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

Leading the News

Amazon Announces Availability Of First Dash Replenishment Devices.

Amazon’s announcement  (1/20) on Tuesday about the expansion of Dash Replenishment Service received widespread coverage in business and tech publications as well as on local television. Coverage was generally positive, though Kelly Evans expressed some concerns about cybersecurity on CNBC’s Closing Bell  (1/19).

Bloomberg News  (1/19, Soper) reports select Brother printers and GE dishwashers are some of the first products to incorporate Amazon’s Dash Replenishment Service program. The devices have sensors that detect when supplies are getting low and automatically reorder them through Amazon. DRS is part of “Amazon’s latest push toward speed and convenience,” as it prevents customers from having to make trip to the store. Bloomberg adds that smart appliances help give manufacturers a competitive advantage, while automatic delivery helps “Amazon grab a greater share of their customer’s shopping cart.” Mashable  (1/19, Tan) adds that 45 Brother printer models will be compatible with DRS.

USA Today  (1/19, Weise) reports Brother printers’ integration with DRS went live on Tuesday, while the DRS support for GE’s washers will be available later this month. The Gmate SMART blood glucose meter, which automatically orders more test strips from Amazon, will also support DRS later this month. The piece adds that DRS “is even more automatic than” the washer Whirpool unveiled at CES earlier this month, because unlike the Whirplool products, these new devices don’t prompt users to reorder supplies but are instead “set-and-forget.” Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said Amazon is “trying to make buying household consumables as seamless and frictionless as possible.”

Fortune  (1/19, Higginbotham) said that although Amazon’s Dash Buttons “stole the show” when they were introduced last March, DRS “was the more intriguing offering,” and the company “kicked the program up several notches” on Tuesday. Offering people “a frictionless way to replace consumables is an excellent way to lock people into Amazon’s ordering system, deliver value to the product’s manufacturer and keep customers happy,” Fortune adds.

Higher Education

Obama Administration Calls For Pell Grant Expansion.

The Washington Post  (1/19, Anderson) reports the Obama Administration is proposing an expansion of the Pell grant program in an effort to give needy students “new incentives to take a full schedule of courses year-round in an effort to boost graduation rates.” The plan would allow three dispersals per year instead of two, the Post reports, saying “the administration estimated that the proposal would help nearly 700,000 students in the coming year.” The Post quotes Education Secretary John King saying, “We look forward to working with Congress to make these proposals a reality.” Meanwhile, Under Secretary Ted Mitchell “told officials Tuesday that money is an overriding concern for students,” saying, “That resonated with the group, and I know it resonates with students around the country.”

Andrew Ujifusa writes at the Education Week  (1/19) “Politics K-12” blog that the plan consists of two proposals “designed to ensure that the federal higher education loan program helps more students obtain college degrees more quickly.” He writes, however, that it “is pretty unclear” whether the proposals will make it into the Federal budget. In addition to the plan for a third dispersal per year, the “‘On-Track Pell Bonus’ plan would lift the cap on the maximum Pell Grant award by $300 for students who take at least 15 credits per academic semester.” Ujifusa writes that ED says the combined programs would cost some $2 billion dollars in FY2017, though “it’s very questionable whether the proposals will get traction in Congress.”

The AP  (1/19, Kerr) reports that the gist of the proposals is to promote on-time graduation by giving students “money to attend classes year-round and reward them for taking more credits.” The AP quotes King saying, “These two new Pell proposals will help students stay on track to finish college on time or faster by allowing students to access additional Pell aid,” and reports that he “said college completion for students is his priority this year.” The NPR  (1/19) “NprEd” blog, the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail  (1/19) and The Street  (1/19) also cover this story.

King Promotes College Affordability In Orlando Visit. The Orlando (FL) Sentinel  (1/19) reports Education Secretary John King visited Orlando, Florida Tuesday, where he said that the Obama Administration “will keep pushing to make community college tuition free for two years,” quoting him saying, “We’re going to continue to work with Congress to try and get that done this year. I think there’s a healthy national conversation about college affordability.” King is currently on a five-city tour, and while in Orlando he “spent more than two hours at Valencia College, touring the west campus and talking with students.” Addressing the Administration’s Pell grant expansion proposal, King said, “When we look at the students who default, who aren’t able to pay back their debt, it is often students who don’t finish. They don’t have that degree. They can’t get that job and aren’t able to pay back their debts. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that students not only make it to college but they make it through to graduation.”

The Orlando (FL) Business Journal  (1/19, Subscription Publication) reports King and Mitchell took part in a roundtable discussion at the college where they announced the Pell expansion program. Mitchell “spoke exclusively with Orlando Business Journal after the roundtable discussion and said that national business leaders have helped draft this proposal,” citing the “need to have more college graduates entering the workforce, especially in high-demand fields such as STEM.”

Bruni: New Report Urges Revolution In College Admissions Process.

New York Times  (1/19, Subscription Publication) columnist Frank Bruni praises a new report titled “Turning the Tide,” which “sagely reflects on what’s wrong with [college] admissions and rightly calls for a revolution.” The report includes contributions from “scores” of presidents and deans of admission at many elite universities. It asks colleges to “rethink” the signals they send “that influence the behavior of millions of students.” Bruni says the report’s requests include sending a “clear message” that schools will place less emphasis on standardized test scores or the number of AP courses and extracurricular activities. Doing so, according to Bruni, would help “level the playing field for kids applying to college from less advantaged backgrounds.”

Virginia Considering Student Loan Refinancing Authority To Help Those With Student Debt.

The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch  (1/19, Kapsidelis) reports Virginia is considering creating a student loan refinancing authority to help the over 1 million Virginians who owe over $30 billion in student loans. The proposal could especially benefit borrowers who have federal student loans that currently cannot be refinanced. Virginia Delegate Marcus B. Simon says student loan debt is crippling the economy forcing young people to “move back in with mom and dad” to save money. Several states have passed or are considering similar proposals.

Opinion: More Students Should Pursue Career And Technical Education Instead Of College.

In an opinion piece in USA Today  (1/19) University of Maryland Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon outline why more students should pursue careers through career and technical education instead of college. Hrabowski and Dimon agree that “too many young people are not on a path to meaningful employment” because too many drop out of high school and college without gaining necessary skills to obtain a well-paying job. The two note that many students who enroll in college do not finish, and those students should instead enroll in career and technical education programs to be prepared for well-paying jobs.

International Association of Continuing Engineering Education
Call for papers for May 17-20 conference in Porto, Portugal. January 31 deadline.

Surmounting the Barriers
The joint NAE-ASEE report makes recommendations for breaking down long-identified barriers to diversity in higher education.

Research and Development

Georgia Tech To Launch Open Robotics Lab.

WABE-FM  Atlanta (1/19) reports online that Georgia Tech is building a new lab, dubbed the “Robotarium,” which “would give researchers and students around the country remote access to its robots.” The first of its kind, the lab “is expected to be home to 100 ground and aerial swarm robots or drones” when it opens in 2017. “Middle school and high school students as well as researchers across the country” will use the lab.

NSF Giving $5 Million Grant To Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

The Pittsburgh Business Times  (1/19) reports that the National Science Foundation is giving a group including the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center a $5 million grant “to solve cybersecurity issues.” The group is called the Center for Trustworthy Scientific Cyberinfrastructure, and is “spearheaded by members of the Center for Trustworthy Scientific Cyberinfrastructure at the Indiana University at Bloomington.”

University Of Texas-Austin Researchers Develop “Bubble Pen” To Manipulate Nanoparticles.

IEEE Spectrum  (1/20) reports that researchers at the University of Texas-Austin “have developed a new strategy for drawing” nanoparticles to the surface of a solution “where they can be arranged at will.” Calling the technique “bubble-pen lithography,” researchers say it “uses a laser to excite a special layer of material applied to a glass slide. The resulting hot spot vaporizes solution above it, creating a temporary microbubble. Convective flow around this bubble draws nearby particles to the surface.” Engadget  (1/18) also covers this story.

Kentucky Decides Not To Renew Contract; Battery Research Center Closing.

The AP  (1/19) reports the state of Kentucky “has decided not to renew the contract of the only employee of a battery research collaborative between” the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, among others. The Kentucky Argonne Battery Manufacturing Research and Development Center, since 2010, has been located at University of Kentucky. On Tuesday, Energy and Public Protection Cabinet spokesman Dick Brown “told the Lexington Herald-Leader…that the state decided not to renew the contract of the center’s director, Tony Hancock.” The AP adds that “Hancock said the lab would be shut down.”

Series: Mcity Is Nexus Of Self-Driving Car Research In The US.

In a lengthy article for the CNET News  (1/19) “Driving Detroit” Roadshow series, Chris Paukert argues that the University of Michigan’s MCity, a “mock urban streetscape” allowing automakers to test self-driving cars, “is a linchpin in the resurgent region’s efforts to define the next steps in transportation” and help the city hold its “ground against the encroaching might of Silicon Valley.” Paukert adds that the facility is “about cultivating an environment in which both problems and opportunities can be ferreted out and tested” and has the potential to help “lawmakers, academics, telecoms, city planners, tech companies and even insurance firms….envision what a landscape of self-determinate vehicles looks like.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Edison Buys 500 Megawatts From First Solar.

Bloomberg News  (1/19, Martin) reports that First Solar has signed contracts to supply 500 megawatts of capacity from four new projects to Southern California Edison. In a statement, First Solar said it expects to complete the projects by the end of 2019. “When completed, the power plants will make Southern California Edison First Solar’s largest single buyer of solar power,” Bloomberg reports. The Phoenix (AZ) Business Journal  (1/19, Ringle, Subscription Publication) reports that First Solar vice president for project development lauded SCE as “visionary” in its early adoption of “utility-scale solar in their energy mix.” According to Power Engineering  (1/20), the projects will be fully operational by the end of 2019.

Additional coverage is available from PV-Tech  (1/19) and Semiconductor Today  (1/19).

KNX-AM Los Angeles (1/19, 5:54 p.m. PST) provides broadcast coverage.

DOE Giving Two Companies $40M Each To Develop Alternative Nuclear Reactors.

The New York Times  (1/19, Fountain, Subscription Publication) reports the Energy Department announced last Friday it will provide both E-energy and Southern Company with $40 million over about five years to develop advanced nuclear reactor designs. The seed money is part of the Obama Administration’s “effort to keep nuclear power in the nation’s energy mix over the next several decades.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

NASA Renames Asteroid After New Orleans HS Student.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune  (1/20) reports NASA has renamed the asteroid “2000 GD136” for New Orleans high school senior Keiana Cavé “after her environmental nanotechnology project won a prize at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.” The article adds that the BP oil spill in 2010 spurred Cavé “to identify two previously unseen toxins that form in the ocean as sunlight breaks down oil,” making her “one of several second-place finalists in the earth and environmental sciences category, winning $1,500.” Stephen Collins, a science teacher at Lusher Charter School, where Cavé goes to school, said that people can see the asteroid using a 24-inch telescope under clear skies, adding, “It’s not quite as bright as Pluto gets, but it’s in that ballpark.”

In California, Some Pushing For STEM To Become STEAM.

On its website, Southern California Public Radio  (1/19) reports advocates for more arts education in California are pushing to turn the state’s push for better STEM education towards STEAM education, which includes the arts. The American Society for Engineering Education head Norman Fortenberry says the issue is money and that adding more subjects to the acronym risks watering down his organization’s message and advocacy efforts.

Michigan District Running New STEM Program For Elementary School Students.

MLive (MI)  (1/19, Christian) reports elementary schools in Grass Lake, Michigan have implemented a new STEM curriculum called Ardusat, provided by a company based in Salt Lake City. The new program allows students to learn about STEM topics with experiments blended in with the regular curriculum for their grades. The article quotes educators and students talking about how exciting the new lessons are that allow them to build circuits, bridges, and code basic programs.

Microsoft Acquires MinecraftEdu.

The New York Times  (1/19, Wingfield, Singer, Subscription Publication) reports that Microsoft, which bought the creator of the game Minecraft in 2014, has now acquired MinecraftEdu, in hopes that it can regain some of the classroom technology market share that the firm has lost to Apple and Google. The piece explains that MinecraftEdu is “a modified version of Minecraft tailored for use in schools” which in recent years “has attracted a strong following and is used in over 7,000 classrooms in more than 40 countries.”

The Wall Street Journal  (1/19, Needleman, Subscription Publication) reports that Microsoft’s initial subscription fee will be $5 per year, and that the firm is currently working out how much to charge schools and districts for licensing. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (1/19)and CNN Money  (1/19) also cover this story.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

McCarthy Defends Handling Of Flint Water Crisis.
WSJournal: For-Profit Colleges Unfairly Targeted By Administration.
University Of Arizona To Work On Tracking Space Junk.
Report: World Economic Forum Predicts Robots Will Cause Net Loss Of 5.1 Million Jobs.
Belgian Researchers Announce Quadcopter/Fixed-Wing Hybrid Delivery Drone.
Volkswagen Emissions Scandal Fallout Continues.
Researchers In Iowa Aim To Transform Nation’s Energy Landscape.

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