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

Leading the News

EPA Partners With Energy Companies To Reduce Methane Leaks.

The AP  (3/30, Biesecker) reports that the US Environmental Protection Agency unveiled the Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program, “a new partnership with 41 energy companies that have agreed to voluntarily reduce methane emissions from natural gas operations” Administrator Gina McCarthy said the program will help combat climate change by providing companies with a platform to “report actions taken to reduce methane emissions.”

Fuel Fix (TX)  (3/30, Osborne) reports that the voluntarily program “urg[es] oil and gas companies to seek out methane leaks in their production system of their own accord.” The program is intended to “supplement” the EPA’s other enforcement efforts, including the use of infrared cameras to identify nonvisible leaks. According to the EPA, participants in the program saved 1.2 trillion cubic feet of methane from leaking just this week.

In a second article, the AP  (3/30) reports that North Dakota-based Montana-Dakota Utilities is one of the 41 energy companies participating in the program. Others include Duke Energy, Exelon, TransCanada, Xcel Energy, SoCalGas Co. and MidAmerican Energy Co.

Higher Education

University Of Wisconsin Wins $35 Million From NSF To Continue IceCube Five More Years.

The AP  (3/30) reports the National Science Foundation has awarded $35 million to continue the monitoring of IceCube, “a neutrino telescope at the South Pole,” led by University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists. The funding will cover the project for another five years. The Wisconsin State Journal  (3/31, Novak) explains “IceCube consists of 5,000 optical sensors buried a mile beneath the frozen South Pole.”

Purdue Approves New Competency-based Bachelor’s Degree.

Inside Higher Ed  (3/30, Fain) reports that Purdue University has approved a new competency-based, customizable bachelor’s degree in “transdisciplinary studies in technology” through the Purdue Polytechnic Institute. The program will combine “technical disciplines with the humanities” through personalized plans of study that aim for “breadth of learning,” in what Higher Ed compares to an “experimental form of liberal arts education.” The program was approved by regional accreditor the Higher Learning Commission, which many see as “welcome news” in the wake of the criticism of the ED’s approval of direct-assessment degrees by the Office of the Inspector General, per Higher Ed.

University of Nebraska Launches Four-Year Graduation Initiative.

The AP  (3/30) reports that the University of Nebraska launched a new “Commit to Complete” campaign to improve the school’s four-year graduation rate through pairing students with advisers to assist with course-planning. Currently only 30 percent of the state’s students complete degrees in four years, according to university president Hank Bounds, who also emphasized the impact of a four-year graduation on student loan debt and wage earning.

Consumer Groups Sue Department of Education For Debt Data.

The Boston Globe  (3/30, Fernandes) reports that the National Consumer Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts are suing the ED for “information on its debt collection policies,” especially those pertaining to “minority borrowers,” saying that the department has been “unresponsive to previous requests.” According to the lawsuit, the groups submitted a Freedom of Information Act but received “improperly redacted” records in return. Rahsaan Hall, director of the racial justice program at the Massachusetts ACLU, said that the “important questions” involve identifying recipients of “additional fees,” wage garnishing or debt offsetting.

LSU Center Helps Company Win NSF Grant To Determine Shelf Life For New Drugs.

The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate  (3/31, Griggs) reports Advanced Polymer Monitoring Technologies Inc., “assisted by LSU’s business incubator,” the Louisiana Business and Technology Center, has been awarded $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research program “to develop technology to help determine the potential shelf life of new protein-drug formulations.”

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.


Survey Finds More Computer Programmers Self Taught Than Products Of Boot-Camps Or Industry Certification.

The Washington Post  (3/30, Turner) reports a survey by Stack Overflow found that “more computer programmers are self-taught rather than graduates of coding ‘boot camps’ or industry certification programs.” The site “is a forum with more than 4 million registered users,” and over 50,000 developers from 178 countries responded to the survey. Overall, 69 percent described themselves as “totally or partially self-taught, with 13 percent saying they were completely self-taught,” while 6.5 percent said they attended a full-time boot-camp program, 7 percent completed an industry certification program, and 43 percent had a BS or BA in computer science.

Industry News

Meridian Energy To Begin Constructing New Refinery In North Dakota, Largest In 40 Years.

Fuel Fix (TX)  (3/30, Blum) reports that Meridian Energy Group is expected to soon begin construction on the Davis Refinery n North Dakota. The refinery would process up to 55,000 barrels of oil a day and would be the biggest new US refinery since 1976. GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan said, “There’s a considerable risk to open a refinery. … Everybody wants cheap gas, but nobody wants a refinery near them.” However, the US is expected to hit an all-time gasoline consumption record this year, “so the short-term economics make sense, he said, although the growth of more fuel-efficient or electric and battery-operated vehicles makes the long-term concerns more considerable.”

Engineering and Public Policy

China’s State Grid Envisions Global Power Grid.

The Wall Street Journal  (3/30, Spegele, Subscription Publication) reports that China’s state run State Grid Corp. plans a $50 trillion global power network by 2050. State Grid Chairman Liu Zhenya outlined his company’s vision Wednesday, saying a new global electricity network is the world’s best bet for overcoming resource scarcity fighting pollution and climate change. Liu did not detail how the world’s largest infrastructure project would be paid for, but the vision has drawn the attention of the global energy sector. The plan is technically feasible, according to David Sandalow, a former US acting undersecretary of energy who has spoken with Liu. Sandalow said that major barriers to success are institutional, not technical.

Contrast Highlighted In China, US Approaches To New Grid Infrastructure.

David Roberts writes for Vox  (3/30) that like the US, “China aspires to build a comprehensive national grid,” but “unlike the US,” China is building it. China has a nine-point plan for better linking renewable energy resources to coastal load center and its approach “contrasts sharply” with the US approach as “China’s transmission lines will be big, and hooking up wind and solar will be mandatory.” Roberts writes that while the US advances the US Plains & Eastern Clean Line, the high-voltage direct-current line from Oklahoma to Tennessee, China has or is building 17 such lines.

Vermont Senate Advances Energy Siting Bill.

The AP  (3/30) reports that the Vermont Senate has given preliminary approval to a bill that “calls for state regulators to pay more attention to local communities when it comes to siting renewable energy projects.” Sen. Chris Bray chairman of the state Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, “says the bill aims to integrate land-use and energy planning.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Twenty-Four States Receive Grants To Improve Career Readiness.

The Deseret (UT) News  (3/30, Jacobsen) reports Utah is among the 24 states granted $100,000 each “to examine how well schools are preparing students for employment and to develop a plan to improve.” The money is from New Skills for Youth, an initiative of the Council of Chief State School Officers, JPMorgan Chase and Advance CTE. Chauncy Lennon, head of workforce initiatives at JPMorgan Chase, said the initiative is a response to “a nationwide shortage in qualified technical trades workers.” The AP  (3/30) reports Illinois is also receiving a $100,000 grant “to better prepare students for careers in high-skill, in-demand industries.”

FMA Live Seeks To Boost STEM Interest Among Middle-School Students.

The Arizona Daily Star  (3/30, Jung) reports on a performance by FMA Live, sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Honeywell, “to inspire middle school-age children to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.” The group puts on shows during ten-week tours in the spring and fall.

Camp STEM Offers Learning Opportunities During School Breaks.

The Tennessean  (3/30, Yankova) reports on Camp STEM, held at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, started by Murfreesboro teacher David Lockett “to encourage continuous learning and early emphasis on STEM concepts.” The camps happen during school breaks to “offer engaging and fun learning opportunities during breaks to substitute sitting at home or watching television.”

Teachers Who Use Technology Say They Need A Place To Discuss How They Use It.

The Hechinger Report  (3/31, Dobo) reports on the growth in technology in the classroom and the problem that teachers often say that they face a problem in not having a place to discuss their efforts with others. They also are generally “assessed for their effectiveness by school leaders” lacking the experience with technology that may be needed for a good evaluation.

Also in the News

ADP: Private-Sector Employment Remains Strong In March.

The ADP Research Institute reported Wednesday that private-sector employers added 200,000 new workers in March, in line with economists’ forecasts, the Wall Street Journal  (3/30, Beilfuss, Subscription Publication) reported on its website. Moody’s Analytics economist Mark Zandi said March’s report was in line with the average job growth for the past 48 months. Zandi said, “All indications are that the job machine will remain in high gear.” According to Bloomberg News  (3/30, Chandra), “persistent hiring will be critical in sparking bigger gains in the household spending that makes up the bulk of a US economy beset by struggling overseas demand.” Zandi said, “The only industry reducing payrolls is energy, as has been the case for over a year. All indications are that the job machine will remain in high gear.” The AP  (3/30, Rugaber) reports the manufacturing sector added few jobs, but construction, retail, and shipping posted significant gains. Reuters  (3/30, Mikolajczak) and the Washington Post  (3/30, Birnholz) also report the story.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Israeli Tech Firm Reportedly Helped FBI Hack Farook’s iPhone.
New University of Wyoming Science Building Dedicated.
Massachusetts Institutions Attract Self-driving Car Industry.
Nevada Dedicated World’s First Solar-Geothermal Hybrid Power Plant.
H-1B Visa Hires Overwhelmingly Come From India.
GE Hitachi Hosts Girls In Technology Summit To Promote STEM Education.

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