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

Leading the News

US, Mexico Sign Agreements Promoting Energy Cooperation.

E&E Publishing  (2/25, Subscription Publication) reports that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell signed agreements with Mexico on Thursday “aimed at boosting coordination on energy issues and preparing both countries for climate change.” In Mexico City, Jewell “signed a memorandum of understanding between the Department of the Interior and Mexico’s energy ministry to facilitate discussion on ‘common safety and environmental standards’ and allowing more information sharing on issues related to both fossil and renewable energy development.” Jewell said, “I commend Mexico for its ambitious energy reforms and look forward to partnering with its new regulatory institution, the Energy, Environment and Safety Agency, as we seek to develop energy safely and responsibly.” Jewell was in Mexico City as part of a delegation to Mexico led by Vice President Joe Biden and also including Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The AP  (2/25) also provides coverage of this story.

Higher Education

Fed Analysis: Elderly Holding “Significantly More” Student Debt.

Politico  (2/25, Politico) reports a new analysis  (2/26) released by the New York Federal Reserve on Wednesday revealed that older Americans held “significantly more debt” last year than in 2003, most of it in the form of student loans. Politico submits the rising student debt may be the result of parents borrowing to finance their kids’ education, but concedes this is a minor culprit. A September 2014 Government Accountability Office report found that 27 percent of loan balances held by those aged 50 to 64 was for their children, while the remaining 73 percent was for their own education.

Historically Black Colleges Are Key To STEM Diversity.

In an article in Diverse Education  (2/25, Thompson, Taylor) discusses the recent focus on STEM diversity saying it has encouraged large corporations like Apple and Verizon to become involved and that students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are benefiting from new financial commitments. Diverse Education says leadership of various corporations have realized the success of HBCU STEM programs is crucial to diversifying the STEM playing field as “HBCUs produce more African-American graduates who go on to receive advanced degrees than any other institutions.”

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

Cornell Researchers Make Quantum Dot Breakthrough.

The Christian Science Monitor  (2/25) reports that researchers with Cornell University’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering have made a quantum dot breakthrough, and have “discovered a way to make near-perfect superstructures out of these infinitesimal crystals.” Researchers have struggled with fusing the structures together. The piece explains that quantum dots have the potential to impact a wide swath of technologies “because of the distinct properties these crystals exhibit, not least their emission or absorption of different wavelengths of light according to how they are manipulated.”

Rowan University Electronic Memory Tech Research Selected For NASA Cubesat Mission.

The Gloucester County (NJ) Times  (2/26) reports that a research project “evaluating new electronic memory technology” from Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, is “among 20 selected for NASA’s next CubeSat Space Mission.” The project “is intended to compare the behavior of memristor memory devices against traditional, silicon-based memory technologies.”

MIT Tool Predict ‘Rogue’ Waves.

The Cambridge Patch  (2/25, Marcarelli) reports a new MIT breakthrough could provide sailors with two to three minutes’ warning ahead of the occurrence of “walls of water” thanks to a new tool that can predict rogue waves before they occur. The article reports “the super-accurate technology uses an algorithm to look at data from surrounding waves to spot clusters that could develop into a behemoth wave.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said these freak waves have been too rare to be studied and have only been recognized in recent decades. MIT Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Themis Sapsis said, “[The technology is] precise in the sense that it’s telling us very accurately the location and the time that this rare event will happen.” He added, “We have a range of possibilities, and we can say that this will be a dangerous wave, and you’d better do something. That’s really all you need.”


Paid Re-Entry Programs Can Help Women In Tech.

Fast Company  (2/26, Roepe) reports, “Seven global engineering and tech companies (IBM, Intel, General Motors, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cummins, Caterpillar, and Johnson Controls) are piloting re-entry, paid internship programs for people who have taken career breaks of two years or longer.” Fast Company says “the re-entry program was originated by iRelaunch, which also works with the financial services industry on a similar paid re-entry program that began in 2014 and has resulted in returning professionals being hired for full-time positions at Goldman Sachs, MetLife, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, and Credit Suisse.” The report explains that “following the success of the financial services re-entry programs, Cohen approached the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) about creating a similar program for engineer and technology companies.”

Industry News

Deere To Complete Significant Expansion Of Engineering Center.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls (IA) Courier  (2/26, Kinney) reports Deere’s $28 million Product Engineering Center (PEC) expansion is the “most significant” addition since the building was completed in 1981. The expansion, “anticipated to be fully completed later this year,” nearly doubles the center’s square footage, “now with about 765,000 square feet under roof on an 800-acre site, expanded over the years from the original 600,000 acres.” While the PEC is Deere’s “largest product research and development center worldwide,” the company also has “research operations in Germany, India, Augusta, Ga., and Mexico with ‘country engineering centers’ tailored for specific local markets such as in China and Brazil.”

Engineering and Public Policy

DOE Offers Steps To Fix “Broken” Relationship With Labs.

E&E Daily  (2/25, Subscription Publication) reports Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz “is offering a fix to help mend the ‘broken’ relationship between the national labs” and the Energy Department. This week the DOE released “a sweeping document” as a “formal response to recommendations from a congressionally mandated commission that found distrust between DOE and the labs is inhibiting their performance, despite their many successes and ‘great value’ to the nation.” Last year the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories “released its final report” following “18 months of analysis.” DOE in its report to Congress “supported many of the recommendations generally and outlined multiple new ways to address each of them.” Among the things the agency intends to do is “compile an annual report to Congress outlining DOE’s ‘operational successes and continued challenges’ in overseeing the laboratories.”

EPA: Maryland Plant Emissions May Violate Air Quality Rules.

The AP  (2/25) reports that this week the Environmental Protection Agency said areas within 22 miles of Talen Energy’s Herbert Wagner Generating Station in Pasadena, Maryland, may have sulfur dioxide emissions that violate national industrial air quality standards. Todd Martin, a Talen Energy spokesman, denied that the plant is violating any national air quality rules. Maryland officials say they will challenge the EPA’s preliminary decision, “official designations will be announced by July 2,” reports the AP.

States Resisting Clean Power Plan Also “Setting Wind Energy Records.”

Chris Mooney writes for the Washington Post  (2/25, Mooney) that Texas, ,South Dakota, Kansas and Oklahoma are suing the Obama Administration over the Clean Power Plan even as they have high wind energy potential according to the American Wind Energy Association on Tuesday. Mooney details those states’ wind capacity and writes that the high likelihood of compliance among those states “makes the politics around resistance to that plan pretty darn interesting – especially in the windy Midwest.”

Judge Gives Volkswagen One Month To Produce Emissions Fix.

Bloomberg News  (2/25, Mehrotra) reports that Volkswagen “has one month left to come up with a way to fix 600,000 diesel vehicles still on the road after it admitted in September to rigging its emissions testing software in violation of U.S. environmental standards.” US District Judge Charles Breyer “ordered the company to produce a solution before its next court date on March 24, according to a transcript of Thursday’s hearing in San Francisco. ‘Certain decisions may have to be made by the company that will not be the most advantageous economically,’ Breyer said while setting the deadline. ‘But it’s a decision that they must make in what I will call the very near future.’”

Reuters  (2/26, Shepardson) also reports.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Houston-Area Energy Education Opportunities Profiled.

The Houston Chronicle  (2/25, Sweeten, Correspondent) reported on education opportunities in the Houston area for students interested in a career in the energy industry. The article highlights programs from institutions including Lone Star College and the University of Houston’s Petroleum Engineering Department and Subsea Engineering Graduate Program.

Kansas Schools To Focus On Career Exploration.

The Wichita (KS) Eagle  (2/26) reports on Kansas’ new statewide push to include career exploration at an earlier age as part of K-12 coursework. The Wichita Eagle says the new focus is on the individual student and emphasizes internships, job shadowing and other real-world experiences. Some educators say this is career and individual focus sets this initiative apart from a previously standardized test-focused curriculum.

Lockheed Martin, Colorado University Collaborate To Inspire Future Engineers.

The Denver Post  (2/26, Albee) reports on a collaboration between Lockheed Martin and University of Colorado Boulder (UC) on Wednesday to provide a Mentor Lunch for high school and undergraduate students interested in engineering. The Lockheed Martin Mentor Lunch which was part of UC’s National Engineers Week included “speed mentoring” and tours of the engineering facilities.

Also in the News

Story About Engineer Who Tried To Stop Challenger Launch Sparks Sea Of Support.

The NPR  (2/25) “The Two-Way” blog reports that NPR received a great deal of public response from its story on the 30th anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, which focused on Bob Ebeling, a former engineer for NASA contractor Morton Thiokol, who “joined four colleagues in trying to keep Challenger grounded,” arguing that the unprecedentedly cold weather for the launch would defeat the rubber O-rings that “keep burning rocket fuel from leaking out of the joints in the shuttle’s boosters.” NPR had reported that Ebeling had “carried three decades of guilt,” and members of the public sent many messages supporting Ebeling. Bob Ebeling, now 89, at his home in Brigham City, Utah. Howard Berkes/NPR hide caption toggle caption

NAE Video Portrays Engineers As Celebrities.

The Washington Post  (2/25, Feltman) reports that the National Academy of Engineering’s Draper Prize, “the field’s highest honor,” is announced “right around the same time as are the Academy Awards” every year, making it difficult to publicize “the gathering of engineering hot shots.” In the face of this challenge, NAE and the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering commissioned a new video clip  (2/26) from Funny or Die to ask “what if cool, young, up-and-coming engineers were followed with the same gusto as singers and actors?”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Cook, Lynch Speak Out Amid Continued Debate Over San Bernardino iPhone.
AACRAO Stops Recommending Against Colleges Including Major Disciplinary Actions On Transcripts.
Boston Dynamics Releases Video Of Robot Overcoming Human “Bullies.”
Apple’s Encryptions Fight Could Speed Development Of Secure Devices.
Brief Filed By Nevada Attorney General Opposes New EPA Rules On Power Plants.
Girl Day Seeks To Promote Engineering As Opportunity For Girls.
Hired Hackers Easily Accessed Hospitals’ Networks In Test Of Cybersecurity.

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