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

Leading the News

Gates: We Need An “Energy Miracle” To Solve Climate Change.

The Hill  (2/24, Henry) reports Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, “said this week that the world needs an ‘energy miracle’ if it’s going to solve climate change.” In the annual letter of the Gates Foundation, Gates presented “what he considers the basic issue facing the world: the need to provide more energy, to more parts of the world, with lower carbon emissions than we have today.” He “wrote that there has to be a way to cut down on those emissions while also providing enough energy to meet future population increases” and that the solution “would need to be ‘more powerful, more economic solutions’ beyond just current work on cutting the cost of wind and solar power and expanding battery technology.” He wrote, “In short, we need an energy miracle.” The Washington Post  (2/23, Warrick) reports that in the letter Gates “repeated his plea for a financial call to arms in energy research, saying massive investments are needed to find and develop new technology that can fuel the world’s economy without poisoning its inhabitants.”

Higher Education

NYTimes Backs Bill Banning Questions About Drug Convictions From FAFSA.

In an editorial, the New York Times  (2/24, Subscription Publication) offers its support for a Senate bill that would “bar the education secretary from allowing any questions about drug convictions on the federal application for financial aid, known as the Fafsa, that is filled out by more than 20 million people each year.” The Times argues that “by eliminating the issue entirely, the government would ensure that people who are eligible are not deterred from applying for aid and clear a path to college for more young people.”

Writer Points Out Pitfalls Of Sanders’ Free College Promise.

In commentary for the Washington Post  (2/23, Selingo) “Grade Point” blog, Jeffrey J. Selingo writes about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ frequent campaign trail promise to “make college free,” comparing Sanders’ message with the push for Georgia’s HOPE scholarship two decades ago. Selingo writes that the problems that have emerged from this and other programs are that “free college mostly helps students who would get a degree anyway,” that many high school seniors are not “immediately ready for college,” and that “free tuition doesn’t reduce the cost of college.”

Washington State Bill Woos College Dropouts To Complete Studies.

The Washington Post  (2/23, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that a bill in the Washington state legislature would “give college dropouts a chance to finish their degree for free, a novel proposal that could have far-reaching implications for boosting national completion rates.” The measure enjoys bipartisan support and “calls for the state to cover tuition for residents who are 15 credits short of an associates or bachelor’s degree.”

Purdue Raises Liberal Arts Graduate Student Stipends, But Plans Program Cuts.

A 2,288-word piece at Inside Higher Ed  (2/23, Flaherty) looks at the consequences of Purdue University’s announcement “that it’s raising graduate pay to $15,000 or more next year” for the College of Liberal Arts, a move it will fund by making “major cuts to some of the largest graduate programs, and future cuts to overall graduate student enrollment.” The announcement has drawn “mixed reactions” from faculty and students. While some faculty members, “especially those that are seeing more funds directed their way as a result of the rebalancing,” support the plan, some students “feel they’re facing disproportionate sacrifices.” Students who oppose the plan “say the initial pay bump…means little in the face of a $200,000 budget cut over all,” rising healthcare costs, and “the reduced opportunity to teach additional courses.”

Burdened With Debt, Some Student Loan Borrowers Flee Abroad.

WBUR-FM  Boston (2/23) reports some student loan borrowers “are attempting to leave their debt behind by going abroad, and never coming back.” A five-minute audio segment from WBUR’s “Here & Now” program is included in which reporter Meghna Chakrabarti “discusses the phenomenon of student loan debt dodging with Joshua Cohen, an attorney who focuses on student financial aid.”

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

LLNL Researcher Discusses Difficulties Of 3D Bioprinting.

R&D Magazine  (2/23, Studt) reports on the potential of 3D printing of biological constructs, also known as 3D bioprinting. The process “employs a 3D printer-based deposition of bioinks to create biologically applicable structures layer by layer, resulting in a functioning tissue or organ.” Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory research engineer Monica Moya explained the difficulty of 3D bioprinting of human organs. She explained, “You cannot just grab a few billion muscle cells and make a heart. You also need modified conductive muscle cells, a blood supply, nervous system supply, connective tissues and more.” Stem cells are a good option for these applications, but Moya says that “efficiency challenges” still exist because to keep the cells from “proliferating, you have to keep stem cells in an undifferentiated (immature) state, which takes a specific set of factors.” She also explains that 3D bioprinted blood vessels must be “cultured in a dynamic way—media has to be pumped through the vessels for them to grow.”

University Of Washington Researchers Develop Low-Power Passive Wi-Fi Technology.

The Seattle Times  (2/24) reports that a team of electrical engineers and computer scientists at the University of Washington have developed technology “that dramatically reduces the amount of power needed to emit a Wi-Fi signal,” potentially deeply impacting the “Internet of Things,” in which a multitude of remote devices are interconnected via Wi-Fi. The researchers say this “passive Wi-Fi” technology “allows devices to communicate using 10,000 times less power than traditional Wi-Fi transmissions.”

Army Engineers Patent Bullet That Self-destructs.

Fox News  (2/23) reports that three employees of the US Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center “have been award a patent for a revolutionary limited range bullet that self-destructs,” a project “which aims to reduce collateral damage.” Fox explains, “designed for use in close combat areas such as urban fighting, the projectile could reduce the risk of stray bullets hitting civilians or friendly forces.” However, “the Army noted that funding for the project has ceased [but] the ARDEC engineers hope that the concept will resurface with the ongoing need to develop greater technology for troops.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Florida Legislature Divided Over Fracking Bill.

The New York Times  (2/23, Alvarez, Subscription Publication) reports that legislation to regulate fracking is dividing the Florida legislature. The bill, which has already passed through the House, calls for a moratorium of hydraulic and acid fracking, but environmentalists and some local officials “have sharply criticized” the fact that it would fail to regulate matrix acidizing, which the Times says is the “technology most likely to be used in Florida.” The bill would also revoke all local bans passed after Jan. 1, 2015, which includes the “vast majority” of the nearly 70 counties and cities that have done so. The opposition has “triggered bipartisan misgivings in the State Senate,” including criticism from members of the Appropriations Committee, which is the bill’s “final hurdle” to the Senate floor.

Lawmakers Say Congress Hasn’t Given EPA Power To Implement Climate Rule.

The Hill  (2/24, Henry) reports lawmakers in opposition to the Clean Power Plan “told a federal court Tuesday that Congress” hasn’t given the EPA the authority to enact the rule. In an amicus brief that supports a lawsuit opposed to CPP, over “200 lawmakers contended that the EPA is overstepping its bounds with the Clean Power Plan and trying to implement a rule more wide-ranging than previous Congresses ever intended.” The lawmakers wrote, “This case involves a new regulation where the agency fails to ‘conform’ to clear congressional instructions and is seeking to usurp the role of Congress to establish climate and energy policy for the nation.” The lawmakers in their brief “repeated many of their long-held arguments against the Clean Power Plan, saying the EPA cannot regulate power plant emissions under the section of the law it is citing and that it has no power to impose the rule on states.”

The AP  (2/23, Biesecker) reports the brief was “downplayed” by the White House, which described it as part of “continual pushback from obstructionist Republicans in Congress who don’t even believe in the science of climate change.” White House spokesman Frank Benenati said, “We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits when the plan gets it full day in court.”

Johnston: Illegal EPA Regulations Force Compliance. Jason Johnston at the University of Virginia and the Cato Institute writes about the Clean Power Plan for the Washington Times  (2/23) questioning why the EPA would “have ever taken the time and trouble to promulgate a regulation with such a low chance of ever being upheld by the courts.” Johnston argues that the EPA’s “attempt to coerce decarbonization by promulgating regulations without regard to their legality is not only a cynical use of regulatory power,” but an attempt to override Congress.

Twenty States Ask Supreme Court To Block EPA Mercury Rule.

The Hill  (2/24, Cama) reports that twenty conservative states led by Michigan asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to stop the EPA’s rule on mercury and other toxic pollutants after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused. “A stay or injunction is appropriate because this court has already held that the finding on which the rule rests in unlawful and beyond EPA’s statutory authority.” the states wrote in their Tuesday filing. Earthjustice said Tuesday’s motion “is premature and wrongheaded.”

Report: California Still First In Nation For Solar But Gap Closing.

The San Diego Union-Tribune  (2/23, Nikolewski) reports that in a report released Monday by the research arm of Green Tech Media and the Solar Energy Industries Association, “California remained first in the nation in annual photovoltaics installations.” Cory Honeyman, senior analyst at GTM Research, said in an email, “California is still going to be the No. 1 state for U.S. solar through 2021, but its market share will gradually decline to one-third and eventually just one-fourth of annual installations by 2021.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Panel Highlights All That Women Can Accomplish In STEM Fields.

The Chicago Tribune  (2/23, Janjigian) reports that at the Chicago Network’s Panel on Space on Monday, panelists relayed the message that for women “fighting roadblocks is key” to be successful in STEM fields. The panel promoted the need for girls to overcome difficulties and pressures to move out of the STEM field, balance motherhood, and fight stereotypes of women’s incapacity for technical subjects. The panel than talked about science each has been working on, and highlighted all that women are capable of accomplishing with a STEM education. The panel was made up of three women: Wendy Freedman, an astronomy professor at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University astrophysicist Vicky Kalogera, and the University of Chicago’s Angela Olinto.

Pennsylvania Eighth Graders Compete With Submersible Robots.

The Sunbury (PA) Daily Item  (2/23, Blackledge) reports that on April 2, fifteen teams of eighth-grade students from Danville Middle School who are enrolled in a STEM elective class will compete with submersible robots against each other for a chance to advance to a regional competition at Temple University on April 29, against teams from Philadelphia and Allentown.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Media Analyses: Apple, FBI Engaged In PR Battle.
Purdue Engineering Students Poised To Complete Race Car Project.
Some Experts Believe 3-D Printers Will One Day Become Routine Tools For Heart Care.
Study Finds Female Coders Create Better Work, Face Gender Bias.
Foxx Discusses Future Of Self-Driving Cars.
Group Seeks Restart Of Clean Power Plan After Releasing EPA Official’s Emails.
Elementary Student Group Helps School IT Support.

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