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

Leading the News

Microsoft Offers Prizes To Academia For Developing HoloLens Uses.

Timothy Seppala writes for Engadget  (7/6) that Microsoft, in order to spur development of applications for HoloLens, “has opened up what it’s calling the Academic Research Request for Proposals.” Five awards, each including $100,000 and a pair of HoloLens development kits, “will go to accredited universities and be announced this October 6th.”

The Verge  (7/7, Kastrenakes) reports that Microsoft Research VP Jeannette Wing said, “We expect that researchers will envision novel ways of using HoloLens — from interactively teaching students, to creating mixed-realty art installations, to manipulating holographic data to reveal new relationships… to who knows what.” TechCrunch  (7/6, Matney) says that this “request for proposals program represents a pretty major opportunity for Microsoft to be on the forefront of academic usage of VR technologies.”

Chris Davies writes for SlashGear  (7/7) that “among the possible fields are domain—data visualization, ways to communicate with teams that are geographically spread, and different ways of delivering teaching in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” Still, whether “academics rise to the HoloLens possibilities in the same way that gamers do remains to be seen.” PC World  (7/7, Hanley Frank) reports that Microsoft “expects its funding will serve as a seed for a larger project. Researchers are encouraged to show a plan for acquiring additional funding from other sources to push the project forward.”

Venture Beat  (7/6, Novet) reports that this is “an interesting but not especially surprising move for Microsoft to make,” as HoloLens has so far not shown a “long list of use cases.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Vanian writes for Fortune  (7/6) that Microsoft sees business uses driving the growth of HoloLens and is “looking to fund projects that use HoloLens as a business analytics tool, making large amounts of data easier to analyze and use.” ZDNet  (7/7) reports that while “Minecraft may capture the buzz for HoloLens,” the “money is likely to come from enterprise use.”

Higher Education

New York Fed Report Says “Easy Money” Driving Up Tuition Costs.

MainStreet  (7/7, Sandman) reports that the New York Fed has issued a report that links rising tuition to widespread availability of cheap credit in the form of student loans, quoting the report saying, “Higher tuition costs raise loan demand, but loan supply also affects equilibrium tuition costs – for example, by relaxing students’ funding constraints.”

Colleges Use Litigation, Lobbying, And Accreditor Shopping To Save Accreditation.

The Wall Street Journal  (7/7, Fuller, Belkin, Subscription Publication) reports that troubled colleges often turn to litigation, lobbying, or finding a new accreditor when faced with the prospect of losing their accreditation. The article highlighted several colleges who have followed this process to try to save their accreditation.

Bernie Sanders Plan For Tuition-Free Higher Education Is Under Scrutiny.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (7/6, Carey) details presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ plan to allow American students to attend public colleges without paying tuition. The article discusses the reaction to the plan and the possible consequences if it were enacted.

College Dean Creates Program To Recruit More Female Students To Engineering Careers.

The Christian Science Monitor  (7/6, Karas) reported Maja Mataric, the vice dean of research for the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering, has launched a program to recruit more female students to engineering programs called The Next MacGyver. The program aims to educate women about the importance of engineering and recruit them to engineering careers.

Alexander: Most Students Can Afford College.

Sen. Lamar Alexander writes in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal  (7/7, Alexander, Subscription Publication) that most people are able to afford the expense of college given the cost of community colleges, and public four-year colleges. Even expensive top private colleges seek to make themselves affordable by offering aid, work study, and loans. Regarding debt, Alexander says that the average graduate of a four-year college owes about the price of a new car. He argues that is a reasonable amount given the value of an education. Most students who owe substantially more than that, writes Alexander, are those with graduate degrees, frequently from professional schools of law, medicine, or business. He also suggests changes to make school even more affordable including: offering Pell grants year-round; simplifying the federal financial aid form; encouraging colleges to offer debt counseling to students; making colleges bear some of the risk of student loans; and reducing compliance costs to colleges of federal regulations.

“Conditional Acceptance Program” At Rhode Island College Admits Local High School Seniors.

Caralee Adams writes at the Education Week  (7/7) “College Bound” blog that Rhode Island College has implemented a conditional acceptance program in which high-performing seniors in the top half of their class at nearby Central Falls High School can be admitted to the college, noting that the program is intended to remove “barriers that can keep high-achieving, low-income students from pursuing a degree.” The piece notes that 90 students have been accepted to the program.


Short VIDEO highlights – Maria Klawe’s plenary talk at the ASEE Annual Conference
The President of Harvey Mudd addressed diversity issues.

VIDEO Interview with President Joe Rencis
The new ASEE President discusses the next Society year.

Coverage of Boeing CTO John Tracy’s talk on Geekwire
What I look for in hiring recent grads.”

Research and Development

UNC Charlotte Engineering Students Create Wave-Powered Water Cleaner.

The Charlotte (NC) Observer  (7/7) reports that a pair of engineering students at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte have created a device as part of their senior engineering project to produce drinkable water out of ocean water. The device is powered by wave motion, and uses “a pendulum, some filters, and squirt-gun pumps.” The students are “racing” with firms from across the globe to produce a wave-based desalinator for sale. The students recently competed at the Hello Tomorrow Conference in Paris, noting that while they did not win the €100,000 prize, “they came away pleased with connections and exposure.”


Personnel Key For Cybersecurity Policy.

Electric Co-op Today  (7/6, Kahn) reports that at a CFC Forum session, Damon Drake, cyber security engineer at Seminole Electric Cooperative in Tampa, Fla., noted that personnel was the key to cybersecurity for electric cooperatives. Drake said, “If you allow somebody in that door there’s no point in having a lock on it to begin with. Securing the human—that’s what it comes down to.” ECT adds Roman Gillen, president and CEO of Consumers Power in Philomath, Ore., told forum participants how he was the first co-op employee to fall for a phishing test organized by his co-op. Gillen said, “I received an email from our network administrator saying I need to click on something and without questioning I clicked.”

Industry News

Study: RoboCabs Could Drastically Cut Emissions.

The Washington Post  (7/7, Mooney) reports that a “new study in Nature Climate Change by Jeffrey Greenblatt and Samveg Saxena of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory” found that driverless cabs or “autonomous taxis,” which the authors hypothesize will be “specifically tasked to pick up a matching number of passengers for a given ride” and “more likely to be electric,” would reduce emissions by “87 to 94 percent” compared to current vehicles and “63 to 82 percent” compared to “future hybrids.” The Post adds that “recent research by the OECD’s International Transport Forum” yielded similar findings: “between 9 out of 10 current cars could be removed from the road” when combined with “high-capacity public transit,” noting that such a shift is “likely to cause significant labour issues.”

The Christian Science Monitor  (7/6, Gass) reports that the autonomous cabs would also be cost-effective, noting that the “researchers say that a car that could drive round the clock, not require a salary, and not use any gasoline would pay for itself within five years.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Congress Facing Tough Haul With Transportation Bill.

Politico  (7/7, Kim) reports that with lawmakers returning for a “four-week sprint” before August recess, they “find themselves careening toward an unprecedented shutdown of highway construction projects this summer when transportation funding expires July 31.” Politico says that simply coming up with the $11 billion needed to keep the highway program running for the rest of the year “will be challenging, given the need to offset any spending increase with a corresponding cut or revenue increase.” Beyond that, finding “the $90 billion lawmakers need for the six-year highway and transit bill that Congress wants will be nearly impossible” for Republicans opposed to tax increases.

WSJournal Hopes Court Will Grant Injunction Against EPA Rule.

The Wall Street Journal  (7/7, Subscription Publication) in an editorial says that the Supreme Court in ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency last week, was too late to have much effect as nearly all of the electrical power plants subject to the now-overturned rule had already closed or complied with the rule, spending billions of dollars to do so. It notes that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is now seeking to challenge a rule the EPA proposed last June, which would be made final later this summer. Pruitt is seeking to get an injunction against the rule, so that the state will not have to comply with it even as it is challenging its legality. The Journal hopes the court will comply.

Clean Power Plan Opponents Draw Lesson From Mercury Ruling.

Roll Call  (7/7) reports that opponents of the Administration’s climate regulation agenda are drawing a lesson from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Michigan v EPA: blocking regulations on the power industry requires a stay while litigation is carried out. While the Michigan ruling gave a technical victory to fossil fuel advocates, the rules had been in place long enough that most of the industry had already invested billions in compliance. In remarks on the ruling, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted that governors should not “subject their states to such unnecessary pain before the courts have even had a chance to weigh in, especially if the Supreme Court simply ends up tossing the regulation out as we saw today.” Without an initial injunction against the regulation, the power industry may be in compliance before opponents manage to litigate successfully.

Report: Solar Generation Triples In Western New York.

The Buffalo (NY) News  (7/7, Robinson) reports that solar generation has tripled in Western New York over the past three years, according to a report from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. The cause, says the report, is a combination of government incentives and lower rooftop system costs. However, solar power remains equal to one percent of the state’s output. “The most economical way to get customers solar is through different financing mechanisms,” solar installer Adam Rizzo said. “The New York State program right now offers customers a very attractive way to go solar with low to zero out-of-pocket costs.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

NSF Giving Grants For Projects To Improve STEM Teaching.

Jessica Brown writes at the Education Week  (7/7) “Curriculum Matters” blog that the National Science Foundation “is offering grants of up to $300,000 each for projects that would help teacher-leaders get more exposure and improve STEM education systemwide,” with the goal of finding “successful models for long-term programs that support teacher-leaders and to help those teachers serve as national resources to improve STEM education.”

Administration Honors Math, Science Teachers.

WTVR-TV  Richmond, VA (7/6) reports that the Administration is honoring teachers across the country with its 2015 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, noting that Stewart Williamson, a science teacher at Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia is one of 107 such teachers to receive the honor. The article briefly describes Williamson’s CV.

Several other media outlets from across the country report on local teachers receiving the honor, including the Bayou Buzz (LA)  (7/7), the Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate  (7/7), the South Florida Sun Sentinel  (7/6), the Idaho Statesman  (7/6), the St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press  (7/7), WYFF-TV  Greenville, SC (7/7), and the Anderson (SC) Independent-Mail  (7/7).

Detroit Students Can Receive “Hands-On Training” In Drone Technology.

The Detroit Free Press  (7/6, Zaniewski) reports California-based nonprofit Base 11 is investing up to $1 million to renovate two hangar bays at Detroit’s Coleman A. Young International Airport “and outfit them with a state-of-the-art equipment under a multiyear lease with the city.” City students and the public will be able to receive “hands-on training in the hot field of drone technology” at the site. The project’s announcement comes “amid rapid growth in the drone industry” as well as an increased focus on career technical training in Michigan.

John Widlund Named New York City’s Head Of Career And Technical Education.

The Chalkbeat New York  (7/6, Darville) reports John Widlund was named New York’s new head of career and technical education. He spent seven year leading the School of Cooperative Technical Education and will now be responsible for “overseeing CTE programs citywide.” Widlund said he plans to visit city schools “to see how academic teachers are integrated into schools’ CTE teams.” The article notes Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the teachers union have all promised to increase their support for CTE education.

High School Transcript Data Suggests “Growing Racial Differences” In Students Who Take Calculus.

US News & World Report  (7/6) carries an article produced by The Hechinger Report that reveals “stark and growing racial differences” in what students elect to take calculus in high school. New U.S. high school transcript data reveals that, among black students who started high school in 2009, “a slightly smaller proportion took a calculus class than four years earlier.” The data shows that among students who started high school in 2009, fewer than 6 percent of black students took calculus, compared to 18 percent of white students and, “strikingly, 45 percent of Asian-Americans.” According to transcript data, nearly one-third of private high school students in the given period took calculus, compared with 14 percent of public school students. Interestingly, the percentage of men and women who take high school calculus is the same: 15 percent of each gender.

South Dakota Schools Have Widest Achievement Gap For Reading, Math In The Nation.

The Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader  (7/6, Anderson) reports that South Dakota schools have the greatest achievement gaps in the nation for math and reading, according to a White House report released Monday. The report, which looks at proficiency in elementary and middle schools, found only 18 percent of South Dakota students in the “low performing” subgroup were proficient in math, compared with 76 percent for the rest of the state. Only 29 percent of South Dakota students low-performing schools were proficient in reading, compared with 76 percent in the rest of South Dakota. The White House released the data as the U.S. Senate prepares to debate on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, “which hasn’t been updated since the No Child Left Behind Act was approved 14 years ago.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

Boston Hosts ISS Research And Development Conference This Week.
Duncan Statement About Shutting Down Corinthian Colleges At Odds With Education Department Stance.
Johns Hopkins Students Create Pill Dispenser Designed To Prevent Drug Abuse.
China Sees Boom In Industrial Robots.
NHTSA Will Penalize Fiat Chrysler Over Handling Of Recalls.
Indiana CTE Programs Credited With Improving High School Graduation, Reducing College Remediation.

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