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

Leading the News

Scientists Confirm Discovery Of Gravitational Waves.

NBC Nightly News (2/11, story 10, 0:30, Holt) reported scientists announced a September discovery of gravitational waves set off by colliding black holes. A gravity wave is “ripple effect of spreading water when you drop a rock,” except “these collisions are so monstrous they can shake the fabric of space time.” The CBS Evening News (2/11, story 9, 1:05, Pelley) said the finding “may be among the greatest discoveries in the history of physics,” and “may open an entirely new understanding of nature.” The observation, according to ABC World News (2/11, story 11, 0:15, Muir), also proves correct the final test of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

In a front-page, 2,000-word article, the Washington Post  (2/11, Achenbach, Feltman) says the discovery is being “hailed as a triumph for” the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which is funded by the National Science Foundation. At a “euphoric” news briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, LIGO members said the discovery will “inaugurate a new era of astronomy.” LIGO executive director David Reitze compared the findings to “land[ing] on the moon,” while University of Chicago cosmologist Michael Turner, who wasn’t involved in the project, called it the “Galileo moment of gravity waves.” The Post says gravity waves will be “particularly useful” for studying black holes and “other dark objects” because they “give scientists a bright beacon to search for even when objects don’t emit actual light.” The waves, according to the Post, could even help discover “theoretical ‘cosmic strings’ left over from the big bang.”

The AP  (2/11, Geranios) and the Seattle Times  (2/11, Doughton) also cover this story.

RIT Researchers Co-author Paper On Gravitational Waves Discovery. In a 1,360-word feature, the RIT University News  (2/11, Gawlowicz) reports six RIT researchers were co-authors of a paper set to be published in the journal Physical Review Letters, which found “what may be the most important scientific discovery in a century—findings that confirm the existence of gravitational waves predicted in Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.” The twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, made “the first direct observation of binary black holes.” The article highlights both the “historical” and “emotional” significance of the research, and links to RIT’s press release  (2/12). The RIT University News  (2/11, Gawlowicz) provides background on the members of the RIT team.

Higher Education

Mt. Saint Mary’s Professor Fired For Opposition To Policy To Encourage Dropouts.

The CBS Evening News (2/11, story 11, 2:10, Pelley) reported Mt. Saint Mary’s University professor Ed Eagan was fired because the school said he violated his “duty of loyalty” after opposing a policy to encourage poor performing students to drop out of the university. Eagan was the faculty adviser to the school newspaper that reported on the policy, and Eagan “says he’s being punished for accurate but embarrassing reporting by the students.” CBS added, “a petition protesting the firing of Eagan and another professor has been signed by about 7,500 professors across the country.”

Open-source Textbook Movement Gains Momentum.

The AP  (2/11, Melia) reports the open-source textbooks movement “has made rapid gains over the past year, often driven by students” who oppose the rising cost of attending college. Association of American Publishers executive director for higher education David Anderson “said the industry is already shifting from print to digital in a change that will bring down student costs,” predicting coexistence between open textbooks and commercial textbooks, due to costs associated with developing open-source materials. The AP cites how “more than a dozen states have pursued legislation related to open textbooks.”

Women Have Repaid Less Student Loan Debt Than Men, Study Finds.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (2/12, Credit) reports a study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) based on US Department of Education data found “women who graduated in the 2007-08 school year have only paid off, on average, 33% of their student debt,” whereas “men who graduated that same year…have paid off an average of 44% of their student loans.” In more stark contrast, black and Hispanic women “have paid less than 10% of their debt in the same time period despite working full time.” AAUW blamed the disparity on the wage gap.

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

Johns Hopkins Professor Using “Holistic” Approach To Engineer To Improve Disaster Resilience.

The Baltimore Sun  (2/12, Pitts) reports on the efforts to Judith Mitrani-Reiser, “a professor of civil engineering at the Johns Hopkins University and a leading expert in the field of disaster resilience,” as she investigates infrastructure problems that cities and town face after natural disasters in hopes finding a “more holistic approach” that will allow areas to better handle the fallout from such events. Mitrani-Reiser examines both what happens to critical buildings and what happens to the “chains of human activity support[ing] the operations of buildings,” noting that “it’s just as important to study how those chains — the human infrastructure — contribute to resilience as it is to study the resilience of the structures themselves.”

AT&T Will Start 5G Tests This Year.

USA Today  (2/12, Baig) reports that AT&T will begin testing 5G networks this year, “following a similar announcement from Verizon.” AT&T’s tests will work with Ericsson and Intel beginning in the second quarter, with the tests taking place in Austin. USA Today notes that while there is “still no formal agreement on what 5G is” standards should be set by 2018, with the technology ready for commercial viability in 2020.

The Wall Street Journal  (2/12, Gryta, Subscription Publication) reports that 5G is expected to provide speeds 10 to 100 times faster than 4G. The Journal describes the network as akin to cellular service at broadband speeds. The company has applied to the FCC for a license to test the technology on high-frequency bands in Austin.

Bloomberg News  (2/12, Moritz) reports that AT&T chief strategy office John Donovan said “I know Verizon says they will be first, but we are right there with them.” Bloomberg adds that AT&T will use “high-frequency millimeter band radio spectrum” for its tests.

CNET News  (2/12, Esqueda), TechCrunch  (2/11, Matney), and Re/code  (2/11, Fried) also report on the story.


Boeing To Cut Jobs In Commercial Airplane Unit.

Reuters  (2/11) reports that Boeing announced on Wednesday that it plans to cut jobs in its commercial airplane unit in an effort to reduce costs and become more competitive against Airbus. The article writes that in 2015, “Airbus won 57% of new orders booked by the two airplane makers.” The article adds that Boeing said it will begin by cutting jobs at the executive and manager level. The article also mentions that Boeing did not set numbers nor a time frame for the job cuts, explaining that it “will depend on how effectively we bring down costs as a whole.”

Industry News

Baer, Ramirez To Discuss Wave Of Major Mergers With Lawmakers Next Month.

Reuters  (2/12) reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee will hear from top US antitrust officials next month in a discussion of a wave of major mergers over the past year, according to an unnamed committee staffer. Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer, who heads the Antitrust Division, and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez will testify before the committee, the staffer told Reuters. The hearing will be held March 9.

The Wall Street Journal  (2/11) reports that a report by the law firm Allen & Overy found that mergers and takeovers valued at more than €60 billion fell through last year because of antitrust scrutiny.

Engineering and Public Policy

Obama Nominates King To Become Tenth Secretary Of Education.

The Washington Post  (2/11, Douglas-Gabriel, Layton) reports President Obama nominated Acting Education Secretary John B. King to officially fill the position he has held since the start of the year. White House officials said prior to the announcement that Obama “was encouraged by the bipartisan support King has received in Congress.” Senate education panel Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) “said he assured the president that he would work to see King through the nominating process, and that King would likely get GOP support.” Yet, Republican congressional leaders “said they want King…to undergo the vetting process.” The article profiles King, highlighting his work to quell “growing pushback” against Common Core standards in NY state.

The Hill  (2/11, Fabian) reports Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander indicated King “will receive a prompt and fair hearing.” Alexander said, “For proper accountability, especially as we work with the administration on implementing the new law … it is important to have in charge of the department a member of the president’s cabinet confirmed by the United States Senate.” Newsday (NY)  (2/11) highlights White House expectations that King will not be “slow-walked” through a lengthy nomination process. USA Today  (2/11, Toppo) calls the nomination an “apparent reversal,” as the White House previously “said it would skip the Senate confirmation process.”

The AP  (2/11) reports Obama received “commitments from lawmakers to give his nomination speedy consideration.” The article outlines King’s work overseeing federal education programs, working as a teacher and a principal, and co-founding “a charter school that became one of the highest performing urban middle schools in Massachusetts.” King was the first Afro-Latino to serve as NY education commissioner, “overseeing elementary and secondary schools, as well as the state’s public colleges and universities.”

Obama said of King, “There is nobody better to continue leading our ongoing efforts to work toward preschool for all, prepare our kids so that they are ready for college and career and make college more affordable,” according to the Wall Street Journal  (2/11, Korn, Subscription Publication).

Additional coverage is provided by TIME  (2/11, Rhodan), the Washington Examiner  (2/11, Takala), the Daily Caller  (2/11, Neff), WBBM-TV Chicago (IL)  Chicago (2/11), and the Schenectady (NY) Daily Gazette  (2/11). Reuters  (2/11, Rampton) reports similarly in a brief.

Nomination Process Predicted To Be “Relatively Smooth.” Education Week  (2/11, Klein) predicts that while “there could be tense moments” in the nomination process, the vetting is likely to be “relatively smooth.” AEI education policy director Rick Hess commented, “King is a relatively uncontroversial figure with an appealing story and the Republican[s] would rather see a Secretary than an unconfirmed caretaker.” Thomas B. Fordham Institute president Mike Petrilli anticipated “smooth sailing…with plenty of anti-Common Core rhetoric thrown in for good measure.” The article features support for King from the Senate education panel’s top Democrat Patty Murray and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA).

Elementary/Secondary Education

Parents Argue Online About Solvability Of Fourth-Grade Common Core Math Problem.

The Independent Journal Review  (2/11, Foley) highlights an online discussion among four adults trying to solve a fourth-grade Common Core-based math problem. The parents disagree about whether or not the problem is solvable with the information provided without making any assumptions. One parent claims the problem is unsolvable because it does not explain the relationship between “stickers” and “bags of stickers”, while another parent claims the problem is solvable if you assume that the bags of stickers all contain the same number of stickers.

Irvine Schools Foundation Offers Educational Activities On Presidents’ Day.

The Los Angeles Times  (2/11) reports that on Presidents’ Day the Irvine Public Schools Foundation plans to hold a so-called Enrichment Day to offer educational activities including “Lego engineering, break dance, cooking, filmmaking, Jedi academy, hand sewing and caricature drawing” for “students in grades two through eight.” The event will raise money for the Innovative Teaching Award, which “provides grants to select Irvine Unified School District teachers.”

Application Of Gaming Principles To Education Promoted.

Forbes  (2/11, Kurshan) contributor Barbara Krushan writes that the rising popularity of video and computer games indicates that applying gaming for entertainment principles to education – a practice she calls “gamification” – offers “tremendous potential.” Describing the history of this practice, Krushan concedes “educational game designers face many challenges, one of which is making the learning experience enjoyable.” Yet, Krushan asserts a “sweet spot” exists “between pedagogy and engagement where learning intersects with fun.”

Denver Public Schools Joins Growing List Of School Districts Adopting “Restorative Practices.”

On its website, NBC News  (2/11, Reyes) reports Denver Public Schools has joined other school districts around the country by embracing “restorative practices” to address student misconduct rather than student suspensions and expulsions. Many government agencies and organizations including ED, the US Department of Justice, and the National Education Association have promoted restorative practices that “support students and help them integrate into the school community” rather than kicking the offending students out of school without addressing the underlying troubles that led to the conflict in the first place. A study by University of Denver Professor Yolanda Anyon found that three Denver schools that implemented restorative practices decreased student suspension rates while increasing student achievement.

NEPC: The Need For Diverse, Integrative Schools Is Paramount.

National Education Policy Center  (2/11, Black) reviews a new report by The Century Foundation (TCF) which says that parents and educators want more integration in schools to prepare students for a society that is diverse and complex, but that instead policy makers have ignored these concerns and focused on “high-stakes accountability.” The report says the need for integrative measures is urgent, and NEPC applauds the Obama Administration for requesting $120 million in the fiscal 2017 budget to “tackle the sticky issue of making schools more socio-economically integrated,” says Alyson Klein from Edweek.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Obama Seeking Big Increases In Medical Research.
Obama’s Budget Plans For Higher Education Not Expected To Be Approved.
GSK Center To Use Advanced Molecular Imaging To Study Effects Of Treatments On Skin.
NHTSA Says Autonomous Car’s Artificial Intelligence Can Qualify As Driver.
DOD Schools Implementing New Standards.

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