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

Leading the News

Drought Impacting Power Generation In West.

The Washington Post  (4/27, Frankel) reports that the drought has made it far more difficult to generate electricity at hydroelectric plants, such as the Hoover Dam, across the West, “limiting an inexpensive and pollution-free energy source that once was considered endless.” The 53 hydropower plants “run by the US Bureau of Reclamation across the West are producing 10 percent less power than a few years ago, despite rising demand.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times  (4/27, Nagourney, Healy, Subscription Publication) reports that the drought, and coming water rationing, “is sharpening the deep economic divide in this state, illustrating parallel worlds in which wealthy communities guzzle water as poorer neighbors conserve by necessity.” Now the state is looking to force its “biggest water users, which include some of the wealthiest communities, to bear the brunt of the statewide 25 percent cut in urban water consumption.” However, there remain questions about whether the fines that accompany the rationing will be “effective with wealthy homeowners.”

The Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun  (4/27, James) reports that in national forests across California, many pipelines are “siphoning off water from wells and springs under expired permits.” The pipelines “run to the tanks of water districts, as well as to cabins, neighborhoods, and properties such as cemeteries, lodges and ranches.” In an investigation, the paper “obtained records for 1,108 water-related permits” of which 616 are listed as expired. Now, “some former Forest Service employees say it’s urgent that the agency take a hard look at permits issued years or decades ago.”

WSJournal Opinion: Effort To Save Delta Smelt Not Working. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (4/27, Subscription Publication), Allysia Finley, an editorial writer for the paper, writes that California has pumped 1.4 trillion gallons of water into San Francisco Bay since 2007 to protect the Delta Smelt. Despite that effort, however, Finley says that recent surveys have suggested that the number of Smelt has plummeted, and that the US Fish and Wildlife Service suggests that the fish is “now in danger of extinction.” Finley says that despite the massive costs of supporting the fish, the policy has been ineffective.

Higher Education

Corinthian Announces It Will Close Last 28 Schools.

Corinthian Colleges Inc. is closing its last 28 schools, generating significant coverage in national media outlets. The Washington Post  (4/26, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that Corinthian Colleges Inc. announced on Sunday that it will close its final 28 schools, bringing the firm’s “year-long collapse” to an end. The article notes that 16,000 students will be unable to complete their studies, but will have “a good chance of having their federal student loans forgiven.” The Post reports that Corinthian is trying to find other schools to take its students, but says that ED would have to approve such efforts, quoting Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying, “As Corinthian closes its doors for good…department staff will immediately begin outreach to Corinthian students to review all their options, which may include loan discharges for students whose school closed. What these students have experienced is unacceptable.” The Post describes the firm’s “downward spiral,” noting that ED cut off access to Federal student aid last year “amid allegations of falsified job placement records and graduation rates.”

The Los Angeles Times  (4/27, Kirkham) reports that Corinthian had already sold most of its schools last fall, but “had still been seeking a buyer for more than two dozen campuses in California and other western states.” Corinthian announced Sunday that “has had trouble selling the remaining campuses because federal and state authorities were ‘seeking to impose financial penalties and conditions’ that would affect potential buyers.” The Times quotes Corinthian CEO Jack Massimino saying, “Unfortunately the current regulatory environment would not allow us to complete a transaction with several interested parties that would have allowed for a seamless transition for our students.” The piece notes that ED fined Corinthian’s Heald College chain $30 million earlier this month alleging that the firm “boosted official placement rates by paying temporary employment agencies to hire students for brief stints after graduation.”

Bloomberg News  (4/26, Staiti) labels the shutdown as “the biggest collapse in US higher education.” This piece reports that Mitchell said that ED “will begin reaching out to Corinthian’s students to review their options, including the possibility of loan discharges,” and quotes him saying, “What these students have experienced is unacceptable. As Corinthian closes its doors for good, the department will continue to keep students at the heart of every decision we make.”

Other media outlets running similar reports include the AP  (4/26), the Huffington Post  (4/27, Nasiripour), Reuters  (4/26, Erman), the Arizona Republic  (4/26), the San Francisco Chronicle  (4/27, Tucker), WRC-TV  Washington (4/27), The Street  (4/27), the Sacramento (CA) Bee  (4/27), and the International Business Times  (4/27).

California Lawmaker Pushes For Restrictions On Accreditor After CCSF Fiasco.

The San Francisco Chronicle  (4/27) reports that in the wake of the “near-closure” of City College of San Francisco, California Assemblyman Phil Ting (D) “is proposing to rein in” the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, but notes that the state may lack the authority to regulate the organization. The piece notes that the commission tried to revoke the college’s accreditation last year, and reports that Ting’s bills “would require greater transparency…and would limit the commission’s ability to charge colleges for its legal bills if it’s sued for sanctioning a college.”

Kentucky Community College Offers Elementary School Students Minecraft Course.

The Paducah (KY) Sun  (4/27) reports that West Kentucky Community and Technical College is offering a course on the Minecraft video game to explain engineering to elementary school students. The class is $60 and will take place on May 9 and May 30.

Baylor Targets Female Engineering Enrollment.

The Waco (TX) Tribune-Herald  (4/27, Dennis) reports that Baylor University is looking to boost female enrollment in its science and technology fields. The university has created a “Ladies and Legos” event, which looks to empower women and help attract them into the STEM field. The article then notes the university and the country’s difficulties in attracting women and minorities to engineering.

Indiana Wesleyan University Receives S-STEM Grant.

The Wabash (IN) Plain Dealer  (4/25, Fellows) reported that Indiana Wesleyan University received an S-STEM grant worth $623,337, the largest NSF grant in the university’s history. The grant will be used to create scholarships for students looking to study physics, biology, and chemistry.

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

MIT Scientist Concerned About Science Funding Cuts.

Reuters  (4/27, Begley) reports that MIT scientist are concerned that Federal spending cuts on basic science research may lead to a lack of innovation and potentially limit advancement in nearly 15 fields of scientific study. The Federal spending cuts have affected the NIH budget.

Industry News

Home-Battery Revolution Gains Ground In US.

The Washington Post  (4/26, Harwell) examines how homeowners, “frustrated by their utility or seeking to go green,” are increasingly using batteries “to reduce their reliance on the national grid.” As part of the effort to improve technology, “Tesla could soon make the battery-powered home cheaper and easier than ever, challenging the long-held utility model of dependence on outside energy — and revolutionizing how America flicks on its lights.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Federal Court Upholds Truck Rule Established By EPA, NHTSA.

The Hill  (4/25, Cama) reported that a three-judge Federal appeals court panel unanimously ruled on Friday that a “group of California companies cannot sue to stop” the EPA’s “efficiency and greenhouse gas rules for heavy trucks.” The rule, which will remain in effect, was put in place in 2011 jointly by the EPA and DOT’s NHTSA. The judges also upheld the “regulation against a company that promotes the use of vegetable oil in place of diesel fuel.”

WPost: Republicans Should Engage In Climate Discussion. In an editorial, the Washington Post  (4/25) writes “Republican presidential hopefuls would like to neglect” that climate change is happening. The Post asserts, “The common element among GOP leaders is resistance” to “a significant policy” by the government to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, adding the takeaway is the “climate debate has been impoverished by the absence of responsible conservative voices.”

Republicans Look To Undercut President’s Ability To Negotiate Global Climate Treaty.

The Wall Street Journal  (4/27, Nelson, Subscription Publication) reports that the President and Congressional Republicans are set for another high-profile collision, with top Senate Republicans looking to undercut Obama’s efforts to notch a major international agreement to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. In particular, Republicans are considering ways to subtly inform other countries that the President can’t necessarily deliver on promises he negotiates, just as they did with the Iran nuclear negotiations.

WSJournal Refutes Sessions And Walker, Argues Skilled Immigrants A Boon To Nation.

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (4/26, Subscription Publication) responds to allies of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) who have taken issue with the editorial board’s criticism of his claims that Americans with degrees in science and technology are unable to find jobs in their field. The Journal says that the definition of STEM jobs used by Sessions to argue against allowing immigrants with high-tech skills to work in the US are flawed. Overall, the Journal says that skilled immigrants are a boon to the nation.

In a related editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (4/27, Subscription Publication) takes issue with Gov. Scott Walker’s agreement with Sessions that skilled immigrants are costing Americans jobs.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Bronx Science Fair And Mentorship Allows Students To Work In STEM Fields.

The New York Times  (4/24, Hu, Subscription Publication) profiles Bronx SciFest, a science competition run by Lehman college, which pairs students with mentors for research projects. The program is “the borough’s version of the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search,” and graduates have been accepted to top tier colleges and are studying STEM subjects.

Colorado Students Take Part In State Science And Engineering Fair.

The Fowler (CO) Tribune  (4/26) reported that two students from Fowler took part in the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair, which featured 340 projects between April 9 and April 11. The Tribune then detailed the award-winning projects, which focused on biofuels and animal science.

Friday’s Lead Stories

Engineer Named University Of Texas-Austin President.
Small, Private Colleges Often Overlooked By First-Generation And Low-Income Students.
GAO Investigating Possible Gender Bias In Research Grants.
USGS Releases Survey Showing Impact Of Human-Caused Quakes.
Girls 4 Science Presents Women’s History Month Reception And Awards.

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