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

Leading the News

Flint Drinking Water Pipes Still Contaminated With Lead.

MLive (MI)  (2/16) reports that about 250 water tests performed on drinking water in Flint homes returned levels above 15 ppb, the federal action limit, and another 11 returned levels above 150 ppb. The announcement follows national NAACP president Cornell William Brooks’ Monday assertion that the organization would launch an “intense” campaign against Michigan within 30 days if the state did not replace the lead contaminated pipes, the Detroit News  (2/16, Williams) adds. The AP  (2/16) reports that on Tuesday, Gov. Snyder confirmed that engineering firm Rowe Professional Services had agreed to analyze the water lines in Flint and identify the pipes posing the greatest lead exposure risk. MLive (MI)  (2/17)adds that a supplemental budget request submitted to the state Legislature in January was also approved for $25 million to be used for Flint’s water infrastructure needs, including water fixture testing, inspecting, and replacements.

MLive (MI)  (2/16, Emery) reports in another article that Flint residents and attorneys attended an informational meeting on Tuesday focused on informing residents about available resources and three pending lawsuits filed against the state of Michigan. Attorney Erin Brockovich, a member of the Flint Water Class Action Legal Team, also spoke to the meeting attendees and explained the legal team’s efforts in securing water and blood testing.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post  (2/16, Ingraham) reports that the nonprofit organization Food & Water Watch issued the results of a survey  on Tuesday revealing that out of 500 water utilities surveyed, Flint’s water system imposed “the highest rates” on Flint-area residents “for water that was toxic.” Study author Mary Grant added that Flint residents paid an average annual water service payment of around $864, a rate that the report asserts is almost twice as high as the national average and “far exceeds what the United Nations designates as affordable for water and sewer service,” the Detroit Free Press  (2/16, Wisely) reports.

Reuters  (2/17) and MLive (MI)  (2/16) also covered the story.

Michigan Officials Initiate Water System Regulatory Upgrades In Flint. The AP  (2/17, Williams) reports that “Michigan, seeking to prevent another oversight fiasco after lead poisoning in Flint and a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the area, is considering new water testing rules for hospitals and possible changes to how large facilities manage their water systems that could include new monitoring requirements.” Genesee “County Public Health Supervisor Suzanne Cupal told The AP that county and state health officials met with representatives from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month to discuss the” American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers “standards for Legionella testing in water systems.”

Michigan Governor Accuses Federal, State Agencies For Roles In Lead Contamination In Flint Drinking Water. The Detroit Free Press  (2/16, Egan) reports that on Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) told reporters that the Environmental Protection Agency was largely responsible for the lead contamination of Flint-area drinking water because “they failed to do a lot of things in the process,” including “not identifying the issue, not bringing it to either the state’s attention or even other people in the federal government’s attention. They still haven’t fully acknowledged all of their issues.” The EPA denounced Snyder’s statement in a late Tuesday statement, through which agency spokeswoman Monica Lee asserted that the “EPA’s ability to oversee … management of that situation was impacted by resistance and failures at the state and local levels to work with EPA in a forthright, transparent, and proactive manner consistent with the seriousness of the risks to public health.”

Higher Education

Study: Student Gender Bias Hindering Women In STEM Fields.

US News & World Report  (2/16) reports that University of Washington anthropology doctoral candidate Daniel Grunspan and co-lead author Sarah Eddy have published research finding that “among 1,700 students in undergraduate biology classes at the University of Washington, men overwhelmingly chose men when asked to nominate the best students in the class, revealing a gender bias among male students that was 19 times the size of that of female students.” The researchers suggest that “subtle biases along these lines may lead to at least some female STEM students having a lower sense of belonging or confidence, resulting in an increased tendency to leave STEM fields.”

Outmoded Rules Mean Pell Grants Often Exclude Manufacturing-Oriented Training.

According to the Hechinger Report  (2/16, Kolodner), the Obama Administration’s calls for expanding the federal Pell grant program have prompted “an unusual collection of conservative, liberal, union and business leaders” to question the plan’s exclusion of “short-term educational programs that lead to decent-paying jobs.” The article, citing a statistic from the NAM-backed Manufacturing Institute that up to 600,000 middle-skilled manufacturing jobs are now unfilled due to “a lack of trained workers,” explains that “training is available from short-term programs not covered by Pell.” In 2015, the US Education Department launched Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships, or EQUIP, a program that “allows community colleges to use Pell money for training programs administered by nontraditional groups,” the Hechinger Report notes. “But the programs [EQUIP] covers are required to have at least 450 hours of class time, which would still leave many training programs without” Pell-compliant aid.

Wisconsin Assembly Considering Governor’s College Affordability Bills.

The AP  (2/15) reports the Wisconsin Assembly is considering Governor Scott Walker’s “college affordability package”, a group of bills that would “lift the cap on tax-deductible student loan interest, boost grants for students, create internship coordinators and require colleges to keep students informed about their debt levels.” The article mentions the partisan differences on the bills.

Hillary Clinton Campaign Criticizes Bernie Sanders For Not Supporting Private HBCUs.

USA Today  (2/16, Gaudiano) reports Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign released a statement quoting Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) criticizing rival candidate Bernie Sanders for not supporting private HBCUs in his policy proposal to make public colleges free. Rep. Richmond says Clinton’s plan supports greater funding for many HBCUs while Sanders’ plan “threatens roughly 50% of HBCUs that are not public.” Richmond is an alumnus of private HBCU, Morehouse College, which Sanders visited on Tuesday.

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

Firm Developing Gyroscopic Glove To Ease Parkinson’s Tremors.

CNN  (2/16, East) reports that a team of “volunteer students and graduates specializing in electrical, mechanical and biological engineering” have formed GyroGear, a firm that is developing the GyroGlove, which “uses the laws of physics – rather than chemistry – to stabilize a patient’s hand and control tremors mechanically.” The technology uses gyroscopes to control Parkinson’s disease and other maladies.

University Of Nebraska NIMBUS Lab Conducting Drone Research.

KETV-TV  Omaha, NE (2/17) reports that researchers at the University of Nebraska “are taking unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to new heights” at the school’s new Nebraska Intelligent Mobile Unmanned Systems (NIMBUS) lab. The facility “tests flying robots that can perform tasks like drawing water samples from streams and rivers, picking up objects and dropping fireballs to help farmers or fire crews in prescribed burns.”

Global Developments

Scottish Companies Launch “Groundbreaking” Sensor Project.

BBC News (UK)  (2/17) reports that Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems (Censis) are investing “almost £6m in funding over the next three years” in an R&D project to develop “next-generation sensing technologies under a ‘groundbreaking’ initiative.” According to BBC, researchers from Cascade Technologies, Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global, Gas Sensing Solutions Ltd, and Amethyst Research Ltd as well as the research division of electronics and nanoscale engineering at the University of Glasgow will “work on producing materials that are key to manufacturing a variety of goods that use sensors.” They will have “access to a type of semiconductor that organisers say will allow the firms to create ‘cutting-edge, quality mid-IR (infrared) sensors in high volumes with greater sensitivity, lower cost, reduced energy use and a longer lifespan than existing products.’”

Industry News

Boeing’s South Carolina Plant Delivers 100th Dreamliner.

The Seattle Times  (2/16, Gates) reports that Boeing’s South Carolina factory on Tuesday delivered its 100th 787 Dreamliner, a little more than three years after the final-assembly facility opened. American Airlines was the customer for the “watershed,” the Times says, adding that Boeing is preparing to accelerate 787 production, according to the plant’s “site leader,” Beverly Wyse. She said the “next 100 planes” will be produced in half the time, or about 18 months. Boeing’s East Coast plant “has recently added significant engineering work and now employs about 7,500 people,” the Times says.

GAO Affirms Award Of Stealth-Bomber Contract To Northrop Grumman. The Washington Post  (2/16, Davenport) reports that the Government Accountability Office on Tuesday rejected a protest by Boeing and Lockheed Martin over the $80 billion contract awarded to Northrop Grumman to build the Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber. Boeing officials issued a statement saying they “continue to believe … the government’s selection process was fundamentally and irreparably flawed,” adding that the company will decide whether to pursue further action “in the coming days.”

Engineering and Public Policy

WSJournal: House Must Hold EPA Accountable For Mine Disaster.

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (2/16, Subscription Publication) says a report last week by the House Natural Resources Committee suggests the EPA isn’t giving the full story regarding the agency’s litany of failures that culminated in the Aug. 5 Gold King Mine toxic disaster. The Journal claims reports from EPA and the Interior Department include many inconsistencies, and adds that if the agency wouldn’t tolerate a private business acting in such a way, the House committee should continue holding EPA to the same rigid standards.

Rising Death Toll May Lead To Recall Of All Takata Air Bags.

The AP  (2/16, Krisher) reports that following the December death of a South Carolina man, Sen. Bill Nelson on Feb. 10th urged the NHTSA to recall all vehicles with Takata air bags. Previously, the air bags were thought to be defective only in older model vehicles. However, defects have been found in newer vehicles. According to Nelson, “recent events and recalls involving relatively new vehicles with these types of inflators raise serious questions as to whether Takata’s ammonium nitrate propellant is inherently dangerous.”

Takata Air Bag Concerns Prompt GM To Recall 200,000 Cars. The AP  (2/16) reports that General Motors (GM) is recalling almost 200,000 vehicles across the US and in Canada for Takata driver’s air bag replacement as part of a 5.4 million NHTSA vehicle recall announced on Jan. 22nd. GM’s recall affects the Saab 9-3 from 2003 to 2011, the Saab 9-5 from 2010 and 2011, and the Saturn Astra from 2008 and 2009. The recent wave of recalls affects cars manufactured by GM, Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, Honda, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, and Daimler Trucks.

The Detroit Free Press  (2/16, Gardner) reports the GM recall affect vehicles with the Takata PSDI-5 driver front air bag inflator. The recall is for 180,000 vehicles in the US, with the rest in Canada. According to the Press, Takata and GM have no reports of “ruptures, injuries or deaths in the U.S. or Canada from inflators in the Saab and Saturn vehicles covered by this recall.”

Reuters  (2/16, Woodall) reports that Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG, and BMW have also recalled almost 850,000 cars that have the same GM Takata inflator. Last month, Takata recommended the recall of over five million cars with faulty air bags.

Takata Engineer Pleads The 5th In Florida Lawsuit. MLive (MI)  (2/16, Muller) reports that during the depositions in a Florida-based lawsuit against Takata over defective airbags, “Al Bernat, an auto safety specialist” for Takata “invoked his constitutional right not to risk incriminating himself.” The Japanese parts supplier has argued in this case that the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by defective a Takata airbag.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Arizona Legislature Restoring Funding To Career And Technical Education.

The AP  (2/16, Christie) reports the Arizona House passed a bill restoring most of the funding previously cut to high school career and technical education programs. The House passed an amended version of a bill that was passed by the Arizona Senate. Senate President Andy Biggs mocked the House’s amendments to the bill, one of which added the names of the Arizona House members to the legislation. Biggs said, “At some point silly must end, and maturity must take over.” The Arizona Republic  (2/16, Rau) adds some political analysis of the legislation explaining that both houses of the state legislature are trying to claim credit for restoring the funding.

Students Make Paper Airplanes To Engage Interest In Aeronautical Engineering.

KYW-TV  Philadelphia (2/16, McDevitt) reports that as part of a program to get kids engaged in hi-tech scientific fields, such as aeronautical engineering, students from Saints Colman-John Neumann Catholic School in Bryn Mawr, PA used “paper, straws, paper clips,” and tape to design and build a glider. The students used pennies as cargo and tested their aircraft, they also received “tips from structural analysis engineer Matt Palmer, who works on real planes for Boeing.”

New York City Chancellor Introduces Changes To Reduce Inequity In Math.

The Chalkbeat New York  (2/16, Disare) reports that New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced changes in math instruction in fifth-grade to improve quality of math education across New York City, and reduce inequity. The City’s first step in the plan is to “‘departmentalize’ math at their elementary schools by designating specific teachers to be laser-focused on the subject,” Chalkbeat reports, continuing “currently, 75 schools are signed up to departmentalize math next year.”

Free Online Video Program Encourages STEM Studies In Young Children.

The New Hampshire Union Leader  (2/16, Haas) reports that New Hampshire Public Television and Learniverse LLC created “a free online video learning program” for young children called “STEM from the START” which features animated characters called QUINKS. The program is designed to encourage “young children to get into science, technology, engineering and math.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Google Seeks To Expand Autonomous Car Testing And Production Capabilities.
Schumer Promotes Reducing Educational Debt Act.
DARPA’s Submarine-Hunting Drone Ship Set To Launch In April.
Professor: More Than Half Of Workers Will Be Unemployed In 30 Years As Robotics Advance.
Scalise: President Obama “Waging War” On American Energy.
Minnetonka West Middle School Team Wins Spot In National Science Bowl.

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