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

Leading the News

Texas Enacts Law Barring Local Fracking Bans.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/19, Gold, Subscription Publication) reports that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on May 18 signed legislation that bars local laws banning fracking and makes it significantly harder for local governments to control where wells can be drilled.

The Dallas Morning News  (5/18, Barnett) reports that Gov. Abbott “compared the new law to suits he filed as attorney general against the federal government for alleged overreach.” He said, “It’s exactly the same…We’re ensuring that people and officials at the local level are not going to be encroaching upon individual liberty or individual rights.” Meanwhile, “critics say the law is an affront to local control and prevents cities from picking up the slack where locals view state regulation has failed them,” the article reports.

The Texas Tribune  (5/18, Malewitz) reports that Gov. Greg Abbott said that House Bill 40 “is so incredibly important,” adding that it does a “profound job of protecting private property rights.” Meanwhile, environmental activists and officials in some small towns are concerned over how this will affect their authority to “ensure local health and safety,” the article reports. The energy industry meanwhile is in agreement with the governor. “House Bill 40 represents balanced legislation that will build upon a 100-year history of cooperation between Texans, their communities, and oil and natural gas operators,” Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, said.

The Austin (TX) American Statesman  (5/18, Tilove, Subscription Publication) reports a spokeswoman for Denton said she was “disappointed on behalf of our community and the democratic process.” But for Gov. Abbott, the new bill is a victory for private property rights.

The Houston Chronicle  (5/18, Fikac) reports that while the new law bars cities from banning oil and gas production, it affords them the option “to regulate above-ground activity, such as drilling setbacks, as long as they are ‘commercially reasonable.’” For Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas, this is not enough. “By advocating for and signing this bill, Gov. Abbott has succeeded in seizing power away from local governments working to protect us from the real dangers of dirty drilling,” he said. “In the past, the state of Texas has failed to stop Big Oil from polluting our air and water, causing earthquakes, and putting our families at risk from leaks, spills and explosions. Regrettably, with millions spent by oil and gas in campaign contributions to influence state officials, I don’t think they’re going to start now,” he added.

Higher Education

UConn To Launch Tech Entrepreneurship Program.

The Hartford Business Journal  (5/18) reports that the National Science Foundation is giving the University of Connecticut $300,000 to “kick off its new tech entrepreneurship program,” called Accelerate UConn. The project “will provide funding, education and mentors for as many as 40 student-faculty teams to develop startup ideas.”

Over 10,700 Tennesseans Apply For Tuition-Free Technical College.

The Tennessean  (5/19, Tamburin) reports that in Tennessee, over “10,700 adults have applied to take advantage of a state grant that would send them to technical college tuition-free, exceeding initial estimates by more than 2,000. The Tennessee Reconnect grant, which offers eligible adults the chance to get training from a Tennessee College of Applied Technology, is” part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s (R) “plan to ensure 55% of Tennesseans have a college education by 2025.”

“Record” 38 Arizona Students Receive Simultaneous Diploma, Associate’s Degree.

The Arizona Republic  (5/18) reports that a “record” 38 students in Arizona received associates degrees before graduating high school via Rio Salado’s “dual-enrollment program.” Students from 10 high schools in Phoenix, Glendale, and Tempe received their degrees earlier this week. Dual enrollment credits are able to be transferred to all public Arizona colleges and university as well as a number of schools outside the state.

Senator Bernie Sanders Bill Would Make Public Colleges Free.

The Christian Science Monitor  (5/18, Lindsay) reports that Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders will propose a bill to make US colleges and universities free based on European models. Sanders said Sunday that the country needs “the best-educated workforce in the world” and that this cannot happen if people are unable to attend college due to tuition costs. Sanders has requested states to put $18 billion toward higher education and has called for an end to what the Monitor paraphrases as ED’s “practice of profiting off student loan debt.” Sanders said that the country must “shift our priorities” to ensure students do not receive a “crushing debt.” The bill will be introduced on Tuesday.

Obama’s Support For Community Colleges Chronicled.

Politico  (5/19, Grasgreen) reports that in addition to his proposals for making community college free, President Obama has “lifted community colleges to new levels of status, significance and public consciousness.” The article describes the “cheerleading and economic shifts” the Administration has undertaken to this end, including earmarking $5 billion to community colleges in the 2011 economic stimulus bill. Moreover, despite opposition to free tuition in the Republican-controlled Congress, “Obama hasn’t let up, and there’s no indication he will.”

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Research and Development

University Of Pittsburgh Developing Technology To Test Chemicals For Toxicity.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  (5/19, Templeton) reports that “with a $6 million EPA grant over four years, Vanderbilt and the University of Pittsburgh are establishing…the Vanderbilt-Pittsburgh Resource for Organotypic Models for Predictive Toxicity, or VPROMPT” to study “technology to test chemicals without using animals, mostly rats and rabbits.” Moreover, The Gazette adds that last fall the National Institutes of Health granted D. Lansing Taylor, director of Pitt’s Drug Discovery Institute, a $5.8 million grant, which led to “the development of a tissue chip involving liver cells and designed to mimic the structure and function of the liver, for use in testing the safety and effectiveness of drugs.” NIH Director Francis S. Collins has “said that ‘the development of tissue chips is a remarkable marriage of biology and engineering,’ with potential to test drug treatments and serve as valuable tools for biomedical research.”

J&J Awards Rutgers $6 Million Grant To Further Partnership On Continuous Manufacturing.

Fierce Pharma Manufacturing  (5/19, Palmer) reports that Johnson & Johnson awarded Rutgers University a $6 million grant to be used by the Rutgers Engineering Research Center for Structured Organic Particulate Systems for research. The center is already helping J&J’s Janssen unit “transition some products to the new technology at a plant in Puerto Rico.” Rutgers researchers have created “what the university says is one of the first full production-scale continuous direct compression solid oral dosage manufacturing facility” to be used as a model for the Puerto Rico plant. NJBIZ  (5/19, Sheldon) and Contract Pharma  (5/18) also report the story.

Workforce

CBC To Push For More African Americans In Tech Sector.

The Hill  (5/18, Mccabe) reports that the Congressional Black Caucus is planning an initiative “to increase African American representation in the tech sector,” noting that the move comes in response to reports of “a lack of diversity at companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter.” The Hill quotes CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) saying, “Many of the technology companies have African Americans as very loyal customers, and many of those don’t have any African Americans on their boards. Their senior leadership within many of these companies is not inclusive, and the workforce is appalling. And their reinvestment in African American communities is less than desirable.”

Global Developments

Indian American Students Win Major Intel ISEF Special Awards.

India West  (5/19) reports on Indian-American students recognized May 14 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, where “More than 60 organizations provided special awards.” Among the many students listed is “Koushal Rao, 17, of Lincoln Park Academy, Ft. Pierce, Fla.,” who won a $10,000 Global Development Innovation award from USAID.

Engineering and Public Policy

EPA Criticized Over Positive Campaign For Public Comment On Water Rules.

The New York Times  (5/19, A1, Lipton, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that EPA Administrator McCarthy told a Senate committee in March that the agency had received “more than one million comments, and nearly 90 percent favored” its proposed drinking water rule. However, “critics say there is a reason for the overwhelming result: The E.P.A. had a hand in manufacturing it.” The EPA’s campaign, run in conjunction with the Sierra Club, “highlights the tension between exploiting emerging technologies while trying to abide by laws written for another age,” says the Times.

Tech “Behemoths” Urge President To Protect Encrypted Data On Devices.

The Washington Post  (5/19, Nakashima) reports that “tech behemoths,” including Apple and Google, along with “leading cryptologists,” are urging the President to “reject any government proposal that alters the security of smartphones and other communications devices so that law enforcement can view decrypted data.” In a letter to be sent Tuesday, the “coalition” appeals to the White House “to protect privacy rights as it considers how to address law enforcement’s need to access data that is increasingly encrypted.”

Kansas Set To Repeal Renewable Energy Mandate.

The Hill  (5/19, Henry) reports that lawmakers in Kansas “are set to repeal the state’s renewable energy mandate and replace it with a voluntary goal for electric utilities, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.” Legislators “have approved a bill to the end the state’s ‘renewable portfolio standard,’ which requires utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020, and replace it with a voluntary goal instead.” In addition, the legislation “limits the property tax exemption for renewable energy projects currently in law.” The bill has been sent “to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback for his signature.”

GE Wind Is Working Towards Nonreliance On Federal Energy Subsidy.

Bloomberg News  (5/19, Martin) reports that GE Wind will push to expand production by 20 percent, eliminating the need for a Federal subsidy that keeps the industry in development. As the American Wind Energy Association lobbies to extend the tax cuts, GE Water & Power CEO Steve Bolze says that the company is investing in more efficient and reliable turbine designs to make the credit unnecessary.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Tweets Highlight Women In STEM.

The Huffington Post  (5/19, Yam) hosts a series of tweets from the #girlswithtoys hashtag, which was created in response to comments by California Institute of Technology professor Shrinivas Kulkarni’s comment that “many scientists…are what I call ‘boys with toys.’” Kulkarni’s comment “failed to acknowledge his female counterparts in the field” a slight that “didn’t go unnoticed.” The tweets show women in STEM careers on the job.

Maker Faires Highlight STEM Education.

TIME  (5/18, Bajarin) report on its website that Maker Faires are “one of the truly bright lights in tech education,” and have a “strong STEM emphasis.” The biggest of the Maker Faires will be held in San Mateo, California this weekend and is expected to host 150,000 children and parents. The goal of the movement, according to founder Dale Dougherty, is to “inspire people to become makers instead of just consumers.” The article also profiles vendors and sponsors such as Roominate Toys and Intel, respectively.

Monday’s Lead Stories

Penn State Discloses Intrusion Of Engineering Computers By Chinese Hackers.
University Of Vermont Begins STEM Building Construction.
Military Develops Emergency Robots, Bringing Weaponization Fears.
Report: Asians Underrepresented In Tech Sector Management.
Panama Canal Expansion To Double Its Capacity.
WPost: Driver-less Cars Offer “Tantalizing” Possibilities.
Johnson: Security Related To Drones “Definitely An Issue” In 2016 Presidential Race.

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