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

Leading the News

Moniz Attends Senate Hearing On QER.

The Houston Chronicle  (4/29, Dlouhy) reports Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is the “top pitchman” for the Quadrennial Energy Review, a “nearly 500-page analysis released last week that offers a $15 billion road map for updating U.S. energy infrastructure and making it more resilient against man-made and natural threats.” Moniz insists “that architecture must keep up with a rapidly evolving energy world.” Moniz stated, “It is the right time, maybe it’s a little after the right time, for us to make these kind of investments in energy infrastructure.” He “said the investments are not only ‘strongly connected’ to the domestic energy revolution that has driven oil and gas production in new areas of the U.S., but also to an evolution in renewable power and the way it is generated, including rooftop solar panels.”

The Washington Examiner  (4/29, Siciliano) reports that during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee hearing Sen. Lisa Murkowski “said a major new Obama administration study on energy infrastructure is big on spending, but ‘light’ on ideas such as ending the ban on oil exports and approving the Keystone XL pipeline.” Murkowski stated, “Any modernization of energy policy should, in my view, revisit the de facto ban on oil exports that we have imposed 40 years ago. … I think the QER is too light in that regard.” Murkowski “pointed out to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who testified at the hearing, that the administration should understand that most of the nation’s infrastructure is privately owned and maintained.”

The Hill  (4/29, Henry) reports Moniz “suggested the government could create a grant program for states that invest in energy reliability measures.” The Alaska Republican “said Moniz and the administration should follow up with lawmakers on legislative proposals.” Murkowski stated, “I think it’s going to be incumbent upon us — you and your team at the Department of Energy and here on the committee, and also in the House — to really figure out, how do we move forward on this, how do we make sure that this is more than just talk, because the need is so clearly there.”

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (4/29) reports Sen. Martin Heinrich asked Moniz “questions about the future of the grid and whether the national nuclear labs can play a role.” Legislation that has been proposed by Heinrich “is designed in part to help the national grid better adapt to clean energy sources.” Heinrich “suggested that the national laboratories assist state regulators in quantifying the costs and benefits of distributed generation.” Moniz said, “I think your idea of maybe getting a lab focus on this would be good, particularly in that we have already proposed…the grid modernization program.”

The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico  (4/28, Dixon) and an article by the Washington Examiner  (4/29, Colman) previewed Moniz’s appearance before the Senate committee. The Examiner article also reported on the Quadrennial Energy Review. Bloomberg BNA  (4/28, Kern) reports on comments Moniz made earlier this week about the QER.

Higher Education

Corinthian Students Ponder Future After Closure.

The AP  (4/29, Armario) reports that on Tuesday, students of the 28 colleges that Corinthian Colleges Inc. announced would be immediately closed down on Sunday gathered outside campus buildings “hoping to get their transcripts and frustrated with their options,” noting that for students who find colleges that will accept their credits, “they won’t qualify to have their existing loans discharged.” The article reports that some for-profit schools were trying to recruit Corinthian students. The article notes that students face the choice of either starting over at a less expensive institution, or continuing along analogous degree paths. The AP touches on ED’s investigation of “falsified post-graduation job placement rates” at the schools. The piece notes that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) criticized a list of potential transfer schools released by ED, because some of the schools are also under investigation. The AP quotes ED spokeswoman Denise Horn saying, “We are doing everything we can within statutory limits to help students affected by the largest college shutdown in American history.”

The Sacramento (CA) Bee  (4/29) reports that several students and teachers gathered outside a Corinthian school under the Heald College brand in Modesto, California Tuesday “to vent their outrage and draw support from what they called their Heald family.” The article describes the financial challenges being faced by students who have paid for books and tuition that are now of no value. The article notes that Corinthian announced the closures in the face of “a $30 million U.S. Department of Education fine leveled for misrepresenting job placement rates.” The paper also notes that California Attorney General Kamala Harris “has sued Corinthian, claiming it misled students about the value of their education.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (4/29) reports that the students “encountered locked doors and posters bearing messages from angry students,” noting that the announcement left students with questions “about how the decision to shut down had been made and what would come next” for their studies. Students expressed dismay as the heads of area community colleges were working to contact students that might be eligible to apply for transfers. This article notes that Corinthian said that it had buyers lined up for the schools, but that the “deals fell through because the California attorney general’s office refused to relieve the prospective buyers of liability stemming from the agency’s pending lawsuit.” CBS News  (4/29) runs similar coverage, as do USA Today  (4/29, Graulau, Kxtv-Sacramento) and the Los Angeles Times  (4/29, Kirkham).

Texas Faces Skilled Worker Drought.

The Houston Chronicle  (4/29, Tomlinson) reports that a new report argues that while Texas managed to grow its jobs during the recession, it also has “the highest percentage of minimum-wage workers” and a lack of skilled workers due to low levels of college degree receipt. Low per-student funding, poor SAT scores, and high rates of low income families without college degrees also play major roles. The report argues that “now is the time to apply pressure” to change the system, as lawmakers and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board are created a new plan for colleges and universities in the state.

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

Decreased Funding For Basic Science Research Leaves US In “Innovation Deficit.”

The Los Angeles Times  (4/29, Hiltzik) reports on a new MIT report which “lists four landmark scientific achievements of the last year: the first spacecraft landing on a comet; the discovery of a new fundamental particle, the Higgs boson; the development of the world’s fastest supercomputer; and new research in plant biology pointing to new ways to meet global food needs” none of which were led by the US. The authors of the report argue that the “widespread concern over ‘a growing U.S. innovation deficit’ is well placed” and “at least partially attributable to ‘declining public investment in research.’” Meanwhile, over 67,000 researchers with NIH and NSF grants were surveyed by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2014. The Times writes that “the publication compiled a dismal picture from the 11,000 responses it received.”

Broad Range Of Students Intern At State Farm R&D Center.

The Bloomington (IL) Pantagraph  (4/24, Sobota) reports that State Farm established its Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois, in 2005 “as a research resource” and “a place to develop and recruit future employees with skills the company needs.” The piece notes that the center has just marked a 10-year partnership with the University of Illinois, and reports that the interns at the center “could be students in mathematics working on rate setting or information technology students and engineers working on hardware and software or even psychology students working on the behavior of distracted drivers.”

Rice University Students Design Prototype Space Habitat Furniture.

Popular Science  (4/28, Grush) reports that five Rice University mechanical engineering students have “developed prototype furniture that could someday be used in space habitats on another planet. Given the weight restrictions and limited space on any future interplanetary vehicles, the designs had to be lightweight and flexible, serving multiple purposes in a low-gravity environment.” The students, working at NASA’s request, “consulted with NASA representatives about what a work schedule on Mars might be like” in creating their designs.

Global Developments

SNL To Test Deep-hole Nuclear Waste Disposal Technique.

The Engineer  (4/28, Knight) reports, “A method to safely bury the world’s most highly radioactive nuclear waste in holes five kilometres deep will be tested in the US next year.” The deep borehole disposal (DBD) technique “is much cheaper than the mined repository proposed by the UK government for burying the country’s nuclear waste, according to its pioneer Fergus Gibb, emeritus professor of petrology and geochemistry at the University of Sheffield,” the article reports. Sandia National Laboratories will run the trial in late 2016 for the Department of Energy.

Data Show Strength In UK Aerospace Sector.

The Telegraph (UK)  (4/29, Tovey) reports the UK’s aerospace industry “is flying high, with the value of commercial aircraft deliveries hitting a record of almost £5bn in the first quarter of the year, up from £4bn a year ago,” according to new data from ADS Group. The backlog of related work is up nine percent over the past year, meaning “that the work in hand for companies supplying the aerospace sector is now enough to keep them busy for nine years.” ADS Chief Executive Paul Everitt said, “We’ve seen a very strong start to 2015 and a clear indication that UK industry is responding to delivering a very full order book. It’s clear that the UK’s commitment to the industrial strategy is working but we can’t afford to become complacent.”

Industry News

Boeing Infrastructure Director Asserts Data Center Modernization Results In Shift To Cloud.

Information Week  (4/28, Babcock) highlights comments by eBay and Boeing managers at the Information Week 100 Conference on Monday in Las Vegas regarding their companies’ data center modernization efforts. Boeing’s director of core Infrastructure engineering Mike Stothers is paraphrased as stating that “the acquisition of data centers that marched in lockstep with its acquisition of companies was the bugaboo of Boeing IT.” Information Week reports that both managers “agreed that modern enterprise infrastructure is more cloud-like and more fully operated by software than data centers of just a few years ago.”

Engineering and Public Policy

DOE Pledges $75 Million Renewal Of LBNL’s JCAP.

The Contra Costa (CA) Times  (4/29, Thomas) reports the Energy Department yesterday “announced a $75 million funding plan to renew for five years the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), a partnership led by the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).” Focused on “harnessing solar energy for fuel production, researchers at both locations are making inroads in producing liquid fuels from a combination of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide.” JCAP “was founded as one of several Energy Innovation Hubs established by the Energy Department in 2010.” LBNL Lab Director Paul Alivisatos said, “Artificial photosynthesis has deep roots at Berkeley Lab and I am thrilled that JCAP will continue its important work in the coming years. … (The center) has demonstrated remarkable progress so far, making the bold notion that durable and efficient solar hydrogen generators could be … a reality through its focus on deep science as well as innovative engineering.”

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News  (4/29, Thomas) also carries this article.

In Effort To Sway Obama, Green Groups Take Out Ad Against Arctic Drilling.

The Hill  (4/28, Henry) reports that “more than a dozen conservation and environmental groups” took out an advertisement in USA Today on Tuesday arguing that drilling in the Arctic is “not worth the risk” of potential environmental damage. The Hill interprets that ad as an effort to push the President to bar Arctic drilling, which Shell is looking to begin.

WTimes Analysis: Statistics, Studies Misused In Fracking Debate.

The Washington Times  (4/29, Richardson) reports that the “old saw” that statistics “can be used to support anything” is “being increasingly applied to science, especially, critics say, when it comes to the fight” over fracking. The Times says that determining who conducted a fracking study, along with who funded it, “has become as important as the results of the research itself as the powerful fossil fuel industry and media-savvy environmental movement spar to claim the scientific high ground.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Initiative To Recruit Low-Income, Minority Students To AP And IB Classes To Spend $100 Million.

Education Week  (4/29, Adams) reports in its College Bound blog that education, nonprofit, and business leaders are looking to spend $100 million to boost Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate enrollment among low-income students and students of color by 100,000 in the next three years. Initiative participants include the College Board, the IB organization, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Google, and Tableau Software, Inc, among others. Founder and CEO of EOS Reid Saaris said that the program was the “largest commitment ever to fully reflecting America’s diversity at the highest academic levels in our K-12 schools.” The program will use data from grades, surveys, and test scores to encourage students that may not otherwise take the courses to choose college-preparation classes.

Atlanta Area Schools Receive STEM Grants.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (4/29, Walker) reports that nearly 50 schools in the Atlanta area received awards to create “hands-on, project-based” STEM programs next year, according to a press release from Project Lead the Way. The Goizueta Foundation provided $1 million for the projects, and foundation chairwoman and CEO Olga Goizueta Rawls said that the types of programs it will fund are “often a significant contributor to many students’ academic successes.” The recipient schools are then enumerated.

Arkansas Electric Vehicle Rally Draws Record Number Of Student Participants.

Electric Co-op Today  (4/28, Holly) reports Arkansas students participated in an electric vehicle rally “sponsored by the state’s electric cooperatives in the state.” Rob Roedel, manager of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, said that with a “record 243 participants from 14 schools, this year’s Electric Vehicle Rally ‘reflects the growing interest in electric vehicle technology.’” ECT adds the program was launched “in 2002 to expose students to theory, practical engineering and marketing and promotion of electric vehicle technology.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

MIT Study: US Losing R&D Edge.
Engineer Suggests More Women Would Study Engineering If Societal Benefit Were Emphasized.
Ohio Grad Students Invent Technology For Marijuana Testing.
Vatican’s Focus On Climate Change Worrying Some US Conservatives.
Greater Phoenix Area Partnership Working To Engage Students With STEM Programming.

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