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

Leading the News

Congress Moves On Science Research Funding.

Both chambers saw movement on legislation to fund scientific and energy research on Wednesday, with partisan sniping in the House and some bipartisanship in the Senate. The Senate version of the America COMPETES Act is likely to have more Democratic support, and the version passed by the House has already elicited a veto threat.

House Narrowly Passes Science Research On Party-Line Vote. The Hill  (5/21, Marcos) reports that the House passed a $33 billion bill on a 217-205 vote that cuts funding for the National Science Foundation’s social behavior and economic sciences research by 55 percent. The article notes that the bill, as passed, is opposed by a raft of scientific associations including the American Academy of Political and Social Science, American Anthropological Association, and the Association of American Universities.

Roll Call  (5/21, Dumain) notes the radical change from the legislation’s original form when passed in 2007, calling the new bill “nearly unrecognizable.” No Democrats voted for it, and the President has issued a veto threat. Bill Andresen, associate vice president of federal affairs for the University of Pennsylvania, which benefits from Federal science research funding, said that “It’s better for us to have no bill at all than to have this one.”

Senate Sees Bipartisanship On Energy Research. The Hill  (5/21, Henry) reports that a bill introduced Wednesday by a bipartisan group of Senators aims to reauthorize part of the America COMPETES Act and double the funding available to the Department of Energy for research. It also realigns programs and offices within the department to more effectively utilize the funding. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that “Governing is about setting priorities, and this legislation will put us on a path to double basic energy research – one of the best ways to keep good-paying jobs from going overseas.”

The Washington (DC) Examiner  (5/21, Colman) reports that the Senate bill is co-sponsored by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), indicating that it will be part of the bigger energy bill that the Senate is working on.

Higher Education

IG Faults ED Over Pell Grant, Student Loan Estimates.

Inside Higher Ed  (5/20) reports that according to a new report from ED’s Office of Inspector General, last fall, ED “switched its approach to estimating how much it improperly paid out in Pell Grants and student loans” because its original process “would have shown large jumps in erroneous payments.” The piece notes that the new methodology “produced far lower estimates of improper payments than the department’s original methodology.”

WSJournal Urges High Court To Clarify Position On Race-Based College Admissions.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/21, Subscription Publication) editorializes that the Supreme Court has a chance to enforce racial equality by granting a challenge to the University of Texas’ use of race in admissions, which the Journal argues flies in the face of the court’s 2013 ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas, which held that an appeals court erred in accepting the university’s practices and sent the case back for the “strict scrutiny” of a trial court. The Journal urges the court to clarify its restriction on the use of race in admissions decision.

Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Make Some Schools Responsible For Student Loan Default.

The Washington Times  (5/21, Howell) reports that senators such as Lamar Alexander and Jack Reed are pushing for colleges and universities “that churn out students who default on their federal loans should be forced to bear some of the brunt of those costs.” Lamar “said giving schools a stake could prod them to keep their tuition and fees in check, and make sure students finish their degrees on time.”

Montana Board Of Regents Expected To Freeze Tuition.

The Bozeman (MT) Daily Chronicle  (5/21) reports that the Montana Board of Regents is expected to vote this week to freeze in-state tuition for the next two years, though out-of-state students will see increases. The article notes that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has ranked the state number 1 in “keeping college affordable.”

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Research and Development

Ohio State Engineering Students Working On Prosthetic Leg For Dog.

WTTE-TV  Columbus, OH (5/21) reports online that a team of engineering students at Ohio State University is working on crafting a prosthetic leg for “a three-legged pooch rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri.” The dog was adopted by a local elementary school teacher in Hilliard, Ohio, whose students have been following the project.

WCMH-TV  Columbus, OH (5/21) reports online that the elementary school students “watched as Ohio State University students fitted Jimmy, a three-legged Cockapoo and puppy mill survivor, for a prosthetic leg.” The engineering students say that “they have collectively designed a bionic leg for dogs with amputations at the joints, which never previously existed.”

Naval Lab Produces Small, Silent Drone.

ExecutiveGov  (5/21, Leigh) reports that the Naval Research Laboratory has created a drone called the Cicada that can be dropped from a plane to carry out missions in remote areas. The aircraft has no engine and flies at 74 kilometers per hour to a preset location. An NRL flight controls engineer, Aaron Kahn, said that “we will put so many out there, it will be impossible for the enemy to pick them all up.” The microplanes can be given sensors and microphones and can also help predict weather phenomenon.

Engineering and Public Policy

Some Republicans Not Open To McCarthy’s Infrastructure Proposal.

Politico  (5/21, Faler, Bade) reports that some House GOP leaders, such as Majority Leader McCarthy, looking for ways to boost transportation funding, are “eyeing a massive tax reform-transportation package that taps $2 trillion in corporate profits parked offshore as a way to cover the costs.” However, the plan is opposed by “tax-minded” Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch and Ways and Means Chair Paul Ryan, who want to use the money “to lower rates in a business tax code rewrite.”

WSJournal Analysis: Impact Of Infrastructure Spending Holds Growing Importance. The Wall Street Journal  (5/21, Ip, Subscription Publication) reports that the Amtrak derailment has focused concern on the amount spent on US transportation infrastructure, but says that while the attention has been on the amount of spending, some are arguing that the quality of the spending is of equal importance. For example, Aaron Kleinhof of the Bipartisan Policy Center says that the current system places much decision-making at lower levels of government, and money doesn’t always go where it is needed most.

Republicans: Forthcoming Mountaintop Mining Regs Part Of “War On Coal.”

McClatchy  (5/21, Cockerham) reports that Congressional Republicans are looking to block a rule expected from the Administration to protect “Appalachian streams from mountaintop removal mining, as opponents of the controversial practice say the mines are getting closer to communities and harming people’s health.” Some Republicans, McClatchy says, “are describing the move as the latest campaign in the Obama administration’s ‘war on coal.’”

ACEEE Ranks Boston Top US City For Saving Energy.

The Washington Post  (5/21, Harvey) reports that the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy on Wednesday released its ranking of US cities based on local energy policies and initiatives, and Boston topped the list for the second consecutive time. Boston’s Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance requires buildings to report water and energy use and complete assessments every five years, requiring improvements over time, the Post reports, and the city “also has a climate action plan, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.” New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Seattle scored in the 70s, but the report cautions that “even the leading five have room for improvement” as “only the top 13 cities exceeded 50.”

Maine Leaders Want Streamlined Licensing For Hydroelectric Dams.

The AP  (5/21) reports that Sen. Angus King is pressing to streamline the federal permitting process for dams, which “takes up to 10 years and up to $100 million to get an answer,” calling it an “annuity for lawyers and consultants.” King has proposed legislation to ease licensing for small dams and FERC re-licensing for existing dams. Gov. Paul LePage has express similar sentiments, the AP reports.

Montrose Hydroelectric Facility Receives $900,000 Federal Water Conservation Grant.

The AP  (5/21) reports that the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association announced Wednesday that it will receive a $900,000 grant from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation for water conservation and reuse projects at a new hydroelectric facility in Montrose. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced funding Wednesday for more than 60 projects in a dozen states, the AP reports.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Texas Instruments Foundation Awards $2.2 Million To Texas District.

The Dallas Morning News  (5/19, Miller) reports that the Texas Instruments Foundation will award $2.2 million to Educate Texas which will be used to provide a STEM curriculum to all students in Lancaster ISD from kindergarten to 12th grade. The award follows a $4.8 million award to create the STEM district awarded in 2012. The grant will be put towards professional development, college and career readiness, math curriculum alignment, and new STEM extracurriculars.

Houston-Area Robotics Team Profiled.

The Houston Chronicle  (5/21, Olabi) reports on Rubicon Academy’s Bricksmart junior robotics team, which uses Legos to build FIRST Lego League Robotics competitors. The team competed in the FIRST Lego League World Festival in St. Louis this year.

Iowa Elementary School Hosts STEM Faire.

The Ames (IA) Tribune  (5/21) reports that the Edwards Elementary School in Iowa hosted a FAB Faire May 14, which showcased projects on science, technology, engineering, and computer basics. The article then interviews the students on what they want to do and notes that the “highlight of the evening” was the Junior FIRST Lego League teams’ presentations.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

US Charges Six Chinese Citizens With Theft Of Trade Secrets From Tech Companies.
Report: Poor, Minority Students Carry Higher Student Debt Burdens.
L’Oreal Working On 3-D Printing Skin To Replace Animal Testing.
New Food Supply Technology Will Help Grow Production.
Uber Snaps Up Staff From CMU For Self-Driving Car Project.
House Easily Passes Short-Term Transportation Spending Extension.

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