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

Leading the News

Administration Gives Shell Conditional Approval For Arctic Drilling.

Coverage of yesterday’s announcement of a conditional permission to Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic generated just one brief mention on the network newscasts, but sparked a significant amount of print and online coverage, much of which highlighted environmentalists’ outrage about the decision – despite the fact that, according to the Washington Post  (5/12, Warrick), “the tentative approval was widely expected.” ABC World News (5/11, story 12, 0:20, Muir) referred to “a controversial move by the Obama Administration,” with “a major hurdle cleared for the Shell Oil Company that could allow them to start drilling for oil and gas off the coast of Alaska as early as the summer.” According to “critics,” the move “will have a devastating impact on the environment.”

Reuters  (5/12, Gardner) quotes Abigail Ross Harper, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, as saying yesterday, “We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea.” McClatchy  (5/11, Cockerham) noted that Harper also said the agency recognizes “the significant environmental, social and ecological resources in the region and establishing high standards for the protection of this critical ecosystem, our Arctic communities and the subsistence needs and cultural traditions of Alaska Natives. … As we move forward, any offshore exploratory activities will continue to be subject to rigorous safety standards.”

Under the headline “Drill, Baby, Drill In The Arctic,” the National Journal  (5/11, Geman, Subscription Publication) describes the decision as “escalating” an Administration “collision with environmentalists,” while the Daily Intelligencer (NY)  (5/11, Fuller) says that “environmental groups, never too pleased with” President Obama, “quickly added this to their list of reasons to be miffed at his administration and this seeming inconsistency in his otherwise consistent statements on energy and climate change.”

Writing for Mother Jones  (5/11, McDonnell), Tim McDonnell similarly indicated that the decision “underscored what many describe as an inconsistency in” the climate change policies of this President, who “despite his aggressive rhetoric on the dangers of global warming, and a suite of policies to curb the nation’s carbon footprint…has also pushed to expand offshore oil and gas drilling.” McClatchy  (5/11, Cockerham) notes that Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold said yesterday, “Spills under ice sheets can’t be controlled, and America doesn’t need the oil in order to maintain its energy independence. So this is just cynical partisan politics, a public relations bone that the Obama administration is throwing to Shell.”

The Washington Times  (5/12, Sherfinski) says Obama’s “move on Monday is the second in four months involving offshore drilling that managed to anger environmentalists,” and the Daily Caller  (5/11, Bastasch) reported that the decision “defies…Obama’s environmentalist supporters, who are opposed to allowing oil companies to tap into polar reserves.” TIME  (5/11, Worland) reported that “the relationship between environmental groups and the White House has been fraught with disagreement as well as collaboration.” While “environmental groups have praised Obama’s aggressive stance on reducing greenhouse gas emissions…they have also criticized his support of efforts to allow drilling in new areas like the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Southeastern US.”

Newsweek  (5/11, Schlanger) notes that “the decision comes three years after the government originally issued the same permission to Shell,” which was “temporarily revoked after Shell’s first attempt at offshore drilling, in 2012, ended with two rigs running aground.” Slate  (5/11, Griswold) noted that environmentalists “maintain that Shell hasn’t proven it can operate safely in the Arctic.” Moreover, “if there’s one thing that industry and environmental groups agree on, it’s that drilling in the Chukchi Sea – where the closest Coast Guard station equipped to respond to a spill is more than 1,000 miles away – is extremely dangerous.”

Higher Education

First Class Of Corrosion Engineers Graduates From University Of Akron.

Crain’s Cleveland Business  (5/9) reports that the first class of 10 undergraduates has just graduated from the University of Akron’s corrosion engineering program, noting that nine are going to work for “the likes of Marathon, ExxonMobil, Hendrickson, Corrpro and BP, and the other is headed for graduate school.” The program is “the first of its kind in the nation” and “teaches students to understand the origins of rust and how to manage its effects.”

Economists: Private College Tuition Increases Not Excessive.

In a piece on the Washington Post  (5/11, Svrluga) “Grade Point” blog, authors and economists Robert Archibald and David Feldman of the College of William & Mary refute the “conventional wisdom” that “college costs are soaring.” The writers cite problems in the oft-cited Bureau of Labor Statistics’ price index for college tuition and fees, and argue that the bigger issues facing higher education are the “hollowing out of the American middle class, the stagnation of family income for much of the population, and the 30-year retreat of state higher education appropriations.”

Former Corinthian Students Want Say In How Bankruptcy Plays Out.

The New York Times  (5/12, Lewin, Subscription Publication) reports that an “ad-hoc” group of former students of colleges owned by “the recently collapsed Corinthian Colleges Inc.” are calling on authorities to set up a committee “to press the students’ claims and ensure their participation in bankruptcy proceedings that will affect their futures.”

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

NASA’s NIAC Program Funds “Outstanding” Batch Of Concepts.

SPACE  (5/11, Wall) continues coverage of the “15 ambitious tech concepts” NASA just funded through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. In a statement, NIAC program executive Jason Derleth said, “Most of the 2015 NIAC Phase I final candidates were outstanding, and choosing only 15 of them proved to be a challenge. … We look forward to seeing how each new study will push boundaries and explore new approaches — that’s what makes NIAC unique.” Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, added, “The latest NIAC selections include a number of exciting concepts. … We are working with American innovators to reimagine the future of aerospace and focus our investments on concepts to address challenges of current interests both in space and here on Earth.”

Quartz  (5/11, Wener-Fligner) has a brief paragraph devoted to each of the concepts, and the Ithaca (NY) Journal  (5/11) and io9  (5/11, Dvorsky) also cover the story.

Cornell Engineers Developing “Eel” To Explore Europa. The Ithaca (NY) Journal  (5/11) reports that mechanical and aerospace engineers at Cornell University are developing “an eel-like, soft-robotic rover” which could be used to determine whether “alien life exists in the salty ocean of Jupiter’s ice-covered moon, Europa.” The piece notes that NASA has given a $100,000 grant to professors Mason Peck and Robert Shepherd “for the amphibious-rover project,” noting that Peck was formerly NASA’s chief technologist. The piece explains that “soft robotics” uses “pliable materials,” and notes that Shepherd said that the eel’s design could “avoid spending energy to support a heavy robot when there is no need to do so.”

Wired UK  (5/11, Clark) focuses on the “roboeel” concept designed by Mason Peck, which would “enable amphibious exploration of gas-giant moons like Europa,” with a brief description of some of the other new concepts funded by NIAC.

Mine-Disposal Robot Creators Interviewed.

National Geographic  (5/11, Braun) interviews Golden West Humanitarian Foundation Design Lab Director Allen Tan and Villanova University Associate Professor Garrett Clayton about a project to create a “low-cost explosive ordnance disposal robot” to help dispose of landmines and unexploded ordnance. The questions cover the rationale for the robot, its technological advantages, its cost, its reliability, development processes, the funding process, and the potential for the technology.


US Agriculture Department Expects Industry Skill Gap To Worsen.

US News & World Report  (5/11, Soergel) reports that a new US Agriculture Department report claims that the skilled labor “blight” on the US agriculture industry “is only expected to worsen,” as in the near future, according to a report issued Monday by the United States Department of Agriculture. Nearly 58,000 jobs are expected to open in the agriculture industry between 2015 and 2020 that generally require a bachelor’s degree to feed a growing global population, but under 36,000 graduates are estimated to enter the field in the coming five years. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that agriculture students are “likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation” and be able to face “some of the world’s most pressing challenges.” Around 27 percent of the new jobs will need a STEM education.

Engineering and Public Policy

Advancements In Airport Security Draw Questions Of Privacy Concerns.

The New York Times  (5/9, Nixon, Subscription Publication) reports on the new developments in airport security being created by researchers across the country, ranging from video surveillance software to detect passengers entering security exits to new methods of detecting explosives. While a number of entities and government officials are lauding the advancements that could provide safety and help airport security budgets, some groups say that “questions remain about the potential widespread use of video analytics tools,” especially related to privacy concerns.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Delaware School Wins Regional SeaPerch Competition.

The Wilmington (DE) News Journal  (5/11, Albright) reports that students competing in Philadelphia Regional SeaPerch competition, hosted by the US Navy Office of Naval Research and American Society of Engineers, had to simulate the retrieval of a satellite that crashed in the ocean. Facing competition from over 1,000 students, Sanford School in Hockessin, Delaware won the overall prize and will present their design to naval engineers at the Biennial Intelligent Ship Symposium at the University of Pennsylvania.

Intel Science Fair Competition Profiled.

US News & World Report  (5/11, Bidwell) reports that the Intel Science and Engineering Fair will host students’ research and scientific developments in Pittsburgh this week. The piece focuses on projects in the healthcare, EMS capabilities, and ozone protection fields as well as a project to allow physically handicapped individuals greater independence. In total, 1,700 individuals will represent 70 countries.

Monday’s Lead Stories

UT Austin Engineers Develop Centimeter-Level GPS Technology.
ED Announces $60 Million In College Affordability, Accessibility Grants.
University of Utah SVP Advocates Interdisciplinary Research.
NSF Grant Awarded To Lone Star College System.
Transformer Fire Forces Shutdown Of Indian Point Nuclear Plant.
North Carolina Schools Receive $1 Million Federal Grant.

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