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

Leading the News

Clinton Comes Out Against Keystone.

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton announced that she was opposed to the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project. The coverage tended to focus on the fact that she had long avoided taking a stand on the controversial issue. USA Today  (9/23, Przybyla) reports that Clinton said at a town hall meeting in Des Moines, “I thought this would be decided by now, but it hasn’t been decided, and I feel now I’ve got a responsibility” to voters. According to Reuters  (9/22), Clinton added, “I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe is the distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change. Therefore, I oppose it.”

The AP  (9/23, Thomas, Lucey) reports that Clinton had “previously said she shouldn’t take a position on the issue, saying she didn’t want to interfere with the Obama administration’s deliberations,” but she had “expressed impatience in recent weeks over the drawn-out pipeline decision.” Politico  (9/22, Kami) says that Clinton’s “silence” on the project had “become a point of contention among Democrats and environmentalists.” Her “refusal” to take a position “has been criticized from both sides as a lack of leadership on an important issue to the party’s grassroots,” and Sen. Bernie Sanders had “criticized” her stand. The Washington Post  (9/23, Mufson) says that Clinton “has always struggled to rouse sustained enthusiasm from the far left of her party. Keystone became a symbol for some liberal leaders of Clinton’s perceived distance from their priorities.” The Washington Times  (9/23, Miller) reports that the issue “forced” Clinton “to choose between two powerful factions within the Democratic Party, environmentalists who oppose the project and labor unions who support it.”

On Fox News Special Report (9/22), Ed Henry reported that Clinton “was on the fence” about taking a position about the Keystone Pipeline “because she didn’t want to interfere with the White House decision” as a former Secretary of State, but she is now “coming out against Keystone” in an “effort to win the left.” David Muir noted on ABC World News (9/22, story 5, 0:20, Muir) that Clinton “says the project will not help in the fight against climate change.”

Higher Education

PwC Announces Student Loan Help For Employees, Joining Growing National Trend.

The Huffington Post  (9/23) reports PwC announced that beginning next July it would help its employees pay off their student loans by giving them up to $1,200 each year for six years. ED data shows that more Americans are falling behind on their student loans. This could be because “highly educated Americans are more likely to take jobs in low-paying industries than they were in 2000.” Reuters  (9/22, Rebell) reports student loan aid is an increasingly popular perk being offered by companies across the US. Almost 70% of college graduates have debt and almost 80% of people polled in a recent study said they would want the company they work for to help them pay their student loans. The Class of 2013 had an average debt of $28,400.

ITT Educational Services Shares Down After Announcement Of DOJ Investigation.

Reuters  (9/22, Pramanick) reports the share price of ITT Educational Services Inc. fell 8% on Tuesday, a day after the for-profit education company announced they were under investigation by the US Department of Justice for possibly violating the False Claims Act. ITT allegedly violated the ED’s Program Participation Agreement regulations by submitting false statements about its losses from student loans it had guaranteed.

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Research and Development

Researchers Design AI System That Can Nearly Match Average Math Score On SAT.

The Washington Post  (9/23, Feltman) reports the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the University of Washington have designed an AI system that can score an average score of 500 out of 800 on the SAT, close to the human average score of 513.

NSF Awards $500,000 Grant To RIT To Study Communication Of Deaf STEM Students.

The Rochester (NY) Business Journal  (9/23) reports the National Science Foundation awarded a $500,000 grant to researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology to explore how deaf and hearing-limited STEM students best communicate. Professor Michael Stinson says that traditional ways for deaf college students to communicate are designed well for lectures, but must be changed for more complex and interactive settings like a scientific laboratory.

DOE Grants OSU $2.5M For Solar Technology Testing.

The Eugene (OR) Register-Guard  (9/23) reports that the Department of Energy has granted Oregon State University (OSU) $2.5 million to help “field test their microchannel technology,” potentially “expanding the number of locations” that can use solar generation. The article notes that OSU’s technology “uses a system of extremely tiny channels that speeds up the heat transfer process and improves efficiency” for solar thermal generation, enabling power to be produced “more efficiently and at a lower cost.” For the project, the article adds that OSU is partnering with Sandia National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Lab, the National Energy Technology Lab, University of California, Davis, and ECOKAP Technologies.

The Modern Power Systems  (9/23) also highlights how the microchannel technology “pioneered” at OSU “could significantly improve the efficiency of solar thermal electricity production.” Kevin Drost, a retired OSU associate professor of mechanical engineering commented that the new technology “could open the door to a significant, 15 per cent higher efficiency for solar thermal technology.”

Industry News

Game Engine Backing Of HoloLens Seen As Good Sign.

Mike Brown writes for International Business Times  (9/22) that Microsoft’s HoloLens “made a live appearance Monday at a conference dedicated to the Unity cross-platform game engine. Pete Moss, lead engineer at Unity Technologies, took to the stage at Unite Boston 2015 to demonstrate some of the gaming capabilities of the kit.” Brown says that Unity’s “commitment to extending their cross-platform engine’s support to HoloLens is a good sign that third party developers” are “showing interest.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Government IT Chiefs Discuss Cyber Security After OPM Hack.

The Federal Times  (9/22, Cordell) reports on discussions between government agency IT chiefs following the recent OPM hack, which has the government “rethinking cybersecurity and how to apply it to digital operations.” Jim Quinn, Homeland Security lead system engineer for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program noted that the security issues are a result of “underinvesting” over a long time period in ways to address “relatively simple problems.” The Times notes that the IT chiefs “emphasized that so-called ‘soft target’ agencies that are not known to store classified data, like OPM, may be some of the most valuable targets to hackers.” According to Carlos Segarra, chief information security officer for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, “While North Korea and some of these other folks may be looking at the National Nuclear Security Administration, we’ve got every Tom, Dick and Harry with a computer down in their basement as a potential adversary.”

Volkswagen Apologizes For Falsified Emissions Test Results.

ABC World News (9/22, story 6, 1:55, Muir) reported that Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, offered a public apology “after confessing to rigging software to cheat on emission tests” involving 11 million cars worldwide and half a million in the US. ABC (Kerley) added that car owners “are worried about the value of their vehicles, and how they will be fixed,” and that “criminal investigators are looking into this matter.”

The CBS Evening News (9/22, story 4, 1:25, Pelley) reported that the Justice Department “is looking into criminal charges.” CBS (Van Cleave) added that Volkswagen’s US CEO Michael Horn “said what’s become painfully clear for the world’s largest automaker. ‘Our company was dishonest with the EPA, and the California air resources board. And with all of you.’” The company said “it is moving full speed towards finding a fix and has set aside more than seven billion to deal with the problem,” which is “about half a year’s profits,” but the firm is “facing up to 18 billion dollars in possible fines.”

NBC Nightly News (9/22, story 4, 2:05, Holt) reported that Volkswagen “is in full throttle apology gear, admitting it installed software in the diesel fuel models that allowed them to cheat on air pollution emissions tests and claiming they were selling an environmentally friendly car.” NBC (Williams) added that the software “was in about 480,000 diesels, 2009-2015 Jetta, Beetle and Golf and 2014 and 15 Passats and Audi A-3s.”

CBS Analysis Highlights Health Benefits Of Strict Auto Emissions Standards. With the cheating of Volkswagen on air quality standards in some diesel vehicles as a backdrop, the CBS Evening News (9/22, story 5, 1:25, Pelley) reported, “This is not a safety issue, the cars won’t crash. But there is a danger to health.” Looking at California’s strict air standards, CBS (Tracy) highlights the drop in pollution there, along with the health benefits.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Opinions Divided About Current Push To Teach More Children Programming.

In a Washington Post  (9/23, Basulto) opinion piece, Dominic Basulto, a New York City blogger, illustrates how governments across the country and around the world are creating education programs to teach children how to code computers in order to meet the increased demand for people with such skills. New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco have all introduced or will soon introduce programs like this. New York City’s “Computer Science For All” initiative will make computer science education accessible to students in all of the city’s public schools. Australia and the UK are both adding computer science to the elementary school curriculum.

More Coding In Schools Has Pros And Cons. In a Miami Herald  (9/22, Futterman) opinion piece, Laurie Futterman, a science teacher, reviews arguments from proponents and critics of the current push by more schools to teach programming to students. Futterman quotes advocates of such programs who emphasize that programming jobs are in high demand and programming is an easy, exciting way for children to become more interested in other STEM fields. Futterman also quotes critics of the current push who say elementary schools need to focus on teaching children more basic skills like reading and writing. Other critics say that leaders and educators are overestimating how many people will need programming skills in their future jobs by falsely equating the increased use of technology with an increased need to understand how it works.

Louisiana Group Working To Promote High-Skilled Technical Jobs With New Advertising Campaign Under Development.

The Baton Rouge (LA) Business Report  (9/22, Bass) reports the Louisiana Workforce Education Initiative is working to understand the state’s education and workforce needs. Louisiana has hired Roy Spence and his daughter Courtney Spence, both advertising executives, to help come up with a new messaging campaign to help promote “changing outdated public perceptions about high-demand, high-paying industrial careers that don’t require a four-year college degree.” The advertisers are working on a new media campaign to “recruit, inspire, education and prepare the next generation of Louisiana’s workforce.”

Nebraska Expanding Career And Technical Education Offerings.

KVNO-FM  Omaha, NE (9/22, Bohall) reports Nebraska is expanding its career and technical education offerings. The article highlights one engineering teacher Travis Ray who works at Lincoln Public Schools’ Career Academy. Ray shows his students what it’s really like to be an engineer by teaching them about programming, robotics, bridge design, and 3D printing. Nebraska DOE director for career education Rich Katt said, “We’re seeing a huge increase in the number of students that are taking career ed courses.” Nebraska schools are also working with local businesses to determine what skills are most in demand so that the curriculum can be adjusted accordingly.

More High Schools Offering Classes That Prepare Students For Careers Working With Bicycles.

US News & World Report  (9/21, Pannoni) reports more high schools are offering classes that teach students “how to fix and maintain bikes, as well as explore career opportunities in the cycling industry.” Students can learn practical skills to prepare them for careers in bicycle maintenance, production, marketing and design.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

DOJ Opens Criminal Probe Of VW’s Cheating On Emissions Tests.
California Board For Community Colleges Sends Report To ED Requesting Changes To Accreditation.
NSF Gives Kentucky Universities Grant For Nanotech Center.
Expert: Factories Are Home To Lucrative High-Tech Careers.
ATA Aerospace Lands $500M NASA Contract.
Report: Electric Vehicles Could Cut Emissions By 64 Percent.
Cybersecurity Competition Aims To Spread Awareness Among High School Students.

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