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

Leading the News

Obama Administration Gives Final Approval For Shell To Drill In Arctic.

Print and online coverage of the Obama Administration’s decision to give Royal Dutch Shell final approval to drill into potential oil reserves under the floor of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea is extensive, while only one network news broadcast covered the story and both cable and local television coverage last evening were very light. Much of the coverage focuses on the reaction of environmental groups, with nearly every report noting their vehement opposition to the decision, and several reports casting it as the final defeat in their effort to oppose Shell’s drilling plans.

In a brief report on ABC World News (8/17, story 9, 0:15), David Muir said “oil drilling [is] set to begin again in the Arctic Ocean,” after Royal Dutch shell was given “the final permit to drill off Alaska’s northwest coast.” Sue Herera noted on CNBC (8/17) that this is the “first time in more than 20 years that permit has been given.” Slate  (8/17, Hannon) noted in its “The Slatest” blog that “the area is estimated to hold some 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil which could significantly boost U.S. domestic oil production from its current level of 9.5 million barrels per day.” Bloomberg News  (8/18, Wingfield) quotes a statement from Sen. Lisa Murkowski which said, “Shell has spent years preparing to fully explore its leases in the Arctic offshore.” Murkowski “said offshore development would create jobs in the state and boost the oil supply for the trans-Alaska pipeline.”

The New York Times  (8/18, Davenport, Subscription Publication) says the Administration had issued a permit in July allowing Shell “to start drilling at the top of the seabed but would not allow the drill to penetrate into the oil reserves until the company had quick access to a ‘capping stack,’ which is used to shut down wells in case of emergency spills.” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer  (8/18, Connelly) adds that the approval came after the “return of the Fennica, a 380-foot minesweeper that holds the capping stack and other oil spill-prevention gear.” The Fennica had been undergoing repairs at a shipyard “after hitting an uncharted shoal in the Aleutian Islands and acquiring a 39-inch-long gash in its hull.”

The AP  (8/18) reports that Shell spokesman Curtis Smith “said it’s possible Shell will complete a well this summer,” but “declined to say how deep the Polar Pioneer has drilled or exactly when drill bits might enter the petroleum-bearing zone.” Said Smith, “It’s information that we consider proprietary and therefore not something we would release,” and “added safe operations will determine progress.”

The Alaska Journal of Commerce  (8/17) reports that Shell spokesperson Meg Baldino said in an email, “With modifications to our Application for Permit to Drill (APD) approved, we are now authorized to explore hydrocarbon bearing zones at our Burger J well site. Drilling began at Burger J on July 30 and crews aboard the Transocean Polar Pioneer continue to make progress. … We remain committed to operating in a safe, environmentally responsible manner and look forward to evaluating what could potentially become a national energy resource base.” Baldino “wrote that Shell has also applied to modify its permit for Burger V to drill to oil-bearing depths.”

Higher Education

CFPB Investigating Possible Student Loan Contractor Abuses.

The Huffington Post  (8/18) reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is investigating the student loan industry “to determine why borrowers with federal student loans are being kicked out of generous programs that keep their payments affordable.” The article reports that the Administration is pushing to increase enrollment in federal plans that cap payments based on income, but notes that “hundreds of thousands” of borrowers drop out of the programs because they fail to recertify their earnings information every year. CFPB says that when this happens to consumers, they are “forced to contend with a rash of potentially debilitating consequences.” The piece notes that ED “has launched a pilot program to determine what types of communications to borrowers are most effective at getting them to re-certify,” but reports that these efforts are “geared toward either improving borrower responsiveness or bypassing the need for servicer competence.”

CFPB Investigating California For-Profit Over Lending Program. Inside Higher Ed  (8/17) reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is investigating California-based Bridgepoint Education and its subsidiary Ashford University “to determine whether the for-profit chain engaged in ‘unlawful acts or practices related to the advertising, marketing or origination of private student loans.’” The piece notes that consumer advocates say that ED’s 90/10 rule has firms looking “for other sources of nonfederal revenue, such as loans to students.”

Mark Cuban: Clinton College Affordability Plan Will Backfire.

The Hill  (8/18, Richardson) reports in its “Blog Briefing Room” blog that billionaire businessman Mark Cuban, speaking via his Cyber Dust app last week, said that “Hillary Clinton’s plan to curb growing student-loan debt will actually make attending college more expensive.” The Hill quotes Cuban saying, “[Hillary’s plan] stands a better chance of increasing the amount of money students owe than decreasing it. Just as easy money led to the real estate bubble a few years ago, the easier it is to borrow money for college the easier it is for colleges to raise tuition. Tuition keeps going up because no matter how high they raise it, students can still borrow more to pay for it.”

Denver Considering Tax To Help Students Pay For Higher Education.

The Denver Post  (8/18, Robles) reports that the Denver City Council is considering putting a referendum on the ballot that would increase the city’s sales tax and use the expected $10 million to fund scholarship organizations and city administered grants to help students who don’t get scholarships pay back loans.

Pell Grants Give Billions To Students Who Don’t Graduate.

PBS NewsHour  (8/18, Butrymowicz) reports that a Hechinger Report analysis of Pell grant graduation rate data from a cross section of colleges and universities found that over “a third of Pell recipients” don’t earn degrees after six years, and that “the more Pell students an institution enrolls, these statistics show, the lower their likelihood of graduating.” Furthermore, while schools are required by law to calculate the graduation rates of Pell recipients and release it if asked, they are not required to report it to the US Department of Education, which doesn’t have plans to collect the data. This means “that, since 2000, taxpayers have spent $300 billion on Pell grants…with no way of knowing how many of the recipients ever actually earned degrees.”

UPDATE – Deans Pledge Diversity Efforts
Over 130 deans of engineering signed a letter pledging support for diversity initiatives. The letter was presented by University of Southern California Dean Yannis Yortsos at the first-ever White House Demo Day.

NEW edition of eGFI magazine

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Research and Development

South Dakota Student Wins Research Competition With Cold-Spray Alloy Repair Technology.

The Rapid City (SD) Journal  (8/18) profiles Bo Paulsen, a mechanical engineering student at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, who recently won the second annual Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted by the South Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Paulsen’s research “resulted in a cold-spray repair process for components made of alloy 718, a very expensive metal used in the manufacturing of aircraft, helicopters, spaceships, oil pipelines and biomedical devices.”

Cal Poly Engineers’ LightSail Project Honored At Small Satellite Conference.

KCBX-FM  San Luis Obispo, CA (8/18) reports that a group of Cal Poly engineers were recently honored at the Small Satellite Conference at Utah State University, where their LightSail project “was named ‘Mission of the Year.’” The piece explains that the school has fielded many “cutting-edge” orbital projects.


Demand For Cybersecurity Professionals Expected To Rise In Coming Years.

The Philadelphia Inquirer  (8/16, Wee) profiles Drexel University electrical and computer engineering professor Kapil Dandekar, whose “wireless network security class practices hacking into and defending make-believe information networks and communication systems.” Dandekar is quoted detailing the rising demand for cybersecurity workers. The Inquirer cites Bureau of Labor Statistics projections predicting a 36.5% increase in demand for “information-security analysts, including cyber security professionals.”

University Of Buffalo Signs Onto White House Tech Diversity Effort.

WBFO-FM  Buffalo, NY (8/18) reports that the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Buffalo has joined over 100 other colleges in supporting “a White House effort to bring greater diversity to the science and technology fields.” The piece quotes the school’s dean, Dr. Liesel Folks, saying, “We know that a diverse population of engineers and scientists working on a problem will yield better outcomes, better results.”

Industry News

FAA Administrator Huerta’s Influence On Drone Industry Profiled.

Black Engineer  (8/17) profiled Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta’s impact on the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) industry and also discussed the FAA’s drone regulations as well as its “Know Before You Fly” safety campaign.

Engineering and Public Policy

Pennsylvania Governor Proposes Speed Limits for Trains Carrying Crude.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  (8/18, Parrish) reports that Gov. Tom Wolff released a commissioned report by Railroad Engineering and Safety Program at the University of Delaware with safety recommendations on the transport of crude. One of the recommendations included speed limits of 5 mph below the federal limit of 40 mph for trains carrying crude oil through high populations areas in Pennsylvania.

Administration To Propose Rule To Cut Methane Emissions.

The New York Times  (8/18, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports that as soon as Tuesday, the Administration is expected to propose “the first-ever federal regulation to cut emissions of methane,” according to “officials familiar with the plan.” The proposal, which the officials said “would call for the reduction of methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent over the next decade from 2012 levels,” are part of the President’s “broad push for regulations meant to cut emissions of planet-warming gases from different sectors of the economy.”

EPA IG Investigating Colorado Mine Spill.

The AP  (8/18, Daly) reports that the inspector general of the EPA announced on Monday that it is “investigating the cause of a massive spill from an abandoned Colorado gold mine that unleashed 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater.” The IG said that the investigation will also “focus on the EPA’s response to the Aug. 5 spill from the defunct Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Duncan Touts Focus On STEM Education.

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times  (8/18, Duncan), Education Secretary Arne Duncan writes about the Incubator School in Los Angeles, where “teachers leverage technology to individually tailor student learning and track progress toward challenging academic standards.” Duncan praises this type of “high-quality instruction in” STEM subjects, and stresses that to maintain America’s global competitiveness, “we must ensure that all students have access to deep learning in STEM subjects that are taught by talented teachers knowledgeable in these fields.” Duncan laments racial disparities in the availability of STEM subjects and the dearth of qualified teachers for them. Nevertheless, Duncan expresses optimism about the future of STEM education, citing a number of state and federal initiatives along with the work being done at individual schools.

Philadelphia School District CTE Graduate Profiled.

The Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook  (8/18, Ward) profiles Kadeem Carter, a 2013 graduate of Randolph’s Auto Body Collision Repair program in the Philadelphia School District as part of a series on its career and technical education (CTE) programs. He “has begun to build a career in auto repair” while taking classes at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, with the goal of getting an associate’s degree in collision repair.

Summer Program Immerses Elementary Students In STEAM.

New Jersey Local News  (8/18) reports on the Summer STEAM program at Fernbrook Elementary School in Randolph, New Jersey. The three-week program immerses students grades three to five “in engineering, environmental science, performing arts, technology, visual arts and leadership activities” such as “making solar-powered cars, creating a giant mosaic and learning about gardening.”

Dayton To Consider Building Aerospace Engineering Academy.

The Dayton (OH) Business Journal  (8/17, Cogliano, Subscription Publication) reports that the Greene County Career Center in Dayton, Ohio is seeking proposals for a feasibility study for opening an aerospace engineering academy for students in grades seven through 12. The center would seek to form “strong partnerships with industry,” offer routes to both certification and post-secondary options, have “exploratory foundation classes for middle school students,” and form a reputation to draw educators to professional development activities.

Bechtel Event Seeks To Promote Interest In STEM.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  (8/18, Majors) reports that, as part of Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corp.’s annual outreach on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, 80 of the company’s engineers and scientists will offer demonstrations to “170 students, from kindergarten through 12th grade” at 12 stations as part of “an intensive, four-day training opportunity focused on career development for future leaders.”

Black Girls CODE Seeks To Increase Tech’s Racial, Gender Diversity.

NPR  (8/17, Westervelt) reports that the nonprofit group Black Girls CODE holds “regular weekend coding seminars for girls of color,” and this summer held boot camps in the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington, New York City, and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina that have campers “brainstorming and prototyping app ideas,” as well as taking field trips to tech companies.

Monday’s Lead Stories

Documents Confirm Apple Is Building A Self-Driving Car.
ED To Stop Giving Colleges FAFSA Lists.
NASA Funds Next Round Of Projects That Could Improve Energy Storage.
Indian Engineering College Will Launch Student Satellite In Four Years.
Engineer Discusses Potential OF Invisible App Market.
EPA Tightens Standards For GHG Emissions At Landfills.
Teachers Take Part In STEM-PACT Project At Challenger Learning Center.

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