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

Leading the News

District Judge Grants VW Extension To Fix Diesel Vehicles.

The Wall Street Journal  (3/24, Randazzo, Subscription Publication) reports US District Judge Charles Breyer granted Volkswagen an extension to develop a fix for its nearly 600,000 vehicles that the company admitted were equipped with software that allowed it to defeat emissions tests. Judge Breyer stated that the company must provide a “specific and detailed” proposal by April 21. A Volkswagen spokesperson stated that the company “is committed to resolving the US regulatory investigation into the diesel emissions matter as quickly as possible and to implementing a solution for affected vehicles.”

The New York Times  (3/25, Ewing, Subscription Publication) reports that some questions doubt whether Volkswagen’s noncompliant vehicles could be made street-legal for a reasonable price. Bob Lutz, a former vice chairman of General Motors “said he had long badgered his engineers to match Volkswagen’s apparent diesel efficiency, and now understands why they never could.”

The AP  (3/24, Thanawala) reports US District Court Judge Charles Breyer said Thursday that “Volkswagen and government regulators must present a detailed plan within a month on getting nearly 600,000 diesel cars to comply with clean air laws or risk the possibility of a trial this summer” over the emissions cheating scandal. Breyer said ex-FBI Director Robert Mueller, who he appointed to oversee settlement talks, “told him Volkswagen, government regulators and attorneys for car owners had made substantial progress toward a resolution that would get the polluting cars off the road.” The Sacramento (CA) Bee  (3/24, Kasler) reports Volkswagen missed Breyer’s “deadline Thursday for submitting a fix for its polluting diesel passenger cars, but the judge said he’s encouraged and gave the carmaker another month to work on the problem.” The Washington Post  (3/24) also reports the story.

Higher Education

ED Releases Report Listing Colleges With High Ratios Of Low-Income Graduates.

The Washington Post  (3/24, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ED on Thursday released a report pointing out colleges “that excel at enrolling and graduating students who are needy enough to qualify for federal Pell grants.” The piece says the report shows that “regional public universities…have some of the best track records in serving low-income students, as do private religious schools and women’s colleges.” The Post quotes Education Secretary John King saying, “Although the percentage of 23-year-olds with some college experience has increased considerably, their likelihood of graduating strongly correlates to income or racial background, which means that we must shift our attention toward the more essential metric of success: degree attainment.”

The Hechinger Report  (3/24) reports that ED’s report is a foil to “popular rankings of universities and colleges” which “have been blamed for pushing universities and colleges to shift financial aid away from needy students to wealthier graduates of top private and suburban high schools who can help them raise their standings.” ED’s report is “meant to shame them into doing a better job enrolling low-income students and making sure they graduate.” ED’s report “also proposes a total of $5.7 billion in financial bonuses over 10 years to be shared among the schools that do the best job of this.”

The Christian Science Monitor  (3/24) reports that the report “describes practical strategies for the federal government, states, and the institutions themselves to help with recruiting – and graduating – students from low-income backgrounds.” The report also details several of the Obama Administration’s “successes,” such as “a $12 billion Pell Grant increase, expanded tax credits to help families pay tuition, allowing families to use the previous year’s tax information on the FAFSA, and student loan reform.”

Marketplace  (3/24) reports on the programs that several schools in the report have used to increase graduate rates for low-income students, and quotes King saying, “We want to lift up those examples so that they can be replicated by other institutions.” Marketplace says the report doesn’t specifically ding colleges that aren’t doing a good job of graduating low-income students, but “does flag the Ivy League for not admitting more low-income students.”

Education Week  (3/24) reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, asked about ways colleges can help low-income students beyond increasing aid, “highlighted instances where colleges and universities have either frozen or reduced tuition costs,” saying, “We understand from those institutions that it’s been an important driver of enrollment.”

ProPublica  (3/24), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (3/25), Black Enterprise  (3/25), the Connecticut Post  (3/24), the Baltimore Sun  (3/23), WBAL-TV  Baltimore (3/24), and the Memphis (TN) Business Journal  (3/24, Subscription Publication) also cover this story.

California Judge Rules Corinthian Must Pay Nearly $1.2 Billion For Fraudulent Practices.

The Los Angeles Times  (3/23, Hamilton) reports that San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow has ruled in favor of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, saying that the defunct Corinthian Colleges Inc. must pay nearly $1.2 billion because its “advertising practices misled students and violated the law.” Karnow ruled that Corinthian “provided untrue or misleading statements about graduates’ job placement rates, duping both students and investors, and…unlawfully used U.S. military seals in advertisements, among other claims.”

The Contra Costa (CA) Times  (3/25, Murphy) reports that the move comes “nearly a year after the career-college giant collapsed and left thousands of Heald, WyoTech and Everest students in the lurch.” The paper points out that former Corinthian students “won’t see any money” from the ruling, it could bolster their chances for getting debt relief for their student loans. The piece explains that “dozens of state and federal investigations” had been launched against the firm before it collapsed.

The Riverside (CA) Press Enterprise  (3/24) also reports that the ruling won’t likely affect students very much directly, though Harris’ office said it “would ‘help secure further relief for struggling students.’” The piece notes that Harris’ office said that ED has yet to recoup any of a $30 million fine imposed on Corinthian last April. BuzzFeed  (3/24, Hensley-Clancy) and Los Angeles Biz (CA)  (3/24, Subscription Publication) also cover this story.

University Of New Mexico Dean Touts Department’s Successes.

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (3/25) reports that University of New Mexico school of engineering Dean Joseph Cecchi, speaking at a meeting of the Economic Forum on Wednesday, “touted the school’s business successes while laying out plans for a possible tuition increase for engineering graduate students.” Cecchi told attendees “the school has secured 128 patents and started 21 businesses since fiscal year 2011 to 2015.”

Engineering Informing Liberal Arts Education
ASEE and education expert Sheila Tobias have launched a series of case studies on engineering habits-of-mind enhancing a liberal arts education.  Funding came from the Teagle Foundation.

Research and Development

Researchers Develop Low-Cost, Effective Chest Wall Motion Assessment System Using Xbox Kinect Sensors.

Lung Disease News  (3/24, Azevedo) reports that in a study  published online in Medical & Biological Engineering & Computing, investigators “describe the development of a low-cost and effective chest wall motion assessment system, essential for the rapid and accurate diagnosis of respiratory diseases, that uses Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect sensors.” Notably, that new “system allows for 3-D and time varying representations of a patient’s torso, and has shown promise in initial evaluations.”

NREL Study: US Has 80 Percent More Rooftop Solar Potential Than Previously Estimated.

E&E News PM  (3/24, Subscription Publication) reports that according to a new analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “US rooftops could generate 80 percent more energy from solar panels than previously thought.” Researchers found rooftop solar holds the potential to generate 1,432 terawatt-hours of energy annually, up from the estimated 800 terawatt-hours in 2008. NREL analyst and lead author of the report Pieter Gagnon, said an accurate estimate of the “technical potential” of rooftop solar provides a critical baseline for regional and city planning. “Armed with this new data, municipalities, utilities, solar energy researchers and others will have a much-improved starting point for PV research and policymaking.”

Industry News

Source: UK’ s Dyson Considering Entry Into EV Battery Market.

Bloomberg News  (3/24) reports in a video segment that British vacuum cleaner producer Dyson “will spend 1 billion pounds on battery development over the next five years as it increases its efforts to expand into new sectors.” Bloomberg points to UK sources which suggest that Dyson is interested in developing an electric car or batteries for use in electric cars. Bloomberg notes that those are both market segments in which Tesla is active. NPR  (3/24) reports that last year, Dyson CEO Max Conze said he was “ruling nothing out” when asked about making electric cars.

Engineering and Public Policy

BOEM Approves Virginia Offshore Wind Test Project, Dominion Still To Decide.

The AP  (3/24, Szkotak) reports that on Thursday Federal approval was granted for the construction of two 6-megawatt turbines 27 miles off Virginia Beach. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved a research lease with Virginia last year and in a statement BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper said, “Data collected under this research lease will help us better understand the wind potential, weather and other conditions off of Virginia’s coast.” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement that the approval is an “important step in our mission to be the first state to install offshore wind turbines in federal waters.”

The Hampton Roads (VA) Virginian-Pilot  (3/24, Mayfield) reports that although it won a “key” approval Thursday, the “big decision on whether to go forward still rests with Dominion Virginia Power.” Dominion has “struggled to get the demonstration started,” attracting only one proposal that cost $400 million, “nearly twice initial estimates.” The costs would be difficult to justify to state regulators, Dominion says.

Additional coverage was provided by the Staunton (VA) News Leader  (3/24), the Charlottesville (VA) Daily Progress  (3/24), the Washington (DC) Times  (3/24, Szkotak), the Petersburg (VA) Progress-Index  (3/24, SZKOTAK, Press), Fuel Fix (TX)  (3/25), North American Windpower  (3/24), WVIR-TV Charlottesville (VA)  Charlottesville, VA (3/24), and WCAV-TV Charlottesville (VA)  Charlottesville, VA (3/24).

Labor Department Announces It Will Implement “Silica Rule.”

The Huffington Post  (3/24, Jamieson) reported the Labor Department on Thursday announced it will implement the so-called “silica rule,” under which the federal government “will be vastly lowering the amount of silica dust that companies can legally expose workers to.” For decades, occupational health experts, labor unions, and sick workers have been pushing for the new rule, “only to see the reform stalled under a succession of different presidents,” but the reform now “appears all but certain, unless Republicans who oppose it can manage to stymie its implementation through the appropriations process.”

Emails Show Federal Officials Knew Of Rashes In Flint In May 2014.

The Detroit Free Press  (3/24, Dolan, Egan, Spangler) reports a batch of emails released Thursday “show[s] federal environmental and health officials knew about complaints of rashes cropping up in Flint as far back as May 2014.” The new emails “as well as those released in the last several weeks provide a new road map about how federal officials responded to problems with Flint’s water reported directly to them in May 2014, one month after the city switched to the Flint River water source.”

Energy CIO Warns Cyberattack Could Bring Agency To Its Knees.

Politico ’s (3/24, Hirsh) “Morning Cybersecurity” reports Energy Department Chief Information Officer Mike Johnson told members of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s advisory board, “The question is not if people are going to get in” the agency’s computer systems, “it’s when or if they’re already in what are they going to do. My main concern is how quickly can we detect that and then restore operations.” He said that taking down the agency’s CFO’s systems would bring the department “‘to its knees within a day or two’ because it wouldn’t be able pay anyone or validate its many contracts.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Georgia Career Academy Profiled.

Marketplace  (3/10, Samuel) has an online feature on vocational training at the Carroll County College and Career Academy in western Georgia. Students “learn fields as varied as culinary arts, welding and auto mechanics. They all go to one of the five regular high schools in the district for their other classes, like math and history,” then go to the academy for job skills.

South Dakota Students Simulate Iditarod With Robots.

The Rapid City (SD) Journal  (3/24, Anderson) reports that about 30 third through fifth-graders in South Dakota recently competed “to see which group could most quickly program its robot to navigate the twists and turns of a scale model of the Iditarod race course.” Students “designed a scaled down, proportional Iditarod track using the floor tiles as a grid, with each 12-inch tile representing about 20 miles.”

Wyoming Drafting New Science Standards.

The Sheridan (WY) Press  (3/24, Tollefson) reports that the process of updating Wyoming’s science standards “is approaching the finish line” after more than a year, “and while politics in the energy-producing state has played a role from the start, many are hopeful that the proposed standards will steer students in a better direction for the future.” The current standards were crafted 13 years ago, “and many are eager to see changes. The new standards, which are still in draft form and open for public comment, emphasize engineering, which is different from the existing standards.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Hudson Rail Tunnel Project To Get Funding, Fast-Track Status.
New Mexico AG Supports ED Efforts To Clarify Student Loan Forgiveness Rules.
Researchers Examine Possible Link Between Terrorism And Engineering Studies.
Apprenticeships On The Rise As Industry Combats Skills Gap.
BASF Leads Pest Forecasting Science.
Haley Asks Federal Government To Stop Sending Plutonium To South Carolina.
Ohio Eighth Graders Create Pull Toys In STEM Class.

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