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

Leading the News

Democrats Unveil Plan For Free Community College.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (7/9) reports that a group of Democrats in Congress, including Rep. Robert Scott, the ranking Democrat on the House education committee, has introduced legislation to “make community college free for two years and help cover the costs of a four-year degree at minority-serving institutions, pushing forward the free-college proposal that President Obama unveiled in January.” The piece notes that the plan would cost $90 billion over 10 years making it “about $30 billion more expensive than Mr. Obama’s proposal.” No Republican legislators have yet expressed support for the bill, but it supporters called it “a crucial step toward defraying costs and ensuring college access for low-income, minority, and first-generation students.” The Chronicle reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “This legislation represents a huge step forward and builds on the momentum we’re seeing to reduce the cost of college and expand college affordability.”

The Hampton Roads (VA) Daily Press  (7/8, Subscription Publication) reports that Scott unveiled his bill in a conference call with Duncan and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who will introduce companion legislation in the Senate. The piece notes that Duncan and Scott both said that the plan would “boost the educated workforce,” thereby improving the economy and encouraging “young people who don’t consider college because of the cost” to enroll. This article notes that Duncan “said he wants college attendance to become as universal as high school.”

Other media outlets that cover the story include Diverse Education  (7/9), the Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette  (7/9), the Frederick (MD) News-Post  (7/9), WKBT-TV  La Crosse, WI (7/9), and WIZM-AM  La Crosse, WI (7/9).

Higher Education

Gates Foundation Calls For Overhaul Of FAFSA.

The AP  (7/9, Blankinship) reports that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on Wednesday that the federal government should make it easier to fill out the FAFSA form, suggesting that this could result in “two million more young people” getting financial aid for college. The foundation said that the changes would be relatively simple and would not detract from “the accuracy of the process.” The AP reports that ED press secretary Dorie Nolt describes some recent simplifications the department had made to the form, quoting her saying “We have called on Congress to make key legislative changes to make FAFSA even simpler, but until that happens, we will look for other steps we can take to help students and families as they apply for federal financial aid.”

O’Malley Outlines Plan For “Debt-Free College.”

The Washington Times  (7/9, Miller) reports that Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley, campaigning yesterday in New Hampshire, outlined a proposal setting “a five-year deadline to create debt-free college, starting with a tuition freeze at public colleges.” Among other things, O’Malley proposes to permit “Americans to refinance current student debt at lower interest rates and then tie monthly loan payments to income levels; increase Pell Grants to cover non-tuition costs; expand work-study programs and increase the speed of graduation from four-year colleges.”

On its website, the New York Times  (7/8, Haberman, Subscription Publication) reported that O’Malley’s plan is aimed “appeal[ing] to the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party,” and it “won praise from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which is closely aligned with Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat and a champion of the left.” On its website, The Hill  (7/8, Easley) noted that Sen. Bernie Sanders, “who has emerged as the biggest threat to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, has proposed free tuition at four-year public colleges and universities.” The AP  (7/9) and the Washington Post  (7/9, Wagner) also cover this story.

International Students Make Up Majority Of Those Earning Advanced STEM Degrees At American Colleges.

According to a Pew Research Center study, USA Today  (7/8, Ung) reported more than half of the students earning advanced STEM degrees at American colleges and universities are foreigners.

Texas Program Aims To Promote Engineering Degrees For Hispanics.

NBC News  (7/9) reports on an “innovative college program” in Cameron County, Texas aimed at “making an engineering degree more affordable and accessible.” The partnership is called the Texas Southmost-Texas A&M-Chevron Engineering Academy, and allows students at the local community college, Texas Southmost College, to do their first two years locally and then transfer to Texas A&M “to finish their engineering degree.”


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

Space Battery In New Horizons Spacecraft Made In Idaho National Laboratory.

The Idaho State Journal  (7/8, Evensen) reported NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is getting closer to Pluto using the power of a “space battery” built at the Idaho National Laboratory. A large group of nearly 80 people including engineers, technicians, mechanics, and others worked together to build the space battery at the laboratory before the spacecraft’s launch in 2006.

Clearest Image Of Pluto Ever Shows Light And Dark Regions.

TIME  (7/8, Worland) reports that the New Horizon spacecraft took “the clearest photo” of Pluto ever on Tuesday, revealing “three regions on Pluto, some darker than the others.” One of the regions includes “a dark area along the equator known as ‘the whale’ and a bright spot on the right.” NASA researcher Jeff Moore said in a statement, “The next time we see this part of Pluto at closest approach, a portion of this region will be imaged at about 500 times better resolution than we see today. … It will be incredible!”

The Washington Post  (7/8, Feltman) “Speaking of Science” blog notes that John Spencer, deputy leader of the Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team at the Southwest Research Institute, cautioned not to read too much into what is visible now because one can easily see familiar objects in “this bizarre collection of light and dark features.” The article notes how NASA is also not yet saying much about these features because of the very low resolution.

Pluto Flyby Completes Planetary Exploration Set For Krimigis. The Science Magazine’s Science Insider  (7/8, Hand) profiles Stamatios Krimigis of the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), the only person who has a hand in a spacecraft that visited every planet and Pluto, starting with the Mariner 4 Mars flyby 50 years ago. Even though the Pluto flyby completes “a remarkable half-century of planetary reconnaissance,” the article notes that Krimigis will stay involved with more projects, such as the Solar Probe Plus.

Australia “Crucial” To New Horizons Mission. The Sydney (AUS) Morning Herald  (7/9, Phillips) reports that Australians are “crucial” to New Horizons because they are helping track the spacecraft. Ed Kruzins​, the CSIRO director of the Canberra Deep Space Network, said that because of the amount the team has prepared, no one is “nervous,” even though the facility will be “the station carrying all the data” during the spacecraft’s closest approach.

Global Developments

GE Will Build Education Facility On Business And Wind Energy In China.

Yahoo! Finance  (7/9) reports GE announced the company will build a wind education center in Shenyang, China. The facility will offer training on leadership, maintaining wind energy turbines, environmental health, and other topics relevant to business and wind energy.

Industry News

Cloud Startup DigitalOcean Raises $83 Million In New Funding.

Jordan Novet writes for Venture Beat  (7/8) reports that DigitalOcean, which maintains and provides cloud infrastructure that “applications to run on,” announced on Wednesday that it has raised $83 million in new funding. Instead of “making available a long and dizzying list of instance types and storage services for developers to choose from and tie together — like top cloud providers Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Engine, and Microsoft Azure — DigitalOcean offers convenient ‘droplets’ of compute and storage power for rent by the hour.”

Fortune  (7/8, Vanian) reports that Digital Ocean “has caught on big with developers who find the startup’s cloud service—an all-in-one package of networking, storage, and computing—easier to buy and configure than the big-time cloud providers whose pricing is a bit more convoluted.”

Bloomberg News  (7/8, Cao) reports that the “bulk of the capital will be used to hire employees for the product engineering team, and much of the rest will be used to build new data centers, DigitalOcean Chief Executive Officer Ben Uretsky said.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Coal Mining Towns Threatened By Environmental Rules, Natural Gas.

The New York Times  (7/9, Healy, Subscription Publication) reports on Somerset, Colorado, home of the Elk Creek coal mine that has been closed since December 2012. It is presented as offering a view of “the future” for many “coal towns…from West Virginia to Wyoming.” The town’s population “has fallen to about 90 people,” from a high of 700. Somerset and other coal mining towns are described as threatened by federal environmental regulations and by low-priced natural gas. The Elk Creek Mine “is owned by William I. Koch, brother of the conservative billionaire industrialists Charles G. and David H. Koch.”

McConnell: Appropriations To Fight EPA Regulation.

In a column for the Cincinnati Enquirer  (7/8, McConnell), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vows to use the congressional power of the purse to block the EPA’s regulatory agenda. He argues that “the Obama administration and its overzealous bureaucratic regulators at the EPA have waged a war against Kentucky coal jobs” and that the “egregious” Clean Power Plan would “mean closing power plants, cutting more jobs and increasing the cost of electricity for families and job creators.” McConnell promotes policy riders attached to the EPA’s funding bill that would “restrict the EPA from using its funding to force states” to comply.

The Hill  (7/9, Cama) notes that McConnell’s column comes “the day after Obama administration officials lashed out at the Senate’s EPA funding bill.”

Report: Cyberattack On US Grid Would Be Devastating.

Reuters  (7/9, Cohn) reports that a cyberattack shutting down parts of the US power grid would cost the American economy as much as $1 trillion, according to a report from the University of Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies and the Lloyd’s of London insurance market. It outlines a scenario where a blackout affects 93 million people from New York to Washington, DC. The best outcome would see damages of only $243 billion. The article notes that Energy Department data shows that there have been 15 cyberattacks on the grid since 2000, and that the US Industrial Control System Cyber Emergency Response Team noted that 32 percent of its responses to cyber security threats to critical infrastructure in 2014 occurred in the energy sector.

Cities Disagree Over Florida Solar Amendment.

The Miami (FL) Herald  (7/9, Klas) reports that cities in Florida are fighting over a proposed amendment for the 2016 ballot that would expand access to solar power. Opponents, including smaller providers, argue that increased access will require them to recoup lost revenue through rate hikes. However, the Florida League of Cities is losing support among mayors over its support from Florida Power & Light and decision to oppose putting the amendment on the ballot.

New York State Microgrid Grants Announced.

The Albany (NY) Times Union  (7/9, Rulison) reports that New York has awarded $900,000 “to local groups that have proposed micro grid projects across the Capital Region.” The goal is to foster studies and eventually construction of microgrids that can keep essential services operational if the main grid goes offline during a blackout.

Newsday (NY)  (7/9) reports that thirteen communities on Long Island have received state grants to study the viability of microgrids. Each town will receive $100,000. The microgrids will continue to provide essential services when a power outage knocks out the LIPA grid. The studies will be assisted by PSEG. “Properly designed microgrids have the potential to enhance the reliability and resiliency of the system,” PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said,

Elementary/Secondary Education

Education Conference In Philadelphia Highlights Importance Of Learning Through Projects.

The Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook  (7/9, Cineas) reported the International Society for Technology in Education conference was held in Philadelphia from June 28 to July 1 this year. One of the major areas of focus at this year’s conference was teaching students through projects. Many attendees said that projects were a great way to keep students engaged and teach them valuable skills.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Report: Nuclear Sector Supports Half-million Jobs, Lower Electricity Rates.
OCR Dismisses Asian-American Admissions Discrimination Complaint.
Researchers Study Lovebirds For Possible Application To Drone Technology.
Many Minority Women In Sciences Say They Have Been Mistaken For Cleaning Or Administrative Staff.
Engineering Programs In Middle East Offer Full Scholarships And Ties To US Universities.
3D Printed Car Design Unveiled.
Study: Methane Leaks More Serious Than Thought.

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