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

Leading the News

New Horizons Reveals Pluto’s Size One Day Before Historic Flyby.

NBC Nightly News (7/13, story 10, 0:20, Holt) continued coverage of the New Horizons mission, “just hours from its destination.” Even now, the spacecraft is revealing that Pluto is larger than previously calculated. The CBS Evening News (7/13, story 10, 0:25, Pelley) broadcast that “the first close-ups” of Pluto will be seen on Wednesday.

The AP  (7/14, Dunn) reports that Pluto is measured to be “1,473 miles, plus or minus 12 miles” in diameter. The article notes that the dwarf planet’s size was one of three new findings, “a tantalizing sneak preview” of what will be discovered during today’s flyby. The AP  (7/14, Dunn) has another summary of what is known about Pluto so far, while the New York Times  (7/14, Chang, Subscription Publication) “Summer of Science” website has a timeline of today’s flyby.

The Washington Post  (7/13, Feltman) “Speaking of Science” blog notes that the new size measurement means that Pluto has regained its status as “the largest known object in the Kuiper Belt,” but there is “no guarantee” it is the absolute largest object in the region.

The Baltimore Sun  (7/14, Dance) notes that there is “excitement” at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory for the coming flyby. John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said, “Pluto is sort of a capstone of our solar system exploration and sort of opening up this new realm. … Pluto is a member of our solar system and the last unexplored territory. We’ll open up new ground.”

According to the Boston Globe  (7/14, Annear), MIT professor Richard Binzel is predicting the last image New Horizons sends back on Tuesday before the flyby will probably be “stunning,” with “the most exciting discoveries” coming later as more data is downloaded. Binzel described the flyby as “a milestone event in the human exploration of the solar system,” likely the “capstone” to an era.

Reuters  (7/13, Klotz), meanwhile, reports that principal investigator Alan Stern said that there is a one-in-10,000 chance that some object could hit the spacecraft during the flyby, but he was not too concerned.

Wired  (7/14, Palmer) reports that Doug Ellison, a NASA visualization producer, said, “Currently, as Charon rises from behind Pluto the camera is still looking at Pluto.” But, he added, if there is “a little bit of uncertainty” in where Pluto is located in space, “you get that perfect Kodak moment.”

Experts Make Cases For The Next NASA Mission. The New York Times  (7/13, Roston, Subscription Publication) asks experts where they would like NASA to send the next spacecraft. Each had “their own varying reasons for favoring one major space exploration project over another.” At the end of the piece, the article asks readers to submit where they would like NASA to go next. In an article for the Space Review  (7/13), Andrew J. LePage, a physicist and freelance writer, similarly argues why NASA should send another spacecraft to Pluto for a flyby.

Higher Education

ED Reaches Deal With Corinthian Students To Suspend Student Loan Collections.

The Hill  (7/14, Wheeler) reports that ED “has agreed to suspend all judicial actions to collect on student loan debt from former Corinthian College students for 120 days,” noting that a committee representing the former students “said it has agreed to withdraw its motion that sought a court-ordered stay of collection efforts on all Corinthian student loan debt.” The article notes that the firm’s bankruptcy came in the wake of a lawsuit filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the attorneys general of 20 states, who had alleged that Corinthian made “false and misleading advertisements to entice students to enroll and to take out pricey loans to cover the cost.” The committee said it wants to work with ED to reach a long-term solution to help some 500,000 former students.

Reuters  (7/9, Hals) reports that the move will give a temporary reprieve to some 40,000 former Corinthian students, noting that when the firm shut its doors in April, 16,000 students were left without classes. Reuters notes that ED did not immediately comment on the committee’s announcement.

Inside Higher Ed  (7/13), the Central Valley (CA) Business Times  (7/14), and ConsumerAffairs  (7/14, Abel) also cover this story.

Gainful Employment Rule Seen As Template For Broader Higher Education Accountability.

The Orange County (CA) Register  (7/14) reports on the implementation this month of ED’s higher education rule, which is an effort to “make the for-profit college industry more accountable,” noting that some experts say that “law schools, graduate programs and undergraduate degrees in such career-oriented majors a social work could use additional scrutiny of their graduates’ abilities to pay off their debts” as well. The article touches on the now defunct effort to establish a college rating system, drawing the distinction between public and private schools, and notes that while ED says it has no plans to expand its gainful employment rule, “the momentum could be headed that way.”

Small California For-Profit College Closes Citing ED Sanction.

The San Bernardino (CA) Sun  (7/12) reports that Four-D College, which has campuses in Colton and Victorville, California, announced that it is closing on Sunday, displacing some 600 students, faculty and employees. The article quotes college president Linda Smith saying, “The Department of Education took a wrecking ball to our cash flow.” Smith said that ED “changed the way it reimburses the school from making payments within 48 hours after bills are submitted to 30 to 40 days afterward.” Smith said that ED made the change because the schools accrediting agency denied its application for accreditation renewal earlier this year, though ED officials did not confirm that on Friday. The Chronicle of Higher Education  (7/14) also covers this story in a brief item in its “Ticker” blog.

Education Activists Say Walker Policies Hurting University Of Wisconsin System.

The Christian Science Monitor  (7/13, Truong) reported that in the wake of “signing a $73 billion state budget that makes hefty cuts to the University of Wisconsin system and significantly reduces tenure protections for faculty,” Walker is facing “intense criticism from higher education activists.” For example, critics, among other things, contend “the cuts – in conjunction with an approved tuition freeze – handcuffs the university’s attempts to raise revenue and will lead to irreparable damage to the university system and its staff.”

Chevron Invests $5 Million In Program To Graduate More Engineers.

Dallas Morning News  (7/13) business columnist Holly Haber writes that Chevron Corp. “is investing $5 million in an innovative new program” to meet the need for more engineers. The Texas A&M-Chevron Engineering Academy will allow “students to complete the first two years of a Texas A&M University engineering degree at” four Texas community colleges. Haber says Shariq Yosufzai, Chevron’s vice president of diversity, ombuds and partnerships, also an A&M alumnus, helped develop the program. She notes that he referred to the gap between engineer supply and demand as “frightening” and quotes him discussing the way to prosperity, which requires one to “out-innovate the competition.” He said, “Innovation happens from ingenuity, and ingenuity comes from diversity.”

Coalition Working On Overhauling College Student Transcripts.

Inside Higher Ed  (7/13) reports that NASPA and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers are partnering to “develop models for a more comprehensive student record” to replace the traditional transcript system. Using a $1.27 million donation from the Lumina Foundation, the groups will “explore how to collect, document and distribute information about student learning and ‘competencies,’ including what is gleaned outside of the traditional academic classroom.”


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

Reaction Engines Reveals How Skylon Engine Works.

Engineering  (7/14) reports that Reaction Engines “finally revealed” how the Skylon spaceplane’s engines will be able to cool “the +1,000C incoming air to -150C in less than 0.01 second” in order to achieve initial speeds of mach 5.4. It has “a very special injector mechanism” that was designed using a 3D printer “among other technology developments.”

Undergraduate Researchers To Take Part In University Of Rhode Island Conference.

The Providence (RI) Journal  (7/13) reports that the University of Rhode Island will host the eighth annual Rhode Island Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Conference at the end of this month, noting that “more than 300 faculty, students and administrators from colleges around Rhode Island are expected to attend.” The conference gives undergrads from schools around the state that participated in summer research projects “a chance to present their findings to peers and senior scientists.” The Providence (RI) Business News  (7/14) also covers this story.

NSF Awards Clemson University-Led Team $1 Million For Sustainability Research.

The Clemson University (SC) Newsstand  (7/14, Alongi) reports the National Science Foundation awarded a team led by Leidy Klotz, an associate professor of civil engineering and education director for Clemson’s Institute for Sustainability, a $1 million grant to “fund research into how property owners, developers, engineers, public officials and other decision-makers choose whether to make infrastructure sustainable.” According to the article, “Much is at stake for the environment and quality of life” because “When good decisions are made, the results can be remarkable.”

University of Texas-Arlington Team Develops Storage Cell For Solar Energy.

“A University of Texas at Arlington materials science and engineering team has developed a new energy cell that can store large-scale solar energy even when it’s dark” R&D Magazine  (7/14, Toledo) reports, noting the research was a result of a “2013 National Science Foundation $400,000 Faculty Early Career Development grant awarded…to improve the way solar energy is captured, stored and transmitted for use.” R&D Magazine hailed the new cell as “an advancement over the most common solar energy systems that rely on using sunlight immediately as a power source” because those “are hindered by not being able to use that solar energy at night or when cloudy conditions exist.”

Industry News

University Of Louisville, UL To Partner On Manufacturing.

Fortune  (7/13, Zaleski) reports that universities are “becoming more focused on training” students for positions in additive manufacturing. A partnership between UL and the University of Louisville is set to open in October that will be “a hub for students and professionals to gain training in 3D printing and advanced manufacturing for metals.”

Engineering and Public Policy

NHTSA Could Investigate Lexus For Alleged Faulty Acceleration.

The AP  (7/13, Krisher) reports that an electrical engineer with a doctorate degree from Stanford University “has asked US safety regulators to investigate low-speed unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus automobiles.” Gopal Raghavan of Thousand Oaks, California, filed a petition with the NHTSA “alleging that his 2009 Lexus ES350 luxury sedan surged suddenly in a parking lot, crashing into some bushes and smashing the front of the car,” the article reports, adding that the agency “says in documents posted Monday that it will review the petition and decide whether to open an investigation.”

Johnson Lays Out Efforts Underway To Promote Cybersecurity.

In an op-ed for Politico  (7/13), DHS Secretary Johnson writes that cybersecurity is a “top priority” for him, the President, and the Administration. Right now, “our federal cybersecurity is not where it needs to be.” He provides extensive details on Administration efforts and calls on Congress to act on a number of issues, including incentivizing the private sector to “share cyberthreat indicators” with the federal government.

Majority Of States Suing EPA, Army Corps Of Engineers Over Water Rules.

McClatchy  (7/13, Adams) reports that “more than half” of state governments have now “weighed in on lawsuits that seek to halt a recent federal clean water rule.” Overall, “at least 28 states or their top officials” have filed five lawsuits that “seek to derail” the “controversial” rules that are “intended to strengthen and clarify the Clean Water Act by better determining which bodies of water fall under its control.”

DOE Considering Conservation Standards For Central AC, Heat Pumps.

The Hill  (7/14, Devaney) reports the Energy Department “is considering new energy conservation standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps.” The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the DOE “announced Monday it is establishing a negotiated rulemaking committee to hammer out new efficiency rules for air conditioners and heat pumps.” The Hill notes, “The group will hold a public meeting on Aug. 26.”

State Regulators To Make Final Appeal On Clean Power Plan.

The Wall Street Journal  (7/14, Smith, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that state regulators will meet with Administration officials on Tuesday to discuss last-minute changes to the forthcoming Clean Power Plan. The viewpoints expressed are expected to vary, with East Coast states and California hoping for strong rules that give them credit for past work and Southern states arguing that the rules will cause large rate hikes for electricity. EPA spokesman Tom Reynolds said that the agency has received a record four million comments – and counting – on the proposed regulations. Thus far, those meeting with Administration officials have said that they have not indicated whether or not the meetings will bear fruit.

Advanced Microgrid Raises $18 Million.

The Wall Street Journal  (7/14, Chernova) reports in its Venture Capital Dispatch blog that Advanced Microgrid, a San Francisco start-up and early Tesla battery customer, raised $18 million in series A funding. The company plans to place groups of batteries in areas where power outages are common to keep the lights on or reduce the load on the grid during peak hours. The company will fulfill a major contract with Southern California Edison for energy storage.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Apprenticeships Emerging As New Path To Employment.

The New York Times  (7/14, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) reports that apprenticeships are again emerging as a path to the middle class for some. The piece highlights the Apprentice School, affiliated with Huntington Ingalls Industries, which pays students even as they train in valuable skills. Apprenticeships have “recently captured the attention of several presidential candidates from both parties, with employer-oriented apprentice programs increasingly seen as a way to appeal to anxious Americans looking for an alternative route to a secure middle-income job.”

Iowa School District Drops In Math And Science Scores.

The Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette  (7/13, Phillips) reported the Cedar Rapids Community School District in Iowa saw a drop in math and science scores with reading scores staying the same on the Iowa Assessments.

US Navy Supporting STEM Classes At Illinois High School.

The Mundelein (IL) Review  (7/13) reported the US Navy is supporting STEM classes at Mundelein High School in Illinois. A Navy spokesperson said the Navy is committed to helping students learn that STEM fields can be fun.

Michigan School District Adding STEM Classes.

MLive (MI)  (7/13, Smith) reported Grass Lake Community Schools in Michigan will offer new STEM classes in the coming school year. STEM lessons will be incorporated into the regular curriculum for many students and also in after-school programs.

Indiana Program Seeks To Draw Girls To Engineering Classes.

The AP  (7/13, McCoy) reports that 40 Purdue University students are taking part in a “Women in Engineering” programs, which sends female students in engineering fields “out to camps and after school programs to introduce students to engineering.” The piece describes the programs offered at the camps, and explains that the program’s goal is to “persuade girls to consider careers in engineering.”

NSA Camps Teaching Teens How To Solve Cyber Crimes.

A WBUR-FM  Boston (7/13, Albright) “Here & Now” radio segment discussed National Security Agency’s “gen-cyber” camps for teenagers, which are being hosted at 29 college campuses across the country. Contributor Charlotte Albright suggested “the skills it teaches could save a life some day.”

Texas High School Team Competing In Solar Car Competition.

The San Antonio Express-News  (7/13, White) reported a team of students at Southwest High School in San Antonio, Texas built a solar-electric car for a national competition. The team will compete at the Solar Car Challenge competition in Fort Worth, Texas.

Monday’s Lead Stories

New Horizons’ Stern: Pluto Flyby Will “Knock Your Socks Off.”
ED Proposes Expanding Student Loan Relief Program.
Scientists Call For Mission Launching Space Weather Early Warning System.
NASA Researchers Examining Engine Health Management Technologies.
Coal Utilities Tell White House Power Plant Cuts Are Too Much.
University Of Wisconsin Conference Explores Classroom Gaming.
NASA Engineer Profiled.

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