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

Leading the News

Obama To Propose Doubling Investment In Clean Energy.

President Obama used his weekly address  on Saturday to announce he will ask Congress to double the country’s investment in clean energy to $12.8 billion by 2021 as part of his upcoming budget proposal.

Bloomberg Politics  (2/6, Keane) reports Obama “wants to double US investment in clean-energy research and development, to $12.8 billion by 2021, as part of a broader commitment to curb the effects of climate change.” A White House fact sheet released on Saturday says the Administration is asking for “$7.7 billion in discretionary funding in fiscal 2017 to boost funding for the research at 12 federal agencies” and the amount would increase by 15 percent each year of the period.

USA Today  (2/6, Wolf) adds Obama’s proposal “is part of the historic ‘Mission Innovation’ agreement reached in November by world leaders in Paris.”

Higher Education

Maker Spaces Appear In Growing Numbers.

The New York Times  (2/5, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) reports on the growth of “tinkering” with “makers faires” and universities offering space for people to make things with 3D printers, laser cutters, and more traditional machinery. Students are said to be excited about it. The engineering department at Rutgers has a maker space, and one professor there says that American colleges have not been “so good at finding and nurturing people who…think with their fingers. The next Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, he said, are more likely to emerge from a maker space than a garage.”

Group To Offer Approaches To Controlling Cost Of Higher Education.

The Washington Post  (2/5, Mcfarland) reports on Entangled Solutions and Michael Horn, who likens universities to cable TV packages in which students pay for a great deal they do not need or want including “new dorms, administrative costs and sports stadiums.” Horn also argues that accreditation as it now exists “hampers innovative programs that could address the affordability issue.” The group is planning to release a report this summer to propose changes.

GE Grant To Aid MSU College Of Engineering.

The AP  (2/5) reports that General Electric is giving $200,000 to Michigan State University’s College of Engineering in order to update some space in a dorm that “is home to a program for engineering students that integrates academic programs with the place where they live.” GE says the new space will be “a place where student[s] can fine tune team-building skills.”

University Of California Boosts Recruiting Of Minority Students.

The Los Angeles Times  (2/5, Watanabe) reports on the efforts by the University of California to recruit more “African Americans and Latinos.” Last year, they “helped 12,000 students…learn how to prepare themselves to become competitive applicants, navigate the admissions process and access financial aid.” The university is expanding that program.

University Of Colorado Program Helps Undergraduates Learn To Compete For Graduate School Places.

The Denver Post  (2/8, Writer) reports on the University of Colorado’s Bachelor to Graduate, B2G, program, “that helps undergraduates prepare for graduate school starting their sophomore year.” The university pairs students “with a graduate-student mentor,” invites guest speakers, and generally helps students “understand what they need to do as undergraduates to be competitive graduate school candidates.”

University of Colorado And Michigan State Professors Rewrite General Chemistry Text.

The Boulder (CO) Daily Camera  (2/7, Kuta) reports on the work of University of Colorado biology professor Michael Klymkowsky and Michigan State University chemistry professor Melanie Cooper, who “have revamped the introductory chemistry course taken each year by thousands of undergraduates to make it more engaging and to help students think critically about science more broadly.” The work was supported by “a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation,” under which the book will be “provided to students for free.” MSU is using the new text for its general chemistry course that includes “students studying science, technology, engineering and math.”

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

SunShot Grant To Help Research Problems Solar Energy Poses To Grid.

Tennessee Today  (2/3) reports on SunShot, “a U.S. Department of Energy research initiative that holds the potential to reshape the way we think about, gather and use solar energy.” The program “awarded a $2.3 million, 36-month project to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Engineering and its collaborators.” Asst. Prof. Yong Liu explained, “Our study will look at problems inherent to current photovoltaic power generation, its effect on the U.S. power grid frequency stability, and how to mitigate its effect in order to avoid large blackouts.”

INL Researchers Improving Grid Reliability For Critical Services.

The Idaho Falls (ID) Post Register  (2/5, Ramseth) reports that Idaho National Laboratory researchers are planning to use the lab’s microgrid testing facility in Idaho Falls to improve the energy reliability of the city’s electric grid. INL engineer Rob Hovsapian said they are researching how to “quickly island pieces of the grid in order to get the critical services up and running.”

The AP  (2/8) also covers this work by INL researchers.

New Flexible Ceramics Could Make Foldable Devices A Reality.

Popular Mechanics  (2/5, Bennett) reported that Eurekite, “a Dutch materials science startup company,” has created a new kind of “ceramic material that can bend and fold like paper” called “flexiramics,” which “can reportedly withstand heats of at least 1,200 degrees Celsius—about 2,190 degrees Fahrenheit.” The company says the material could replace plastic in electronics and, according to Popular Mechanics, could be used “to make foldable mobile devices a reality.”

Industry News

Large Firms Cutting Back On Capital Spending.

The Wall Street Journal  (2/7, Francis, Subscription Publication) reports large companies are cutting back on capital spending, and in some cases implementing layoffs amid slow industrial demand and the unpredictability of US consumers. The Journal cites the spending reductions and layoffs as an indication that executives are cautious as a strong dollar and slow growth in developing markets hinder foreign sales and the declining stock market and fears of a sluggish economy upset US investors and consumers.

Engineering and Public Policy

Salina Seeks To Boost Agricultural Technology.

The Los Angeles Times  (2/5, Mohan) reports that Salinas, California “is trying to reboot itself as the agricultural technology center” of the state, and “hopes to turn the sons and daughters of farmworkers…into coders for the next generation of data-driven, automated farming.” The town is working to improve its education and to build ag-tech startup companies.

Elementary/Secondary Education

California Educators Working On Next Generation Science Standards.

The San Diego Union-Tribune  (2/6, Maio) reports on science teachers in the Vista Unified that are developing “new science lessons that could have ripple effects across the nation.” That’s because they are “working on how to implement so-called ‘next generation science standards.’” Vista is one of 10 systems statewide working on the standards.

South Dakota Schools Sees Quadrupling Of Robotics Class Enrollment.

The Black Hills (SD) Pioneer  (2/7, Pearson) reports that at Lead-Deadwood High School, robotics “class sizes have more than quadrupled for the 2015-2016 school year,” from 14 to 61. Principal Tony Biesiot said, “The kids are into creating their own projects,” adding, “They can create, discover, and they’re using technology. I find myself going in there quite a bit to watch the kids and see what they’re building. Now they’re getting into drones.” Robotics instructor Duane Cunningham explained, “We go through all the LEGOs, program and build those robots. Then we go to VEX competition robots and the advanced kids compete, while the other kids build other robots.”

Penn Hosts Lego League Regional Championship.

Philly (PA)  (2/6, Burney) reports on the annual Lego League regional championship at the University of Pennsylvania where 48 teams competed. The teams, from middle schools, “used software and technology to build and program a Lego robot,” and were awarded “points based on how well their robot manipulated a tabletop obstacle course and completed missions or tasks.”

Science Competition Held At Duquesne.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  (2/7, Boselovic) reports on the regional Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science Competition at Duquesne University where “about 800 students presented projects and were judged on the basis of scientific thought, how their experiments were designed, their analysis, and how they presented their theory and results to a panel of judges.” In all, “about $5,000 in prize money” was awarded.

Also in the News

Inquiry Launched Into Construction Of Taiwanese Complex Toppled By Earthquake.

ABC World News (2/7, story 5, 0:25, Llamas) broadcast “new drone images” of the devastation in Taiwan caused by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake Saturday. At least 32 people have been confirmed dead at the time of the news segment. The majority of the deaths occurred at the Wei Guan Golden Dragon Tower apartment complex in Tainan. Another 100 are believed to be buried underneath the ruble.

The New York Times  (2/7, Bradsher, Subscription Publication) reports “sophisticated sensors” were “deployed at the site” of the 17-story residential building.

Meanwhile, CNN  (2/8, Berlinger, Wang, Ap) reports that the Taiwanese government has “ordered an investigation into the collapse” of the highrise building as “images emerged showing tin cans built into the walls of the toppled complex.” They “appear to have been used as construction fillers in beams.” One engineer says “using tin cans ‘for such purposes in construction was not illegal prior to September 1999, but since then styrofoam and formwork boards have been used instead.’”

Three-Dimensional Model Of Taiwan Disaster Posted Online. Mashable  (2/6) reports that the “devastation wrought by the earthquake in Taiwan early Saturday morning has been captured on video and in numerous photos, but a few locals have enhanced the world’s view of the disaster by posting a three-dimensional model of the scene.” Posted by “modelers from the National Cheng Kung University, the 3D construct of the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building was made available on the Sketchfab 3D modeling community website just hours after the quake.” Indeed, the “3D model isn’t likely to help rescue workers to find them,” but it “will help many following the situation to understand and empathize with the victims as the story continues to unfold.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

Senate Democrats Block Energy Bill Over Flint Amendment.
Chopra’s Appointment To ED May Signal Improved Protections For Student Loan Borrowers.
Football Player May Wear 3D-Printed Brace On Game Day.
Increased Reports Of Sexual Harassment In STEM Fields Attributed To Growing Comfort.
Side Mirrors Could Soon Be Replaced By Cameras.
Lugar Says Shutting Down MOX Project Would Be “Catastrophic.”
Texas High School Students Engineer Prosthesis For Dog Missing Leg.

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