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

Leading the News

Researchers: Global Warming Has Intensified California Drought.

The New York Times  (8/21, Gillis, Subscription Publication) reports that research published in Geophysical Research Letters this week concludes that “global warming caused by human emissions has most likely intensified the drought in California by roughly 15 to 20 percent.” While the findings indicate the drought “s primarily a consequence of natural climate variability, the scientists added that the likelihood of any drought becoming acute is rising because of climate change.”

July Was Hottest Month On Record. The Huffington Post  (8/21, Visser) reports that July “was officially the Earth’s hottest month in recorded history,” beating “the previous global record set in 1998 and again in 2010 by about one-seventh of a degree. That’s a large margin for weather records.” Nine of the 10 hottest months have happened in the last decade.

Democratic Presidential Candidates Largely Silent On Carbon Footprints. The Washington Times  (8/21, Wolfgang) reports that while Democratic presidential candidates are “backing a tough crackdown on Americans’ greenhouse gas emissions,” their campaigns “have clammed up when asked what steps they’re taking personally to reduce their own carbon footprint” as they campaign. Hillary Clinton is “publicly committing to running a ‘carbon neutral’ operation, though her campaign hasn’t said exactly what that entails.” Lincoln Chafee’s campaign “ducked direct questions,” while Martin O’Malley, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Jim Webb did not respond to requests sent by the Times.

Higher Education

ED Reports Sharp Uptick In Income-Based Student Loan Program.

The Washington Post  (8/20) reports that ED said Thursday that consumers with heavy student debt “are warming up to the government’s generous offer to cap their monthly loan payments to a percentage of their earnings.” Over the past year, the number of people using such programs has risen 56% to 3.9 million. The article describes the Administration’s efforts to publicize the plans over the past year, noting that officials are struggling to make “sure people aren’t kicked out of the program for missing deadlines.” The Post quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying, “We’ve made it a priority to give Americans better options to manage their student loans and make sure they know about those options. There’s more work to do, we won’t stop fighting to help people who are struggling to pay back their student loan debt, but the fact that more and more borrowers are taking advantage of the opportunity to cap their monthly payments is a good sign.”

Bloomberg News  (8/20, Lorin) reports that borrowers are “flocking” to the programs, noting that according to Moody’s Investors Service, over $200 billion “of the $1.2 trillion federal loan portfolio is in a plan that lets borrowers make modified payments.” The piece notes that rising use of these programs increases taxpayer costs.

Noting that the increase follows outreach efforts by the Administration, the Chronicle of Higher Education  (8/21) reports that even as the use of the programs rose over the past year, “the share of borrowers who are more than one month late in repaying their loans dropped from 23 percent to 21 percent over the same period.”

The Wall Street Journal  (8/21, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) also covers this story, balancing the positive economic impact of reducing borrowers’ delinquency against the risk of increased taxpayer liability. The Washington Examiner  (8/20, Adams) also covers this story.

Oregon Students Describe Negative Experiences At For-Profit Colleges.

The Portland (OR) Tribune  (8/21) relates the stories of three former students at for-profit colleges in Oregon, reporting that they “all believe they were victims of fraud, at worst, and at the least, deceived.” The piece notes that the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission is “charged with overseeing and regulating Oregon’s for-profit private colleges,” but reports that officials with the commission say that very few students reach out with complaints.

Clinton Calls For Expansion Of AmeriCorps As Part Of College Affordability Plan.

The AP  (8/21, Barrow) reports that Hillary Clinton is proposing “to expand the AmeriCorps service program launched under her husband’s administration,” calling “for spending about $20 billion over 10 years on the expansion, increasing the number of civil service volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000 and more than doubling the educational grant that enrollees can receive.” The proposal “is part of Clinton’s $350 billion ‘new college compact’” aimed at addressing the rising “costs of attending college.” Reuters  (8/21, Becker) and CBS News  (8/20) also cover this story.

New York Fed Report Links Rising Tuition With Increased Federal Aid. USA Today  (8/20, Stoetzer) reports that his presidential candidates turn their focus toward college affordability, a report from staffers at the New York Federal Reserve indicates that Federal student aid programs which have expanded funding for higher education have sparked rising college tuition.

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

Clemson Researchers Developing App For Early Detection Of Cyberbullying.

The Greenville (SC) News  (8/19) reports that researchers at Clemson University “are developing an app that could alert parents and school administrators to signs of cyberbullying as it starts,” noting that the research is being funded by a $240,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Researchers will scour online communications for “key words and patterns that indicate cyberbullying.” When the app detects potential bullying, it will send an alert to “the victim’s parent, a school administrator and the identified bully.”

The Anderson (SC) Independent-Mail  (8/19) reports that the initiative comes amid an increase in online bullying in recent years, explaining that the researchers will “scour the Internet for bullying language and images used by school-aged children around the world and study common behavioral patterns of bullies and their victims.” When completed, the app will be called VC Defender. WSPA-TV  Greenville, SC (8/19) and WHNS-TV  Greenville, SC (8/20) also cover this story.

NASA Funds Research On Recycling Human Waste.

In continuing coverage of NASA’s funding of research on how astronauts in deep-space may garner nourishment from human waste byproducts, the Houston (TX) Chronicle  (8/20, Baddour) reports on a Clemson University’s award of a NASA grant to study the use of “human urine and exhaled breath to feed certain yeasts, genetically-modified to produce nutritious fats and even plastic in space.” NASA’s Space Technology Missions Directorate associate administrator Steve Jurczyk is quoted as saying “These early career researchers will provide fuel for NASA’s innovation game,” adding that “Technology drives exploration, and investments in these technologies and technologists is essential to ensure NASA and the nation have the capabilities necessary to meet the challenges we will face as we journey to Mars.” Director of the Clemson research project, Mark Blenner, explained the study’s implications.

Azavea Wins “Impressive” And “Prestigious” NASA Grant.

The Philadelphia Business Journal  (8/20, Norton, Subscription Publication) reports that NASA and the Department of Energy have awarded Azavea Phase I grants “to develop technology that could lead to better understandings of climate change and infrastructure needs.” The article, which described the grant as “impressive,” notes that Azavea CEO Robert Cheetham said the NASA award was “very prestigious” because of the difficulty in obtaining one.

Hyperloop To Break Ground In May 2016, North Of Los Angeles.

Tech Insider  (8/21) reports Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) said it will break ground May 2016 on the Hyperloop railway concept, after securing three major partnerships. The new partners are engineering firm AECOM, Swiss tech company Oerlikon, and architecture firm Hodgetts & Fung. HTT has reportedly secured land for the 5-mile Hyperloop test track “just north of Los Angeles in Quay Valley.” HTT has set a timetable for passengers to board the Hyperloop by 2018.


Cuomo Announces Manufacturers Moving To Utica, Creating Over 2,000 Jobs.

The AP  (8/21) reports that on Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that GE Global Research and the electronics company ams AG plan to open shop near Utica, New York. The piece notes that GE “will be the anchor tenant at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering facility” while ams AG will be constructing a new plant. According to the Albany (NY) Business Review  (8/20, Diana, Subscription Publication), GE’s move to Utica will generate 1,470 jobs in the area, “470 of which will be for GE,” while the $2 billion investment by ams AG on its “new manufacturing plant in Utica that will create 1,000 jobs.”

Industry News

Raytheon Awarded $19.3 Million Contract Modification For LAV-AT Weapons Modernization.

Military & Aerospace Electronics  (8/21) reports Army Contracting Command officials awarded a $19.3 million contract modification to Raytheon to upgrade anti-tank missile systems on 13 US Marine Corps LAV systems. The company will provide “the LAV anti-tank version (LAV-AT) with an improved thermal sight and advanced fire-control system to enable the combat vehicle to acquire targets while on the move, fire current and next-generation heavy anti-armor missiles, and provide multi-shot capability.” This contract modification, plus one awarded last June, are “additions to Raytheon’s original $19.7 million contract, awarded in April 2012, for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the LAV-AT Modernization program.”

Engineering and Public Policy

CSMonitor Analysis: Obama Will Not Have Final Word On Arctic Drilling.

In an analysis, the Christian Science Monitor  (8/20, Gass) notes that while the President has given Shell “permission to drill for oil in the Alaskan Arctic,” Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Sen. Bernie Sanders have all voiced their opposition to Arctic drilling, which “could be significant,” because the “executive powers that Obama is now wielding to open the Arctic to drilling could be used by the next president to reverse course,” meaning “Obama’s decision this week is hardly the final word.” While that “gives environmentalists hope that drilling in the American Arctic might never come to pass,” with “Republican presidential candidates favoring the move, it also makes next year’s presidential election hugely important to the future of the plan.”

Owner Of Colorado Mine Says He Tried To Prevent EPA Access.

The Washington Times  (8/21, Richardson) reports that Todd Hennis, owner of the Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colorado, says he tried to prevent the EPA “from gaining access to his property” four years ago, “but that he relented after the agency threatened to pound him with ruinous fines if he refused.” The Times says the EPA’s leakage investigation on the property “triggered the Aug. 5 blowout that sent 3 million gallons of toxic orange wastewater down the Animas River.”

Navajo Nation Officials Say EPA Delivered Water In Dirty Oil Tanks. The Washington Times  (8/21, Richardson) also reports that while “the EPA spill…was bad enough,” Navajo Nation officials are now “fuming after a delivery of water for livestock and crops arrived in dirty oil tanks.” In a video posted online Wednesday, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye ran his finger inside the “brown and oily” spigot of a water tank delivered by the EPA, and said, “This is totally unacceptable. How can anybody give water from a tank like this that was clearly an oil tank and expect us to drink it, our animals to drink it? And to contaminate our soil with this?”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Gallup Finds Parents, Administrators Differ On Computer Science Programs.

USA Today  (8/20, Cava) reports on a Gallup survey of 15,000 people titled, “Searching for Computer Science: Access and Barriers in U.S. K-12 Education.” The survey found that 90 percent of parents “are eager for their children to learn coding,” while “fewer than 8% of administrators believe parent demand is high,” and three-fourths of principals said that their schools had no computer science program. The story also says that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “by 2020, roughly one million coding jobs will go unfilled.”

New York City Sees Numerous Summer STEM Programs.

Capital New York  (8/21, Shapiro) reports on the “unprecedented effort” by New York City “and major corporations to provide science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to city schoolchildren this summer.” Among the supporters are AT&T which contributed a $1.6 million grant, the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering offered training to 1,100 students. In addition to AT&T, Microsoft, Cornell Tech, Google, and state and city funds also supported programs.

New Jersey Vocational And Technical Schools Make US News Top Schools List.

My Central Jersey  (8/20) reports on recognition for the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools by US News and World Report as three of them made the magazine’s “ranking of the best public high schools in the United States.” Those are: the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies in Edison, the Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences in Woodbridge, and Perth Amboy Vo-Tech. All three have also “been named National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Researchers Develop Way Of Making Carbon Nanofibers From Carbon Captured From Atmosphere.
ED To Overhaul Student Debt Forgiveness Process.
Advances Made In Creation Of Transparent Aluminum.
Shell Awards OneSubSea Contract For SubSea Services For Stones Project.
Report: California Land Sinking From Groundwater Pumping.
Boy Scouts Earn Engineering Merit Badge Through OOGEEP.

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