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

Leading the News

McClatchy Analysis: Obama Playing Dual Roles On Climate Change, Drilling.

A McClatchy  (8/13, Cockerham) analysis says the President “is playing the roles of both climate change warrior and driller-in-chief,” as he “hails the campaign against climate change he announced last week,” on one hand and “open[s] the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to drilling” and moves toward leasing “land to mine massive amounts of coal in the West” on the other. McClatchy quotes climate scientist James Hansen, who “said he’s planning to write an analysis of the president’s global warming policies ‘probably entitled “Delusions at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” or something like that.’” Similarly, former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt “said in an interview that Obama’s climate record is mixed.”

EPA Awards Grants To Study Climate Change’s Impact On Indoor Air Quality. The Washington Times  (8/13) reports that the EPA has awarded “$8 million in grants to nine universities to help better understand the impact of climate change on indoor air quality,” saying that “climate change’s impact on indoor air pollutants like mold, mildew and asthma triggers isn’t well understood.” Grants will go to “Harvard University, Florida State University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rutgers University, Portland State University, the University of Oregon, Washington State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder.”

WSJournal: Climate Plan Includes Redistribution To Mitigate Harm To Poor. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal  (8/13, Subscription Publication) says the EPA’s Clean Power Plan includes redistribution to offset the harm it will do the poor, and argues that the Administration should instead focus on increasing the nation’s economic growth.

Higher Education

Michigan Schools Call For State To Fund Native Tuition Program.

Education Week  (8/13, Mader) reports, “Public colleges and universities in Michigan are calling on the state to fully fund” the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver program, which was created as part of an agreement “by the state to help pay for college in exchange for some tribes giving up land.” Last year public universities had to pay the $5.2 million shortfall in the $8.5 million program’s funding. Thomas Pleger, president of Lake State Superior State University, said that schools “are penalized” for recruiting native students instead of incentivized.

New York Legislature Seeks To Make Aid Keep Pace With Public College Tuition Increases.

Newsday (NY)  (8/13, Gormley) reports that, in “the opening punch” of the fight over New York state public college tuition increases, the legislature sent to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo a bill that “demands that the Cuomo administration keep increases in state aid in closer pace with annual tuition hikes, which have jumped 30 percent in the past five years.” The state would be required to “cover inflationary and mandated costs,” as well as “budget to cover mandated costs for programs and equipment at SUNY’s three teaching hospitals.”

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Research and Development

University Of Arizona Commercialization Program Takes In $2 Million In Revenues.

The Phoenix Business Journal  (7/30, Subscription Publication) reports that Tech Launch Arizona, the research commercialization program at the University of Arizona, “marked a banner second year as it earned more than $2.1 million in revenues from royalties and patent reimbursements.” The article reports that the center created 12 licensee companies, and explains that it was started to improve the colleges under performance in commercializing research.

KOLD-TV  Tucson, AZ (8/13) reports that the program “achieved its performance metrics in its second year of operations with more than 200 invention discoveries and the formation of 12 startup licensee companies.” The piece quotes Tech Launch Arizona Vice President David Allen saying, “The redefinition of some of the mission and engineering of processes has created a totally different level of performance than we have seen in the past.” AZ Tech Beat  (8/13) also covers this story.

University Of Washington Looking To Draw Students With Disabilities To Engineering.

KUOW-FM  Seattle (8/13) reports that the University of Washington is looking to get “more students with disabilities to study engineering, and that means getting their take on how to make makerspaces more accessible.” The article reports that a number of students with disabilities recently toured the school’s CoMotion MakerSpace to assess its accessibility.

NIH-Funded Study Finds New Way To Detect Early Breast Cancer.

The Hill  (8/13, Shabad) reports that a study conducted at Case Western Reserve University identified a way to “detect fast-growing cancerous tumors using magnetic resonance imaging, or an MRI, and a special contrast solution.” The National Institutes of Health said of the study, “The approach may offer an improved way to detect early recurrence of breast cancer in women and men,” adding that at the moment, specific cancer types or early cancer growths cannot be detected using MRIs.

Additional Sources. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News  (8/13) reports that the research is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). Richard Conroy, PhD, director of NIBIB’s Division of Applied Science and Technology, noted, “MRI has a wide array of diagnostic applications and shows promise in breast cancer detection and treatment monitoring.” He added, “The technique used by researchers in this study enables very early detection of metastatic spread, which would allow adaptation of treatment more quickly and hopefully lead to better outcomes in the future.” The findings were published online in Nature Communications. Talk Radio News Service  (8/12) also covers the study.


Over 100 Schools Sign On To ASEE Diversity Pledge.

Campus Technology  (8/12) reports that officials with 102 colleges have signed on to “an action plan laid out by the American Society for Engineering Education “committing ‘through specific action to provide increased opportunity to pursue meaningful engineering careers to women and other underrepresented demographic groups.’” The article notes that the agreements were announced during the recent White House Demo Day event. The Sylva (NC) Herald  (8/13) also covers this story, focusing on Jeff Ray, dean of the Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology at Western Carolina University.”

Global Developments

Chinese Army Students Use Mind-Control Robots.

Students from the People’s Liberation Army Information Engineering University have demonstrated their ability to “control robots using only their thoughts,” according to the Daily Mail (UK)  (8/12, Gray). A cap that picks up the brain’s electrical activity feeds the signals to the robot, which can move and pick up objects. While future combatants could theoretically “exploit the technology to send mind-controlled robots into action,” currently, the technology is nascent and “requires a great deal of concentration to get the robots to perform even the simplest of tasks” and has only 70 percent accurate movements.

Engineering and Public Policy

McCarthy: EPA Takes “Full Responsibility” For Colorado Mine Spill.

EPA Administrator McCarthy said Wednesday that her agency takes “‘full responsibility’ for the release of millions of gallons of toxic mine waste” at Colorado’s Gold King Mine last week, the Farmington (NM) Daily Times  (8/13, Smith, Garrison) reports. McCarthy said that “internal and independent reviews of the incident are underway and mine remediation operations throughout the country are being scrutinized to ensure they are being safely performed,” adding that “the waters in La Plata County, Colo., have returned to pre-incident safety levels, and EPA staff are at Lake Powell in Arizona to monitor the impact as the plume of pollution arrives there.” Said McCarthy, “Mine waste is under control at this point, as far as I know. … The mine is being managed. My job is to manage the agency and the response and to ensure everyone that we will be fully accountable.”

Kayna Whitworth reported on ABC World News (8/12, story 6, 1:30, Muir) McCarthy said “the situation is improving.” McCarthy: “The levels have returned to pre-event conditions.” Whitworth added that state officials have given “the green light tonight to begin treating and using water from the Animas River.” Scott Pelley similarly reported on the CBS Evening News (8/12, story 8, 1:50, Pelley) that water quality in the river “is said to be back to what it was before three million gallons of toxic waste spilled last week,” but “the worries have not been washed away.” Mireya Villarreal added that while there has been “a lot of talk about making all of these Colorado mines a superfund site with the EPA…our experts say that solution probably isn’t the best one because the government just doesn’t have enough money to fix, treat, and then maintain all of these mines.”

Lester Holt noted on NBC Nightly News (8/12, story 5, 2:10, Holt) that the spill “spark[ed] fears that this is merely one of many more disasters waiting to happen.” Miguel Almaguer that many are calling it “the canary in the coalmine,” adding that there are “more than half a million abandoned mines across the country, 1,500 in the Animas River watershed alone.” Many “are still leaking toxic metals into rivers and streams.”

The Wall Street Journal  (8/13, Harder, Berzon, Subscription Publication) says that in the wake of the Colorado accident, the EPA has suspended investigative field work at mine sites across the country. McCarthy said in a directive that the EPA is instructing its regions to stop such work “unless there is imminent risk.” Meanwhile, the Washington Times  (8/13, Richardson) says “some Democrats and green activists are scrambling to provide cover for the EPA by pointing fingers elsewhere and downplaying the magnitude of the blowout.”

EPA Accused Of Trying To “Cheat” Navajos. In a development that the Washington Times  (8/13, Dinan) says adds “more to the administration’s public relations problems over the spill,” Navajo tribal officials said that the EPA “is trying to cheat Navajo Indians by getting them to sign away their rights to future claims.” Navajo President Russell Begaye said agency officials “were going door-to-door asking Navajo, some of whom don’t speak English as their primary language, to sign a form that offers to pay damages incurred so far from the spill, but waiving the right to come back and ask for more if their costs escalate or if they discover bigger problems.” While the EPA “did not have an immediate comment on Mr. Begaye’s charges Wednesday,” during a press conference in Durango, Colorado, McCarthy “called the spill ‘heartbreaking’ and pledged to work with tribal officials to get a handle on the spill.”

Catholic Engineering Deans Address Popes Climate Change Encyclical.

In an op-ed for US News & World Report  (8/12), the engineering deans of several Catholic colleges and universities discuss how engineers can live up to Pope Francis’s recent “encyclical on the environment and human ecology.” The writers discuss their ethical compulsion to work for the common good as it applies to Pope Francis’s statements regarding climate change and the global ecology.

California’s New Interconnection Maps Called A Step Forward For Distributed Generation.

Lawyer Tam Hunt of Community Renewable Solutions writes for Greentech Media  (8/13) that the latest development in California’s renewable energy push is a “new set of online interconnection maps from the state’s big three utilities” and made available July 1. The maps show developers “key information about the interconnection potential for solar, electric vehicles and battery storage.” Hunt suggests a “click-and-claim” functionality for developers to claim available megawatts and adds that “the new versions of the maps are a major step in that direction.” Hunt argues that by streamlining interconnection and eventually procurement, “ratepayers will save a lot in avoided transaction costs from lengthy delays and utility engineer labor.”

AP Analysis: Keystone Pipeline Review Taking Five Times Longer Than Average.

An AP  (8/13, Lederman) analysis says that “nearly seven years” and counting, the federal review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is taking “more than five times the average for such applications.” While the White House “insists it’s simply following a standard and well-established process,” the AP says its examination of “every cross-border pipeline application since 2004,” when then-President Bush issued an executive order “setting off a government-wide review coordinated by the State Department” for oil pipelines crossing US borders, “shows that the Keystone review has been anything but ordinary.” The AP cites “Bush White House officials who helped develop the policy” who “say it was never intended that the final decision about a presidential permit would be delegated to a Cabinet department.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

EPA: Team Underestimated Pressure In Mine Before Spill.
Clinton Dings GOP Debaters For Neglecting College Affordability.
Many High-Risk Medical Devices Get FDA Approval With Only A Single Trial: Study.
Utah And Pakistan Educational Institutions Team Up To Solve Water Issues.
Commentary: Congress Should Act To Resolve Divisions Over Nuclear Waste.
Next Generation Science Standards Profiled.

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