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

Leading the News

Biden’s Appearance At Solar Conference Highlights Importance Of Federal Aid.

The Riverside (CA) Press Enterprise  (9/16) reports Vice President Joe Biden’s appearance at the Solar Power International conference in Anaheim on Wednesday, September 16, “underscores what solar backers say is the importance of federal help for the industry.”

Report: US Solar Faces 2017 Slump If Tax Incentive Expires. Bloomberg News  (9/15, Eckhouse) cited a new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance released Tuesday that warns the solar industry in the US “will slump in 2017 if Congress allows a key federal tax credit to lapse.” The report suggests that in 2017, “the market will plummet 70 percent” similar to “the swings of the U.S. wind market, which plunged 92 percent in 2013 after another incentive expired.”

Governors Raise Concerns Over DOE Wind Research Cuts.

Greenwire  (9/15, Koss, Subscription Publication) reports that with the fiscal year drawing to a close, “governors are registering a bipartisan complaint over funding cuts to wind research programs at the Energy Department that were included in a Senate appropriations bill.” The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which is chaired by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), “takes issue with a $61 million reduction for wind energy research from current funding levels that is contained in the $35.4 billion fiscal 2016 energy and water development spending bill approved in May.” The governors wrote to Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, and ranking member Barbara Mikulski said, “Like federal support for other renewable energy and fossil energy research, investment in developing onshore and offshore wind energy is vital to the nation’s energy security and international competitiveness.” The legislation “cuts funding for advanced wind component manufacturing, grid integration, atmospheric modeling and dealing with the effects on bird populations, according to the letter.”

Higher Education

Obama Says Opposing Views Should Be Voiced On College Campuses.

The Huffington Post  (9/15) reports that during his appearance at North High School in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday, President Obama “bemoaned what some critics call the ‘new political correctness’ at colleges and universities.” He said, “I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.”

Libby Nelson writes at Vox  (9/14) that the President said, “The purpose of college is not just…to transmit skills. It’s also to widen your horizons, to make you a better citizen, to help you to evaluate information, to help you make your way through the world, to help you be more creative.” Nelson says this “seemed like an implicit response to a frequent criticism of the administration’s higher education policy: that it defines the purpose of college too narrowly, and seeks to evaluate colleges and hold them accountable based on metrics that don’t show the full picture.”

Jonathan Chait of the Daily Intelligencer (NY)  (9/15) writes that “political correctness is most closely associated with campus life, because the academy is one of the few institutions in the United States where the left has the ability to impose its hegemony.” But “the political context of university life is very different from American politics as a whole.”

The Hill  (9/15, Byrnes), the Washington Post  (9/15), and the Chronicle of Higher Education  (9/15) also cover this story.

Study: Black, Hispanic Students More Likely To Choose Low-Paying Majors.

The Washington Post  (9/16, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that according to a new study from the advocacy group Young Invincibles, “African American and Hispanic students disproportionately earn more bachelors degrees in low-paying majors, putting them at higher risk for financial instability after graduation.” The study, based in part on ED data, “identified the highest-paying and lowest-paying majors” and “found African Americans are over-represented in four of the six lowest-paying fields; the same is true for Hispanic students in three of the six majors at the bottom of the income ladder.”

Analysis: 5 Of 10 Fastest-Growing Degree Programs Are STEM Fields.

The Oklahoman  (9/16) reports half of the 10 “fastest-growing college degree programs over the past five years” are in STEM fields, according to CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists research. The analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows the top program for growth was science technologies/technicians at 49 percent.

Bahls: Clinton’s Education Plan Limits Students’ Opportunities.

In the Washington Post  (9/16, Svrluga) “Grade Point” blog, Augustana College president Steven Bahls says Hillary Clinton’s “well intentioned” New College Compact “sends the wrong message” to lower income families and first-generation students by excluding private schools “from most of its provisions.” According to Bahls, “Channeling most of these students into public institutions effectively deprives them of the opportunity to explore the full range of possibilities within higher education.”

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Research and Development

Development Agency Awards $20 Million To Stony Brook University For Advanced Technology Center.

Newsday (NY)  (9/16, Schachter) reports Empire State Development awarded Stony Brook University $20 million “to create a new Center for Advanced Technology in Integrated Electric Energy Systems and to finance its existing Center for Biotechnology for another 10 years, the university announced Tuesday.” The focus of the new center will be to study the “smart grid” and protections against cyber threats.

Grant To Help Flint, Michigan Move Towards Becoming “Smart City.”

MLive (MI)  (9/16) reported a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant will help Flint, Michigan “mov[e] forward in becoming a ‘smart city.’” Flint is one of 15 communities in the country “getting an extra boost toward the goal of a next-generation high-speed internet throughout the city.” The Flint initiative is “led by Kettering University” and “has been part of the US Ignite program since 2012.” The US Ignite program received the $6 million grant.

Sandia To Engage Multiple Partners In Hydrogen Fuel Station Feasibility Study.

The Livermore (CA) Patch  (9/16, Hall) reports that Sandia National Laboratories is partnering with Red and White Fleet, the US coast Guard, and a number of other groups and government agencies in a feasibility study funded by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) that will “examine the technical, regulatory and economic aspects” of the world’s largest hydrogen refueling station that will “serve fuel cell electric cars, buses and fleet vehicles in addition to the ferry and other maritime vehicles.” Sandia’s project lead, mechanical engineer Joe Pratt noted, “We are involving so many stakeholders up front because if the feasibility study shows a ‘go’ we want to make sure the next phase has a rock-solid foundation,” adding, “We hope that the feasibility study, regardless of the outcome, can be useful to others nationally and around the world who are looking at hydrogen fuel cell vessels as clean energy alternatives.” The 1,106-word piece further details the project.

NASA Completes Tests On Two Green Propellant Options.

Popular Science  (9/15, Kratochwill) reports that NASA announced this week that it “completed testing on two different green propellant options.” Christopher Burnside, lead engineer for the testing of the LMP-103S propellant, said, “They performed quite well, providing performance at comparable levels to today’s hydrazine thrusters. It’s always great to put thrusters through the paces in an environment that simulates operational conditions.”

Phosphorene A Potential Alternative To Graphene.

Scientific American  (9/16, Ossola) reports that graphene “currently sits atop engineering’s list of wonder materials,” but it is not “a natural semiconductor.” Engineers are “now turning to a promising alternative with a similar structure: a single layer of black phosphorus atoms, called phosphorene.”

Industry News

Giant Robot Will Make Composite Parts For SLS.

Ann Thryft at the Design News  (9/15) “Engineering Materials” blog writes that the Marshall Space Flight Center now has “a giant composites-making robot” to develop “the biggest composite parts ever made for space vehicles like NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).” According to Thryft, Chauncey Wu, senior research engineer at Langley Research Center, said that the one at Marshall was “designed more as an operational robot to build large parts” than the similar ISAAC robot now at Langley. It’s first task will now be developing “large composite structures for a Technology Demonstration Mission for the SLS.”

GE, Boeing Blame Ex-Im Closure For Troubles, Spurring GOP “Infighting.”

ABC World News (9/15, story 11, 0:10, Muir) reported, “General Electric moving up to 500 US jobs overseas to Hungary, China and France at the expense of factories in South Carolina, Maine, New York and Houston.” The New York Times  (9/16, B1, Calmes, Subscription Publication) reports that on Tuesday, GE announced plans to move 500 jobs overseas, while Boeing “lost a second foreign satellite contract in weeks.” Both companies “attributed those developments to the Republican-led Congress’s failure to keep the federal Export-Import Bank open to help finance new deals.” The announcements “reignited” GOP “infighting” over whether to reauthorize the export credit agency. In a front-page story, the Wall Street Journal  (9/16, A1, Timiraos, Subscription Publication) similarly says that the GE move has reignited concerns over the ending of Ex-Im’s lending authority, and adds that other companies warned of similar moves if the bank doesn’t reopen.

Engineering and Public Policy

Ocean Thermal Demonstration Plant Shows Promise.

Yahoo! News  (9/16) reports that Hawaii-based Makai Ocean Engineering “has built the world’s largest power plant to harvest that energy from the ocean and convert it into electricity.” The 105-kilowatts ocean thermal energy conversion demonstration plant went online last month, Yahoo reports, adding that “the technology’s real promise may be in tropical countries” where the differential between deep ocean and surface temperatures is greatest.

White House Highlights State, Local Pledges To Limit Carbon Emissions.

The Washington Times  (9/16, Boyer, Wolfgang) reports that the Administration “is moving full-speed ahead with its climate change agenda.” On Tuesday, the White House “heralded commitments from several mayors and governors to limit carbon emissions in their respective cities and states,” as officials in Beijing and Guangzhou, China made similar commitments. Next week, the environment is “expected to be a key topic” when the President meets with Pope Francis.

DOE Continues Push For More Funding For Innovation That Can Help Combat Climate Change.

ClimateWire  (9/16, Subscription Publication) reports governments and companies “around the world are racing for improved energy storage, more efficient thermostats, cheaper solar cells and cleaner combustion, and with average temperatures rising, funding agencies are losing patience for whimsical curiosity-driven pursuits that strike out far more often than they get on base.” But it is “often the absent-minded professors, the laboratory mistakes or the unexpected results that completely change the game in a science, so the tension now is in whether to pursue incremental gains or swing for the fences.” The Energy Department “says it has been trying to do both, stemming from an ultimate goal to fight climate change.” DOE undersecretary for science and energy Lynn Orr said, “We really try to work across the full range of fundamental science all the way to energy applications.” ClimateWire notes “DOE has been clamoring for more funding for basic sciences, to little avail.” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said last month, “We are probably two or three times underfunded, especially in the early stages of the innovation pipeline. … We keep proposing to Congress to increase that.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Massachusetts Teacher Receives Grant For “Engineering Is Elementary” Curriculum Materials.

The Boston Globe  (9/16, Rattigan) reports the National Center for Technological Literacy at the Museum of Science in Boston and technology firm Oracle awarded a grant to Hilary Seager, a fourth-grade teacher at Dr. Elmer S. Bagnall Elementary School in Groveland, Massachusetts. The grant will be used to a purchase a “complete set of Engineering is Elementary curriculum materials for her classroom.” Local superintendent Jeffrey Mulqueen says Seager supported “the development and implementation of the Innovation School for Design & Engineering” at the Bagnall School.

Report Outlines How Rural Teachers Can Help Teach Kids STEM.

Education Week  (9/15, Mader) outlines a new report by nonprofit Education Northwest that provides four recommendations on how to prepare rural students for STEM careers. First, educators can help students learn STEM skills, e.g. data collection for a farmer. Second, rural schools can work together to offer online STEM courses. Third, rural schools can partner with technology companies to provide access to “authentic STEM projects.” Fourth, teachers can partner with graduate students for help with STEM lessons and projects.

Research: Students With Moderate Technology Use In School Perform Best On Exams.

NPR  (9/15) reported on its website that “a leading international education research group” found that “the more technology students use in school, the less progress they make on math and reading lessons.” According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) research, “students with moderate technology performed best on international exams.”

De Blasio Looks To Make Computer Science Mandatory In Public Schools.

The New York Times  (9/16, Taylor, Miller, Subscription Publication) reports that on Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to announce that “within 10 years all of the city’s public schools will be required to offer computer science to all students.” However, “meeting that goal will present major challenges, mostly in training enough teachers.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Google Acquires Car Manufacturing Bona Fides With Hire Of Former Hyundai Executive.
Obama Takes College Affordability Campaign To Des Moines High School.
Researchers Study Mechanical Forces Behind Knots.
Former Glass Engineer Who Left For Oculus Quietly Returns To Google.
Resolution Introduced In House To Impeach EPA Administrator.
Indiana Middle School Has STEAM Theme For The Year.

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