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

Leading the News

Budget Would Boost Funds For Computer Science, Early Learning, Teacher Retention, College.

The Washington Post  (2/9, Layton) reports President Obama’s budget “gives a big boost to computer science education,” with a proposal for $4 billion for “coding courses in K-8 and an effort to make sure every high school in the country offers computer classes.” The budget also contains a $1 billion request “for a new program to attract and retain quality teachers in high-needs schools.” In addition, there are requests for increases in federal spending for “early-childhood education…college for low-income students,” and making “community college free to eligible students.”

Education Week  (2/9, Klein) reports the budget “would essentially flat-fund programs that nearly all school districts depend on to educate students in special education and disadvantaged students.” The budget has a “focus on integration”, with increases for Magnet Schools and charter schools, which are seen “as key vehicles for integrating schools.” Budget Would Promote Socioeconomic Diversity In Schools. The Huffington Post  (2/10, Klein) reports the budget contains “new steps to help schools achieve socioeconomic diversity.” One of those is “a $120 million competitive grant program,” named Stronger Together for schools to develop “ways to foster socioeconomic diversity.” In support of the idea, acting secretary King wrote, “In today’s economy, diversity isn’t some vague ideal. It’s a path to better outcomes for all of America’s children. And the proposal we are announcing today will help show us the most effective ways [to] meet that goal.”

President Obama Releases Cybersecurity National Action Plan. Network World  (2/9, Greene) outlines President Obama’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan. The article highlights the plan’s $19 billion in funding, which is an over 35 percent increase from last year. The article also mentions that the plan seeks to appoint a federal CISO to overlook the upgrading of the government’s cybersecurity infrastructure. The article adds that the plan will aim to educate consumers on cybersecurity through “the National Cyber Security Alliance, an existing non-profit that includes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as well as private businesses such as Symantec, Cisco, Microsoft, SAIC and EMC.”

Federal Times  adds that Obama will appoint a federal CISO within the next three months.

Federal Government Seeks Silicon Valley’s Help On Cybersecurity. CNBC  (2/9, Dillow) writes that in addition to the Cybersecurity National Action Plan, the federal government is also seeking help from Silicon Valley on cybersecurity issues through a new organization called Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx). According to the article, DIUx “represents the DoD’s permanent presence in Silicon Valley – a staff of roughly a dozen individuals tasked with seeking out potentially useful technologies as well as reestablishing relationships between the Pentagon and the brightest minds in technology.” The article adds that in the past, the DoD has struggled to access the knowledge that exists within its network, for example, “an engineer at the Office of Naval Research or at a contractor like Boeing or Lockheed Martin can know something to which a decision maker in the Pentagon is oblivious.”

Higher Education

Alexander, Murray Working On HEA Reauthorization.

The Washington Post  (2/9, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that with the success of Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in getting the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act approved by the Congress and the President, they are now looking into reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which expired at the end of 2015. The Post features edited interviews with the two senators in which they identified their top goals. Both mentioned affordability, while Murray added safety, and Alexander added “to cut through the jungle of red tape that is strangling administrators and wasting money.” Both favor simplifying the federal financial aid form. Alexander said that as with ESSA, he favors “solutions that decentralize higher education, that deregulate it and that make it simpler and easier for administrators, students and the 6,000 colleges to make their own decisions.”

Online Course Enrollment Continues To Grow, But Not In For-Profit Sector.

US News & World Report  (2/9, Friedman) reports that online course enrollment “continued to increase in 2014,” rising 3.9 percent​ over the year before according to the Babson Survey Research Group which has issued annual reports for 13 years. The report also found a “continued drop in distance learning enrollment in the for-profit sector​.”

Michigan Governor Proposes Increasing Higher Education Budget To 2011 Levels.

The Detroit News  (2/9, Kozlowski) reports that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is proposing to increase the state budget for higher education by $61.2 million in order to reach “2011 levels.” The increase would come with “a cap on tuition hikes of 4.8 percent.” The governor had reduced the budget by 15 percent in 2011. The Detroit Free Press  (2/9, Jesse) reports that half of the increase will be “for across the board increases” while half will be used for “performance based funding for the universities.”

University Of Texas Board Of Regents May Raise Tuition At UT-Austin For First Time In Five Years.

The Houston Chronicle  (2/9, Wermund) reports the University of Texas Board of Regents is considering tuition raises for the University of Texas at Austin of “3 percent this fall and another 3 percent next fall.” The raise “would be the first in five years” if it is adopted.

ASEE ED on NPR’s Air Talk
Norman Fortenberry discussed the efforts to make STEAM from STEM

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

Research and Development

Researchers Develop New Liquid Crystal Mixes To Keep Car LCDs From Freezing, Overheating.

SlashGear  (2/9, McGlaun) reports that researchers at the University of Central Florida, Xi’an Modern Chemistry Research Institute in Xi’an China, and DIC Corporation in Japan are working to create new “liquid crystal mixtures for use in [automotive] LCDs” that will function properly in extreme temperatures. The team has created three new mixtures they claim “have a clearing point higher than 100C or 212F and a melting point below -40C” and can “deliver response times of 10ms in both conditions.”

Michigan Tech Professor Designs Underwater Vehicles.

Diverse Education  (2/10, Morris) reports on Dr. Nina Mahmoudian, assistant professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics at Michigan Technological University, who has been “designing better unmanned vehicles that take water samples or search the floors of oceans and lakes.” Mahmoudian said that whether “I deal with an airplane or an underwater glider—it looks the same. It’s fluid, just different densities and different environmental challenges and interactions.” She has been working the problem of how to keep “autonomous underwater vehicles” operating by finding “a way to recharge on the fly.”

WPI Team To Develop Software For Navy Robot.

The Boston Globe  (2/10, Subbaraman) reports that the Navy is funding research at Worcester Polytechnic Institute “to build software” to operate “robots to work side-by-side with naval officers.” Assistant professor Dmitry Berenson will lead the effort. The WPI team is joining “a 6-year-old program that brings together robotics experts from the Office of Naval Researcher, the University of Pennsylvania, and Carnegie Mellon University.” They are working with a “5-foot-10 humanoid-like robot.” The WPI team is developing software for it to move “under the kinds of conditions it would face at sea.”

Engineering and Public Policy

White House Proposes $2 Billion To Increase Apprenticeships.

MarketWatch  (2/9, Kendall) reports that the fiscal 2017 budget proposal President Obama presented Tuesday includes a $2 billion Apprenticeship Training Fund that’s meant to fulfill an administration promise “to double the number of apprentices” in the US before Obama leaves office. The article cites a Labor Department statistic that in 2015 “less than one-half of 1%” of the nation’s workforce was in an apprenticeship program. The department also says that the average starting pay for an apprentice is about $15 an hour. At a Center for American Progress forum Tuesday in Washington, Georgetown University public-policy professor Harry Holzer explained that apprenticeships in the US haven’t taken off because they mostly involve middle skills and middle wages. Holzer “said the U.S. needs to boost the number of ‘new middle’ jobs, which require significant post-secondary training like jobs in the service sector or IT,” although he added that globalization, changing technologies, and outsourcing of jobs are “impediments,” MarketWatch reports.

US News & World Report  (2/9, Camera) quotes former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear as saying at Tuesday’s forum that apprenticeships suffer from the “myth” that they’re akin to a high-school shop class that leads to jobs in dark or dirty factories “with grease all over everybody and sparks flying through the air.” Citing a statistic from the NAM-backed Manufacturing Institute that 2.7 million jobs are estimated to open over the next 10 years, US News notes that Beshear’s 2007-2015 governorship supported a number of state apprenticeship programs, including the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education, or FAME, which began in 2010 “with the specific mission of providing a Toyota manufacturing plant with skilled workers to replace those aging out.”

Clean Energy Research Key Part Of DOE Budget Request.

The Hill  (2/9, Cama) reports that in the Energy Department’s budget request, “the Obama administration is highlighting a 21 percent increase in clean energy research funding as a top priority.” The agency “detailed the request Tuesday as part of the administration’s rollout of President Obama’s final budget sent to Congress, though Obama unveiled the clean energy aspect Saturday in his weekly address.” DOE “wants $5.85 billion in fiscal year 2017 for clean energy research as part of its $32.5 billion request to Congress.” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said yesterday, “The president’s budget request would accelerate American energy innovation, increase our energy and national security, and expand our commitment to science and research. … It also reflects DOE’s continuing commitment to maintain our nuclear deterrent, secure vulnerable nuclear material, and clean up our Cold War legacy.”

The Hill  (2/9, Henry) also reports the proposed budget “looks to create a ‘climate-smart economy’ and cement his legacy on climate change on his way out of the Oval Office next year.” In the preamble to his budget message Obama wrote, “We have made great strides to foster a robust clean energy industry and move our economy away from energy sources that fuel climate change. … Rather than shrinking from the challenge, America must foster the spirit of innovation to create jobs, build a climate-smart economy of the future, and protect the only planet we have.”

Ryan Says Congress Lacks Votes To Pass TPP.

The Hill  (2/9, Needham) quotes House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) as saying Tuesday that there currently isn’t “enough support” in Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, particularly due to “concerns” among lawmakers, including himself. The article says “provisions on pharmaceuticals and tobacco have provoked the most complaints” from members of the House and Senate, but supporters of the trade deal, including the NAM, “are pressing the White House to make changes” to the TPP that “could smooth its passage.” However, “that could require new concessions by other nations,” The Hill asserts.

NHTSA Agrees To Recognize Google’s Self-Driving Car Software As “Driver.”

Bloomberg Business  (2/9, Trudell, Clark) reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has agreed to recognize Google’s “artificial-intelligence system” as a driver, though the agency says the self-driving cars “will not have a ‘driver’ in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than 100 years.” Paul Hemmersbaugh, NHTSA’s chief counsel, said in a letter to director of Google’s self-driving car project Chris Urmson that “it is more reasonable to identify the ‘driver’ as whatever (as opposed to whoever) is doing the driving.” According to Bloomberg, the company is receiving “mixed signals from federal and state regulators” about how best to get its self-driving cars on the road. The Verge  (2/9, Golson) reports that the classification “has the potential to pave the way for Google’s car…to hit the streets in a broader capacity.” Reuters  (2/9, Shepardson, Lienert) reports that Kelley Blue Book automotive research firm senior analyst Karl Brauer said that if the “NHTSA is prepared to name artificial intelligence as a viable alternative to human-controlled vehicles, it could substantially streamline the process of putting autonomous vehicles on the road.” However, Brauer said, “The next question is whether and how Google could certify that the (self-driving system) meets a standard developed and designed to apply to a vehicle with a human driver.” The Financial Times  (2/9, Bradshaw, Subscription Publication) and CNET News  (2/9, Cunningham) also offer coverage.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Michigan Outlines Plans To Improve Schools.

The AP  (2/9) reports that Michigan State Superintendent Brian Whiston on Tuesday released a plan to improve the state’s schools that “would involve industry, labor and higher education leaders.” MLive (MI)  (2/10, McVicar) reports that officials announced a goal “to make Michigan a top 10 education state in 10 years.”

The Detroit Free Press  (2/9, Higgins) reports the plans include having “parents, teachers and students…sign an agreement that outlines individual academic and personal goals”; expanded “nursing, mental health services and health centers in schools”; and more efficient management of schools. In all there are “31 strategies approved…by the State Board of Education.”

STEM3 Academy Focused On Students With Learning Challenges.

CNN Money  (2/9, Kavilanz) reports on the STEM3 Academy in Los Angeles where director Dr. Ellis Crasnow said, “Our emphasis is on learning versus teaching,” adding, “Our students learn by doing, experiencing and constructing rather than just sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher.” The academy is focused on STEM subjects and teachers follow the “flipped classroom” model, in which class time “is used to complete projects and homework assignments, while time at home is spent reviewing the next day’s lessons.” The school’s students all “have a learning challenge, like autism-spectrum disorder, Asperger’s and ADHD,” but are also “especially gifted in subjects like math and science.”

Molloy College Partners With New York District On New Media Career Academy.

Newsday (NY)  (2/10, Kitchen) reports that Molloy College and the Baldwin school district announced “a joint venture they’re calling a ‘collaboratory,’ which includes the launch of a New Media Career Academy,” to be at Baldwin High School this fall. Baldwin and Molloy faculty will work together on “developing courses…in digital and new media, that would count as college credit” for any students who go on to Molloy. The next step will be to renovate space in the now closed Baldwin’s Shubert Elementary School for “open workspaces.”

Also in the News

Nation’s Job Openings Climbed To 5.61 Million In December.

Bloomberg News  (2/9, Golle) reports that Labor Department data released Tuesday showed “job openings rose in December to 5.61 million, the second-highest level on record.” Bloomberg says it’s particularly significant that “job gains over the last three months are occurring in the most cyclically sensitive industries: construction and more surprisingly, manufacturing.” According to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, “the job openings rate at construction companies in December was the highest since February 2007, while in manufacturing it rose to a record in data going back to 2000, propelled by demand among non-durable goods industries.”

Reuters  (2/9, Mutikani) says the JOLTS data also included a finding that 3.1 million Americans quit their jobs in December, which is the highest number since December 2006.

Gas Prices Could Fall To $1 Per Gallon. The Wall Street Journal  (2/9, A3, Sider, Subscription Publication) reports that some parts of the US could soon see $1-a-gallon gasoline as the price of crude has fallen to around $30 a barrel since June 2014. According to the Automobile Association of America, the current national average gasoline price is $1.73 per gallon.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

King Announces Federal Student Aid Enforcement Unit.
University Of Phoenix Parent Company To Be Taken Private For $1.1 Billion.
Google Is Testing Wireless Charging For Self-Driving Cars.
Analysts See Green Power Competitive Against Fossil Fuels Long-term.
NYTimes: Obama Budget To Propose Abandoning MOX Project.
Cleveland School District Purchases Chromebooks.
Orders For Manufacturing Technology Rose In December, Dropped In 2015.

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