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

Leading the News

EPA Knew Of Risk For Mine “Blowout.”

The AP  (8/23, Biesecker, Brown) reports the EPA was aware “of the potential for a catastrophic ‘blowout’ of poisonous wastewater from an inactive goldmine.” Documents released by the EPA on Friday indicate that in 2014 the EPA knew the 1995 collapse of the mine entrance at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado made it inaccessible, and that “This condition has likely caused the impounding of water behind the collapse.” However, according to the AP, the EPA seemed to have only a “cursory” plan to manage a possible blowout.

NBC Nightly News (8/22, 6:40 p.m. EDT) also reported on the story.

New University Of Pennsylvania Engineering School Dean Brings Fame To Position.

The Philadelphia Inquirer  (8/23, DiStefano) reports the new dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s engineering school, Vijay Kumar, is bringing a public profile with him to his new position. Kumar gained fame by giving a TED Talk on applied air robotics in 2012 and posting videos of flying robots he helped create online.

WSJournal A1: Nearly 7 Million Americans Have Not Paid Student Loans In Year.

In a front-page article, the Wall Street Journal  (8/22, A1, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) reports that nearly 7 million Americans have failed to pay their student loans for at least a year. Experts claim that this high level of default, which amounts to about 17 percent of all borrowers, suggests an increasing number of US households are unable or unwilling to pay back their school debt.

WSJournal Criticizes Democratic Presidential Candidates’ Proposals To Reduce Student Debt. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (8/22, Subscription Publication) criticizes Democratic presidential candidates for proposing Federal government spending to help college students reduce or write off student loans. The Journal notes that over a 10-year span, Hillary Clinton’s proposal would cost $350 billion and others are likely to be similarly costly.

ED Has Massive Student Debt Portfolio.

The Washington Post  (8/24, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the Education Department “has grown into one of the biggest money lenders in the country, overseeing a $1.2 trillion portfolio of student debt rivaling the entire loan business of JPMorgan Chase.” While President Obama wants to simplify “a confusing and corrupt system that enriched financial firms at the expense of taxpayers,” the “lenient terms of some federal loans have raised concerns about whether the government is lending as a public good or simply making money off of vulnerable people.” The article discusses the Obama Administration’s efforts to improve the system, and quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying, “The move to direct lending is an incredibly important part of this administration’s legacy. Because we’re making the loans, we can help determine the terms … and that’s enabled us to be much more aggressive in meeting the needs of students.”

Higher Education

Report: Billions In Pell Grants Go To Students Who Never Graduate.

NBC News  (8/24) reports that according to a new report, graduation rates for Pell grant are lower than overall graduation rates. The article reports that the numbers are somewhat fuzzy, but notes that “the government keeps no official tally of what proportion of those who receive the grants end up getting degrees — despite the fact that money spent on Pell grants has quadrupled since 2000.” The piece notes that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell recently “lauded Pell grants as ‘one of the key levers that we have’ to increase college completion rates.”

Writer Calls For Eliminating FAFSA.

In an op-ed in the New York Times  (8/21, Subscription Publication), Susan M. Dynarski, a professor of education, public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, writes that the paperwork and bureaucratic delays in the financial aid system stands in the way of many students attending college, but notes that there is a bipartisan movement in Congress to “simplify and speed the aid process.” She continues to argue that Congress should go even further by eliminating the FAFSA, calling it “despised” and “unnecessary.”

US ED Awards $1.1 Million Grant To Help STEM Education At California Community College.

The Vacaville (CA) Reporter  (8/21, Bammer) reports the US Education Department awarded a $1.1 million grant to Solano Community College in California to help first-generation students study STEM subjects. The school’s interim superintendent Stan Arterberry said in a statement, “This grant will allow the college to provide enhanced support services to STEM students to help them stay in school, maintain a higher grade-point average, and graduate and transfer to four-year universities at a higher rate.”

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

Over 2 million young people have read eGFI since its inception. A new edition is rolling off the presses, with features on cutting-edge engineering inventions, career choices, and how students can succeed in this rapidly advancing field – all produced with an attractive, engaging layout.

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Research and Development

James Webb Space Telescope Making Strides Toward Launch Date.

Discovery News  (8/21, Howell) reported that the James Webb Space Telescope is “a critical step closer to its readiness for launch” after engineers were able to unfurl the observatory’s sunshield for the second time using “hardware closer to the real deal than the also-successful first shot in 2014.” Jonathan Arenberg, chief engineer for Northrop Grumman, said that the telescope is experiencing “a bit of overtesting to make sure our design has appropriate margin.”

New Technologies Analyze Brain Chemistry To Develop Treatments For Autism.

The Miami (FL) Herald  (8/22, Hidalgo) reported on new advances into the understanding of autism in which “new technologies” are used “to analyze brain chemistry, behavior and treatment models.” The article discussed ongoing research undertaken by the Autism and Neurodevelopment Program at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and at the University of Miami’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities program where researcher Lucina Q. Uddin, PhD, “just won a grant from the National Institutes of Health to observe brain dynamics, using new advances in neuroimaging, computer science and electrical engineering.”

Industry News

Apple Hires Former Tesla Driverless Car Expert.

Fortune  (8/21, Kokalitcheva) reported that Apple, which “has yet to acknowledge the rumors that it’s working on some sort of car,” has hired former senior engineer from Tesla, Jamie Carlson, according to a report from Reuters.

Engineering and Public Policy

WSJournal Analysis: Energy Innovation, Transition Play Increasing Role In Politics.

The Wall Street Journal  (8/22, C1, Subscription Publication) examines the role that energy innovation and transition plays in politics, noting that the big climate change conference in Paris in December is prompting more intense discussions about how quickly stakeholders can transition away from coal, oil, and natural gas.

NYTimes: States “Stepping Up” As Congress “Dawdles” On Road Repairs.

The New York Times  (8/23, Board, Subscription Publication) editorializes that “As the nation’s bridges and roads deteriorate and Congress dawdles over a serious solution, statehouse politicians have been stepping up at a surprising rate to make some difficult choices.” The Times denounces the “congressional procrastination” as “truly a disgrace,” although it asserts “Fortunately, states are showing the way” on developing innovative reforms to address the problem.

WPost: FAA Should Take Action Amid Dangerous Drone Encounters.

In an editorial, the Washington Post  (8/23) argues that since “reports of dangerous drone encounters are multiplying,” the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should “change” its approach toward hobbyists and commercial drone operators. The Post asserts the FAA “should require that drones sold to amateurs come with a lot more safeguards” and toughen penalties against “knowing law-breakers,” however “the government should loosen up” on commercial drone use.

California Clean Car Subsidy Called Handout To The Rich.

The Los Angeles Times  (8/24, Mcgreevy) reports that California’s subsidies for purchasers of electric and hybrid cars is being “criticized as a taxpayer handout to the wealthy,” since such vehicles are generally more expensive than those that run entirely on gasoline. State regulators are planning to restrict the subsidies to those who earn below a certain amount.

WSJournal: Methane Rules An Attempt To Hamstring Natural Gas Industry.

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (8/24, Subscription Publication) argues that the domestic boom in natural gas production is a rare economic bright spot, but as President Obama’s tenure nears an end, he is working to limit its upside by cracking down on the industry, particularly with his new methane rules.

Experts Increasingly Concerned About Long-Term Viability Of New Orleans.

In a 16,000-word feature, the Washington Post  (8/22, Mooney) reports that, “a decade after Hurricane Katrina,” New Orleans “is thriving, reassured by a new $14.5 billion complex of sea walls, levees, pump stations and outfall canals.” However, “in the long term, New Orleans’s safety depends on far more than walls.” Officials are increasingly concerned about “the long-term viability of a city, half of which is below sea level, in a world of rising oceans.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Former NASA Astronaut Promotes STEM Studies Among Native Americans.

The AP  (8/24) reports former NASA astronaut John Herrington, the first Native American to walk in outer space, is urging Native American students to develop an interest in STEM studies. According to the Rapid City Journal, Herrington has “met in Rapid City with members of the American Indian Institute for Innovation.” Currently the board chairman of the Rapid City-based education organization, Herrington says the institute works with Native American students to “improve their chances for success” in STEM fields.

Ohio Career And Technical Education Program Receive Mixed Grades.

The Mansfield (OH) News Journal  (8/23, Day) reports Ohio’s high school career and technical education programs received mixed evaluations on “the latest set of state report cards.” While some facilities like Madison Comprehensive High Schoool and Ashland County West-Holmes Career Center both received high marks, A’s and B’s, for their graduation rates, competency, and post-program placement, other schools received lower scores earning C’s and D’s.

Summer Math Camps Sponsored By Universities And Churches Help African-American Teens Learn Algebra, Prepare For College.

KQED-FM  San Francisco (8/23, Guzman-Lopez) reports the Summer Algebra Institute organized 18 math academies across the state of California aimed at improved the math skills and college enrollment prospects of African-American students. The program is funded by California State University and a group of African-American churches. One of the camps was held at West Angeles Church of God in Christ Youth Center in Los Angeles.

Students Help Build New STEM Center In Iowa, Earning Credit For Using STEM Skills In the Process.

The AP  (8/22, Hines) reports high school and college students worked with local businesses and Kirkwood Community College to build a new STEM Center in Tiffin, Iowa. The center is located at Clear Creek Amana Middle School and will offer STEM classes to students there starting this fall. Students who helped with the construction of the center are earning college credit for their efforts and contributions, which required the use of STEM skills.

Friday’s Lead Stories

Researchers: Global Warming Has Intensified California Drought.
ED Reports Sharp Uptick In Income-Based Student Loan Program.
Clemson Researchers Developing App For Early Detection Of Cyberbullying.
Cuomo Announces Manufacturers Moving To Utica, Creating Over 2,000 Jobs.
Raytheon Awarded $19.3 Million Contract Modification For LAV-AT Weapons Modernization.
CSMonitor Analysis: Obama Will Not Have Final Word On Arctic Drilling.
Gallup Finds Parents, Administrators Differ On Computer Science Programs.

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