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

Leading the News

Researchers Develop Way Of Making Carbon Nanofibers From Carbon Captured From Atmosphere.

Gizmodo  (8/19, Campbell-Dollaghan) reports that a team of engineers has published research indicating they have “figured out a simple way to make” carbon nanofibers “by sucking carbon dioxide straight out of the atmosphere.” The research from the George Washington University Department of Chemistry “is part of a growing body of study that looks for ways to ‘capture’ or ‘sequester’ carbon in the atmosphere by trapping it.” The remainder of the piece provides the scientific details.

MIT Technology Review  (8/20, Orcutt) reports that research Stuart Licht “says his group’s newly demonstrated technology, which both captures the carbon dioxide from the air and employs an electrochemical process to convert it to carbon nanofibers and oxygen, is more efficient and potentially a lot cheaper than existing methods.”

The Verge  (8/19, Benson) reports more broadly on efforts to develop effective carbon sequestration techniques.

Higher Education

ED To Overhaul Student Debt Forgiveness Process.

The Washington Post  (8/20, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ED announced Wednesday that in the wake of the implosion of Corinthian Colleges Inc., it plans to “overhaul the loan forgiveness process for students who believe they have been defrauded by their colleges.” The article explains the “defense to repayment claim” process for such students, noting that “critics say the process…is complicated and difficult to navigate.” Next month, ED will start “streamlining” the process and strengthening “provisions to hold colleges accountable for the discharged loans, limiting the cost to taxpayers.” The Post quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying, “The process we are beginning today aims to create a clearer, more comprehensive system. And we think it is critical that this solution also does right by American taxpayers. That’s what they deserve.” Under Secretary Ted Mitchell “said when there are institutions like Corinthian without substantial assets, the department will try to use enforcement actions to help students before the company collapses.”

Noting that a final rule won’t be out before November 2016, the Los Angeles Times  (8/20, Kirkham) reports that Mitchell “said the rules will complement an initiative already underway that allows potentially hundreds of thousands of former Corinthian students to apply for federal student-loan forgiveness.” Mitchell is quoted saying, “We want institutions to know, in no uncertain terms, that they are responsible for the malfeasance that they create.” The Times notes that ED has faced pressure to help former Corinthian students in the wake of the firm’s collapse.

Washington State Judge Orders Student Loan Firm To Reimburse Students.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer  (8/18) reports the state judge in Washington state has ordered StudentLoanProcessing. US to reimburse “victims” who were charged “illegal fees for debt adjusting.” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson had sued the firm for this and for “failing to inform customers of their rights.” The article points out that ED offers the same services that the firm offers for free.

Tennessee Stops Requiring Remedial Courses For Less-Prepared Students.

PBS NewsHour  (8/20, Mason) reports that Tennessee’s community colleges will now no longer require students with low ACT scores to enroll in remedial full-semester courses. Instead, students with low scores will be placed in regular introductory courses with required enrollment in a “learning support” class. The vice president of academic affairs at the Tennessee Board of Regents said that remedial courses were discouraging for new college students. NewsHour also noted that remedial courses required students to spend a full-semester on a course and pay full tuition without actually being enrolled in a college course.

UVA Introduces Dual-Degree Program Aimed At Creating STEM Teachers.

WVIR-TV  Charlottesville, VA (8/19, D’Ambra) reported that the University of Virginia has announced a five-year, dual-degree program, which will allow students to earn a degree in engineering and a master’s degree in teaching. The goal of the program is to produce STEM teachers for high schools and middle schools.

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.

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Research and Development

Advances Made In Creation Of Transparent Aluminum.

Sujata Kundu writes for Forbes  (8/19) that recently, “two separate methods of making Transparent Aluminium that possesses both transparency and toughness have been announced.” The first “has been developed by the US Naval Laboratory, and is an aluminium compound that also contains magnesium.” The second method “creates a material that closely resembles the Transparent Aluminium of Star Trek. Called aluminium oxynitride, it has a similar crystal structure to that of the magnesium aluminate,” and is now commercially available.

Northeastern Pays Government $2.7 Million In Settlement.

AP  (8/19) reports that Northeastern University will pay the federal government $2.7 million after failing to account for research funds it received between 2001 and 2010 for research to support high-energy particle physics research. Northeastern says it has made the necessary changes to support its monitoring of grant money. The Boston Globe  (8/20, Fox) also covers this story.

Industry News

Shell Awards OneSubSea Contract For SubSea Services For Stones Project.

Offshore Engineer  (8/19, Sustaita) reports that Shell “awarded OneSubsea a contract to supply subsea services for the Stones ultra deepwater development project in the Gulf of Mexico.” OneSubsea “will supply subsea processing systems” and the award “will deliver the industry’s first 15,000-psi subsea pump system, to be installed in the Gulf of Mexico at approximately 9500ft.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Report: California Land Sinking From Groundwater Pumping.

The AP  (8/19, Smith) reports that “the ground is sinking nearly two inches each month in some places” in California’s Central Valley, risking damage to roads, bridges and canals, according to new research by NASA scientists. The AP reports that California’s drought put “one-fifth more land out of [agricultural] production this year than last year.” Gov. Jerry Brown’s groundwater monitoring legislation approved last year gives local officials until 2020 or 2022 to develop water management plans, meaning “it could take another decade or two before California has a handle on groundwater use.”

Interior To Lead Review Of Colorado Spill.

The AP  (8/20) reports that it was announced late Tuesday that the Interior Department will “lead a review of the Colorado mine spill that tainted rivers in three western states.” The move comes after elected officials of both parties “questioned” whether the EPA “should be left to probe its own heavily criticized response to the disaster.” The Interior report is “expected to be released publicly in 60 days.”

Changing Patterns In The West Impacting Wind Energy Output.

The Washington Examiner  (8/20) reports wind energy is bumping up “against the effects of sluggish weather in the West, where wind patterns have changed and renewable energy production is at a near five-year low.” Earlier this month, the Energy Information Administration “detailed the findings…in a study that showed falling wind energy production in California, Oregon and Washington state — typically known as a bastion for clean energy development.” EIA did not “say how the wind energy slump would affect the electric grid, but it did say it could hinder wind farms from taking advantage of a key federal tax subsidy and harm their economic viability.”

Some Utilities Offer Community Solar Projects.

An article from the Washington Post  (8/20, Mooney) analyzes the growing popularity of “community solar” projects, reporting that a new study from the University of Texas at Austin “found that at least some utility companies seem to like community solar programs, are already offering them, and plan to expand them.” According to the article, one reason driving the popularity of the shared solar systems is that “customers clearly want access to solar, and some utility industry representatives find community solar to be a great way to give it to them — in a manner that allows the utility to continue to service these customers’ full electricity demand.” In addition, community solar is an alternative for utilities to break into the residential solar market, “beyond getting directly into the business of installing rooftop solar, as Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power is now doing.”

Analysis: Marcellus Shale Gas Supply Affecting Western Drillers.

In an analysis examining the consequences of the cheap and robust supply of natural gas in the Marcellus for shale producers in the American West, Bloomberg News  (8/20, Buurma) writes that eight years ago a group of companies, Kinder Morgan, ConocoPhillips, and Sempra Energy, built the Rockies Express pipeline to supply gas to the Northeastern US, but the “burgeoning supply” from the Marcellus has “transformed the U.S. gas market, redirecting pipeline flows and sending prices plummeting.” Said Gelber & Associates analyst Aaron Calder, “There has been a lot less demand for western gas because of an abundance of supply in the Marcellus and the Rockies Express reversal is exaggerating that effect.” As a result, companies such as Encana have redirected capital towards “growing our total liquids production from the Eagle Ford, Permian and Duvernay plays,” according to Encana spokesman Jay Averill.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Boy Scouts Earn Engineering Merit Badge Through OOGEEP.

The Akron (OH) Beacon Journal  (8/20, Downing) reports on Boy Scouts’ participation in “an innovative oil and gas specific curriculum” designed in partnership with the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program. General Manager of Pipeline Operations for Dominion East Ohio, Tim McNutt, said that he is “proud to have watched this program develop and grow.” Thee Beacon-Journal adds that in three years, “more than 300 scouts have earned engineering merit badges through the program.”

Brentwood Schools Focus On STEAM Programs For New School Year.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  (8/20, Hacke) reports that schools in the Brentwood Borough School District will focus on STEAM initiatives in the 2015-16 school year. This will include several new programs, including a new robotics lab, new high-tech whiteboards, and a variety of new elective courses.

Admiral Notes The Need For More STEM Students.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  (8/20, Belculfine) reports that Rear Adm. Kate Gregory said the US Navy needs the service of young people with a background in science, technology, engineering, and math, and praised the Carnegie Science Center for its commitment to STEM education

Glenn Officials Help Encourage Future FIRST Competition Participants.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer  (8/19, Corrigan) reports that over a week ago, students “paired with local competitive robot teams and several officials from NASA Glenn Research Center” programmed robots constructed with LEGO Mindstorms kits as part of a STEM event at the Cuyahoga County Public Library. The goal was to encourage students who may go on to form teams which could compete in future FIRST contests.

Texas District Partners With UT Arlington For STEM Academy.

The Arlington (TX) Citizen Journal  (8/20) reports that the school district in Arlington, Texas is partnering with the University of Texas at Arlington to launch a new STEM Academy. Some 120 incoming Freshmen at Martin High School “will travel through science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, classes together and have STEM themes woven into core classes such as history and English.” Students will have the chance to “earn as many as 32 college credits by taking classes that are free to them at UT Arlington.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

EPA Proposes New Methane Emission Standards For Oil And Gas Industry.
For-Profit Colleges Target Vets For Cash.
MIT Engineers Developing Teams Of Robots That Deliver Beer.
Atlas Robot Sparks Concern For Possible Tech Arms Race.
American Systems Acquires EMBH To Boost Engineering, IT Services.
Opinion: Clean Power Plan Hurts Economy.
Students Use Coding Courses To Develop Mobile Applications.

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