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

Leading the News

Media Analyses: State’s Rejection Of Keystone Review Suspension Likely Dooms Pipeline.

The State Department formally said Wednesday that it will not suspend its review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project as TransCanada requested earlier this week. While the White House did not comment Wednesday, media reports are portraying State’s decision as an indication that President Obama plans to rule on the project before he leaves office, almost certainly opting to kill the controversial pipeline.

The AP  (11/4, Daly) reports the State Department said “it is continuing a review” of the pipeline despite the request. Spokesman John Kirby said State “advised TransCanada on Wednesday of its decision to continue the review,” saying “there was no legal requirement for officials to suspend the review.” Reuters  (11/4, Volcovici) says the White House declined to comment.

The Washington Post  (11/5, Warrick) reports TransCanada said it “respected the decision and would ‘continue to demonstrate that Keystone XL is in the national interest of the United States.’” The statement continued, “We will continue to focus on building a pipeline that will put 2,200 Canadian construction workers and 9,000 in the United States to work, not to mention tens of thousands more on the full value chain that the State Department itself identified in its review.” The Omaha (NE) World-Herald  (11/5, Morton) also reports on TransCanada’s statement. Fuel Fix  (11/5, Dlouhy) says a Nebraska commission is evaluating “the proposed route through that state, a process that could take seven months to a year.”

On CNBC’s Closing Bell (11/4, 4:19 p.m. EST), CNBC’s Eamon Javers said, “All of this is about running out the clock on the end of the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration has signaled that it would like to make a decision, probably likely rejecting the Keystone pipeline before the end of President Obama’s term. The company obviously doesn’t want that to happen and would like to delay this regulatory procedure until a new administration comes in in Washington after the 2016 elections.” Fox News’ Special Report (11/4, Baier) briefly reported on the decision.

McClatchy  (11/5, Cockerham) reports environmental groups “cheered the decision.” Tiernan Sittenfeld of the League of Conservation Voters said, “We couldn’t agree more with the State Department’s decision. After such a long review process this was a ridiculous ploy from TransCanada. We’re confident that President Obama will build on his climate leadership once again by swiftly rejecting this dirty pipeline.”

Higher Education

Representatives Request Duncan Expand Federal Loan Forgiveness For All DOE Lab Employees.

The Pleasanton (CA) Weekly  (11/5, Bing) reports 16 Representatives wrote a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan requesting loan forgiveness for employees of privately-operated Department of Energy laboratories. Employees of Department of Energy laboratories that are operated by the federal government are already eligible for loan forgiveness, but the group of representatives want to expand eligibility for all Department of Energy laboratories.

CFPB Report Concludes Companies Hired By ED To Collect Student Loans Engaged In “Deceptive” Practices.

Inside Higher Ed  (11/4) highlights a report published by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau concerning ED’s use of private contractors to collect federal student loan payments. The report concluded that companies hired by ED for student loan collections made “misrepresentations” and “deceptive” statements to borrowers. The CFPB is “actively exploring new regulations on student loan servicers.”

Dozens Of CUNY Faculty Protesters Arrested For Blocking Entrance.

The New York Times  (11/5, Taylor, Subscription Publication) reports dozens of City University of New York faculty members were arrested for blocking an entrance to an administration building during a protest attended by hundreds of faculty and staff members demanding higher pay. Protesters carried signs with messages such as, “CUNY Needs a Raise” and “Stop the War on CUNY.”

Urban Institute Report Shows Large Variability Among States On Cost Of College.

The Washington Post  (11/5, Svrluga) highlights a recent Urban Institute report that found the amount students pay for college tuition varies tremendously among the states and the gap has increased during the past decade. The report found that while in-state tuition at public four-year colleges averaged $9,000 nationally, it was less than $5,000 in Wyoming and almost $15,000 in New Hampshire. The report also compared median incomes in different states to their in-state tuition rates and lots of other data about college attendance and price.

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

Study Casts New Light On Dust Bowl’s Impact On Soil.

Phys (UK)  (11/5) reports that a new study awaiting publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research–Biogeosciences could “change the way we view the health of our nation’s soil” and change how we view the impact of the Dust Bowl era. The paper, authored by University of Tennessee Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Thanos Papanicolaou, “focuses on modeling carbon budgets in agricultural areas.” Papinicolaou said the research “adds a new component that captures the transport of light soils enriched in organic matter along a slope, which most current models neglect.”

The Nature World News  (11/2) reports that the study asks whether “farming practices similar to those that led to the Dust Bowl” are still “negatively impacting our U.S. soil.” The Science World Report  (11/2) also runs a report on this study, saying that it indicates that “the ravages of the Dust Bowl didn’t end after the actual event.”

NSF Will Award Grants To Regional Big Data Hubs, UC Berkeley Named Western Hub.

The Daily Californian  (11/4, Pratt) reports the National Science Foundation will be awarding grants to “four regional big data hubs” that will share ideas, practices, and resources of data science to address regional issues. The NSF has selected UC Berkeley to be the western regional hub.

NSF, Military, MIT Fund Research To Develop Low-Cost Night-Vision Technology.

Tech Times  (11/4) reports the National Science Foundation, US military, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology funded a team of researchers working on developing a new type of thermal sensors that could make infrared vision technology cheaper. The researchers are hoping to create a low-cost night-vision device using silicon microelectromechanical systems.

Industry News

NASA Signs Partnership To Develop Ellington Airport’s Spaceport.

The Houston Chronicle  (11/5, Rumbaugh) reports that on Wednesday, NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) agreed to a partnership that will help Ellington Airport develop its commercial spaceport. Under the partnership, JSC will offer four-day classes that will teach the spaceport’s employees about “software, hardware and operational hazards.” JSC will also offer its expertise on engineering and mission control. The article notes that Ellington Airport received authorization from the FAA to develop a spaceport in June. Under the FAA’s licensing, the airport can “launch micro satellites, train astronauts, experiment with zero gravity and manufacture spacecraft.”

The AP  (11/5) adds that no timetable has been set for the development of the spaceport.

Engineering and Public Policy

Eighteen States Seek To Defend Clean Power Plan In Court.

The Hill  (11/5, Cama) reports 18 states have asked “to join in federal litigation to help the Obama administration defend” its Clean Power Plan. The states “plan to argue to federal judges” that the EPA “is both allowed and obligated to set limits on carbon dioxide pollution that comes from power plants.” The states are opposed by 26 states “that filed lawsuits challenging the rule in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, along with dozens of corporations and industry groups.” In a statement Wednesday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a critical step forward in responding to the threat of climate change.” The Washington Examiner  (11/5) reports that Connecticut, New York, California, Hawaii, Delaware, Maine, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Maryland, Minnesota, Mexico, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Washington Virginia and the District of Columbia “signed on to a motion filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in support” of the EPA plan. The AP  (11/5, Biesecker) and Reuters  (11/5, Rascoe) also provides coverage of this story.

Maryland AG Joins States In Support Of Clean Power Plan. The Baltimore Sun  (11/4) reports that Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh announced Wednesday that he is supporting 16 states, led by New York, in backing the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Gov. Larry Hogan’s spokesman Matthew Clack “stressed that Frosh, a Democrat, isn’t acting on behalf of Maryland’s Republican governor,” the Sun reports.

Calpine, Others To Intervene In Support Of Clean Power Plan. Fuel Fix (TX)  (11/4, Blum) reports that Calpine “will file court papers Thursday in support” of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan as it stands to benefit because the plan “overwhelmingly affects coal-fired power plants” while Calpine’s generation fleet is mostly natural gas plants. Fuel Fix reports that CEO Thad Hill told the Houston Chronicle in an interview Wednesday that Calpine will intervene on behalf of the EPA, a defendant in the lawsuit by Texas and 23 other states. Fuel Fix adds, “A handful of other power companies will join Calpine’s intervention in the case and any related lawsuits, Calpine confirmed.”

Senate Backs Resolution To Scrap EPA Clean Water Rules.

Over the objections from the White House the Senate voted 53-44 Wednesday for a “resolution of disapproval” that would, “scrap new federal rules to protect smaller streams, tributaries and wetlands from development and pollution,” the AP  (11/5, Jalonick) reports. The House has yet to vote on the measure, which the White House said it will veto. The Hill  (11/4, Henry) said Sen. Susan Collins was the only Republican to oppose the measure, adding that three Democrats voted for it.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch  (11/5) says the vote “was a foreshadowing of the final 14 months of Obama’s presidency, with the Republican Congress seeking every opportunity to push back against broad Obama initiatives whose resolutions may come only in court — and after Obama leaves office in 2017.”

EPA Accused Of Rigging Review Process For Alaska Mine.

The Washington Times  (11/5, Richardson) reports that the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on whether EPA officials “orchestrated an environmental assessment in concert with anti-mine groups to reach a predetermined outcome” in the agency’s review process in order to “block the Pebble Mine project in Alaska.” An “explosive” report by the Cohen Group says the “statements and actions of EPA officials raised ‘serious concerns’ about the agency’s objectivity and transparency.” Committee chairman Lamar Smith “said this week that the agency’s behavior on the Pebble Mine project ‘demonstrates how the EPA is truly out of control.’”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Girls, Minorities Still Underrepresented In AP Computer Science, According To College Board Data.

Education Week  (11/3, Heitin) reports that the “pool of test-takers for the Advanced Placement computer science exam is still overwhelmingly white and male.” College Board data revealed a 24 percent increase in students taking the AP computer science exam last year up to 46,000 US students, just 22 percent of which were female and 13 percent of which were underrepresented minorities. Georgia Tech senior research scientist Barbara Ericson further analyzed the data, finding that 10 states had fewer than 10 girls take the exam, including three states with no female test-takers and that 23 states had fewer than 10 African American test-takers, including nine states with none.

Tennessee Working To Expand Computer Science Education For All Students.

The Tennessean  (11/3, McGee) reports Tennessee is expanding their computer science education programs. Only 271 students in the whole sate took the Computer Science Advanced Placement exam earlier this year, but in two years 168 students from one high school in Nashville alone are expected to take the exam. The state is also working to increase the number of minority and female students who study computer science. The majority of students from RePublic High School in Nashville who are expected to take the AP exam in two years are racial minorities and the majority are female.

NSF Awards $3 Million Grant To Fund STEM Programs In Rural Libraries.

Education Week  (11/5, Mader) reports the National Science Foundation has awarded a $3 million grant to Dartmouth College and the Association of Rural and Small Libraries to “provide resources to rural librarians and libraries in an attempt to improve science-based learning opportunities for rural residents.” The project will provide STEM resources to more than 100 libraries across the country.

More Boston Schools Teaching Computer Science.

The Christian Science Monitor  (11/4, Lewontin) reports schools in Boston are increasingly teaching their students computer science skills. The article highlights Dearborn STEM Academy that teaches students programming skills. The school is also preparing an eleventh grade internship program that would match students with local technology firms. Schools like these are testing the notions that better STEM education and access to technology can reduce inequality in our education system.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Obama Rejects TransCanada Request To Postpone Keystone Decision Until After Election.
Analysis Looks At Role Of For-Profit Accreditors.
NSF Awards $5 Million Grant To University Of Michigan Team Researching Brain Circuits.
UK Spends $6.4 Million To Develop Infrastructure Monitoring, Repair Drones.
Larry Page Speaks At Fortune Magazine Forum About Innovation.
Analysis: Drone Delivery Faces Several Hurdles.
Pennsylvania Elementary School Awarded Grant To Encourage STEAM Events, Learning.

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