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

Leading the News

House Approves Energy Bill.

Reuters  (12/4, Gardner) reports the House on Thursday passed the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act on a 249-174 vote. The bill would repeal the ban on exports of crude oil, as well as speeding the permitting process for liquefied natural gas export facilities.

The Hill  (12/3, Henry) reports that the bill was approved despite “a veto threat from President Obama.” It includes “provisions to speed up the permitting process for pipelines and energy projects,” and “to expand liquefied natural gas exports and hydropower,” as well as measures to increase “energy efficiency and maintain security and reliability of the electricity grid.” Democrats accused Republicans of having “packed the final version with too many provisions they couldn’t support.”

Republican-Backed Energy Policy Bill Includes “Significant” Cyberdefense Provisions. The Hill  (12/3, Williams) reports that “a Republican-backed bill overhauling federal energy policy that passed the House on Thursday includes several significant provisions aimed at defending the nation’s power supply against cyberattacks.” Included in the legislation is a program called “Cyber Sense” that “would require the Department of Energy (DOE) to identify and promote cyber-secure products intended for use in the bulk-power system.” The bill also calls for DOE and electrical utilities to “create plans to keep power flowing in the event of a cyberattack.” The Hill says the measure “comes amid growing concerns of power grid vulnerability from both sides of the aisle.”

Higher Education

ED To Forgive $28 Million In Corinthian Student Loans.

The Washington Post  (12/3, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that beginning in December, ED “will forgive nearly $28 million in federal student loans for 1,312 former Corinthian Colleges students who say the defunct for-profit chain violated their rights.” This is ED’s “first major step” in resolving the defense-to-repayment claims, which are “a petition for the government to discharge federal loans on the grounds that a school used illegal or deceptive tactics in violation of state law to persuade students to borrow.” Despite this move, “advocates say the department is still taking too long.” However, “some policymakers worry that the government is on a path to losing billions of dollars in taxpayer money.” The Post reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell “said the department does not have the authority to grant blanket relief but is investigating whether inflated job placement rates were prevalent throughout Corinthian.” Mitchell is quoted saying, “We will continue to provide forgiveness to every student who has been similarly mistreated.”

The AP  (12/4, KERR) reports that the announcement brings the total number of Corinthian students whose debt is being forgiven to over 7,000, with a price tag exceeding $100 million. The piece reports that ED officials “have said the bailout of Corinthian students could potentially cost up to $3.2 billion.”

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Research and Development

More Young People Could Drive With Advent Of Autonomous Cars, Researchers Say.

Government Technology  (12/3) reports that researchers at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute published a study this week saying that the use of self-driving cars would increase young drivership by 10.6 percent. The research relied on survey results asking 18-39 year olds why they didn’t have driver’s licenses and many said autonomous vehicles would reverse that, while others said they would still prefer to use public transportation or that they would prefer to avoid costs associated with owning and maintaining a car.

International Research Team Creates Sponge To Help Clean Up Oil Spills.

Digital Trends  (12/1, Hodgkins) reports researchers from Drexel University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, and Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials in Australia collaborated to create “a revolutionary material designed to absorb oil like a sponge.” The material was originally created as a powder, but that was impractical to use in cleaning up an oil spill so the research team figured out how to convert the substance from a powder to a sponge. The researchers have tested the boron nitride-based sponge in the lab, but say the next step is testing it after an actual oil spill. Phys (UK)  (11/30) gives more background to the story. The research was partially funded by the Australian Research Council. Professor Ying Chen at Deakin University says that oil spills are a global problem, but particularly common in Australia off the coast and on the roadways.

Global Developments

Dutch Engineering Firm Sees Climate Change Opportunities In Cities.

Reuters  (12/3, Sterling) reports that Dutch engineering company Arcadis, which has serviced major infrastructure projects in cities including New York and New Orleans, aims to focus on 13 world urban centers threatened by too much or too little water. Arcadis sees project opportunities in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Global Director for Water and Cities John Batten said there is a growing recognition of the need for investment in the capital infrastructure to keep cities running through difficult climate events.

Industry News

Google Announces Large Clean Energy Purchase.

The Washington Post  (12/4, Mooney) reports that Google, in pursuit of its goal of “powering everything that it does with clean energy,” has been “signing global ‘power purchase agreements’ to buy clean energy, usually wind, in long term contracts.” Heretofore, Google “had purchased around 1.2 gigawatts of clean energy capacity around the world,” but in its “biggest move yet,” Google has announced  that it is “adding 842 megawatts (.842 gigawatts) of additional capacity, across a variety of projects, to bring its total to an impressive 2 gigawatts.”

The New York Times  (12/3, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports that Google’s “announcement follows a flurry of similar, though smaller, corporate purchases of renewable energy this year.” The moves have been influenced by falling green power prices and “increasing pressure from shareholders and customers to show direct action.” Also covering this story are Bloomberg News  (12/3, Eckhouse), the AP  (12/3, Liedtke), and Fortune  (12/3, Huddleston).

Engineering and Public Policy

WSJournal: FCC’s Internet Rule Over-Reaches.

The Wall Street Journal  (12/4, Subscription Publication) editorializes on the case of US Telecom Association v. FCC, which will be heard Friday in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals and will challenge the FCC’s rule classifying the Internet as a public utility. The Journal cites numerous congressional measures which it says that regulation violated, claiming it is one more example of the Administration over-reaching, and expresses hope that the court will rule against the FCC and allow for an unfettered Internet.

Duke Energy To Advance Oklahoma’s Frontier Wind Project.

The AP  (12/4) reports that Duke Energy announced Thursday that it will build a 200-megawatt wind farm in Kay County, Oklahoma. It expects to complete the farm’s 61 turbines and related infrastructure by the end of 2016. The Charlotte (NC) Business Journal  (12/4, Downey, Subscription Publication) adds that the Frontier Wind Project is among Duke Renewables’ largest wind projects and that when the project is complete, Duke Renewables will have more than 2,400 megawatts operating. Windpower Engineering & Development  (12/4, Froese) also reports on this story.

Elementary/Secondary Education

STEM Advocates Hail NCLB Replacement.

Liana Heitin writes at the Education Week  (12/4) “Curriculum Matters” blog that STEM advocates say legislation passed by the House this week to “replace the 14-year-old No Child Left Behind law gives states and districts more opportunities to use federal funds for science, technology, engineering, and math education.” The article quotes National Science Teachers Association Executive Director David Evans saying, “This bill is a vital and important step in addressing some of the serious challenges facing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education today in the U.S.”

Some Arts Schools Integrating STEM Lessons.

The New York Times  (12/4, Foster, Subscription Publication) reports that the Rye Arts Center in Rye, New York “has added classes for children as young as 8 in coding, 3-D printing, computer animation, robotics and even Minecraft.” At the school, and other schools across the country that have had a focus on such traditional arts as painting and sculpting, “digital arts are given the same weight as watercolors and clay-making.”

New York School Districts Gets $1.25 Million Grant And New Program Director To Boost STEM Education.

The Watertown (NY) Daily Times  (12/4, Moody) reports the Department of Defense’s Education Activity program awarded a $1.25 million grant to Watertown City Schools in New York to fund new technology classes to pare students for STEM careers. The district also recently hired a new STEM program director, Lisa J. Blank.

Opinion: Math Education Is A Political Matter.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times  (12/3, Phillips, Subscription Publication) Carnegie Mellon University history professor Christopher J. Phillips outlines the history of math education over the past century explaining why and how math is taught became a political matter. Phillips recounts how at the beginning of the Cold War there was a movement to teach math as a way to solve problems rather than just a bunch of facts to memorize, but that approach later fell out of favor as many wanted to go “back to basics.” Philips argues that math education is a political matter because it’s really “about who controlled intellectual training and about what forms of mental discipline should be promoted.”

Florida Students Learn About Programming Robots, STEM Careers.

The Orlando (FL) Sentinel  (12/3) reports elementary school students learned how to program robots at the Interservice/Industry Technology, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando and also took part in techPATH, a program that teaches students about STEM. The program was created by the Florida High Tech Corridor, and one of its primary aims is to expand the state’s STEM workforce. Hillsborough Community College’s Desh Bagley taught students how to program a robot to walk in a straight line. She said that she wants all her students to know they can be programmers and can pursue a STEM career if they want to.

Atlanta Tech Company Sponsoring National Contest To Improve How Kids Are Taught To Code.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (12/4, Pelfrey) reports Emerald Data Solutions President Ari Ioannides says that every child needs to learn how to program computers as much as they need to learn English, so the firm is sponsoring a national competition to come up with new ways to teach coding. Ioannides says, “Our goal is that all elementary school students in the United States will learn coding, and we’re providing the resources to get that done.”

Georgia College System Awards $10 Million In Grants To Start Three New Technical Colleges.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (12/4, Davis) reports the Technical College System of Georgia awarded $10 million in grants divided evenly among three new college and career academies across the state, Atlanta Technical College, Georgia Piedmont Technical College, and Albany Technical College. The grants will be matched with local funding to help start the schools.

Public Technical Schools Offer Career And Technical Education For High School Graduates At Bargain Prices.

The Miami Herald  (12/4, Veiga) reports public technical schools offer career and technical education at bargain prices compared to many of their for-profit peers. Lindsey Hopkins Technical College run by Miami-Dade County school district offers practical nursing certificates for a fraction of the price at competing for-profit schools. Vice Principal Octavia Williams said, “Our goal is to get people ready for work in the shortest amount of time.” Such schools are being praised as a cost-effective way to help close the skills gap preparing students for careers out of high school or qualifying them for better paying jobs as they complete a bachelor’s degree.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Printed 3-D Model Assists Surgeons In Separation Of Conjoined Twins.
Senators Criticize EDMC Deal.
NIH Awards Grants For Research On Robotic Devices.
Studies Predict Large Unmet Demand For Cybersecurity Professionals In The Near Future.
Cybersecurity Rules Said To Have Changed.
Washington University Professor Estimates Galactic Empire’s Debt From Star Wars Movies Would Be Around $913 Quintillion.
Washington School District Adds Weekly Hour Of Computer Science To Elementary School Curriculum.

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