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

Leading the News

Senate Republicans Say Congress Will Not Approve UN Climate Funding.

Reuters  (11/19, Volcovici) reports Senate Republican have warned that Congress will not approve the White House’s request for $500 million for the first US payment into a UN climate fund. Referring to President Obama’s upcoming trip to the Paris climate change summit, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said, “This president is going to go with no money.”

Senate Bill Would Qualify Carbon Capture Projects For Tax-Exempt Bonds. The New York Times  (11/19, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports Sens. Michael Bennet and Rob Portman will introduce a bill today that would qualify carbon capture projects “for tax-exempt private activity bonds, which helped clean up air pollution in the 1970s and 1980s.” Portman said that power plants “‘used some of these private-activity-type bonds’ to install equipment like ‘scrubbers and so on back in the day.’”

Lawsuit Against EPA Over Clean Power Plan Will Proceed. The Washington Times  (11/19, Wolfgang) reports under the headline “Lawsuit To Stop ‘War On Coal’ Could Derail Obama Environmental Agenda” that last week, a judge said Murray Energy’s lawsuit “to stop the Obama administration’s central climate change policy would move forward,” and ordered EPA Administrator McCarthy to be deposed. The lawsuit “challenging the EPA’s Clean Power Plan now has the full backing of 26 states, and some legal analysts say the case ultimately could derail the president’s environmental agenda.”

Smith Says NOAA Global Warming Study Was “Rushed To Publication.” The Washington Post  (11/19, Rein) reports in its “Federal Eye” blog that House Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith “opened another front in his war with federal climate researchers on Wednesday, saying a groundbreaking global warming study was ‘rushed to publication’ over the objections” of numerous National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists. In a letter to Commerce Secretary Pritzker, Smith “urged her to pressure NOAA to comply with his subpoena for internal communications.”

Kessler: Leave Climate Change Out Of Pension Funds. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (11/19, Kessler, Subscription Publication), former hedge-fund manager Andy Kessler is critical of the Labor Department for issuing Interpretive Bulletin 2015-01, which he says basically tells pension funds not to invest in anything that can cause or be hurt by climate change. Kessler says this program won’t work because stock prices are based on the collective view on the prospect of a company, and socially responsible investment funds are rarely successful. Kessler concludes that the debate over climate change should continue, but the government should keep it out of investing.

Higher Education

Midshipmen Win Cyber Security Event.

Military  (11/18) reports that a “team of three U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen claimed first place in the Cyber Policy Competition Nov. 14 during New York University’s 12th annual Cyber Security Awareness Week event.” The competition requires students to propose “public policy solutions to real-world computer security challenges.” The Naval Academy’s “cyber operations major is an interdisciplinary program that balances technical training with courses in areas such as policy, law, ethics, and social engineering.”

More Foreign Students Attending US Colleges.

NPR’s All Things Considered  (11/18) broadcast a segment on a new report from the Institute of International Education showing a 10% increase in the number of international students studying in the US last year. The report indicates that China and India are the biggest sources of international students, and that “one in five international students comes to the U.S. to study business and management. It’s tied with the other top field, engineering.”

Opinion: College Savings Plan Network Supports “Common Sense Measures” To Improve 529 Savings Accounts.

In an opinion piece in The Hill  (11/19, Lochner and Boozer) Betty Lochner and Young Boozer, the chair and vice-chair of the College Savings Plan Network, outline why the US should pass new legislation to ensure that 529 college savings plan remain as “affordable, effective and versatile as possible to ensure families have greater financial access to education in this country.” H.R. 529 and S. 335 “would allow college students to use 529 funds for computers” and other technology needed for higher education and would also allow students to repay funds to a 529 account within 60 days without penalty if they withdraw from a college class. Lochner and Boozer say these bills are “common sense measures” that will not be “costly to the government.”

Lawsuits By Private Lenders Over Student Loans Increased Over Past Two Years.

The AP  (11/19, Collins) reports private lenders are taking more borrowers to court over delinquent student loans during the past two years even though borrowers are not missing as many payments now as they did during the recession. Lawyers who represent borrowers say they have seen a steady increase in the number of lawsuits filed by private lenders.

Adrienne Minerick on Diversity in Chemical Engineering
ASEE’s Diversity Committee chair is interviewed by AIChE.

ASEE Membership Benefits
Our members say why ASEE membership is important to them professionally.

Research and Development

Microsoft Awards Grants To Research Augmented Reality To Colleges And Companies.

Campus Technology  (11/18, Meyer) reports the Microsoft HoloLens Academic Research Grant Program awarded a $100,000 grant to University of California Berkeley researchers to continue their work using augmented reality to allow people to control drones. The researchers at UC Berkeley have previously received grants from NASA and the Office of Naval Research. Microsoft also awarded grants to Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, Intel, and Virginia Tech with Clackamas Community College.

NSF Finds Federal Funding For University Research And Development Declined For Third Consecutive Year.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune  (11/19, Lipinski) highlights a new report by the National Science Foundation that found federal funding for research and development at institutions of higher education has fallen for the past three years. Current funding is now 11% below its peak during the 2011 fiscal year. US universities have increased spending on research and development by 5% over the past year to make up for some of the lost funds.

Budget Deal Could Put Science Back On World Stage.

In The Hill  (11/19, Lubell) “Congress Blog,” Michael Lubell, a professor at City College of the City University of New York and director of public affairs of the American Physical Society, writes that “the budget agreement Congress and the White House struck last month averted a fiscal cliff, but there’s ample cause for concern that American science might still be hanging over the precipice.” Lubell points out that the National Institutes of Health and other agencies have “all underwritten scientific advances that keep the American economy humming, secure our nation’s safety and provide the best diagnostic and treatment tools in medicine.” He says that without NIH-sponsored research, “the MRI, CT scanners and genomic-based pharmaceuticals would be little more than science fiction.” Lubell concludes that congressional members should use the budget deal to “reverse the decline in federal research funding…before it is too late.”

Northrop Grumman Developing Next-generation Shipboard Laser Weapon.

Military & Aerospace Electronics  (11/19, Keller) reports that Northrop Grumman scientists “are building a shipboard laser weapon prototype able to disable or destroy enemy fast attack boats, drones, and surveillance sensors.” The report says that the Office of Naval Research announced a $53.2 million contract to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems for the initial phase of the Solid State High Power Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) program. The article points out that “Northrop Grumman will do the work in Redondo Beach, Calif., and should finish by October 2016.”


UC Davis Study Finds Number Of Women On Tech Company Boards Slightly Increasing, But Racial Diversity Greatly Lagging.

The Christian Science Monitor  (11/18, Lewontin) reports a University of California Davis study found that the number of women holding board seats at technology hardware and software companies based in California is slightly higher than the number of women holding board seats at all companies in the state. The study examined the boards of California’s 400 largest public companies and found that women held 13.3% of all board seats, but held 13.8% of board seats at hardware companies and 15.5% of board seats at software companies. One of the study’s authors Ann Huff Stevens said, “Despite these signs of progress, the numbers of women in corporate leadership in the state continue to be disappointing.” The study found that the racial diversity of corporate boards is even lower with the vast majority of board seats held by white people.

Engineering and Public Policy

Congress Closes In On Highway Bill Passage.

The Washington Post  (11/19, Halsey) reports, “Capitol Hill was in a celebratory mood Wednesday as Congress moved closer to passage of the first long-term highway bill in a decade, but the moment was tempered by awareness that its patchwork funding falls short of the mark.” New House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said, “The funding approach laid out before us is no one’s first choice. We want to see a permanent solution to the Highway Trust Fund shortfall.”

TransCanada Withdraws Nebraska Keystone XL Application.

The Hill  (11/18, Henry) reported that n the wake of the President’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, developer TransCanada has withdrawn its request with the Nebraska Public Service Commission to build a portion of the pipeline through the state. TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said Wednesday that “As we carefully consider our options with regards to the project, we have withdrawn our application to the PSC,” adding, “We believe it is inappropriate to ask the Commission to continue to move forward on a process that has legally set time lines, while we continue to consider our next course of action.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Tennessee E-Learning Company Innovating STEM Education.

Nooga (TN)  (11/19, Morgan) reports Thinking Media is an e-learning business based in Chattanooga, Tennessee that “aims to help students sharpen STEM skills.” The company’s Learning Blade is “an online tool designed to generate interest in STEM applications for middle school students.” Thinking Media President Sheila Boyington says innovation in the e-learning business is about creation and that Chattanooga is a great place for a small creative business like hers. Boyingston says that her company developed Learning Blade with “teachers who are sometimes fearful of new technology” in mind and designed it so it could be easily integrated with lesson plans.

Indiana DOE Awards STEM Certification To Nine Schools At Fall Symposium.

The Michigan City (IN) News Dispatch  (11/19, Chambers) reports the Indiana DOE awarded “STEM certification” to nine schools at the Fall 2015 Indiana STEM Symposium in the state capital Indianapolis. One of the schools to receive the new certification is Lake Hills Elementary School in Michigan City, Indiana.

Opinion: Kentucky Teachers Support Next Generation Science Standards.

In an opinion piece in The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal  (11/18, Shelton) science teacher Tricia Shelton explains why Kentucky’s science teachers support the new Kentucky Academic Standards for Science, which are based on the Next Generation Science Standards. Shelton has been a science teacher for more than two decades and seen many science education initiatives, but she and her colleagues are embracing the new standards because they focus on the scientific process and experimentation rather than the “memorization of facts, worksheets, teacher lectures, and labs where everyone knows the expected, pre-planned outcome.” Shelton says science students will be focused on figuring out how the world works under the new standards.

Also in the News

Debate Stirring Over Whether ISIS Used Encryption To Plan Paris Attacks.

On its website in a video report, CNN  (11/17) reports authorities and officials have said that ISIS may have used encryption technology to plan the Paris terrorist attacks. Johns Hopkins University Professor Matthew Green, a cryptography expert, says that ISIS members may have used cell phone apps with encryption capabilities to plan the attacks and that such apps would not have left any record of the communication that took place.

Opinion: Encryption Should Not Be Blamed For ISIS Attacks. Tom Simonite, the San Francisco Bureau Chief of MIT Technology Review  (11/16, Simonite), authored an opinion piece criticizing those who have blamed encryption technology for the ISIS attacks. Simonite says authorities do not know how ISIS planned the attacks and that there is currently no evidence that encryption allowed the ISIS attacks to occur. Simonite also quotes a tweet from Professor Green who tweeted, “I’m kind of sick about the whole thing and hate to state the obvious. But no, shutting down WhatsApp will not stop ISIS. It just won’t.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

ED Says Corinthian Schools Misled Students.
Bill Clinton Will Speak At Michigan State University, New Member Of Global Initiative University.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Opens New Science Center.
Samsung Smartphones Lead Sales In Emerging Markets.
White House Threatens To Veto Senate Resolution On EPA Rule.
Scouts Camp Out At “Camp Sikorsky.”

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