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

Leading the News

States Urge SCOTUS To Delay EPA’s Carbon Emissions Plan.

Reuters  (1/27, Hurley) reports a coalition of 26 states asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan while their lawsuits make their way through the judicial process. Bloomberg News  (1/26, Harris) adds that the coalition, which is led by Texas and West Virginia, “filed its bid for relief” from the regulation with the Supreme Court “after their request for a similar pause was rejected by a lower court” last week.

“Many of the states opposing the plan are dependent on economic activity tied to such fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas,” the AP  (1/26, Biesecker) explains, which is why they oppose the Federal regulation that “aims to stave off the worst predicted impacts of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions” and “encourages more development of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar by further ratcheting down any emissions allowed from new coal-fired power.” In their court filing, lawyers for the states wrote that the Supreme Court should issue the stay or else “the plan will continue to unlawfully impose massive and irreparable harms upon the sovereign states, as well as irreversible changes in the energy markets,” the Huffington Post  (1/26, Chen) reports.

The Hill  (1/26, Cama) says the effort is “an attempt to get the high court involved in the litigation much faster than would usually be the case if the states had to wait for the lower court to decide and appeal the ruling,” but West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement, “We must pursue this option to mitigate further damage from this rule.” According to the Wall Street Journal  (1/26, Kendall, Harder, Subscription Publication), the states face an uphill battle in convincing the Supreme Court to support their motion.

Higher Education

Maryland Legislature Mulls Free Community College.

The Washington Times  (1/26, Shastry) reports that the Maryland state legislature is considering a bill to make the state the fourth in the nation “to offer free community college to recent high school graduates,” though funding the plan remains a hurdle. The bill “would offer free community college for holders of high school diplomas or GEDs and reduce their tuition if they are searching for jobs.”

Clinton, Sanders Touting College-Affordability Plans.

Reuters  (1/26, Wise, Lopez) reports that Clinton and Sanders are touting their plans aimed at cutting the cost of college tuition in an effort to win the backing of young voters. Reuters says that Sanders is pushing a plan that would allow students to attend public universities and colleges without paying tuition, while Clinton is touting a proposal that would guarantee students could attend college without the need for large loans.

University In New Hampshire Will Offer Employment Guarantee.

The AP  (1/26, Ramer) reports Rivier University, a small Catholic university in Nashua, New Hampshire, has unveiled its “Employment Promise Program.” Beginning with the class of 2020, the university program guarantees students one of three possibilities: employment within nine months, student loan payments for up to a year, or free enrollment in up to six graduate-level courses. President Sister Paula Marie Buley said, “We want to send a message that we recruit not just for the first year, but we’re a partner throughout an educational experience with students.” The program is part of a growing trend of colleges offering more assistance to students after graduation.

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

‘Hyperloop’ Transportation Idea Being Tested.

The AP  (1/26, Pritchard) reports three Southern California companies “are building separate test tracks to see how well the ‘hyperloop’ transportation concept works in the real world.” Elon Musk in 2013 “proposed a network of elevated tubes to transport specially designed capsules over long distances” with a top speed of about 750 mph. The capsules wold allow travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in approximately a half-hour. “Musk has said that while he does not plan to develop the hyperloop commercially, he wants to accelerate its development,” the AP reports. His firm, SpaceX “said global infrastructure firm AECOM would build a one-mile track at SpaceX headquarters near Los Angeles International Airport,” the AP adds. Once ready, the track will then test prototype capsules “half the size of the system that Musk envisioned and would not carry people,” according to the article.

Fortune  (1/26) reports that infrastructure firm Aecom “said it will partner with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build a test track for the Hyperloop transportation system.” Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring, and “the newly-built track will be the site of the second round of the SpaceX-run Hyperloop Pod Competition some time this summer.”

Brown University Set To Open New Entrepreneurship Center.

The Boston Globe  (1/26, Pfeiffer) reports that Brown University is using a $25 million gift from a wealthy alumnus “to open a new entrepreneurship center aimed at encouraging students to turn their classroom learning into innovative new ventures.” The Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship “will be open to all Brown students regardless of their areas of study, as well as to students from the Rhode Island School of Design.”

Wichita State Ranks Fourth In Nation In Aeronautical Research Spending.

The Wichita (KS) Eagle  (1/26) reports that according to National Science Foundation data, Wichita State University spent $39.8 million on aeronautical engineering research, the fourth-highest number in the nation. The school “ranked first among universities for the amount of its aerospace research and development coming from business, with $29 million.”

US Air Force Awards Boeing $6 Million Rocket Technology Research Contract.

Space News  (1/26, Gruss, Subscription Publication) reports that the US Air Force has awarded “$6.1 million to Boeing Network & Space Systems and $3.6 million to Arctic Slope Regional Corp. to perform rocket technology research.” The article adds that the contracts “are part of a broader effort to help end reliance on a Russian rocket engine used for launching national security satellites.”

Defense Daily  (1/26, Host) adds that the contracts were awarded under the Air Force’s Booster Propulsion Technology Maturation Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) solicitation, which also awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman in 2015.

CNBC  (1/26, Wells) adds that Boeing’s rocket for the Space Launch System will be NASA’s “most expensive and most powerful rocket ever.” The article adds that the rocket’s aim will be “to take Americans into deep space,” namely Mars. According to the article, the first unmanned test flight is scheduled for late 2018 and by 2021, “the rocket is supposed to carry astronauts aboard the Orion space capsule built by Lockheed Martin.”

Industry News

LG Announces Plans To Launch Two Flagship Smartphones In 2016.

The AP  (1/26) reports that following LG Electronics’ Tuesday announcement of an “unexpected” fourth quarter loss due to increased raw material costs and lagging smartphone sales, LG has confirmed that it will launch two flagship smartphones in 2016 “in hopes of alleviating mobile losses.” LG also announced that it will couple the launch of the two flagship phones with a “more cost-competitive value chain” aimed at improving profitability.

Phandroid  (1/26, Chavez) adds that while LG did not discuss the names of flagship phones to be released, “there’s a very good chance” that the two devices in question will be the much anticipated G5 smartphone and a successor to the V10.

DroidLife  (1/26) comments on LG’s prospects moving forward, saying that “in our eyes, if LG starts investing more in premium hardware, but most importantly, trims down its skin and gets back to delivering an experience that matters to consumers, the company could really benefit in 2016.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Twenty-Six States Urge High Court To Block Clean Power Rule.

The Hill  (1/26, Cama) reported 26 states, led by West Virginia and Texas, have asked the Supreme Court to block the Administration’s Clean Power Plan, saying a lower appeals court erred last week in rejecting “their plea to hold the regulation off while the federal court system decides whether it is legal.” The Hill says the effort is “an attempt to get the high court involved in the litigation much faster than would usually be the case if the states had to wait for the lower court to decide and appeal the ruling,” but West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement, “we must pursue this option to mitigate further damage from this rule.”

“Federal Eye”: EPA Late Responding To Flint Crisis.

The Washington Post  (1/26, Davidson) “Federal Eye” blog says that while Michigan officials deserve most of the blame for the situation in Flint, “EPA’s reputation has been sullied as an enabler, an accessory and an agency that failed to promptly protect people and the environment.” Miguel del Toral, an EPA official who wrote a report on the lack of corrosion controls in Flint’s water system in June, has been praised as a hero. However, after Del Toral’s email leaked, EPA’s regional chief Susan Heldman wrote an email that “seemed to play down del Toral’s findings.” The Post adds that, “Only last week, under pressure and months after being prodded,” did EPA seem to “suddenly find urgency.”

Flint’s Lead Pipes Not Currently Being Replaced. NBC Nightly News (1/26, story 8, 2:40, Holt) reported Flint city officials and the plumbers union say none of the lead pipes are currently being replaced, and plumbers claim they haven’t done any work “since the October announcement that the water wasn’t safe.” Mayor Karen Weaver says replacing the pipes could cost up to $1.5 billion, and the intricate nature of the pipe layout could complicate repairs. However University of Michigan professor Marty Kaufman says that while the replacement process will “take several years…the longer we delay, the longer people are at risk.”

Flint Declined Detroit Proposals That Could Have Saved Money, Contamination. The Washington Post  (1/26, Bernstein)reports that Flint’s “catastrophic” decision to decline a new contract with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to instead implement a $600 million new pipeline “is a classic political and policy dilemma, one that features difficult decisions over short-term vs. long-term savings, as well as a community’s desire for control of its water supply.” Detroit offered a plan that it contends would have saved Flint “48 percent immediately and 20 percent over the long haul.” Had Flint stuck with the Detroit water, it would not have had the lead crisis it’s dealing with now.

Study: Solar Panel Costs Forecast To Fall 10 Percent A Year Globally.

The Guardian (UK)  (1/26, Darby) reports that according to Oxford University researchers, “solar power costs are tumbling so fast the technology is likely to fast outstrip mainstream energy forecasts.” A new forecasting model published in Research Policy drawing on historical data from 53 different technologies suggests that solar panel costs will fall 10 percent a year. Co-author of the paper Doyne Farmer said the research could help to shape clean energy policy. The research was supported by DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and the European Commission.

Gov. Kasich Threatens “Unpalatable” Renewable Energy Standards If Ohio Legislators Push Cuts.

The Columbus (OH) Business First  (1/26) reports that Ohio Gov. John Kasich said that he will reinstate the state’s frozen energy standards if legislators try to cut them further. Kasich signed a bill in June 2014 that froze Ohio’s renewable energy requirements for two years. Kasich touted the future of battery storage and said the state is open to solar and wind power in the meantime. “And if the legislature wants to gut it, then I’m going to go back to the goal that we had, which was unpalatable,” Kasich said, adding, “Because I’m not playing around with this.”

NYC Advances Flood Defense Plan, Aims To Finish Project BY 2022.

The AP  (1/26, Peltz) reports efforts to design a flood prevention system in New York City that would prevent the type of flooding that occurred during Hurricane Sandy have received “over $600 million in backing,” including two awards from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department of $335 million two years ago and $176 million last week but remains “hundreds of millions of dollars and several years away from being finished.” The AP states that officials are aiming to start the project by next year and complete it by 2022, building portions that would provide some protection while the full project is completed. However, a final plan does not exist, and neither does an estimated final cost. Meanwhile, “A devastating flood could come in decades or as soon as the next storm.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Georgia House Committee Passes Bill Boosting GPA Points For Difficult STEM Courses In College.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (1/26, Diaz) reports the Georgia House higher education committee passed Bill 801, which would increase the points given to college students who take difficult STEM courses in calculating their GPAs. House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones says the bill would encourage more students to take challenging STEM classes because they would not have to worry as much about lower GPAs that could affect their scholarships, including the HOPE Scholarship, which requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Indiana High School Technology Education Program Shaping Students’ Future Plans.

The Portage (WI) Daily Register  (1/25, Vernau) reports a technology education program at Pardeeville High School in Indiana is shaping students’ career plans. The article quotes several students who have decided to study engineering and other STEM fields in college after taking technology classes at the high school. The program also allows students to take dual-enrollment courses helping them get admitted to college and to start off with more background in their fields of study.

Texas Elementary School Creates FIRST Lego League Team.

The Brazosport (TX) Facts  (1/27, Packard) reports 11 students at Frontier Elementary in Angleton, Texas have joined a FIRST Lego League team where they have to build and program robots to complete different challenges or “missions.” Students must build and program the robots themselves but receive support from mentors.

Arizona Groups Partner Together To Create Program To Encourage STEM Education Collaboration Among Schools.

The Phoenix Business Journal  (1/26, Ringle, Subscription Publication) reports Arizona Science Center, Arizona SciTech, and Intel Corp. have partnered together to create AZSTEM School Community of Practice, a new program to help K-12 schools work together more on STEM. The program “offers an opportunity for teachers, principals, parents, students, businesses and community members to collaborate and share best practices” on STEM instruction in schools. Arizona school communities can submit applications to participate in the program before March 15. Those selected will have to attend four meetings each years and visit another participating school. The program aims to encourage and support students who are interested in STEM careers.

Illinois School District Hosts Event For Local Girls Interested In STEM Careers.

The Naperville (IL) Sun  (1/27) reports 48 girls from Indian Prairie School District 204’s three high schools attended the district’s first “Girls in Engineering and Computer Science” roundtable at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Illinois. The student met with local STEM professionals to learn more about their career paths and the skills necessary to succeed in STEM fields. Local engineers talked about the importance of engineering in society and the wide variety of problems they can solve.

Anoka-Hennepin Hosts Early Childhood STEM Class.

The Home Town Source (MN)  (1/26) reports that the first ever Anoka-Hennepin Early Childhood Family Education science, technology, engineering and math class taught children as young as three-years-old “about structures, simple machines and systems.” Two sessions of the 15-week class, each consisting of 15 students between the ages of 3 and 5, ran this fall. Parents attended class with this children.

Two Brothers Working To Inspire Entrepreneurship In Milwaukee’s Black Teenagers.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (1/27, Gallagher) reports brothers Khalif and Que El-Amin are working to change who high school students admire and look up to in Milwaukee. The brothers founded Young Enterprising Society LLC, which holds entrepreneurship workshops in the city’s high schools to introduce “inner-city high school students to new role models, along with technology and tools for building a business.” The first workshop in a series of 14 was held at Northwest Opportunities Vocational Academy where students were asked to come up with business plans. The top teams at the 14 high schools will be invited to attend a summer camp where they can further develop their business plans, learn about computer programming, and then begin acquiring customers. Que El-Amin says, “The only way to help the city of Milwaukee in terms of African-American unemployment problems is to start our own businesses.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Apple Rumored To Have Instituted Hiring Freeze On Car Project.
Politicians, Nobel Laureates Celebrate Launch Of The Zuckerman Scholars Program In STEM Leadership.
University Of Delaware Launches Nanofabrication Lab.
Disney Accused Of Colluding To Replace US Tech Workers With Immigrants.
UAV Test Could Lead to Increased Payload Capacity.
Google May Be Mounting VR Challenge For Oculus, Samsung.
Inhofe Expects Obama Executive Action On Cap-And-Trade.

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