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

Leading the News

EPA Study Finds Little Fracking Impact On Groundwater.

The EPA yesterday released its long-awaited study of the impact of fracking on groundwater, finding that so far it has had little impact. While most media coverage highlighted the main findings, they also tended to note the secondary warning of potential damage in their lead paragraphs (and often lead sentences). Beyond that, oil groups hailed the findings, while green groups downplayed them.

The Los Angeles Times  (6/5, Yardley) reports that while fracking has “stirred deep concerns about its risks to the environment,” it “has not caused significant damage to drinking water,” according to the EPA, though it “does pose risks.” The EPA’s report, based on a “detailed, four-year review,” found that while fracking operations “have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources, there are potential vulnerabilities in the water lifecycle that could impact drinking water.”

The New York Times  (6/5, Davenport, Subscription Publication) says that the EPA, in its “long-awaited draft report,” has “found no evidence that the contentious technique of oil and gas extraction has had a widespread effect on the nation’s water supply.” However, the report “notes several specific instances in which the chemicals used in fracking led to contamination of water, including drinking water wells, but it emphasized that the number of cases was small compared with the number of fracked wells.”

The AP  (6/5, Daly) says that the report found that fracking “has not caused widespread harm” but “warned of potential contamination” if “safeguards are not maintained.” The EPA “identified several vulnerabilities to drinking water resources, including fracking’s effect on drought-stricken areas; inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below-ground migration of gases and liquids; inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources; and spills of hydraulic fluids and wastewater.”

The Wall Street Journal  (6/5, Gold, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that Thomas Burke, the deputy assistant administrator of the EPA’s office of research and development, said, “Hydraulic fracturing activities in the U.S. are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systematic impact on drinking water resources. In fact, the number of documented impacts to drinking water is relatively low when compared to the number of fractured wells.”

The Washington Times  (6/5, Wolfgang) says that the “landmark” study “represents a serious blow to environmentalists and other vocal opponents of U.S. oil and gas production.” Politico  (6/4, Schor) reports that in response, Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute said, “After more than five years and millions of dollars, the evidence gathered by EPA confirms what the agency has already acknowledged and what the oil and gas industry has known. Hydraulic fracturing is being done safely under the strong environmental stewardship of state regulators and industry best practices.” However, the group Earthworks “said it was drawing the opposite conclusion,” saying that the EPA “confirmed” that “fracking pollutes drinking water” and calling for government action. Reuters  (6/5, Volcovici, Gardner) similar reports that Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council said, “There are still significant gaps in the scientific understanding of fracking. This study is site-specific and limited, as EPA has explained, which makes it impossible to fully understand all the risks at this time.” Mark Brownstein of the Environmental Defense Fund downplayed the importance of the study, saying, “Relentless focus on these issues by regulators and industry is critical.”

WSJournal Hails Finding. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (6/5, Subscription Publication) says that even the EPA now accepts that fracking is safe, as many have often argued, and is surprised that the agency didn’t look to set the groundwork for Federal regulation of the industry. The Journal says that the findings show that politicians, such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who have pushed fracking bans, have just been engaging in politics.

Higher Education

ASEE Member To Chair Angelo State University Civil Engineering Department.

The San Angelo (TX) Standard-Times  (6/5) reports that William Kitch, currently a California State Polytechnic University-Pomona professor of engineering, will chair the Angelo State University Department of Civil Engineering when it opens in the fall. Kitch is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education and conducts peer reviews for the ASEE Annual Conference.

Wisconsin Governor Looks To Increase State Control Over University System.

The New York Times  (6/5, Davey, Lewin, Subscription Publication) reports that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who “began building a national profile” by fighting public employee unions, has “turned his sights to a different element of the public sector: state universities.” Walker and state legislative Republicans “have called for changes that would give a board largely picked by the governor far more control over tenure and curriculum in the University of Wisconsin System,” though the critics said the proposal “would burnish Mr. Walker’s conservative credentials as he is scrutinized by likely primary voters.”

Texas Universities Are Looking To Work Around Concealed Carry Law.

The Los Angeles Times  (6/5, Shepherd) reports that Texas university officials are “already thinking of ways to limit” a new law to allow concealed carry of guns on campuses. Some faculty and students have rallied against the bill, but others “seem to have embraced” amendments letting schools mark some areas of the school “off-limits.” State Sen. Donna Campbell has said that it is “irresponsible” to “disarm the good guys where violent offenders disregard the law,” while University of Texas professor William Spelman counters that claims gun carry will lower crime rates or allow civilians to stop gunmen “are based entirely on anecdotal evidence” and claims the law would likely foster accidents and grow suicide rates. Nevertheless, he concludes that the bill “is mostly of rhetorical value for lawmakers” and is “not going to change much at UT.” The law enters into effect the month on the 50th anniversary of a mass shooting at the University of Texas at Austin.

Navient Loan Claims Gave “Black Eye” To The ED.

The Street  (6/5, Sandman) continues coverage of the repayment of student loans by Navient to servicemen, noting that the case “gave a black eye” to the ED. Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery said that the compensation gives “much deserved financial relief” to those overcharged and notes that federal loans it manages for the ED were also part of the lawsuit.

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Research and Development

University Of Texas Researchers Developing Robot Manufacturing System.

The Dallas Morning News  (6/3) reports that researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington are developing at “robotic machine” that “may help bring offshore manufacturing — and related jobs — back to the United States.” The paper explains that the “flexible manufacturing system…assembles parts slightly larger than a thimble,” and could theoretically “be adapted to different products of different sizes, reducing the manufacturing costs and allowing goods built overseas to be made in the United States.” The article notes that the UTA Research Institute (UTARI) “is focused on developing and commercializing innovative technology.”

Santa Clara University Students Create Oculus Rift Program To Treat Fears.

CBS News  (6/5) reports in a video that two students at Santa Clara University are using Oculus Rift technology to allow people with phobias such as a fear of heights to overcome these fears. The video notes that virtual reality is “growing up fast” and is sinking in price to become available to more groups.

Delaware Researchers Receive Military Awards.

The Wilmington (DE) News Journal  (6/4, McMichael) reports in its Delaware Defense blog that Mohsen Badiey and Renu Tripathi have won awards from the Department of Defense to buy equipment to bolster what the DoD calls “cutting edge defense research and associated graduate student research training.” Over 225 researchers from 111 colleges and universities will get $67.8 million for research. Tripathi will investigate 3D imaging, photon counting, and laser use. Badiey will be studying arctic shelf instruments and oceanography.

University Of New Mexico Develops Concussion Monitoring Technology.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (6/5, Robinson-Avila) reports that a researcher with the University of New Mexico’s Center for Biomedical Engineering developed wearable, wireless sensors that can transmit data in real time to monitor head trauma in contact sports. The technology will be marketed by Pressure Analysis Company. Scott Sibbett, a research professor in UNM’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, led the effort to develop the technology. It was tested by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists Brian Anderson through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program.

Industry News

FPL, FIU Partner On Innovative Solar Research Facility.

The Miami Herald  (6/5) reports Florida International University and Florida Power & Light Company “announced a new partnership Thursday to build a commercial-scale distributed solar power facility that will both generate electricity for FPL’s 4.8 million customers and serve as an innovative research operation.” The project will involve “the installation of more than 5,700 solar panels on 23 canopy-like structures that will be built over the summer in the parking lot of the university’s Engineering Center, just north of FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus in west Miami-Dade.”

The South Florida Sun Sentinel  (6/5, Hemlock) reports faculty and students “from the FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing will study the workings of 342,000-square-foot array that can produce up to 1.6 MW of solar energy, collaborating” with staff from FPL. For instance they will look “at how energy production and distribution varies with clouds, thunderstorms and other changes in weather.” In a news release FPL’s chief executive Eric Silagy said, “As the economics of solar continue to improve, we look forward to harnessing more and more energy from the sun.”

Engineering and Public Policy

EPA Expected To Ramp Up Regulation Of Airliner Emissions.

Scientific American  (6/5) reports that the EPA is turning its focus toward airlines’ greenhouse gas emissions, and is expected to step up regulation of “the aviation industry’s carbon footprint as soon as this week, by issuing what’s called an endangerment finding.” The move would “set the stage for an eventual new regulation limiting airplanes’ emissions.”

White House Backs New Rail Safety Measures By End Of Year.

Reuters  (6/5, Morgan) reports that on Thursday, the White House backed a requirement that the rail industry install new safety equipment by the end of this year. That puts the Administration at odds with a bipartisan Congressional effort, which looks to give the rail industry more time. A White House official said, “We agree with the Federal Railroad Administration that the December 31 deadline is important and that the Department of Transportation should enforce that deadline.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Stonewall Jackson Middle School Presents Projects To NASA Officials.

The Roanoke (VA) Times  (6/4, Gregory) reports that last week, Stonewall Jackson Middle School students presented their concept for a lunar greenhouse to senior NASA officials as part of “a STEM Challenge for schools…designated 21st Century Community Learning Centers by the U.S. Department of Education.” One of the students participating in the event said she would like to work for NASA one day.

Louisiana Math Camp Teachers Students Science Concepts.

The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate  (6/5, Duchmann) reports that incoming seventh-grade students at the Advancing Mathematics Achievement Camp in Louisiana’s Abbeville High School have been participating in aluminum foil sailboat races as a way to encourage students to study surface area. Students work with teachers and University of Louisiana at Lafayette students on the program. The camp received funding from the NSF.

San Antonio High School Students Receiving Concurrent Associate’s Degrees.

The San Antonio Express-News  (6/5, Malik) reports that 9,000 graduating high school students in the San Antonio area will receive college credit through the Alamo Colleges system, while hundreds of those will have associate’s degrees. Many of the students will have workforce certificates as well. The Alamo Academies program won the 2015 Bellwether Award for innovation in community colleges.

Indiana High School Students Create STEM Promotion Plan.

The Goshen (IN) News  (6/5, Hirsch) reports that Indiana’s Anderson High School students unveiled a “comprehensive plan” for making Indiana a leader in math and science Wednesday. The plan calls for the US to start math and science in first grade, spend one day each year on professional development for STEM subjects, create a required STEM career exploration class for middle schools, add two credits to both science and math requirements, make honors students study pre-calculus, create new internship and co-op opportunities for STEM students, and strengthen requirements for proposed math teachers. In the words of the Goshen News, the proposal is intended to help the country “retain its competitive edge, boost earnings, and lower unemployment,” according to the students. State Sen. Tim Lanane was interested in the proposal and suggested students present to the district’s board of trustees, the state BOE and legislators.

Idaho State BOE To Host STEM Summit.

The Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review  (6/4, Russell) reports in its Eye On Boise blog that the Idaho State BOE is hosting a STEM Summit at Boise State University June 10. The summit will join teachers, administration officials, students, business representatives, lawmakers, and advocates to develop the state’s “STEM talent pipeline from education to employment.” WhiteCloud Analytics CEO Bob Lokken will be the featured speaker during the free event, which will go from 7:30 AM to 5 PM. Gov. Butch Otter will speak at the opening of the event.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Harvard School Of Engineering To Receive $400 Million Endowment.
University Of Houston Receives $1.2 Million In STEM Scholarships.
Warner: Technology’s Impact On Workforce Should Be Part Of National Debate.
Volkswagen Signs Agreement To Increase Electric Vehicle Production In China.
Manufacturers Using More Advanced Robots.
Republicans Take Aim At EPA’s Ozone Regulation.
Atlanta Area Teachers To Participate In STEM Professional Development.

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