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

Leading the News

DOE IG Says Solyndra Misrepresented Facts To Secure Federal Loan.

The AP  (8/27, Freking) reports that a four-year investigation by the Energy Department Inspector General has concluded that Solyndra officials “misrepresented facts and omitted key information in their efforts to get a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government.” The IG report read in part, “In our view, the investigative record suggests that the actions of certain Solyndra officials were, at best, reckless and irresponsible or, at worst, an orchestrated effort to knowingly and intentionally deceive and mislead the department.”

The Washington Times  (8/27, Dinan, Howell) reports that the report said the Administration “may have cut corners in fully vetting the project because of ‘political pressure’ from top Democrats and Solyndra itself.” Bloomberg Politics  (8/26, Snyder) reports DOE spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said in a statement that the “findings are ‘consistent with the facts’ already known.”

The Hill  (8/27, Cama) reports that “the deceptions included an overstated 2009 report from the company claiming to have $2.2 billion in firm contracts for solar panel sales.” The Washington Post  (8/27, Leonnig) writes that “behind the scenes, investigators found, Solyndra was struggling with customers who were balking at the high panel prices, arranging secret side deals to pay discounted prices and refusing to buy as many panels as they once promised.”

Higher Education

Federal Judge Approves Corinthian Liquidation Plan.

The Wall Street Journal  (8/27, Gleason, Subscription Publication) reports that US Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Carey has approved a plan for Corinthian Colleges Inc. to complete the liquidation of its assets, noting this essentially closes the firm’s bankruptcy proceedings. The article touches on ED’s involvement with the firm’s closure and with efforts to provide relief for former students facing heavy student loan debt.

WPost Voices Support For Administration’s Plan For Prisoner Pell Grants.

In an editorial, the Washington Post  (8/27) urges Congress to get behind the Administration’s “plans for a pilot program to award limited numbers of inmates Pell grants to take college courses behind bars.” The experimental program “will temporarily allow federal grants to be used to cover college costs for certain prisoners” with the emphasis on prisoners “eligible for release within the next five years.” The Post notes that studies show that “prisoner education is cost-effective in reducing recidivism; people released from prison with knowledge and skills have a far better chance of becoming productive members of their communities than those without them.”

Opinion: University Administrators Need To Be Better Financial Planners AsState Funding Decreases.

In a Wall Street Journal  (8/27, Benson, Subscription Publication) opinion piece, University of Colorado president Bruce D. Benson explains how he has cut millions of dollars from the university budget since he took over as president in March 2008. Benson explains that state funding for higher education has dried up, and that university administrators are responsible for making their institutions more financially efficient.

Obituary: Computer Science Education Pioneer Dies At 83.

The New York Times  (8/27, Lohr, Subscription Publication) obituary for Joseph F. Traub tells the story of how Traub, a physicist, became a computer scientist and later an advocate for computer science education in universities across the nation. Traub entered the field of computer science early on during the 1950’s when it was not well respected by other scientists, but Traub helped change that image by establishing some of the strongest computer science departments at universities across the country including those at Carnegie Mellon University and Columbia University.

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

Brown Professor Researching New Material For Solar Panels.

The Providence (RI) Journal  (8/25, Kuffner) reports Professor Nitin Padture of Brown University is researching a new material, perovskites, that could potentially replace silicon in solar panels. Padture is a professor of materials engineering and believes the crystal structures in perovskites could be made cheaply and easily using a process patented by Padture. The material’s flexibility would also expand the range of spaces that solar cells could be installed. WLNE-TV  Providence, RI (8/27) also covers this story.

NSF Grant Will Help Researchers Predict Wildfires In Northwest.

The AP  (8/26) reported the National Science Foundation awarded a $2.8 million grant to researchers at the University of Idaho and Washington State University to study where “severe wildfires are likely to occur in the Northwest.” Researchers will use models to predict “where fires will burn the hottest and cause the most destruction.”

Experts Say Planetary Protection Must Be Strong On Mars 2020 Mission.

SPACE  (8/26, Redd) reports that during the Astrobiology Science Conference back in June, advocates, such as Penelope Boston, co-founder of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute, called for new ways to ensure spacecraft do not bring Earth microbes to Mars, “including more planetary protection-compatible materials and electronics.” John Rummel of East Carolina University NASA’s former planetary protection officer, who serves with Boston on NASA’s Planetary Protection Subcommittee, also thought that spacecraft designers could do more thermal testing than they are currently comfortable with because the oil industry shows that sensitive equipment can perform at high temperatures. According to the article, both agreed that planetary project needs to be “a big priority for the people planning NASA’s sample-collecting Mars 2020 rover and other future missions.”

New Research Uses Quantum Dots To Turn Windows In Photovoltaic Panels.

John Timmer, in a piece for Ars Technica  (8/27), says that quantum dots may hold the key to turning windows into photovoltaic energy sources, according to new research. The new hardware “is filled with a diffuse cloud of quantum dots that absorb almost all of the solar spectrum.”


NSF Grant Will Help Train Cybersecurity Professionals.

The Hill  (8/27, Williams) reports the “National Science Foundation has awarded New York’s Pace University a $2.5 million grant to train young cybersecurity professionals.” The grant will support several students each year in order to address the “dearth of qualified cybersecurity professionals across both the private and the public sectors.”

Analysis: Veterans May Help Solve Manufacturing Skills Gap.

The Strategic Sourceror  (8/27) notes that while the manufacturing industry has “been targeting school-aged young adults” to fill the skills gap that the Manufacturing Institute has reported will result in 2 million unfilled manufacturing positions, companies may want to consider veterans who “are already trained in the science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields.” The piece highlights the STEM-related training the military men and women receive during their service and the benefits that both the companies and the veterans receive through employment.

Engineering and Public Policy

Environmental Groups May Sue EPA For Not Implementing Fracking Wastewater Rules.

The Huffington Post  (8/26, Sheppard) reports that a group of environmental organizations including the Environmental Integrity Project and the Natural Resources Defense Council is threatening to sue to EPA “for not implementing new regulations on the disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations.”

Wisconsin Counties Would Violate Proposed Ground-Level Ozone Rules. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (8/27, Bergquist, Content) reports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “is expected to soon unveil new rules that would require reductions of ground-level ozone.” The Sentinel says the impact on southern Wisconsin is that “many counties currently in compliance” with the present standard “would likely violate a more stringent” requirement. Wisconsin became the third state, according to the Sentinel, where the National Association of Manufacturers is running ads that say the new law would “stifle the economy and kill millions of jobs.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Nevada Governor Appoints New Director Of Science, Innovation And Technology Office.

The AP  (8/27) reports the Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has appointed Brian Mitchell to be the new director of the Governor’s Office of Science, Innovation and Technology. The new director will help K-12 schools and colleges improve STEM education so that Nevada students will be prepared for the high-tech economy.

Oklahoma Launches New Online Career Development Education System.

The Tulsa (OK) World  (8/27) reports Oklahoma has launched the “OK Career Guide, a new statewide career development education system.” The online tool “offers users new ways to explore careers, pathways and educational opportunities.”

Elementary School Teacher Excited To Pass On Space Camp STEM Lessons.

Delaware Public Media  (8/26, Hoffman) reports that Jenny Rovner of Wilson Elementary School will pass on to her students the “cutting edge STEM techniques” she learned at an educational camp at the US Space and Rocket Center this summer. Rovner reportedly “can’t wait” for the chance to show off the new lessons.

Also in the News

NSPE Names David D’Amico To Northeast Region Board of Directors.

The Lincoln (RI) Valley Breeze  (8/25) reports that the National Society of Professional Engineers has named David D’Amico, a “professional engineer and principal with the firm of D’Amico Engineering Technology Inc. in North Providence,” to a two-year term as the group’s “board of directors representing the Northeast Region.” The article details D’Amico’s accomplishments in Rhode Island where he is “recognized across the state for his prominence in his field.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Uber Announces Partnership With University Of Arizona For Driverless Car Research.
Many High School Students Supplementing Studies With MOOCs.
Raytheon Receives $65.1 Million For Navy’s Over-The-Horizon Radar.
Smith Criticizes EPA For Missing Deadline On Turning Over Gold King Mine Spill Documents.
New York School Sponsored By IBM Aims To Help Minority Students Start Technology Careers.

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