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

Leading the News

Energy Secretary To Tout Technology Advancements During Climate Talks.

E&E Publishing  (11/13) reports Energy Secretary Moniz is bringing a technological message “to Paris and isn’t giving up hope for an economywide system to address climate change within a decade.” At an event last week held by the DC Science Writers Association, “Moniz said he plans to emphasize cost reductions in clean energy technologies as the department’s ‘main theme’ heading into the U.N. climate conference in Paris.” Moniz will also serve as the chair of the International Energy Agency Ministerial in Paris this week “and host a technology showcase at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley to highlight the administration’s view that an ‘all of the above’ low-carbon strategy – aided by technology – is needed to address climate change.” Moniz said to reporters, “We’re really pushing this technology innovation theme as a central pathway. … This cost reduction as the fruit of innovation and deployment is the main theme that we, in this department at least, are carrying through the rest of this year to Paris.”

The Washington Examiner  (11/16) reports that officials in the Administration “often say that advances in technology that haven’t been invented will help limit emissions from fossil fuels in a cost-effective way.” On Friday, “Moniz said…the administration will focus on urging other countries to move quickly with policies that will enable the development of clean energy sources.” Moniz stated, “Our approach [at Paris] is going to be very technology focused.” The Globe and Mail (CAN)  (11/16, McCarthy) reports Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr will meet with Moniz and Pedro Joaquin Coldwell of Mexico, “on the sidelines of the International Energy Agency ministerial meeting this week.” The IEA has “confirmed the meeting will proceed, despite Friday’s terrorist attack that left at least 132 dead in the French capital.”

Higher Education

New Private Lender Offering Loans To Students Attending Select Boot Camps.

Bloomberg News  (11/15, Grant) reports a new private lender, Skills Fund, is beginning to vet the quality of coding boot camps and certificate programs, which currently have no accreditor. Skills Fund will only offer loans to students attending a select list of programs based on the quality of instruction and job placement rates. Skills Fund is based in Austin, Texas, and was founded by the former Colorado secretary of education Rick O’Donnell. Last month, ED announced a pilot program to lend money to alternative education courses like boot camps but only if they are partnered with a college or university.

For-Profit College System Expected To Pay Nearly $90 Million In Civil Settlement.

The New York Times  (11/16, Saul, Subscription Publication) reports that Education Management Corporation, the second-largest US for-profit college system, “is expected to agree to pay nearly $90 million to settle a case accusing it of compensating employees based on how many students they enrolled,” which is said to have encouraged “hyperaggressive boiler room tactics.” The civil settlement would be “the largest ever involving false claims made to the Department of Education.”

Opinion: Legislation, Market Structure Stacks Deck Against Humanities.

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education  (11/15), Steven Conn, a professor of history at Miami University, Ohio draws attention to the concern of low attendance in humanities courses at the collegiate level and argues that dual-enrollment policies, low Advanced Placement standards, and poorly vetted online courses are the primary barriers to healthy humanities programs in higher education.

Certificates Are Fastest-Growing Post-Secondary Credential.

The Detroit Free Press  (11/15, Zaniewski) reports “certificates are the fastest growing form of post-secondary credentials in the US.” Many community colleges offer career and technical education courses designed for students seeking professional certificates rather than college degrees. Many certificate programs only require a year of school and can help students obtain jobs in high-demand fields. The article shares statistics showing the growing popularity of certificate programs for high school students and high school graduates in Michigan.

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

USPCAS-E Announces Research Grants For Energy-specific Research.

The Frontier Post  (11/16) reports that the US-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy (USPCAS-E) at the “National University of Sciences and Technology, University of Engineering and Technology, and Arizona State University, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), have recently announced energy-specific research grants through a nationwide call for research proposals.” According to a recently released statement, the research grants will “provide academic researchers working with Pakistani industry to conduct independent energy-related research that will address the day-to-day energy challenges faced by Pakistanis.”

Converse College Earns National Institutes Of Health Funding To Expand Science Programs.

The Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal  (11/15, Fox) reports that the National Institutes of Health has awarded Converse College a five-year, $626,000 grant to fund “biomedical science research and student training.” The award “will also allow Converse to expand its research capabilities, make upgrades to various labs and lab equipment, and expand outreach to K-12 students across the Upstate.”

Researchers Studying Connected Cars, Bumble Bees.

Motherboard  (11/15, Cronin) reports that a “research grant from the National Science Foundation is devoting $300,000 to a project to study the ways that bumblebees navigate, and to apply that information to help cars keep safe for people.” Motherboard notes that the project is headed by researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and is examining the feasibility of “bumblebee-based connected vehicles.” Motherboard explains that bumblebees “are the perfect ideal for connected vehicles — they are social, exchanging information with one another, but then they act on that information independently, with their own goals.”

Workforce

Visa Among Top Companies Recruiting Indian Technical Graduates.

Covering recruitment by Western firms at Indian engineering colleges, the Economic Times (IND)  (11/13) reports schools “that aren’t part of the premier Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) system are reaping the benefits of an upbeat hiring scenario,” with major firms like Oracle, Amazon, and Cisco recruiting at BITS Pilani. “Top foreign companies on campus include global payments technology company Visa International offering a salary of $110,000,” the Economic Times explains. “Visa is focused on attracting talent from the best universities in India, including the non-IITs,” said Michael P Ross, Visa global head of human resources. “With an overall target of 1,000 employees at our Bangalore Technology Developer Centre, we hope (fresh) graduates will constitute approximately 50% of that target,” he explained. Visa, along with PayPal and Microsoft, was also among “super dream” companies – those offering more than Rs 10 lakh in compensation annually – at VIT University.

Global Developments

Software Regulation Makes UCAV International Law Difficult.

Flightglobal  (11/13, Stevenson) reported that software regulation is the lynchpin of unmanned combat air vehicle international law. Peace Research Institute of Oslo research fellow Nicholas Marsh said that “prohibiting or regulating weapons is easier – they are usually a physical object that can be identified and monitored,” adding, “when we’re looking at the difference between autonomous weapons or an earlier generation of weapons, the difference between them is in software,” which is harder to monitor. The UK’s use of BAE Systems’ Taranis UCAVs is mentioned in the piece.

Engineering and Public Policy

Sierra Club Urges Vulnerable Republican Senators To Back Clean Power Plan.

The Hill  (11/13, Henry) reported that the Sierra Club is encouraging “vulnerable senators” to back President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and cautioned it is “popular among voters who are heading out to the polls next year.” A poll sponsored by the group and conducted by Public Policy Polling in more than six states found “generally positive reviews among registered voters.” Republican senators from the polled states, including Maine, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia and Iowa, who are seeking re-election are “seen as vulnerable.”

Colorado Disputes EPA Claim Of State Authorization For Gold King Clean-Up.

The Hill  (11/13, Cama) reported that officials from Colorado have challenged the EPA’s “account of the state’s role in the August mine waste spill that the EPA caused.” The EPA has claimed that waste clean up at the Gold King Mine was approved by the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, which Mike King, Colorado’s natural resource director, denied. King said “no one at DRMS directed any work at Gold King, nor did any DRMS personnel approve or disapprove any of the work EPA was conducting there.”

Experts Opine On Ending The Renewable Fuel Standard.

In a 1,379-word piece in the Wall Street Journal  (11/16, Subscription Publication), Robert Bryce at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and former director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the EPA Margo Oge express opposing views on the ethanol mandate. Bryce writes that the mandate costs the average driver about $47 a year or $10 billion a year nationwide. Bryce adds that ethanol emits 20 percent more carbon per unit of energy than standard gasoline, and as much as 70 percent in one study, and has only displaced about 600,000 bpd of oil while consuming 40 percent of corn output. Oge writes that the Renewable Fuel Standard encourages the development of advanced biofuels made from cellulosic feedstock which include non-edible farm production waste. Oge argues that ethanol as a fuel additive is a fully integrated industry standard that would not end with the removal of the RFS, but would serve to slow development of the advanced biofuels.

AP Analysis: Coal To Remain Important Player In Electricity Production Globally.

Under the headline “Coal Not Going Away Anytime Soon Despite Renewables Push,” the AP  (11/16, Watt) surveys the energy landscape ahead of the Paris climate talks. While demand for coal is plateauing, according to a recent IEEFA report, it “will remain a key energy source for decades, no matter how many billions of dollars of investment go into cleaner energy like wind and solar,” says the AP. Xizhou Zhou, chief China analyst for IHS Energy, explained that in many areas of the developing world it will remain the cheapest way to produce electricity.

Differing Opinions On Waste-To-Energy Projects Expressed.

In a 1,198-word piece in the Wall Street Journal  (11/16, Subscription Publication), Nickolas Themelis at Columbia University and Jeffrey Morris of Sound Resource Management Group write respectively on the benefits and drawbacks of waste-to-energy projects. Themelis writes that waste-to-energy projects conserve land, preserve non-renewable energy resources, and have comparatively low dioxin emission versus landfills which lack pollution controls. Themelis also points to EPA and academic studies which suggest that the diversion of one ton of municipal solid waste from landfills to waste-burning plants reduces greenhouse-gas emissions by about a half-ton per ton of waste. Taking an opposing view, Morris writes that waste-to-energy plants emit 1.5 times more carbon than coal per kWh, burn garbage inefficiently compared to other fuels, and are more expensive than landfills. Morris also writes that modern landfills capture methane for power and that many studies comparing the two option assume landfills don’t.

Experts Consider Implications Of End To Solar Tax Credit.

Amit Ronen at George Washington University and John Farrell at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance write in the Wall Street Journal  (11/16, Subscription Publication) about the impacts of the expiration of a Federal tax credit for solar for residential customers and a reduction for commercial customers. Ronen writes that financiers, not developers, will absorb half of the impact of reduced tax credits, cooling investment interest in solar and making it less accessible on the residential side. Ronen cautions against an abrupt and premature decrease. Farrell writes that the solar sector is well positioned to stand without incentives, citing a Bloomberg estimate that solar capacity will quadruple without incentives. Farrell suggests that demand will remain robust and that customers will turn to credit markets for financing.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Voya Financial Funds 3-D Printer For California Fifth-Grade Science Teacher.

The Chino (CA) Champion  (11/14, Keckeisen) reported on Jason Davis, a fifth-grade teacher at Chaparral Elementary School who has transformed his classroom into a “research center so that students will learn the STEM concepts of science, technology, engineering and mathematics through robots.” With the help of parent donations, he has “purchased six robotics kits, six snap circuits and goggles that allow the pilot, through a webcam, to control the robot from a first person view.” Davis said he would like his class to work with 3-D printing in the future. He submitted a grant application to Voya Financial earlier this year, and in October was awarded a $2,000 to purchase a 3-D printer and materials.

Michigan High School Hosts All-Female Robotics Competition.

On its website, WDIV-TV  Detroit (11/14, Mann) reports Bloomfield Hills High School in Michigan hosted a FIRST Robotics Competition for 32 all-female high school robotics teams. The competition aims to “recruit young female engineers” and encourage “high school girls to take on technical and leadership roles in a competitive environment.”

University Of Akron Hosts Event To Promote Women Entering STEM Fields.

The Akron (OH) Beacon Journal  (11/14, Heldenfels) reports the University of Akron’s Women in Engineering Program hosted the fourth annual “Inquire! Innovate! Invent” event aimed at educating and inspiring girls to enter STEM fields. Almost 200 middle school and high school students attended the event where they were able to question female inventors and take part in hands-on exercises to learn more about STEM skills and projects.

Hungarian Officials Visit Virginia School District To Learn More About “Maker Curriculum.”

The Charlottesville (VA) Daily Progress  (11/14, Bragg) reports three officials from Hungary visited schools in Albemarle County, Virginia to learn more about the district’s “maker curriculum”, which focuses on students creating things with their own hands and in groups rather than more traditional lectures and lessons with individual assessments. The officials are hoping to implement a similar curriculum in Hungary.

Friday’s Lead Stories

Silicon Valley Consultancy Proposes New Coding Boot Camp Accreditation Model.
Murray Bill Would Ease Financial Aid Rules For Homeless Students.
University Of Texas Researchers Developing Positron Beam Testing Facility.
Chinese Scientists Create Ultra-Thin Radar Absorbing Material.
Cuomo Rejects Proposed Natural Gas Project.
Latino Youth Summit In Washington DC Includes Latino Student Science Fair.

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