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

Leading the News

Asian Americans Well Represented In Tech Sector, But Not At Executive Levels.

The Los Angeles Times  (5/7, Lien) reports that Asian Americans “are often considered the ‘successful minority’ in tech,” and in “an industry plagued by diversity issues, Asian Americans make up roughly a third of the workforce at Google, Yahoo and Facebook,” which “far outpaces blacks and Latinos, who combined made up only single digits,” according to “the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.” The Times, however, notes that although Asian Americans “may be well represented in the workforce, they are severely underrepresented at the executive levels, according to a report released Wednesday by the Ascend Foundation, a nonprofit Pan-Asian membership organization for business professionals.”

The Oregonian  (5/6) reports that Asians “play an unusually large role in the nation’s tech work force,” but are underrepresented in tech sector C-suites. The piece reports that the study “mined data from five major tech companies,” noting that such firms are “posting more information about the makeup of their work forces in an effort to become more diverse.” The authors of the study “say the underrepresentation of Asian Americans reflects an ‘expectations gap’ drawn from prevailing stereotypes – as well as some Asian workers own attitudes about themselves.”

The AP  (5/7, Liedtke) reports that the study “uncovered a glaring imbalance between the number of Asian technology workers in non-management jobs and the number in leadership positions in Silicon Valley,” and notes that it was released “on the same day that civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Push organization are holding a summit in San Francisco as part of a year-old campaign to pressure tech companies into hiring and promoting more minorities and women.”

Jesse Jackson Calls For Greater Tech Workforce Diversity. The AP  (5/7, Liedtke) reports that civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, speaking at a “gathering of corporate executives and activists” in San Francisco on Wednesday, “renewed his call Wednesday for the technology industry to” focus more on workforce diversity. Jackson panned “Silicon Valley’s shortage of women, blacks and Hispanics in high-paying jobs,” and the AP notes that he stressed “his historic ties to Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement” to call for greater diversity.

Higher Education

Study: College Majors Lead To Varying Earnings Prospects.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/7, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce finds that college graduates have differing earnings prospects, with graduates in STEM fields making more than those in the liberal arts and all college majors paying more than a high school diploma. However, the paper notes that earnings are not the full picture: architecture graduates generally make more than teachers, but experience higher unemployment rates. Further, Georgetown center director Anthony Carnevale says that the earnings potentials are ranges, and that individuals can find that salaries vary widely within fields.

Vermont Students Win Structural Engineering Contest.

WCAX-TV  Burlington, VT (5/7) reports that a team of students at Vermont Technical College recently “took first place in the Student Structural Design Competition at the Structures Congress 2015 in Portland, Oregon.” The students won “with a mixed office space design of the R&D Center in New York City.”

MIT Team’s Solar Powered Desalinator Awarded “Desal Prize.”

The Washington Post  (5/6, Warrick) reports on a project that won “the $140,000 ‘Desal Prize,’ an award sponsored by Securing Water for Food, a joint project of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the governments of Sweden and the Netherlands.” The project, developed by a team from MIT’s Global Engineering and Research Laboratory, is “a solar-powered water desalination system” that produces “contaminant-free water safe for drinking and for crops.” It is “uniquely designed to be small, relatively cheap and 100-percent solar-powered.” It makes use of electrodialysis to remove the salt, and also has “ultraviolet light arrays to kill any microbes remaining in the water.” The unit is designed to “supply the basic water needs of a village of between 2,000 and 5,000 people,” and may cost “about $11,000.”

University Of Tennessee Students To Begin “Dream Jobs” At NASA.

The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel  (5/6, Slaby) reports that three female 2015 graduates from the University of Tennessee will begin “dream jobs” at NASA this summer. The three will begin training to take roles “with operations for the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Center.” The Sentinel notes that, according to the head of the school’s Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering department, the students’ gender reflects the “growing diversity” of the field at the university.

Column: Community Colleges May Be Solution To Economic Inequality.

Writing for the Washington Post ’s (5/6, Mathews) “Grade Point” blog, columnist Jay Matthews argues that increased access to community college may help alleviate income inequality in the US, but the system needs major reform and more resources first. He finds that the community college system is “a mess,” with poor funding, organization, and student support, and cites research showing that though 80 percent of students say at matriculation that they intend to get a degree, only 15 percent do six years later. Those statistics reflect what researchers characterize as “widespread failure, disappointment, frustration, and thwarted potential” among students.

Over 220 Colleges Still Accepting Applications.

US News & World Report  (5/6, Boyington) reports that students looking to enroll for college for the Fall 2015 semester will “have to act fast” to secure a spot at one of the 220-plus colleges still taking applicants. A list released Wednesday shows which organizations still have spots, and while many are smaller, private colleges, several “large state institutions” such as Bowling Green State University and Illinois State University are still receiving applicants. Students that apply after the May 1 admissions decision deadlines often “weren’t accepted into their top-choice institutions.”

Inside Higher Ed  (5/6) also covers the story and provides a link to the list.

States Slashing Support For Public Education.

The Washington Post  (5/6, Douglas-Gabriel) reports in its Wonkblog blog that new reports contend that if states continue to slow investment in public higher education, “some will soon contribute nothing.” Funding is still 27 percent less than it was before the 2008 recession, and a “seismic shift” in funding means tuition has risen from one-quarter of state university revenue to 47.1 percent. Report author Robert Hiltonsmith says that, with tuition rates as they are, “we almost don’t have public education anymore,” but rather “we have subsidized private education.” If trends continue, a separate report claims that Colorado, Louisiana, Arizona, and South Carolina will not contribute anything within 10 years.

ASEE Member Comments on Strategic Doing
President Nick Altiero encourages all member to read and respond to the Board’s “Strategic Doing” beta document. (Member login required.)

ASEE Call for Nominations
Officers to be nominated for society-wide positions are: President-Elect, Vice President Member Affairs, and Chairs of Professional Interest Councils I, IV and V. Deadline is June 1.

ASEE’s Annual Conference
Is right around the corner. Watch a video of high school-aged contest winners we featured at the meeting last year (and will be again this year!).

ASEE Perks
Learn about the broad collection of benefits available to ASEE members.

Research and Development

Nikola Labs To Debut iPhone Case With Recharging Function.

The Business Insider  (5/7) reports that the Columbus, Ohio firm Nikola Labs is set to roll out a Kickstarter campaign in June for “a new iPhone case that can convert radio frequencies into power to help keep your phone charged throughout the day.” The piece notes that the firm’s co-founder, Dr. Rob Lee, is “a former chair of the Ohio State University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, and this particular technology comes straight out of Ohio State’s engineering department.”

Engadget  (5/4) reports that Lee says that some 97% of the energy a smartphone uses “is lost to the ether,” and explains that the technology harnesses this energy. The piece notes that the device won’t increase the phone’s charge, but rather simply decreases the speed with which the phone discharges.

The Columbus (OH) Business First  (5/5, Ghose) reports that Nikola Labs “pitched its product at the TechCrunch Disrupt competition in New York City on Tuesday, with a $50,000 prize at stake.” The piece notes that the device has been “met by some skepticism from industry bloggers.”

Northeastern Professor Wins Best Antenna Design And Application Paper At EuCAP Conference.

The Wellesley (MA) Patch  (5/7) reports that Northeastern University engineering professor Carey Rappaport “won the best Antenna Design and Application Paper award at the 9th European Conference on Antennas and Propagation ( EuCAP) in Lisbon, Portugal last week.” The paper, co-authored by former Northeastern Senior Research Engineer Borja Gonzalez Valdes, is titled “Multistatic Nearfield Imaging Radar for Portal Security Systems Using a High Gain Toroidal Reflector Antenna.”

LLNL Researchers Come Up With 3-D Supercompressible Aerogel.

Scientific American  (5/7, Davenport) reports that a team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has used 3-D printing to engineer “supercompressible aerogels with large surface areas and good conductivities” using a graphene oxide ink that could be used for energy storage. Marcus A. Worsley and his colleague Cheng Zhu led the Livermore researchers behind the project.

Illinois’ R&D Funding Grew in 2013, Expected To Grow With Next Budget.

The Chicago Tribune  (5/7) reports on its “Innovation Hub” blog that “despite spending cuts and sequestration in recent years, Illinois’ universities are capturing record levels of funding for basic, applied, and development research in science and engineering.” Illinois remains the eighth-ranked state for $300 million spent on university research and the combined research expenditure of Argonne and Fermi national labs exceeded $1 billion in 2013. Proposed budgets may increase spending by $700 million on Federal agencies aligned with Illinois university research efforts and add $1 billion to the NIH which finances half of Illinois’ research.

Engineering and Public Policy

California Issues First Mandatory Water Restrictions.

The CBS Evening News (5/6, story 7, 2:10, Pelley) reported that California’s “day of reckoning is here,” with state regulators ordering “the first mandatory cutbacks in municipal water usage.” CBS (Tracy) says that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) “said it’s time for Californians to face reality – there isn’t enough water.” Brown said, “We’re going to have to adjust and it will take money. It will take lifestyle changes.”

Animals Struggling In California Drought. The Washington Post  (5/7, Fears) reports that in drought-plagued Western states, local wildlife is starting to suffer. The piece highlights the fate of the giant kangaroo rat, whose “once abundant population” is “dwindling to near nothing on California’s sprawling Carrizo Plain, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, where the drought is turning hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland into desert.”

North Dakota Oil Train Derailment Raises Concerns.

ABC World News (5/6, story 6, 1:30, Muir) reported that a “massive oil tanker train derailing” in North Dakota is “forcing evacuations tonight.” With “US oil production now booming, there is growing fears that this could happen far more often.” ABC (Sandell) adds that last week, “American and Canadian regulators issued tough new rules for these oil cars, including lower speed limits and requiring stronger tanks and better brakes,” but “critics say it will be years before all tanker cars are up to those new standards.”

The CBS Evening News (5/6, story 9, 0:20, Pelley) reported that it is “the fifth oil train derailment this year, and it comes just days after the government called for stronger rail cars.” NBC Nightly News (5/6, story 5, 0:20, Holt) reported, “An entire small town in North Dakota had to be evacuated,” but “fortunately no injuries reported.”

Author: South Dakotans Not Enthused By Obama Visit. In an op-ed for USA Today  (5/7), Joseph Bottum, an essayist and author from South Dakota, writes that on Friday, President Obama will visit his state for the first time. Bottum says that the feeling among residents is that the President is flying in “only so that he will have visited all 50 states as president” and portrays them as decidedly unexcited.

Michigan Legislator Introduces Bill To Make Critical Infrastructure Information Secret.

The Detroit Free Press  (5/7, Matheny) reports that Michigan state Rep. Kurt Heise this week introduced legislation to keep “information about oil and gas pipelines, high-powered electrical lines and other critical energy infrastructure out of potential terrorists’ hands.” However, critics say it “protects something else: oil and gas corporations, like Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge, from public disclosures about safety and other records.”

King Bill Aims To Encourage Use Of New Energy Technologies.

The Hill  (5/7, Henry) reports a bill has been introduced by Sen. Angus King “to encourage the use of new consumer electricity storage and creation technologies.” King’s legislation “looks to reform state laws that affect so-called ‘distributed energy resources,’ such as rooftop solar panels for energy generation or home batteries meant to store energy taken from the electric grid.” King believes the spread of these technologies has “been stymied by ‘antiquated policies’ dealing with how they connect to the electric grid.”

The E&E Daily  (5/7) reports that last week at a Senate hearing, “King aligned himself with New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich when he quizzed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz about whether state regulators have the tools they need to adequately quantify the benefits and costs of distributed generation and storage to make accurate rate cases and what role the national labs could play.” The Energy Secretary “said DOE needs better formulas to gauge the benefits of such new technologies and services, including in the distribution system, and that the challenge is trying to understand the value of distributed generation and being able to connect to the overall grid.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Arizona Students Use Integrated Technology In Building Design Lesson.

The Arizona Education News Service  (5/5, Reese) reports that sixth-grade math students at Chaparral Elementary School south of Phoenix used a variety of technological tools, including infrared thermometers and iPads, for their Urban Heat Island Project to develop more temperature-efficient home designs suited for the Salt River Valley. The STEM project was developed by teacher Tina Quinonez and her Arizona State University student assistant Cassie Jones with the help of ASU’s SEED program. The article notes that “students expressed their joy and satisfaction with the experience.”

Arkansas Governor Advocates Coding Classes At Local High School.

The Arkansas News  (5/7, Hunter) reports Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told high school students in Forth Smith to enroll in software coding classes in order to “change the economy” of the state, saying that in the next five years there will be one million “unfilled jobs in the computer science area.” The News reports that computer science courses are offered at the high school, but interest is low.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

University Of Texas At Austin Researchers Develop Advanced Rehab Exoskeleton.
Kaplan Experimenting With Competency-Based Courses.
ONR Gives University Of New Orleans Professor Young Investigator Grant.
Experts: Tech Industry Must Begin Recruiting Women During School.
Tomlinson: Time To Standardize Offshore Drilling Wells.
Northrop Grumman Volunteers At Illinois Junior High STEM Expo.

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