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

Leading the News

MIT Team Wins Desalination Prize.

The Boston Globe  (4/22) reports that a team from MIT secured first place in the race to create “an inexpensive way to desalinate water in developing nations.” The system “developed by Amos Winter, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, and doctoral student Natasha Wright won out over four other contenders in the contest, which was sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bureau of Reclamation.”

A team from the University of Texas at El Paso “won second place and a $60,000 cash award,” the El Paso (TX) Times  (4/23, Rentería) reports. UTEP’s Center for Inland Desalination Systems “designed a Zero Discharge Desalination (ZDD) technology that reduces water waste in the desalination of groundwater by conventional processes.” In short, the “electrodialysis method uses voltage to remove undesirable ions from water.”

NSF Gives University Of Wisconsin-Milwaukee “Innovation Corps” Grant.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (4/21, Gallagher) reports that the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation “to become an ‘Innovation Corps’ site to recruit and train 90 teams to commercialize their research over the next three years.” The program will choose teams of three, “an academic, an entrepreneur-minded associate from the school and a mentor from the private sector” to receive funding to “participate in an eight-week training program that uses lean start-up methods pioneered by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank.”

Higher Education

ASU Students Can Study First Year Online Thanks To New Formula.

The Washington Post  (4/22, Anderson) reports that Arizona State University will allow students anywhere to enroll in online classes as freshmen for $45 through edX, a nonprofit platform for massive open online courses. For those interested in having the classes count toward a degree, ASU will charge the students a tuition of up to $200 per credit, upon which, if successful, they can enter ASU as sophomores. The one-year program costs only 50 percent of the normal in-state tuition and 20 percent of the cost that out-of-state students pay.

The New York Times  (4/23, Lewin, Subscription Publication) reports that that the school is offering “an online freshman year that will be available worldwide with no admissions process and full university credit,” noting that each credit in its “Global Freshman Academy” will cost $200, “but students will not have to pay until they pass the courses.” The piece notes that this differs from past MOOC offerings, which have not offered credit.

Colleges Increasingly Taking On Cybersecurity Education.

The Christian Science Monitor  (4/22) reports that while cybersecurity education was once a do-it-yourself proposition of self-taught hackers and tinkerers, there is a “sea change” taking place as universities are seeing massive influxes of funding to open cybersecurity programs. The piece notes that though the industry still values “self-taught outsiders and hackers working for good,” there is increasingly a move toward having “more engineers and specialists trained in the classroom.” The article lists several schools that have launched cybersecurity degree programs, points to more community colleges offering related courses, and notes that the Obama Administration recently “announced a $25 million grant for historically black universities to train students in cybersecurity.”

Study Shows Colleges Would Prefer To Hire Female STEM Faculty.

The NPR  (4/22) “NprEd” blog that there have been “perceived hiring biases against women working in science, technology, engineering and math” for years, but reports that a new study indicates that “universities would rather hire women for STEM tenure-track positions.” The article describes the experiment in which faculty members chose “well-qualified woman” applicants 67% of the time for new hires. The piece quotes Cornell University Researcher Wendy Williams saying, “To say that these findings were unexpected … is an understatement.”

California Inmates To Get Work As Computer Technicians.

USA Today  (4/21, Guynn) reports that California’s San Quentin State Prison has announced a program in which inmates “are being considered for jobs as computer programmers,” and will “work on projects for private businesses, all from inside the prison’s walls.” The piece notes that the first group of inmates recently “graduated from Code.7370, a new course that teaches the basics of coding.” The program’s founder, Chris Redlitz, says that giving inmates such jobs not only gives them in-demand job skills, but “could repatriate some programming jobs that have flowed overseas.”

ASEE Member Named Founding Dean of New School
Louisiana Tech’s Jenna Carpenter will be the dean of the new school of engineering at Campbell University.ASEE Perks
Learn about the broad collection of benefits available to ASEE members.

Research and Development

ONR Working On Augmented Reality Glasses For Battlefield.

Popular Science  (4/22) describes the Office of Naval Research’s Augmented Reality Glasses project, describing how soldiers and Marines on the battle field will be able to “keep his gaze on the battlefield, increasing what the military calls ‘situational awareness,’” while accessing digital information. The technology will allow “SIGINT soldiers to monitor a variety of enemy waveforms, indicating Internet traffic, 2G/SMS, VHF/push-to-talk radio systems, and satellite communications.”

Virtual Reality Has Big Potential For Product Design.

The Venture Beat  (4/22, Takahashi) reports that virtual reality “could go beyond games” and says that the technology could be used for cars, retail, advertising, medicine, manufacturing, and communication. The article adds that BAE Systems and other engineering companies use virtual reality to design products and simulate them.

Industry News

Researchers See Spike In Electric Car Sales As Battery Prices Fall.

The Christian Science Monitor  (4/22) presents findings from the Bloomberg New Energy Finance summit, where researchers said “the auto industry is on the cusp of redefining its relationship with fossil fuels and is on its way to becoming more of a mainstream concept.” BNEF analysts “asserted that the electric car market was catching on,” with 45,00 fully electric cars sold in the US in 2014, “almost doubling the sales from the prior year.” BNEF research estimates 288,850 electric car units sold worldwide in 2014, a fivefold increase from 2011. The sales are attributed in part to “the 60 percent drop in the cost of the lithium ion batteries that propel electric cars.”

Also discussing auto sale trends, Business Insider  (4/22) features a report released earlier this week by JD Power & Associates which finds “millennials bought close to 1.7 million cars in 2010, and that number has surged to approximately 3.7 million in 2014,” increasing the demographic’s market share to 30 percent of the industry. The most preferred makes among the age group were Honda, Chevrolet, Toyota, and Ford.

Engineering and Public Policy

Despite Opposition, High-Speed Rail Backers See Hope.

McClatchy  (4/23, Tate, Subscription Publication) reports that at the this week’s conference of the US High Speed Rail Association, participants were buoyed by the launch of high-speed rail construction in California, despite the lack of funding from Congress for the President’s “vision for high-speed rail.” While the California project has a significant number of “skeptics,” its supporters “say it’s just the beginning of a decades-long effort to improve passenger rail service throughout the country.” In addition, “other states with Republican governors and legislatures are taking a serious look at their own high-speed rail plans.”

Natural Gas, North American Energy Cooperation Touted At CERAWeek Wednesday.

The Houston Chronicle  (4/23) reports that at the IHS Energy CERAWeek conference yesterday “the blue flame of natural gas glowed” as “producers touted the fuel’s virtues, including low prices that present both a challenge to the industry and testament to its success.” Natural gas “proponents note that its combustion emits less carbon dioxide than fossil fuels coal and oil.” But methane, its main component, “is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.” The North American energy boom “can strengthen bonds among the continent’s three nations – the United States, Canada and Mexico – their top energy officials said at an afternoon CERAWeek session.” On a panel with two other North American energy ministers, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, “We have a trillion-dollar trade relationship among our three countries and about $400 billion of that is energy. … What we’re talking about here is building on something that’s already incredibly strong – staying aligned as we face both opportunity and our challenges, such as meeting the low-carbon future.”

FuelFix  (4/23) reports Moniz “said the energy cooperation would build on an already ‘incredible integration of our economies and our trade relationship.’” Already “transmission lines…send hydropower from Quebec to the Northeast United States, and there is potential for solar power to be generated and transmitted on both sides of the U.S-Mexico border, Moniz noted.” FuelFix notes that the Keystone XL pipeline did not “get much attention on the CERAWeek stage either, despite its current role as perhaps the most famous energy infrastructure project” in the US.

Moniz Touts Iranian Nuclear Deal. Also at CERAWeek, Reuters  (4/23, Scheyder) reports Energy Secretary Moinz touted the nuclear deal between the US and Iran. Moniz said, “I think we’ve established a very strong set of parameters around the agreement. … It’s a long term process with constraints coming off at various time frames as confidence improves” in the nuclear intentions of Iran. Moniz, a nuclear physicist, was closely involved in the negotiations at the highest level. But Moniz said, “It was not part of the description of the job when I signed up.”

House Subcommittee Advances Bill Aimed At Delaying EPA Power Plant Rules.

The Hill  (4/23, Cama, Henry) reports the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on energy and power yesterday voted “to advance a bill aimed at delaying and weakening the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) climate rule for power plants.” Sponsor of the bill and chairman of the subcommittee Rep. Ed Whitfield “said that through six hearings on the rule, the subcommittee has heard various objections to it from stakeholders, and his bill aims to incorporate those lessons.” Whitfield said, “I must say the disagreement has been pretty ferocious and many people view this as an unprecedented action by EPA.” The legislation “now goes to the full Energy and Commerce Committee, where it enjoys broad support.”

Utilities Warn That Switch To New Power Sources Could Mean Blackouts.

The New York Times  (4/23, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports the EPA is expected to this summer release “a final set of rules aimed at forcing electric power companies – the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions – to cut them 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.” The new rules are intended “to remake the nation’s electricity system by closing hundreds of heavily polluting coal plants while rapidly expanding the use of natural gas plants, wind and solar power.” But the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a utility industry group, warns that “taking the nation’s largest but dirtiest source of electricity offline and replacing it with a mix of cleaner power sources” could lead to power failures. American Electric Power CEO Nick Akins said, “If the proposed rule stands the way it is, there will be blackouts.”

However, Jeff Nesbit writes on the US News & World Report  (4/22) website that lobbyists for the energy industry are saying “the EPA’s climate rules will make the grid unreliable and cost consumers money,” but that over 45 years of Clean Air Act implementation, standards have never caused outages and there is no reason to believe they will now. Nesbit writes, “The truth is that the energy system is being transformed – at a speed and pace that is breathtaking for some and scary for others.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Girls Who Code Program Leads To Petition For Computer Science Class.

US News & World Report  (4/22, Golod) reports on a Girls Who Code summer immersion program alum petitioning for a computer science class at Saint Jean Baptiste High School in New York City. The article then profiles a corresponding Girls Who Code club at the school and participants in the summer program.

Delaware Governor To Award Grants To High School Career Training Programs.

The AP  (4/22, Press) reports that Governor Jack Markell will award the state’s inaugural Pathways to Prosperity grants to Delaware high schools on Wednesday in a bid to add training programs for “high-demand career fields.” The program will target computer science, engineering, culinary arts, and biomedical sciences and will allow students to receive work experience and college credit in their high school programs.

WHYY-FM  Philadelphia (4/23, Min) quotes Markell, who said that the program “is establishing the necessary partnerships…to prepare students for a bright future in high-demand fields and careers.” He added that given the short time for development of a plan, he was “extremely impressed” with the proposals received. Grants totaling $500,000 were awarded at the event, with another $500,000 to be awarded in the fall. The state DOE is “providing curriculum support” for the programs and training teachers for the programs.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Administration Proposes $15 Billion Overhaul Of Nation’s Energy Infrastructure.
Nearly 200 Colleges Allow Students With High SBAC Scores To Skip Remediation.
Watkins Selected To Lead University Of Texas’ Space Research Center.
Report: Non-STEM Fields Now Require STEM Skills.
McCarthy Expects Emissions Rules Ready By “Mid-Summer.”
FIRST Robotics Championships Start Wednesday In St. Louis.

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