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

Leading the News

Korean Team Wins DARPA Robotics Challenge.

The New York Times  (6/7, Markoff, Subscription Publication) reports, “A team of roboticists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology claimed a $2 million prize on Saturday” in DARPA’s contest “for developing a mobile robot capable of operating in hazardous environments.” Teams’ robots were judged on “their ability to complete eight tasks, including driving a vehicle, opening a door, operating a portable drill, turning a valve and climbing stairs, all in the space of an hour.”

RoboSimian Tackles DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals Over The Weekend. SPACE  (6/5, Howell) continued coverage of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s RoboSimian participation in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals over the weekend. In a statement , JPL officials wrote, “RoboSimian and its competitors will be faced with such tasks as driving a vehicle and getting out of it, opening a door, cutting a hole in a wall, opening a valve and crossing a field of debris.”

Popular Science  (6/5, Atherton) posted video of some of the competitors, including the RoboSimian.

BetaBoston (MA)  (6/5, Bray) also covered the story with a very brief mention of the JPL entry.

Higher Education

NASA Works With UPR Students Developing Satellite.

Agencia EFE (ESP)  (6/5) reported that University of Puerto Rico (UPR) students are working with experts from NASA and RockSat X on a small satellite that is designed to capture micrometeorites and measure the strength of impacts. The spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Wallops Island Flight Facility on August 11. The satellite, which will orbit Earth for one year, culminates five years of research and development by UPR students and other universities. NASA administered the program as a part of its overarching goal to orient academic institutions toward NASA’s research and development activities and other agencies involved with science, technology, engineering, and math.

Corinthian Debt Strike Growing.

US News & World Report  (6/5, Bidwell) reports on the significant growth in the movement of former Corinthian Colleges students “refusing to pay back their college loans as a form of protest aimed at pressuring federal officials to cancel their debt.” From an original total of 15 students, there are now possibly as many as 1,200, “some of whom are graduates of other schools and are acting in solidarity with the Corinthian strikers.” The piece explains that the students say that Corinthian defrauded them, and briefly details the firm’s implosion after ED “placed it under an increased level of oversight for falsifying job placement data and allegedly altering grades and attendance records.” The article notes that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell recently said that “the 16,000 students who were affected by the sudden closure of Corinthian campuses in April can have their debts discharged only if they forgo any credits they earned at a Corinthian school.”

Inside Higher Ed  (6/5) reports that the Debt Collective, which supports the students, “said that nearly 200 former Corinthian students were now participating in the debt strike,” while over “1,200 graduates of other colleges have pledged to stop repaying their federal loans in solidarity if the Education Department doesn’t provide the widespread debt forgiveness the Corinthian students are seeking.” Students have sent Education Secretary Arne Duncan “proposed language of an order wiping out the existing loan debt of all former Corinthian students.”

ECMC CEO Explains Corinthian Campus Purchase.

PBS’ NewsHour  (6/8) reports on the purchase in February of some 53 schools formerly owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc. by Educational Credit Management Corporation, “a guarantor of student loans that specialized in collecting from students on the precipice of bankruptcy.” The article focuses on ECMC’s CEO, David Hawn, who was at first hesitant to make the purchase. The piece notes that in a speech before the National Council for Higher Education Resources, Hawn “sought to explain ECMC’s reasons for buying the Corinthian campuses, its early plans for turning the failing campuses into going concerns, and ‘why I’m not as crazy as you might think’ to create the nation’s largest nonprofit career college provider.”

Battle Intensifies Between Wisconsin Lawmakers, Professors Over Tenure.

The Wall Street Journal  (6/6, Peters, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports on a sharpening battle over higher education in Wisconsin pitting professors at the University of Wisconsin against state lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker over the faculty tenure process. The Journal said the lawmakers want to change the tenure process among rising tuition and possible weaken it and make layoffs easier while the faculty say tenure is critical at universities to protect professors that may have unpopular opinions or teachings.

NYTimes Criticizes Walker For Tenure Proposal. In an editorial, the New York Times  (6/6, Board, Subscription Publication) criticized Walker’s “proposal for weakening tenure at Wisconsin’s highly respected state university system and undermining the faculty’s role in campus governance,” noting that while it will “appeal to conservative voters whose support he needs to win the Republican presidential nomination,” the proposal could “damage the university, perhaps irreparably.” The Times concluded that if the legislature moves forward with “Rubber-stamping” Walkers proposal, it “would set the state university on a course that Wisconsinites could regret for decades to come.”

Leading Charter Networks Continue Supporting Students In College.

The NPR  (6/7) “Code Switch” blog reports that while many “top charter schools” have near-perfect graduation rates, many of their students who enroll in college after graduating never get their degrees. The piece notes that some leading charter networks, like the Knowledge Is Power Program and the Harlem Children’s Zone, are “not only helping their graduates get into college, but are also counseling them once they are on university campuses.”

Microinequities: The Power of Small
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ASEE’s Annual Conference in Seattle
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ASEE’s Diversity Committee Newsletter
The Spring 2015 edition is now online.

Global Developments

ASU To Establish Energy Partnership Center In Pakistan.

Yuma (AZ) News Now  (6/8, Gonzalez) reports that Arizona State University officials were to “join a ceremony in Islamabad on June 3 to officially launch a five-year energy studies partnership with” Pakistan’s National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad and the University of Engineering and Technology-Peshawar. According to the piece, USAID “awarded the $18 million project to ASU to establish the Partnership Center for Advanced Studies in Energy (PCASE),” within the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy, Water, Agriculture and Food Security.

Industry News

Rosekind: NHTSA Deserved Much Of The Blame For GM Ignition Switch Problem.

Reuters  (6/6, Morgan) reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released an internal report on Friday that acknowledged concerns with the agency’s investigation of General Motors ignition switch problems that led to 104 deaths when the air bags did not deploy. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said the agency would seek changes in protocol that will increase defect-related crash investigations.

The Washington Post  (6/6, Halsey) reports that in a “scathing self-examination,” NHTSA acknowledged on Friday that for “years they failed to adequately address a 57-cent defect in an ignition switch that killed 109 people and injured more than 200 others.” In a conference call, Rosekind said the NHTSA “deserved much of the blame for the deadly problem.” The Post says Rosekind added that, “If there is a single explanation for why GM’s ignition defect went undetected for too long, it is that this agency believed that it understood how GM’s ignition and air-bag systems worked and we believed information from GM confirmed our beliefs.”

Oil Drilling In Montana Crumbles.

The AP  (6/7) reports, “Montana has been without a single major oil drilling rig since April, and industry observers attribute the inactivity to low oil prices.” Ben Jones, a petroleum engineer for the Board of Oil and Gas, “said small operators who drill shallow wells with small equipment often go uncounted,” the article reports, adding that “the production of those wells can be as little as one barrel a day.” Baker Hughes Investor Relations reported that Montana oil drilling activity tapped out in mid-March, against six oil rigs one year earlier and 14 in October 2014. In the past 12 months, state oil rig numbers were highest in October, at 14. “We do show oil and gas extraction wages decreasing year over year in the total amount of wages paid,” said Barbra Wagner, chief economist for the Montana Bureau of Labor and Analysis. “It could be that they didn’t lay people off in the fourth quarter, but they weren’t giving them overtime.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Hill Analysis: Divide Over Fracking Falls Along Party Lines.

The Hill  (6/6, Cama) examined the political divide over fracking in red and blue states. While some liberal states such as New York and Maryland have banned fracking, some conservative states “such as Texas and Oklahoma have gone the opposite route, moving to ensure that local towns and cities cannot outlaw the practice in their communities.” Fearing “a patchwork of rules for fracking across municipal lines,” industry groups “want the regulatory questions to be settled on a state-by-state basis.”

Companies Face Questions About Possible Link Between Fracking, Earthquakes. During a Wednesday hearing in Texas, oil and gas companies faced questions about the possible link between fracking and a recent spate of quakes near Fort Worth, the Wall Street Journal  (6/7, Ailworth, Subscription Publication) reports.

WSJournal Blasts Ethanol, Government Support For It.

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (6/8, Subscription Publication) is broadly critical of ethanol and government support for it, suggesting the liquid destroys engines and gas pumps, increases dependence on foreign oil, and increases carbon emissions. The Journal criticizes Agriculture Department grants for building pumps to service cars that can run on gasoline with more than 10 percent ethanol as corporate welfare and calls for the end of ethanol mandates.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Florida District Receives $100,000 STEM Grant.

The Tampa (FL) Tribune  (6/7, Fox) reports that the Pasco County School District in Florida has received a $100,000 grant to create STEM laboratories at Cypress and Moon Lake Elementary schools by 2016. The grant was financed by Duke Energy, who gave $50,000, and the Pasco Education Foundation, which matched the donation. Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning thanked school board representative Alison Crumbley for putting the meeting together for the grant.

Tech Company CEO Asks Companies To Boost Schools, STEM Literacy.

Interdigital president and CEO Bill Merritt argued in an op-ed in the Wilmington (DE) News Journal  (6/6) that while “everybody knows” that schools are “one of the most important keys to economic success,” and that an ED study showing the “growing shortage” of workers fit for STEM careers means schools and society are “under-performing.” He asks “every American company” involved in science and technology to “find ways they can make a difference” in schools and in the community and asks the federal and state governments to grow the potential for STEM education. He concludes that Congress should create “pro-innovation policies” and that partnerships between companies and education centers and smart policy will lead to “a stronger, more prosperous and connected world.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

EPA Study Finds Little Fracking Impact On Groundwater.
ASEE Member To Chair Angelo State University Civil Engineering Department.
University Of Texas Researchers Developing Robot Manufacturing System.
FPL, FIU Partner On Innovative Solar Research Facility.
EPA Expected To Ramp Up Regulation Of Airliner Emissions.
Stonewall Jackson Middle School Presents Projects To NASA Officials.

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