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

Leading the News

Congressional Republicans Move To Set Up Votes Against Clean Power Plan.

The AP  (10/27, Daly) reports that Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky., filed resolutions on Monday opposing the Clean Power Plan and “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was expected to follow suit late Monday or Tuesday.” The challenges will set up votes “calculated to embarrass the Obama administration ahead of international climate talks in Paris,” although the maneuver has rarely successfully overturned an executive order.

Republican Sen. Ayotte Supports Clean Power Plan Ahead Of Reelection Fight. The Hill  (10/27, Cama) reports that Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), “facing a tough reelection fight,” came out in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation that seeks a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions. New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan seeks to challenge Ayotte and “would be seen as a top-notch challenger.” Super-PAC NextGen Climate’s New Hampshire director Mike Padmore said “Sen. Kelly Ayotte today recognized a simple political fact: New Hampshire voters overwhelmingly support policies like the Clean Power Plan,” but urged her to do more. The National Journal  (10/27, Subscription Publication) adds that Ayotte is the first Senate Republican to support the EPA’s rule and notes that the shift in position comes as congressional Republicans are “ramping up their legislative and messaging battle against the EPA rules.” The AP  (10/27) adds that Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen also voiced support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Politico  (10/26, Stokols) also reports.

Hickenlooper To Challenge Colorado AG Over Clean Power Plan Lawsuit. The Denver Post  (10/27, Paul) reports that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper “said Monday he will seek the state Supreme Court’s opinion on the legality of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s lawsuit to stop implementation of the Clean Power Plan.” Hickenlooper is concerned that Coffman’s lawsuit could interfere with the state’s ability to develop a compliance plan and “politicizes the state and amounts to her trying to derail the initiative,” the Post reports. “With (former) Attorney General (John) Suthers, we sat down pretty much every time any issue came up, and we worked through it,” Hickenlooper said, adding that Coffman did not consult him before filing the suit and that his office has not finalized how or when it will appeal to the state Supreme Court for clarification.

The AP  (10/27, Elliott) also reports.

Higher Education

Federal Government Receiving Comments About Proposal To Extend Foreign Student Visas For STEM Research.

The ComputerWorld  (10/27, Thibodeau) reports the federal government has received almost 3,000 comments concerning the recent proposal by the Obama Administration to extend the duration of visas for foreign students working on STEM research through the Optional Practical Training program. Most of the comments were supportive of the proposed change.

Law Schools Loosen Admissions Requirements.

The New York Times  (10/27, Olson, Subscription Publication) reports that law schools across the country are “admitting students with lesser qualifications, including those with a lower admissions test score,” as they struggle to “keep their classrooms full.” According to a new study by nonprofit advocacy group Law School Transparency, roughly one third of law schools had entering classes “with at least 25 percent of the class consisting of ‘at risk’ students, or those with law school admissions test scores of below 150.” The report suggests that these students have a significantly reduced chance of passing the bar, and notes that law schools are facing their lowest enrollment numbers in decades.

New College Admission Platform Sparks Controversy.

The New York Times  (10/26, Pappano, Subscription Publication) reports on the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success’ new college application platform, which is touted as a way to reduce stress and other perceived deficiencies of the college application process. The new system is intended to “make applications more reflective and in tune with how students organize and express themselves.” However, there has been substantial criticism of the plan, with opponents criticizing the elite nature of the schools and suggesting that students as young as 14 may not be ready for the stresses of the college application process.

From ASEE
October Prism Now Online – Members Only
Cover story – A sprawling telescope array has made South Africa a world leader in radio astronomy and produced a pipeline of specialized engineers.

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

Office Of Naval Research Awards Large Contract To Northrop Grumman To Continue Development Of Laser Weapons.

The SIGNAL Magazine  (10/27) reports the Office of Naval Research has awarded a $53 million contract, which could be worth as much as $91 million if all of its included options are exercised, to Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems Corp. to continue the Solid State High Power Laser Weapon System Demonstrator program. The program aims to develop lasers capable of defeating enemy vessels. The lasers’ ability to defeat small boats has already been demonstrated.

Industry News

Attorneys Jostle For Lead Position In Volkswagen Diesel Lawsuits.

The New York Times  (10/27, Meier, Subscription Publication) reports that the “first battle in the legal assault” on Volkswagen “is unfolding as plaintiffs’ lawyers jockey over where tens of thousands of claims should be heard and which lawyers will get the biggest piece of the action.” According to the Times, more than 350 lawsuits across the US have been filed “on behalf of consumers against Volkswagen over its rigged diesel vehicles,” and to “streamline the sprawling litigation,” a panel of federal judges “is expected to send those cases soon to a single court where a judge will appoint a small group of plaintiffs’ lawyers to steer the case.” While this approach has been used “dozens of times in mass lawsuits involving cars, drugs and other products,” the Times adds that “concern is growing among legal scholars that a small circle of law firms has come to dominate the process and that some settlements have benefited the lawyers more than their clients.”

Engineering and Public Policy

WPost: Announced Drone Rules Don’t Go Far Enough.

The Washington Post  (10/27) editorializes that the Administration’s recent announcement that “it will soon start requiring recreational drone owners to register their UAVs with the federal government…is not nearly enough.” To the Post, drones “should be required to carry transponders that are difficult to deactivate so that they can be seen as they enter restricted airspace and so that investigators can easily identify owners,” and “should also be required to carry ‘geo-fencing’ technology that renders drones incapable of flying where they are not supposed to go.”

Business Groups Challenge EPA Carbon Rule.

The Washington Times  (10/27, Richardson) reports that on Friday, the US Chamber of Commerce and 14 other business groups filed a lawsuit against the EPA challenging the “newly published rule that mandates a massive reduction in carbon emissions in the next 15 years,” and “followed up Monday with a press call with the National Association of Manufacturers and National Federation of Independent Business.” The challenge “parallels the lawsuit filed Friday by 24 states, represented primarily by attorneys general, who argue that the EPA has overstepped its authority by attempting a takeover of state power plants.” At the same time, “the pro-Obama group Americans United for Change released a digital ad campaign in favor of the Clean Power Plan, arguing that the 24 attorneys general have accepted $2.4 million in campaign contribution from the ‘Dirty Energy Sector.’”

The Hill  (10/27, Henry) reports the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy Karen Harbert on Monday “accused the Obama administration of pushing its Clean Power Plan now as a way to gain leverage at a December climate [change] conference in Paris.” Harbert stated, “In the administration’s own words, they want to march into Paris with the strongest hand possible, and implementing a transformation of the entire electric sector certainly gives one the appearance of a strong hand, albeit the fact that this is going to be litigated for a number of years. … There is no certainty going into Paris, with the transformation of the electric sector. Far from it.”

The Washington Examiner  (10/27) also offers coverage of this story.

White House Announces Grants To Advance Waste-To-Power Plants.

The Washington Examiner  (10/27) reports that “the White House is announcing $6 million in grants Monday to promote the use of a mix of garbage and/or animal feces to produce a renewable form of electricity to help fight global warming.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

NSF Awards $2 Million Grant To University Of Rochester STEM Teacher Training Program.

The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle  (10/26) reports the National Science Foundation awarded a $2 million grant to the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education in order to increase the number of qualified STEM teachers in Rochester School District. The Rochester (NY) Business Journal  (10/27) explains the grant will be used to support the professional development of teachers enrolled in the Robert Noyce Master Teaching Fellows Program. The program is a collaborate effort by the University of Rochester’s education and engineering schools, as well as the local school district and a local science museum. On their website, WHAM-TV  Rochester, NY (10/27) adds that those who complete the program will also be given an annual stipend of $10,000 while teaching for up to five years.

High School Offers Aviation Education.

The Fort Myers (FL) News-Press  (10/26, Ruane) reports that in Fort Myers, Paragon Flight Training and Evangelical Christian School are entering a partnership in aviation education for the fourth year. Beginning students in the program practice simulated flights on a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. By the end of their second year, student take the FAA’s written exam for private pilots. The article notes that the partnership is an example of a possible solution to the declining rate of certified pilots, according to the FAA.

CNS Donation Will Fund Robotics Education.

On its website, KFDA-TV  Amarillo, TX (10/26) reports that Consolidated Nuclear Security, the “managing and operating contractor of the U.S. Department of Energy” and NNSA’s Pantex plant, has made a $20,000 donation to Amarillo Independent School District’s Robotic Program. The gift “will become a part of AISD’s ‘lead the way,’ a nationally recognized pre-college engineering program.” Joe Papp, CNS Director of Mission Engineering, “said the donation ‘provides Pantex an opportunity to encourage the next generation of scientists, engineers and technical professionals.’”

Dallas Entrepreneur Creates Afterschool Program To Teach Children Robotics.

The AP  (10/27, Hall) reports Dallas entrepreneur Abid Abedi launched iCode, an after-school program that teaches children how to build and program robots. The program is structured like a karate studio with a progression of seven colored lanyards, in place of belts.

Arkansas Students Learn About Manufacturing At Event Sponsored By Tire Company.

The AP  (10/27, Williamison) reports about 800 eighth grade students in Texarkana, Arkansas participated in the Cooper Tire Manufacturing Experience at the Texarkana Convention Center. Participating students learned about manufacturing from Cooper Tire employees.

Group Of Oregon School Districts Apply For Grant To Improve Career And Technical Education.

The Daily Astorian (OR)  (10/26, Stratton) reports five school districts in Clatsop County, Oregon applied to the state DOE for a $312,000 Career Technical Education Revitalization Grant. The districts would use the grant to buy sophisticated technology such as 3D printers and virtual welding trainers, as well as training for teachers who could then teach students how to use the technology.

Monday’s Lead Stories

Over Two Dozen States File Lawsuit Against Clean Power Plan.
Democratic Senators Urge ED, IRS To Take Action Against For-Profit Colleges Converting To Non-Profits.
Opinion: Deployment Of Electric Weapons Dependent On Development Of Battery.
Momentum Builds For Energy Storage Industry.
WPost Analysis: Lobbyists Delaying Deadline For Train Safety Technology.
Nonprofit Working To Close Gender Gaps In STEM.

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