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

Leading the News

Editor’s Note
In yesterday’s First Bell in a story on Montana State University’s Engineering College reaching a record number of female faculty members, it was stated that Dr. Jennifer Brown’s hiring brought the school’s faculty to 22%. Dr. Brown was hired several years ago and along with other more recent hires, brought the staff to 22% female. We apologize for the inaccuracy.

Obama Touts Climate Pledges From 81 US Companies.

The President’s roundtable meeting with business leaders to discuss climate change, and the White House’s announcement that 68 additional companies have signed on to the Administration’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge, were ignored by the network news broadcasts Monday evening. Print and online coverage, however, are heavy, with reports casting the new corporate commitments – which bring the total to 81 – as a win for the President as he seeks to build support for an international climate change agreement. The Washington Times  (10/20, Wolfgang) notes that in remarks  following the meeting, the President said the growing number of business leaders who are “taking action on climate change” is proof “that it isn’t just ‘tree-huggers’ who care about the issue.”

Foreign Policy  (10/19, Francis) said the President “scored a big win on his plan to combat climate change” as he tries “to win support from the private sector for his plan ahead of a UN climate conference in France that gets underway November 30.” The President is “hoping backing from a broad array of companies will pressure delegates from almost 200 countries to come to some kind of an agreement to combat climate change.”

In a story highlighting pledges from Minnesota-based companies Best Buy, General Mills, and Target, meanwhile, the Minneapolis Star Tribune  (10/19, Spencer) reports that the President “praised commitments that have sometimes been a tough choice,” and The Guardian  (10/19) quotes the President as saying, “Considerations of climate change, energy efficiency, renewable energies are not only not contradictory to their bottom lines, but for these companies they are discovering that they can enhance their bottom lines.”

The Hill  (10/19, Cama) noted that by highlighting “corporate support for the talks, the White House hopes to contrast big businesses’ opinions with those of congressional Republicans.” USA Today  (10/19, Korte) reports that the President met Monday with “the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson, Intel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Hershey’s and Pacific Gas & Electric – and with some of the smaller companies that supply them, and with” 68 new commitments announced Monday “to support the Paris talks – and the countries that are involved in them – and to take specific steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” a total of “81 companies have now signed on to the ‘Act on Climate’ pledge, a part of a White House effort to bring a strong negotiating hand to the international climate talks in Paris next month.” USA Today adds that “just as important” as the commitments from the companies is the fact they are “putting a business-friendly face on his clean energy initiatives.”

Inhofe Blasts EPA, White House For Skipping Hearing. Fox News  (10/19, Shaw) reported on its website that Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman James Inhofe is “crying foul after the Environmental Protection Agency and a key White House office declined to take part in an upcoming hearing on the administration’s role in international climate negotiations.” While Tuesday’s hearing “was initially pitched as a joint hearing between the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC),” it is now “expected to be held only by the SFRC and to feature one witness – the Obama administration’s special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern.” According to GOP sources “Democrats in the SFRC objected to a joint hearing, while invitations to the EPA and White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) were both declined.” Inhofe, “voiced frustration at the response,” saying in a statement, “The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have made it extremely difficult to provide necessary and appropriate Congressional oversight to the president’s international climate negotiations.”

Higher Education

First Lady Announces Social Media Site To Promote College Preparation.

The Washington Post  (10/20, Svrluga) reports that the First Lady on Monday announced a new social media site called BetterMakeRoom  which promotes “studying and preparing for college.” The site, which is “being promoted by more than 20 business, media and nonprofit groups such as Mashable and Funny or Die,” is “the latest effort to try to reach President Obama’s goal of having the U.S. by 2020 once again lead the world in its proportion of students who go on to college.” The AP  (10/20) says the site “will be a place for students ages 14-19 to get information on such matters as signing up for the SAT and ACT exams, filling out federal financial aid forms and applying to college.” In addition, students will “be able to share stories about their goals, their progress and what’s inspiring them to go to college.”

The Detroit Free Press  (10/20) says Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh was in Washington to promote the site, “which is intended to draw attention to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative.” Harbaugh’s visit came on the heels of a “heartbreaking, last-second loss to Michigan State,” and when he “got some face time” with the President, the President told him “that he feels his pain.” The Detroit News  (10/20, Shepardson) also reports on Harbaugh’s visit with the President.

Montana State University Engineering College Has 22% Female Faculty.

The Bozeman (MT) Daily Chronicle  (10/19, Schontzler) reports Montana State University’s College of Engineering has hired a record number of female faculty members. The college’s faculty is now 22% female after hiring numerous faculty over recent years, like Jennifer Brown, an alumnus of the college, who went to school at a time when there were no female professors at the college.

ED Puts Limits On Aid For ITT Tech.

The AP  (10/20, Horwitz) reports that ED is “placing new limits on federal student aid administered by struggling for-profit college chain ITT Educational Services” because the firm was found to be “failing to comply with previous orders to improve its financial controls.” Because of its failures to take remedial action, the firm “will now be allowed to pay out federal education funds to students only after they have attended classes and been certified as eligible by a school representative.” The article reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell released a statement saying that “the government would take additional actions against ITT if it believed doing so would keep students safe.”

ITT Suspends Enrollment At Some Campuses. Inside Higher Ed  (10/19) reports that the firm is suspending “new student enrollment at several of its 135 campus locations,” and has “closed eight of its ITT Technical Institute locations during the last two years.” A spokeswoman for the firm cited “local market demands.”

Vanderbilt Study Points To High Cost Of Higher Education Regulation.

Inside Higher Ed  (10/19) reports that according to a new report from Vanderbilt University, US colleges “collectively spend an estimated $27 billion each year trying to comply with federal requirements.” The piece notes that the university’s recent assertion “that it spent some $11,000 per student on compliance costs” has been “widely panned as misleading,” adding that “many of the costs the university counted were affiliated with its role in medical education and treatment,” with much less associated with ED regulation.

Duncan Says ED Should Have Cracked Down On For-Profits Sooner.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (10/20) reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaking with reporters on Monday, said that he wishes ED had targeted bad actors in the for-profit college sector sooner than it did during his tenure. Duncan “twice said he wished he’d issued the ‘gainful employment’ rule earlier than in 2009.” The piece quotes him saying, “Getting to gainful earlier would have been the right thing to do.” Later, Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said that “earlier action on the rule would have compelled colleges in the for-profit sector to improve their programs — or close poorly performing ones.”

Heritage University Receiving $2.6 Million DOE Grant To Help Hispanic Students Pursue STEM Careers.

The Yakima (WA) Herald-Republic  (10/20, Guerrero) reports Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington will use a five-year, $2.6 million grant from the Department of Education to “prepare more Hispanic and low-income students” in STEM careers. New programs that will be added include a “pre-engineering associate degree, a biochemistry bachelor’s degree program, a hybrid community health certificate program,” and more.

The Best Part of ASEE Membership
Members weigh in in this short video from the Annual Conference.

Transforming Undergraduate Eduction in Engineering
Read the first report of this multi-phase project.

Research and Development

University Of Utah Chemist Receives $50,000 Grant To Help “Kick-Start” Female Research Careers.

The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune  (10/20, Knox) reports that University of Utah chemist Luisa Whittaker-Brooks received a $50,000 grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to continue her study of heat-conversion technology. The AAAS “wants to kick-start the research careers of female scientists,” and awarded grant to three other female chemists at US universities on Thursday. The award “addresses a critical need for more female chemists, association President Geraldine Richmond said in a statement.”

Virginia Tech Tests Self Driving Car On Interstate 395.

WDBJ-TV  Roanoke, VA (10/20, Dwyer) reports that self-driving cars developed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute drove for the first time on Interstate 395 on Monday. DOT Research and Technology Assistant Secretary Greg Winfree described the technology as “game changing and disruptive in a positive way.”

Dartmouth College Receives $925K Cybersecurity Grant.

The AP  (10/20) reports Dartmouth College has received almost “$1 million as part of a push to create and foster cyberattack-resistant systems for electric power and oil and gas industries.” An article by the Valley News reported the funds are “coming from the Cyber Resilient Energy Delivery Consortium as part of its $28.1 million effort.” The funding is from the Energy Department. The university “says the $925,000 grant will improve the protection of the electric grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure from cyber threats.”

Industry News

Nissan, Mitsubishi Agree To Extend Minicar Joint Venture.

Automotive Business Review  (10/19) reports that Nissan and Mitsubishi “have agreed to continue” their joint venture NMKV “to develop the next generation of current minicar models.” According to the pact, Nissan “will be involved in the design development and testing, while Mitsubishi will be responsible for the manufacturing of new vehicles at its Mizushima Plant.” The companies also plan to produce a minicar EV. Said Nissan COO Hiroto Saikawa, “Nissan’s deeper involvement in development operations for next generation minicars will enable the easier application of advanced safety and eco-friendly technologies in larger vehicles. This new opportunity will enable us to deliver even more competitive vehicles to consumers by enhancing our product and lineup, by strengthening our partnership and combining the expertise of both companies.”

AutoFreaks (MYS)  (10/19, Goh) says that the joint venture “will strengthen its management capabilities by adding a new department to enhance collaboration with engineering and manufacturing functions. Vehicle production is planned to continue at Mitsubishi’s Mizushima Plant.”

AutoIndustriya  (10/19) says that at the end of September, the partnership had sold “a combined total of 500,000 units.” Top Gear (PHL)  (10/19, Castillo) also reports.

BI Looks At Amazon’s “Religious Obsession” With Data.

Business Insider  (10/19, Kim) discusses Amazon’s “notorious” and “intense data-driven decision-making culture” that is pervasive throughout the whole company. Former Amazon engineer Guru Hariharan, who now runs Boomerang Commerce, talked about a “religious obsession over data analysis,” saying that “Managers had signs outside their offices that said, ‘In God we trust. The rest, bring me data.’” The company’s obsession for data analysis stems directly from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, BI adds. The piece mentions the NY Times article on the Amazon workplace in relation to data analysis, quoting Hariharan as saying that Amazon can be a “tough” place to work but that he enjoyed working for the company and “it was a great training ground.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Green Groups Decry Ozone Limit As Less Ambitious Than Bush-Era Rules.

E&E Publishing  (10/20) reports that “key green allies are delivering a scathing critique about the new ozone standard finalized by the Obama administration,” contending that fewer counties are likely to be named non-compliant under the Administration’s new rules than under rules set in 2008 under the George W. Bush Administration. The Sierra Club’s Terry McGuire called the rules, “the weakest option on the table,” adding that “It’s a step in the right direction, but this is not a huge lift for industry.”

Stern To Testify Before Senate Committee On Paris Climate Conference.

The Hill  (10/20, Cama, Henry) reports the US’s special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, “will testify before a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee panel about the Paris climate conference.” Stern is the “top climate negotiator” for the Obama Administration at the UN, “which will host the high-stakes climate conference in Paris later this year.” Stern is “expected to face a committee whose Republican majority is skeptical about the prospects for success at that conference.”

Representative Wants Bill Boosting Power Grid Cybersecurity.

The Hill  (10/20, Williams) reports that US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee “on Friday called for action on a bill bolstering power-grid cybersecurity,” after a DHS official said ISIL is attempting to “hack American electrical power companies.” Jackson Lee is quoted saying, “No solace should be taken in the fact that ISIS has been unsuccessful,” adding, “ISIS need only be successful once to have catastrophic impact on regional electricity supply.” DHS assistant secretary for infrastructure protection Caitlin Durkovich is quoted telling energy executives in an industry conference that ISIL “is beginning to perpetrate cyberattacks.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Teen Clockmaker Among Attendees At White House Astronomy Night.

Coverage of Monday evening’s White House Astronomy Night focuses mainly on President Obama’s invitation to Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas teenager who was arrested last month after a homemade clock he brought to school was mistaken for a bomb. The AP  (10/20, Freking) reports that Mohamed “capped a whirlwind month with a visit to the White House on Monday” after getting an invitation from the President for Astronomy Night. The President and Mohamed “met and chatted briefly during Monday night’s event. Earlier Monday, Ahmed said he was grateful for the president’s support and said he’s OK with the nickname that so many have given him over the past few weeks – ‘clock kid.’”

USA Today  (10/20, Korte) says Obama “hosted 300 students, 11 astronauts, and Bill Nye (the Science Guy) on the south lawn of the White House on a clear Monday night” for the second White House Astronomy Night, “and in the third row, among the students,” was Mohamed. Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest “tamped down expectations for a meeting.” He said, “After all, there are several hundred people who are planning to participate in tonight’s festivities on the South Lawn.”

The New York Times  (10/20, Harris, Subscription Publication) says Mohamed, “the 14-year-old Texas boy who became a cause célèbre after he was detained and handcuffed for taking a homemade clock to school, visited the White House,” while the Dallas Morning News  (10/20) headlines its report “Clockmaking Teen From Irving Meets Other Science Lovers, President At White House.” Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times  (10/20, Parsons) notes Obama’s invitation to Mohamed in the first line of its report, but focuses on the President’s “fascination with all things scientific.”

Texas School District Announces New STEM Program For Elementary School Students.

The Waxahachie (TX) Daily Light  (10/19, Moon) reports elementary school students in Waxahachie Independent School District in Texas will begin participating in Launch, a national STEM program provided by Project Lead the Way. The program will train teachers in STEM fields and allow elementary school students to develop STEM skills by working on projects.

San Francisco Expands Program That Teaches STEM, Sailing To Fourth Graders.

The San Francisco Examiner  (10/20, Dudnick) reports San Francisco Unified School District’s is expanding their Set Sail Learn program. The program teaches fourth grade students science and math through learning how to sail a boat on field trips to Treasure Island.

Montana STEMfest Exposes Students To STEM Careers.

The Ravalli (MT) Republic  (10/20, Szpaller) reports Missoula College collaborated with Montana education groups to sponsor STEMfest, a series of interactive presentations to expose Montana high school students to different STEM careers. The National Science Foundation, University of Montana, and VisionNet provided funding for the program.

Monday’s Lead Stories

New Rule Requires Drone Owners To Register With DOT.
Team From New Jersey College Wins Solar Decathlon.
Montana State University Launches Supercomputer For Research.
Lawmakers Preparing To Delay Rail Safety Deadline.
Florida Bill Would Allow Coding Courses Instead Of Foreign Language.

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