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

Leading the News

EPA Issues Emergency Order Over Flint Water Crisis, EPA Regional Chief Resigns.

NBC Nightly News (1/21, story 6, 2:10, Gosk) reported “on the toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan. An EPA director for the region has resigned and the agency has just issued an emergency order requiring the state to take immediate actions to protect the public health.”

Meanwhile, the CBS Evening News (1/21, story 4, 2:45, Diaz) reported that “Flint has started a chemical process that it hopes will eventually stop the lead that has poisoned its water.”

The Washington Post  (1/21, Berman) reports in its “Post Nation” blog that the EPA “said Thursday evening that authorities in Michigan had failed to properly respond to an ongoing crisis involving lead-poisoned water in Flint, Mich., saying it would begin testing the city’s water and ordering an independent review of what happened.” In addition, the agency’s administrator who oversees Michigan, Susan Hedman, “resigned in the wake of the crisis.”

The New York Times  (1/21, Smith, Subscription Publication) reports that on Thursday, Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s chief administrator, “wrote in a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder [R] that she was issuing an emergency order under the Safe Drinking Water Act to expand federal oversight because of ‘serious and ongoing concerns with the safety of Flint’s drinking water system’ and ‘continuing delays and lack of transparency.’” Going forward, the EPA “will oversee lead monitoring efforts in Flint, she told the governor, in order to ‘ensure transparency and accountability.’”

The AP  (1/21, Flesher) reports that the EPA’s emergency order “acknowledges the state notified EPA officials in April 2015 that Flint was not treating the river water with additives to prevent corrosion from pipes,” and says that EPA officials, including Hedman voiced concerns. However, “it wasn’t until Oct. 16 that EPA established a task force to provide technical help – the day Flint switched back to the Detroit water system.”

Also reporting on the story are Reuters  (1/21, Gardner, Ortiz), CNN  (1/21, Berlinger, Netto), the ABC News  (1/21, Jacobo) website, the NBC News  (1/21, Seville, Helsel) website, the CBS News  (1/21, Diaz) website, the Huffington Post  (1/21, Delaney), Fox News  (1/21), The Hill  (1/21, Cama), the Detroit Free Press  (1/21, Spangler), the Detroit News , MLive (MI)  (1/21, Fonger), and a separate MLive (MI)  (1/21, Mack) article.

President Obama Announces $80 Million In Aid For Michigan. The AP  (1/21, Freking) reports that “the federal government is investing more money this year to help local governments improve their water systems, and about $80 million will go to Michigan next week, President Barack Obama told the nation’s mayors on Thursday.” The CBS Evening News (1/21, story 4, 2:45, Diaz) reported, “President Obama says the state will have $80 million in federal funds by next week.”

In announcing the aid, CBS News  (1/21, Shabad) reported on its website, the President said at the White House during a US Conference of Mayors event, “Our children should not have to be worried about the water that they’re drinking in American cities, that’s not something that we can accept.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal  (1/21, Maher, Subscription Publication) details some of the relief efforts that are underway in Flint.

Also reporting on the story are The Hill  (1/21, Henry), the Detroit News  (1/21, Burke), and MLive (MI)  (1/21, Mack).

Congress Calls Michigan Governor To Testify. Reuters  (1/21, Ortiz) reports that Congress has called Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and other officials to testify before the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the handling of the water crisis in Flint.

TIME  (1/21, Reilly) reports, however, that a spokesperson for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said in a statement, “The details being discussed surrounding a hearing on the Flint water crisis are entirely premature. There are no confirmed details at this time, particularly with respect to a date or witness invitations.”

Newsweek  (1/21, Gorman) and the Detroit Free Press  (1/21, Spangler) also report on the story.

Spokesperson: Governor Has No Plans To Resign. MLive (MI)  (1/21) reports that Press Secretary Dave Murray said that Gov. Snyder “has no plans to resign,” and “he is committed to fixing the problems in Flint.”

The NPR  (1/21, Kennedy) “The Two-Way” blog reports that Mayor Weaver said in an interview with NPR’s “All Things Considered” program, “We want to know who knew what and when they knew it. And that’s from the governor, all the way down to if it includes local officials. We want everyone to be held accountable and if it means they have to be removed, so be it.”

Flint Is An Example Of “Environmental Racism,” Advocates Say. The New York Times  (1/21, Eligon, Subscription Publication) reports that “for civil rights advocates, the health crisis in Flint smacks of what has become known as environmental racism.” They say that “it is considered the result of poverty and segregation that has relegated many blacks and other racial minorities to some of the most industrialized or dilapidated environments.”

The AP  (1/22, Schneider, Householder) reports that Hilary Clinton voiced similar remarks saying, “We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care.”

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post  (1/21, Erbentraut) reports that “some of the circumstances that led Flint to this point are not totally unique” and this could happen in other cities across the US.

University Of Michigan Launches $100K Research On Flint Water. The Detroit News  (1/21, Kozlowski) reports that University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel “announced a ‘call to action’ – and $100,000 in seed money – for researchers to identify ways to respond to Flint’s contaminated water crisis.” In addition, “one researcher – Marty Kaufman, professor and chairman of the Department of Earth and Resource Science University of Michigan-Flint – is seeking a community-based participatory research grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences” for a three-year, $1.8 million study into the 100-year-old water distribution system in Flint.

Physician Fought To Expose Lead Problem. CNN  (1/21, Gupta, Tinker, Hume) reports that pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and a friend who worked for the EPA led a campaign to expose the lead problem in Flint. Dr. Hanna-Attisha said they led the “crusade to see if that lead in the water was getting into the bodies of children.” Dr. Hanna-Attisha said she had heard the city wasn’t doing “corrosion control” to prevent lead in aging pipes from leaching into the water supply, which concerned her since the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics say that no level of lead is safe.

Coverage Continues: Michigan Governor Releases Emails About Water. The Wall Street Journal  (1/21, Kesling, Subscription Publication) reports, in continuing coverage, that Gov. Snyder released official emails relating to the water crisis on Wednesday.

The Washington Post  (1/21, Phillips) writes in “The Fix” blog that for Snyder, the release of the emails “doesn’t seem to have been enough.” The Post cites a Detroit Free Press  editorial “calling the email release a good start but saying that Snyder needs to do more.” The Christian Science Monitor  (1/21, Warner) also reports on the governor’s emails.

Higher Education

Senate Democrats Propose Legislative Fixes For Student Loan Debt.

The Washington Times  (1/21, Howell) reports Senate Democrats on Thursday “proposed legislative fixes” to the “rising college costs and heaps of student-loan debt” they contend are “a direct threat to America’s future.” Democrats “proposed a package of bills that would let states waive tuition for students at community colleges, technical schools and ‘minority-serving’ four-year colleges.” In addition, they would “let students refinance their loans to take advantage of lower rates, and boost the value of Pell Grants by adjusting them for inflation.” The lawmakers “said they will pursue their more modest reforms through any means, including the federal spending process” and “challenged Republicans to either join them or come up with a plan of their own in a pivotal election year.”

Roll Call  (1/21) reports that Senate Democrats vowed “to prod the Republicans who control Congress to combat student loan debt this year, whether through legislation or floor amendments.” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) vowed to work across the aisle to address the issue. MarketWatch  (1/21, Berman) also covers this story, reporting that the Senators said the legislation “will make higher education more affordable for future college students and help borrowers currently struggling with debt better manage their burden.”

White House Honors North Carolina College Student For Computer Science Program For At-Risk Youth.

The AP  (1/21) reports that the White House has announced that North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University computer science student Angelica Willis is being honored “for spearheading a group in Guilford County that is developing a computer science-based program for at-risk youth.” The initiative is “developing an entrepreneurship and design space in Greensboro.” Willis “is one of nine people from across the country being honored by the White House for their leadership in expanding access to computer science education.” Education Secretary John King is expected to deliver remarks at the event.

Nonprofit Awards $7 Million Grant To Washington To Improve Career Counseling At Community Colleges.

The Seattle Times  (1/21, Long) reports a nonprofit has awarded Washington a $7 million grant to improve career counseling at 10 community and technical colleges in the state. Davis Jenkins, the senior researcher at Columbia University’s Community College Research Center, says that community colleges often fail to talk with students about their career goals leaving many of them to pick out courses on their own without a clear guide to what will help them achieve their goals.

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

Raytheon To Support DARPA Infantry Tech Research.

UPI  (1/21, Maass) reports DARPA awarded a $2.5 million contract to Raytheon “to develop new technologies to improve the effectiveness of infantry squads.” The project will “explore how infantry squads can better adjust to urban and complex environments.”

UC Merced Engineering Team Wins Military Research Competition.

The Sierra (CA) Sun Times  (1/20, Anderson) reports DARPA and the Office of Naval Research awarded a team of UC Merced engineering students for winning the Field-Reversible Thermal Conductor Challenge, which required participating teams to develop devices to cool electronic devices on military aircraft. Professor Yanbao Ma and her students at UC Merced developed a new cooling system with working prototypes.


Silicon Valley, Howard University Work Together To Increase Racial Diversity In Technology Sector.

In an over 4,000 word article entitled “Why Doesn’t Silicon Valley Hire Black Coders?” Bloomberg Business  (1/21, Vara) details the ongoing efforts of Howard University Professor Legand Burge, chairman of the computer science department, and Google software engineer Charles Pratt to improve racial diversity in Silicon Valley by working with Howard computer science students to get them more internships and jobs in the technology sector. Pratt joined Howard in 2013 with the aim of training more black programmers to work at big tech companies like Google and helped Burge redesign the program to be more practical and project-oriented. The article explains how over the past few years Burge and Pratt have helped Howard students be better prepared for careers at big technology companies and at the same time more technology companies have taken steps to acknowledge and reduce the racial prejudices and biases that have prevented more black people from being hired.

Industry News

Future Of Bombardier C Series Now In Doubt After Boeing Secures United Order.

On Wednesday, United Continental Holdings announced that will buy 40 of Boeing’s 737-700 jets, which, “at list price…would be worth more than $3.2 billion, although airlines routinely get big discounts,” according to the AP . United reportedly was considering bids from Bombardier, Airbus and Embraer, along with Boeing, and analysts said “the outcome came down mainly to price,” according to the Globe and Mail (CAN) . George Dimitroff of the airline consulting firm Ascend says Boeing likely “‘fought even more aggressively’ for the contract than usual, given that Bombardier was in the running,” and aviation consultancy Leeham Co analysts likewise wrote: “We believe that Boeing would have had no problem undercutting Bombardier.”

Reuters  reports that Jefferies analyst Howard Rubel was among those who attributed United’s decision to the airline’s wish to avoid having to retrain its crews to fly unfamiliar aircraft. George Dimitroff of the airline consulting firm Ascend said that for United, “there’s absolutely no need for any additional infrastructure, spares provisioning, pilot training, engineer training or anything else like that,” according to the Globe and Mail (CAN) .

CNN  reports that United has “said it plans to replace more than half of the 50-seaters in its fleet by 2019,” and United’s 737-700s “seat 118 passengers, with 12 first class seats and 40 Economy Plus seats.” United’s acting CFO Gerry Laderman said: “Our customers have a preference for an improved travel experience, including first class seats, Economy Plus, and Wi-Fi. These aircraft are an efficient way to meet those needs.”

Honda To Introduce Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle In California This Year.

Reuters  (1/21, Shepardson) reports that on Thursday, Honda Motor Co. announced at the Washington auto show that it would begin selling its new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in California this year, becoming the latest automaker to bring hydrogen-powered vehicles to the US market as California and other states begin mandating more zero-emissions vehicles.

Engineering and Public Policy

Court Refuses To Block “Clean Power Plan.”

Reuters  (1/21, Hurley, Volcovici) reports a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has denied an effort by 27 states to block the Administration’s Clean Power Plan. While the court’s order denying the states’ application to stay the rule while litigation over it continues “means the regulation remains in place,” it is not “the final word in the legal fight,” as the appeals court “still has to hear oral arguments and decide whether the regulation is lawful.” The New York Times  (1/21, Davenport, Subscription Publication) calls the decision a “significant victory” for the President, and Politico  (1/21) says the ruling is a “major win” for the Administration, which has “made the rule a centerpiece of the president’s pledge to fight climate change.”

Inglis: GOP Needs To Accept Science Of Climate Change. In an op-ed for USA Today  (1/21), Bob Inglis, a former Republican South Carolina congressman who directs, says a report by NASA and NOAA finding 2015 to be the hottest year on record “should tell us that it’s time to act.” He says calls for an elimination of subsidies and attached costs for all fuels “to make energy pricing transparent and inclusive.” He says that if the website gets big enough, “we can persuade conservatives in Congress – and on the campaign trail – to debate solutions and stop shrinking in science denial.”

Philadelphia’s Experimental Subway Battery System Deemed A Success.

The New York Times  (1/21, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports Philadelphia is expanding its experimental subway system program that uses energy created by the friction of trains’ breaks to both push the trains out of stations and help “modulate electricity flows on the grid.” Since it began in 2012, the program “has already saved about $40,000 in electricity costs for each substation and brought in revenue of $250,000 a year.” Seven additional trains will receive the technology, and several other rail companies in other cities are reportedly interested in putting in similar systems.

University Of Texas Arlington Researchers Changing Garbage Disposal, Recycling To Generate Electricity And Reduce Landfills.

On its website, KTVT-TV  Dallas (1/20, Thomas) reports University of Texas Arlington students and researchers from 27 countries are helping Denton Solid Waste and Recycling change how they dispose of garbage. Professor Sahadat Hossain says dry landfills prevent garbage from contaminating groundwater, but they take up space and the garbage does not decompose when water is absent. Hossain leads a team that is extracting trash from landfills, recycling materials that can be reused, and then placing the remaining garbage back into a landfill with water so that it can decompose in about 15 years and generate electricity in the process. While garbage decomposes it produces gas, which can be used to generate power. Denton General Manager Vance Kemler says, “It is a different concept that we think will become more commonplace in the future.” On its website, KXAS-TV  Dallas (1/20, Ciesco) adds that the project at University of Texas Arlington is gaining global attention as a means for many countries to solve two problems at once: disposing of garbage and generating more power. Professor Hossain says, “We’re taking a problem and converting it into an asset.” Hossain’s students and research assistants from around the world believe the process could be beneficial in many of their home countries.

Elementary/Secondary Education

BAE Systems Provides STEM Grant To High School District.

South Jersey Local News  (1/21) reports Lenape Regional High School District students have received “several 3-D printers” and “other technologically advanced systems” as part of a grant from BAE Systems to the district’s STEM program. Tony Contino, Program Manager/Department Manager, AEGIS TECHREP Engineering Support Services, BAE Systems, Inc., said that the company is “proud to partner with the Lenape Regional High School District to help inspire the next generation and ignite their passion for STEM.” Contino adds, “We look forward to continuing our partnership in 2016 and beyond.”

The Camden (NJ) Courier Post  (1/21, Whittaker) features a similar report.

Maryland Technical School Working To Improve Reputation Of Career And Technical Education.

The Maryland Coast Dispatch  (1/21, Sharpe) reports administrators and teachers at Worcester Technical High School in Newark, Maryland are working to educate parents and potential students that career and technical education has changed. Worcester Tech Principal Caroline Bloxom says, “Let’s face it. Your momma and daddy’s vo-tech school did not include programs in engineering, biomedical science and interactive media production.” Bloxom and her associates are working to dispel negative stereotypes surrounding career and technical education by reaching out to the community and showing that the programs their school offers prepare students for well-paying careers in today’s world.

Minnesota STEM Program Teaches Preschool Students.

ABC Newspapers (MN)  (1/21, Alveshere) reports two educators near the Twin Cities worked together to create the Anoka-Hennepin Early Childhood Family Education STEM classes, which ran for 15 weeks last fall. Preschool children attended the classes with their families and learned about STEM through activities and projects. In the last week’s class, participants built houses out of straw, sticks, and bricks to replicate the “Three Little Pigs” story, and students identified machine parts in the structures of the houses as well as a wagon that transported the pigs between them.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

SpaceX, Two Other Firms To Build Hyperloop Mockups This Year.
Thousands Call On ED To Cancel Student Debt Over Deceptive Practices.
DoD Looking To Install Lasers On Drones.
Va. Gov. McAuliffe Met With Alibaba Executives.
Booz Allen Hamilton Awarded $159 Million Contract To Streamline Army Networks.
Kansas Succeeds In Reducing Fracking-Related Earthquakes.
Iowa Lego Robotics Team Competed In State Competition.

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