters sent to property owners as notification of their activities were sent under the name of Dominion Transmission Inc.” The article reports, “But there’s a very good chance the matter will wind up in court again. … The narrow court ruling means the company has only to issue notification under the correct name in order to proceed with its work again.” Concludes the article, “Still, the delay gives property owners a chance to shore up their case against the pipeline, and it gives those who might be undecided about it a chance to make up their minds. In that sense, it’s a welcome reprieve.”

Sixth-grade students in Augusta County make rap video about ACP. On its website, WVIR-TV  Charlottesville, VA (4/13) reported that some Augusta County sixth-graders “are joining the ‘All Pain, No Gain’ anti-pipeline campaign in a creative way,” making a rap video about the pipeline and presenting it at the Augusta County Board of Supervisors meeting. A Dominion spokesman “says he applauds teachers using current affairs to help educate students” and he “hopes the students know the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is trying to show FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, that the chosen route has the least environmental impact.”

Pipeline critic wants Albemarle County to get involved. On its website, WINA-AM  Charlottesville, VA (4/11) reported that Kirk Bowers “brought the message” to Albemarle County supervisors that supporters of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline “would never place Albemarle on the pipeline route.” Bowers “contends there’s too much money in Albemarle County to allow that project, but Highland, Augusta, Nelson, and Buckingham are not as fortunate.” Bowers “wants to see Albemarle County take a side in this fight.”

Dominion director corrects misconceptions about pipeline trench. In a letter to the editor of the Staunton (VA) News Leader  (4/10), Carole McCoy of Richmond, director of engineering services for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, corrected a previous letter to the editor on the pipeline, writing, “The trench for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would not need to be as wide or as deep” as the previous letter stated, and that “water would flow over and under the buried pipeline, not be blocked as if it were a dam.” According to McCoy, the trench for the pipeline would be “7.5 feet to 9.5 feet deep for a 42-inch pipe.” McCoy gives other statistics related to the constructing the pipeline and says, “Dominion has successfully designed, built and operated transmission pipelines safely for more than 100 years. … We will study to identify and locate underground streams and springs prior to beginning construction to avoid having an impact on these waters.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

North Carolina Robotics Team To Compete In St Louis.

The Hendersonville (NC) Lightning  (4/13) reports that the robotics team at North Carolina’s Henderson County High School recently won the FIRST Robotics state championship, and will compete in the World Championship in St. Louis later this month. To win, they built “a robot that would stack plastic containers and move them onto a platform and spit out the waste,” but they now face the challenge of raising money for their trip.

California Districts Receive STEM Grant.

The Vacaville (CA) Reporter  (4/8) reports on an $18 million grant to improve teacher professional development in Solano County and Contra Costa County, California, which will allow students to “learn a lot more about computer programming and robotics.” The grant sets up a partnership with the UC Davis Computing-STEM Center, and “will provide professional development for some 60 to 75 teachers in the two counties.”

Program For North Dakota Girls Promotes STEM Subjects.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead (ND)  (4/13, Glass-Moore) reports that a program called “Mommy, Me and SWE” is part of a North Dakota State University-sponsored program to help promote interest in STEM subjects for girls. A similar program for girls and their fathers is being designed as well.

California County Receives State STEM Grant.

The Fairfield (CA) Daily Republic  (4/11, Winlow) reports that a California DOE grant to the Solano County Office of Education will boost STEM investment by $1.8 million. The grant was awarded through a partnership with the UC Davis Computing-STEM Center and will provide three years of professional development for teachers in Solano and Contra Costa counties. The paper states the aims of the grant are to “aid in instructional strategies” and “increase student development.” Dozens of teachers have already signed up for a summer training program provided by the grant.

New Hampshire Science Teachers Meeting To Discuss STEM Subjects.

The AP  (4/12) reports that the New Hampshire Science Teachers Association will be hosting sessions on STEM subjects during their spring conference in Derry on Saturday. The meetings will discuss encouraging independent research, individualized curricula, the incorporation of STEM skills into field ecology, Newton’s laws, agriculture, chemistry, and more.

Friday’s Lead Stories

Senators Call For Investigation Into H-1B Visa Program.
Nine Attorneys General Call On Duncan To Forgive Corinthian Students’ Debt.
Rice Engineering Students Developing Wearable Allowing Deaf To Feel Speech.
Fracking Could Release Radon, Study Says.
National Group Honors CTE Programs.

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