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

Leading the News

Whitfield Rejects Clean Energy Push.

E&E Publishing  (3/3, Subscription Publication) reports Rep. Ed Whitfield is “rejecting” the Department of Energy’s “push to double clean energy research and development over five years, tying the fiscal 2017 budget proposal to the landmark international climate agreement sealed in Paris in December.” Whitfield, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, “said DOE has already seen major funding increases throughout the Obama administration, with much of the funds steered toward efficiency and renewables at the expense of fossil fuels and nuclear power.” After hearing testimony from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Wednesday, Whitfield said, “We’re not going to support the initiatives to back up the Paris Agreement.” Moniz, during testimony, “framed the Mission Innovation request in economic terms.” Moniz said, “It is a widely shared view that innovation is essential for economic growth by providing affordable and reliable energy for everyone, is critical for energy security, enhances U.S. competitiveness, and is the key to a transition to a clean energy future.” The “Morning Energy” of Politico  (3/2) previewed Moniz’s appearance before the committee.

Impasse On Nuclear Waste Storage Expected To Continue. E&E Daily  (3/2, Koss, Subscription Publication) reported yesterday on Moniz’s return to Capitol Hill “to continue selling his department’s fiscal 2017 budget request,” but “one long-sought proposal to allow temporary storage of nuclear waste appears once again headed for the shelf.” Following an appearance before House appropriators, “Moniz will testify…before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power on the department’s $32.5 billion request,” which includes a “provision that would allow for a pilot program to temporarily move spent fuel from power plants to interim storage sites.” But the proposal has repeatedly run into “pro-Yucca Mountain sentiment on the Energy and Commerce Committee, including from Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).” Shimkus reiterated that “changes to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to allow interim storage won’t fly unless accompanied by a commitment ensuring a future role for Yucca Mountain.”

Maryland Colleges Working To Spark STEM Interest In Black Students.

US News & World Report  (3/2) reports on the underrepresentation of black students in STEM fields cited in ED statistics, and describes programs at Maryland’s Morgan State University and the University of Maryland aiming to “ramp up interest in STEM careers among black students – such as more research opportunities, aggressive recruiting and apprenticeships.” The piece quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying Monday at a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine forum, “There’s a moral responsibility we have to our future as a society. We’re here today not just because of the challenge but because around the table these are the institutions that have begun to break the code.” At the forum, ED, the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the academies’ Board on Higher Education and Workforce “brought together STEM experts as well as representatives from historically black colleges such as Howard University in Washington and Morgan State.”

Higher Education

Charters’ Social And Emotional Learning Linked To Better College Completion Rates.

In its “Common Core” section, the Hechinger Report  (3/2, Felton) profiles the use of “social-emotional education” classes in Chicago-area charter schools, which have led to an increase in college completion rates within six years of graduation. The Hechinger Report says the emotional learning equips students to manage real life issues that arise in conjunction with college work. The article discusses the Every Student Succeeds Act’s requirements that emotional and social skills be incorporated into accountability systems, and says some argue against this due to the difficulty of measuring social and emotional achievement.

Support Grows For Open-source Text Books To Save Students Money.

The AP  (3/2, Melia) reports that open-source textbooks, built with public domain material or material obtained through a Creative Commons license, are saving students hundreds of dollars and “universities and state governments are lining up behind the cause as a way to make college more affordable.” Some see open-source text books not as a replacement, but as co-existing with traditional text books dues to varying requirements from professors and development costs. The AP also details the development of some open-source texts.

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

DOT Offers Universities Over $72 Million To Expand Transportation Research.

Transport Topics  (3/2) reports the DOT will make available “up to $72.5 million in fiscal 2016 for universities” seeking to “expand their transportation research initiatives.” Earlier this week, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the DOT is “seeking applications for its University Transportation Centers program,” which plans to award over $377 million over the next five years. Foxx is quoted as saying, “Our universities are at the forefront of solution-oriented research addressing America’s changing demographics and increased freight volumes, and ensuring improved access to economic opportunity nationwide.” He continued, “We have some of the best universities in the world, and I am calling on them to innovate and think big.”

DOE Helping To Improve Next-Gen Batteries, Positioning To Challenge Tesla’s Powerwall.

Reuters  (3/2, Volcovici) reports that the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has helped significantly improve next-gen batteries for use in electric cars and homes over the last few years, according to ARPA-E Director Ellen Williams, potentially challenging Tesla Motor’s Powerwall batteries. Williams said in an interview that Tesla’s Powerwall tech isn’t “technology innovation in the sense of creating new ways of doing it. We are pretty well convinced that some of our technologies have the potential to be significantly better.” Further, ARPA-E is set to get a budget increase due to Mission Innovation, a partnership between the US and 19 other countries launched at the UN Paris climate summit in 2015, allowing it to help more innovators raise money for their projects.

Global Developments

Germany Should Focus On Electric Vehicle Research And Development Instead Of Subsidies.

Bloomberg Business  (3/3, Bryant) “Gadfly” columnist Chris Bryant writes that Germany is “falling woefully short” of its goal to have one million electric vehicles in operation by 2020, so the government is considering a 5,000 euro ($5,419) incentive to spur buyers. According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority, about 12,000 electric vehicles were registered in Germany in 2015, just 0.4 percent of the total number of vehicles sold. Bryant argues that Germany’s proposed subsidy “doesn’t seem large enough to make a dramatic difference,” and encourages the country “be patient and think more strategically.” In addition to financing a network of charging stations and increasing research and development subsidies for battery research, German carmakers should “skill up in battery chemistry.”

Industry News

VW: Memo Informed Chief Executive Of Emissions Issues In May 2014.

The New York Times  (3/2, Ewing, Subscription Publication) reports Volkswagen acknowledged in a statement Wednesday that former chief executive Martin Winterkorn received a memo in May 2014 containing information about emissions irregularities in its diesel vehicles, “well over a year before the company publicly admitted cheating on pollution tests.” However, VW said the memo doesn’t prove that Winterkorn actually read the document, and the company reiterated previous claims that top management was unaware of the “the gravity of the diesel emission problem and the potential financial impact until much later.” Because of that claim, VW said “its management board duly fulfilled its disclosure obligation under German capital markets law.” The Times says the statement is “meant to counter shareholder lawsuits.”

IBM Inventor Brings Baby To Conference.

Business Insider  (3/2, Bort) reports that IBM mobile software engineer and “master inventor” Lisa Seacat DeLuca took her 5-month-old daughter to the IBM Connect Now conference. While there, an IBM “contract employee” in his “late 50s” approached her to “berate her” for bringing her baby to the conference, saying it was a “security issue.” DeLuca has “more than 400” patents and patent applications under her belt, and is one of IBM’s “most prolific” inventors in IBM’s technology patent-producing machine.

Carbon Negative Venture Aims To Fuel Vehicles With Captured Carbon.

The Wall Street Journal  (3/2, Dawson, Subscription Publication) reports on an initiative by Calgary-based Carbon Engineering Ltd that has the potential to power vehicles with fuel reconstituted from tailpipe emissions. The experimental direct-air capture method of reducing emissions differs from other techniques that focus on carbon absorption at the point of release. Carbon Engineering hopes its pilot will demonstrate the technology’s economic viability and open opportunities for larger-scale commercial projects in North America.

Study: EV’s Won’t Make Up Majority Of New Car Sales Until 2035.

According to the Dallas Morning News  (3/2, Haber), a new study by Lux Research claims EVs “won’t account for a majority of new-vehicle sales until at least 2035” – or “at least three full model cycles.” According to Lux, cars will have to drop to $35,000 and have a 200 mile range between charges in order to challenge conventional cars. Both GM and Tesla claim to have vehicles meeting both stipulations due out over the next year.

Engineering and Public Policy

Oklahoma Officials Begin To Address Earthquakes Linked To Fracking.

The Los Angeles Times  (3/2, Yardley) reports that Oklahoma has started to address the “startling spike in earthquakes linked to” fracking, even though critics contend that it is too late. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission asked oil producers operating in the northwestern part of the state last month to “reduce the amount of wastewater they are disposing of deep underground by 40%.” Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman sponsored a bill last month “that clarifies that the commission has the power to take enforcement actions.” Gov. Mary Fallin announced in January that she would “direct $1.4 million in emergency funds to the commission.” Critics claim state officials have been beholden to the oil industry for too long.

EPA Tells Supreme Court There Is No Reason To Delay Air Pollution Rule.

The Hill  (3/3, Henry) reports the Obama Administration yesterday told the Supreme Court that it should not delay an EPA “air pollution rule as several states requested last month.” The Supreme Court was asked by twenty conservatives states “to stop a rule on emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants while the EPA reworks it.” The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia had “refused to block the rule, prompting an appeal to the high court.” In a filing on Wednesday, Obama officials “said the states didn’t meet the legal standards necessary for a court to order a stay, primarily because the Supreme Court is unlikely to take up a case against the rule and that states won’t ‘suffer irreparable harm’ between now and when the EPA expects to finalize the rule in April.”

EPA Warns Illinois Agency About License Renewals Without Emissions Tests.

The AP  (3/2) reports that the EPA sent a February 19 letter to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency “warning of environmental consequences after the state announced it will temporarily allow license plate renewals without emissions tests.” Federal officials want more details about the changes.

Mooney: Solar Poised For A Year Of Record New Capacity.

Chris Mooney writes for the Washington Post  (3/2, Mooney) that recent EIA statistics suggest that in the coming year, the “booming solar sector will add more new electricity-generating capacity than any other — including natural gas and wind.” US solar appears “poised for not just a record year but perhaps a blowout year” as planned installations for 2016 include 9.5 gigawatts of utility-scale solar, followed by 8 gigawatts of natural gas and 6.8 gigawatts of wind.

Lynch: Good Year Ahead For Renewables: Not Customers. Michael Lynch writes for Forbes  (3/2) that while expected new renewable energy capacity has been praised, the “reality is much more complex.” The “primary triumph for renewables is in subsidy farming,” and solar in particular remains uneconomic and “utility-scale projects rely on mandates that force utilities to pay high prices for the power.” Lynch writes that “while wind and solar providing 63% of new capacity, they will only contribute 40% of new supply.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Brookhaven Laboratory Hosts NYC, Long Island Students For STEM Exploration.

Newsday (NY)  (3/2, Evans) reports that on Wednesday scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory hosted 165 “mostly black and Hispanic” male high school students from Long Island and New York City “to encourage students to pursue studies” and careers in the STEM subjects. According to Newsday, the “show-and-tell” event was a collaboration between Brookhaven Laboratory and The College at Old Westbury in commemoration of the second anniversary of President Obama’s initiative “My Brother’s Keeper.”

High School Robotics Competition Begins.

The AP  (3/2) reports that the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) had its “kickoff announcement” where teams “received their first glimpse of the game field and details” and a kit with robot parts and limited instructions. Participants will have six weeks to build and test robots with the help of teachers and mentors, and 40 local Indiana high school students from Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. will participate. According to the AP, the competition aims to inspire students to pursue study and careers in STEM subjects.

Iowa Middle School Team Advances To FIRST LEGO Robotics Competition.

The Des Moines (IA) Register  (3/2) reports that a group of student from Grinnell Middle School will represent the state of Iowa at the North American FIRST LEGO League Open Championship in California this May. The article says the team called Carbon Based Life Forms earned second place among the 66 teams that competed in Iowa to advance to the next phase of the robotics championship. The article says the team is now “actively seeking sponsors” for the event.

Catholic High School Wins At Illinois Robotics Competition.

The Chicago Tribune  (3/2, School) reports that high school students from Montini Catholic’ robotics classes won the first place overall trophy at the 16th Annual Robotics Engineering Challenge. Twenty-seven teams from ten high schools participated in the event held at Joliet Junior College where student teams designed, built, and tested a robot using a LEGO ROBOLAB kit, and completed five challenges.

West Virginia High Schools Offer Simulated Workplace, Prepare Students For Work Place.

The Williamson (WV) Daily News  (3/2, Hohmann) reports on Mingo Central High School’s simulated workplace program to prepare students for work life, through career and technical education activities. The article says students create and name their own “companies,” apply for a job, interview, are “subject to a random drug testing,” and “develop a portfolio of work projects and certifications.” The article discusses the sectors offered by “companies” in the high school, relays glowing feedback from teachers and educators as well as student participants, who say the program has helped shaped their understanding of career options and preferences. The Williamson Daily News then lists a number of other schools also offering the “workplace” program which was developed by Kathy D’Antoni, the assistant state superintendent of schools for the Division of Technical, Adult and Institutional Education.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

FBI-Apple Dispute Reaches Congress.
Education Experts Address Closing The STEM Diversity Gap.
Army Researchers Tell House Panel Laser Weapons To Deploy In 2023.
EPA: Recent Tests Show Flint Water Improving.
White House Launches Program To Get Kids Into Labs.

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