Leading the News
Calls To Cut Liberal Arts Funding And Promote STEM.
New York (NY) Times (2/21, Cohen, Subscription Publication) reports that state government officials around the country, frustrated with rising student loan debt, tuition costs, and the lack of skilled workers, want to reward colleges that turn out science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors and reduce funding for humanities education. Proponents of such measures cite the lifetime earnings gap between humanities majors and STEM majors as the reason for passing such measures. Opponents of the measures argue that success in workplace requires soft skills gained by liberal arts study and that the government cannot and should not attempt to predict what jobs will be required in the future.
Johns Hopkins Materials Science Class Focuses On Chocolate.
The Washington Post (2/20, Svrluga) reports that Jennifer Dailey, a doctoral student in the department of materials science at the John Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering has designed a materials science class that uses chocolate instead of traditional materials to teach such concepts as thermodynamics. Daiely found through comparing this with traditional methods that using chocolate “was just as effective a teaching method as the metals that are typically used in such classes, and she said the students enjoyed the lesson more.”
Student Advocates Say Colleges Shouldn’t Ask About Discipline During Admissions.
The Christian Science Monitor (2/19) reports that student activists and civil rights groups say that colleges should not ask applicants whether they’ve ever faced disciplinary action in school or been convicted of crimes, saying such questions “end up turning unfair disciplinary and judicial practices into roadblocks to college for far too many students of color.” Colleges say the face pressure to ask such questions as student safety has received additional emphasis in recent years. The article touches on racial disparities in K-12 discipline, noting that ED’s Office for Civil Rights often pushes districts to “remove unconscious bias and unnecessary punishments from school discipline practices.”
Proposed Limits On Redress For Students Deceived Into Taking Loans Sparks Criticism.
Bloomberg News (2/19, Kitroeff) reports “consumer advocates are attacking” the Administration’s proposal to limit “how and when the government should compensate students who say they were deceived into taking out federal loans.” Toby Merrill, the director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, said the Education Department’s proposal “erects significant and arbitrary barriers for borrowers who are entitled to relief.” Merrill said, “This would be worse for borrowers.” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement, “Cutting off students’ legal rights to relief creates an impossible barrier for those trying to rebuild their lives,” adding, “We urge the Department to remove the proposed statute of limitations… and hold predatory for-profit schools accountable to taxpayers.”
WSJournal Analysis: Poorest Students Carrying Heaviest Burden Of Increasing College Costs.
The Wall Street Journal (2/19, Mitchell, Fuller, Subscription Publication) reports its analysis indicates students from the poorest homes are carrying a heavier burden of increasing college students. Poor students, according to the Journal, have been acquiring more debt for tuition and living expenses. The Journal says it is now the norm for American students from the lowest income bracket to borrow at least half their household income to attend a four-year college.
Democrats Loretta Sanchez and Kamala Harris Disagree Regarding For-Profit Colleges.
The Sacramento (CA) Bee (2/19, Cadelago) reports that California Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a candidate for U.S. Senate, expressed her support for Westwood College on a recent tour of the school. In contrast, her opponent, Attorney General Kamala Harris, lists helping to close the Santa Ana-based for-profit Corinthian Colleges among her principal achievements. Sanchez has accepted campaign contributions from the colleges, or their interest groups and officials and is working to fight new federal regulations that for-profit and certificate programs at private and public institutions would need to comply with to qualify for federal student aid. Proponents of the regulations seek to curb potentially predatory practices and rising student debt. Opponents see the regulations as potentially curtailing higher education opportunities.
Research and Development
Obama Honors UVA Engineering Professor With Early Career Award.
The Augusta (VA) Free Press (2/21) reports that President Obama has announced that University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science associate professor Patrick Hopkins is to “receive the highest honor the U.S. government bestows on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers: the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.” Hopkins is a mechanical engineer who “specializes in nanoscale energy transport.”
University Of Iowa Receives ONR Grant To Further Virtual Soldier Research.
The Iowa City (IA) Press-Citizen (2/15) reports that the Office of Naval Research has given the University of Iowa a $2.6 grant for its virtual soldier program, which partners “with the US military to create simulations to predict whether heavy equipment would impede a service member’s ability to perform a specific task.” The new funding “will help UI researchers develop a program to predict whether performing those tasks repeatedly would lead to injury or permanent disability.” The AP (2/21) also covers this story, following on the Press-Citizen’s coverage.
Engineers, Physicians Getting Closer To Developing Prosthetics That Accomplish Individualized Motion.
The Baltimore Sun (2/21) reports that researchers at Johns Hopkins University are working to develop the first prosthetics to accomplish immediate, precise, individualized motion of limbs. Research published this month in the Journal of Neural Engineering showed promise as participants were able to achieve individualized motion of the fingers. The experiment “used a modular prosthetic arm developed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory” and was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Navy Moving Forward With General Dynamics Railgun.
Rich Smith writes at Motley Fool (2/21) that “earlier this month, the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command, or NAVSEA, announced it has begun engineering studies preparatory to installing an electromagnetic railgun aboard a U.S. warship.” Smith says that the surprising part of the announcement is that the Navy is no longer planning on waiting for General Dynamics to deliver the USNS Millinocket in 2018 to demonstrate the railgun. Instead, the Navy is planning to “install the railgun aboard Lyndon B. Johnson, and do its testing there.” Smith says this is representative of a shift at the Pentagon “toward accelerated deployment of new technologies could shorten the time-to-market for new weapons.” He also says the railgun program “could breathe new life into General Dynamics’ Zumwalt destroyer program” because it’s currently the only ship capable to producing the amount of electricity needed to operate a railgun.
Engineering and Public Policy
Ahead Of Governors’ Meeting, Advocate Touts Benefits Of Wind Energy.
In an op-ed in the Congress Blog in The Hill (2/20, Sloan) American Wind Energy Association vice president of state policy Susan Sloan touted the benefits that wind energy can bring to state governors looking for new energy solutions. She pointed out that with the National Governors Association’s 2016 winter meeting set to take place next week, state leaders should remember that wind energy “is now one of the biggest, fastest, cheapest ways for states to cut carbon pollution cost-effectively.” Additionally, wind power transmission has become more reliable, and wind energy is providing economy-boosting jobs across the US, making it “the ‘no-regrets’ solution” for state officials, Sloan argued.
Kansas Wind Projects Expected To Continue Despite State Of Clean Power Plan.
McClatchy (2/19, Tate) reports that following the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the EPA’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan, there is uncertainty in Kansas, one of the top wind energy-producing states, about the future of its clean energy initiatives. The state is among those suing the EPA over the CPP, but at the same time has been working on plans to comply with the regulation, including boosting wind energy use. In the short term, it appears the Supreme Court’s decision may do little to stem the tide of growing wind energy development, because the Federal tax credit extension is providing utilities with incentives to expand wind power.
Corrosion Of Concrete Wall In Bay Bridge Tunnel Worse Than Thought.
The San Francisco Chronicle (2/21, Van Derbeken) reports corrosion “in the Bay Bridge’s Yerba Buena Island tunnel that caused a concrete chunk to break loose last month, narrowly missing a motorist, is more widespread than Caltrans first believed,” with 12 newly identified spots in the tunnel where concrete is “in danger of breaking away from the wall since a Jan. 30 incident in which a tire-size piece fell into traffic on the lower deck, causing more than $3,000 in damage to a car that ran over it, officials said.” Subsequent testing identified additional locations where corrosion has damaged patches between 3 by 3 inches and 2 by 3 feet in size. Caltrans plans on using specialized equipment to probe for hidden cracks. Caltrans engineer Ken Brown said FHWA officials will help, adding, “We brought (the agency) in to advise us, to get a feel from what they are seeing in other tunnels.”
Industry Stresses Development Of Skilled Workers Who Are Job-Ready At Graduation.
In a commentary for IndustryWeek (2/19), Bob Graff, an executive with Yaskawa America’s Motoman Robotics division, wrote of the challenges manufacturers face in preparing high-school, vocational, and college students “with the certifications and skills to be productive upon graduation.” A key element of this effort, he explained, is the industry’s focus on helping “shape” curricula in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math — “to meet the growing demand for technical careers in automation,” and, in turn, skilled manufacturing jobs. Graff cited a study by Deloitte and the NAM-affiliated Manufacturing Institute concluding that 60% of the 3.4 million manufacturing jobs expected to be created over the next decade will be unfilled due to the shortage of skilled workers.
Bronx Leaders Pushing Computer Science Instruction.
The New York Times (2/21, Hu, Subscription Publication) reports on a website and app which “allows users to post videos of police abuses” developed by “six Bronx high school students who recently presented their work to business and community leaders.” The students’ work “highlights a growing movement in the Bronx to equip young people with the knowledge and the skills to write code, the language of computers, so that they can become creators rather than simply consumers of apps, video games, websites and other programs.”
West Virginia High School Students Create Hand For Boy.
The AP (2/20) reports that students at Greenbrier East High School in West Virginia made a hand for an 8 year old boy in their engineering class, using a 3-D printer. The mother of the boy called the school requesting a hand for her son who was born with a defect.
USC Held Open House At Engineering School For Elementary Through High Schoolers.
The AP (2/20) reports that the University of South Carolina will hosted students from elementary to high school level at an open house on Saturday at the College of Engineering and Computing.
Students Build Motorcycles In High School BUILD Program.
The AP (2/21, NOWAKOWSKI) reports that students in Milwaukee’s Bradley Tech High School’s BUILD program build fully functioning motorcycles in class. The finished bikes race in the summer at two races, Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan and Road America in Elkhart Lake. The program is designed to capture the allure of motorcycles while teaching students about its history, design, engineering, fabrication, welding, and math, among other things.
Washington Teaches STEM Through Playtime.
The Ellensburg (WA) Daily Record (2/20, Martinez) reports on how children in Washington State are learning about STEM through play activities. On Thursday the Kittitas County Early Learning Coalition hosted an event that featured “putting out fires with a local firefighter, making snacks, playing with Play-Doh and examining her fingerprints with a local police officer at the Hal Holmes Center.” Central Washington University students volunteered t the event. A parent who attended said, “I think it’s important to give kids opportunities to discover learning themselves, so it doesn’t feel like they’re learning, it feels like they’re playing.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Tech Giants Back Apple As FBI Raids Home Of Saeed Farook’s Brother.