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

Leading the News

Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative Has Helped More Than 30,000 Gain Degrees Or Certifications.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette  (4/1, Mulder) reports the College Count$ study shows the Career Pathways Initiative “has helped more than 30,000 low-income Arkansans attain associate degrees and technical certifications” since its launch in 2006. Students aided by the program are enrolled in 25 community and technical colleges. The study found these “students are graduating at a higher rate than regular community college students.” The study leader Katherine Boswell “said the state’s Career Pathways program is leaps and bounds ahead of similar programs across the nation.”

KTHV-TV  Little Rock, AR (3/31) reports the students also showed degree completion rates superior to community college students nationwide. The program “provides students with extensive personalized support throughout their college experience – such as tutoring, mentoring, childcare assistance or gas cards – to address the specific barriers that could otherwise stand in the way of graduation.”

Higher Education

University Of Illinois To Launch Online Master’s In Data Science This Fall.

Crain’s Chicago Business  (3/30, Pletz) reports the University of Illinois in an effort to increase the number of people with training in data science by reaching more people will use the Coursera platform to offer a master’s program “developed by U of I’s computer science and statistics departments and its school of library and information science.” While watching the courses will be free, it will cost “$20,000 to $40,000 if you want to get an accredited master’s degree.” The university is planning to start the program in August and hopes “for an initial class of about 150 students.” The university has had 2.6 million registered users of its online courses since it began offering them with Coursera in 2012, and 1 million in computer science courses.

North Idaho Completes New Technical Education Facility.

The Coeur d’Alene (ID) Press  (3/31, Cousins) reports that construction is completed on North Idaho College’s new $20 million Career and Technical Education Facility in Rathdrum, ID. The facility boasts 110,000 square feet and a successful completion on a tight deadline. Programs located at the facility will include automotive, CAD, machining, and welding. Administrators express enthusiasm for the expanded welding labs, extensive natural lighting, and multipurpose spaces available for use by the community.

From ASEE
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

Tulane Student Develops Nipple Graft Technology.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune  (3/31, Larino) reports that Tulane doctoral student Nick Pashos credits a “late-night Netflix binge” with the inspiration for BioAesthetics, a startup company developing a method to regrow nipple and areola tissue. Experts call existing nipple reconstruction “pretty unsatisfactory,” and Pashos’ research in lung regrowth provided him with the experience to develop a better process. BioAesthetics faces years of FDA approval, clinical trials, and investor searching before becoming a viable market option.

Workforce

States Win Grants For Career Preparation Programs.

The Dover (DE) Post  (3/31, Reports) reports that the Delaware Department of Education received a $100,00 grant from the first phase of the New Skills for Youth initiative to “increase economic opportunity for young people by strengthening career-focused education.” The grant will continue the work of Gov. Jack Markell’s Delaware Pathways Initiative and will create opportunities for students to gain “industry-recognized credentials and early college credits.” The phase two grant opportunity will require states to “demonstrate the commitment and capacity to execute the action plans developed in phase one,” according to the Post.

The Charleston (SC) Regional Business Journal  (3/31) reports that South Carolina also received a $100,00 grant, which it will use for the South Carolina Youth Education and Skills Initiative, which will develop “an action plan to better align education and industry needs,” according to state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman.

The Woodward (OK) News  (3/31, Hohweiler) says that Oklahoma also received a NSFY grant, which will be used to connect students “with real-life career guidance earlier in their educational experience,” said Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.

Industry News

US Bankruptcy Judge Extends Bankruptcy Protection To Spain’s Abengoa.

The Wall Street Journal  (3/31, Palank, Subscription Publication) reports that on Thursday a Federal bankruptcy judge agreed to extend bankruptcy protection to Spain’s Abengoa SA in addition to its US units while the renewable energy company works to secure creditors’ support for a restructuring plan.

TVA Takes Initial Steps Toward Small Modular Reactors.

EnergyWire  (3/31, Swartz, Subscription Publication) reports that TVA is discussing building small modular reactors with NRC safety regulators and “plans to file an early site permit application” with the agency in May. The “permit is a preliminary step to eventually building nuclear reactors, but it does not commit the NRC to approving the project or TVA to building them.” The article suggests that the fact that TVA is “taking a more serious look” at building SMRs is a “signal that the federal utility will continue to transition away from getting electricity from centralized power plants to more distributed forms of generation.” TVA is so far the only company “currently in pre-application discussions with the NRC on SMRs, commission spokesman Scott Burnell told EnergyWire.” But the agency must yet approve a design for SMRs, though several “vendors have had preliminary talks with the NRC about certifying their designs, Burnell said.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

FIRST Competition Expects 75,000 Students.

WVLT-TV  Knoxville, TN (4/1) reports on the FIRST Robotics 2016 competition at the Thompson-Boling Arena, which will feature 50 team. L.J. Robinson, regional director for USFIRST Robotics for Tennessee and Kentucky, explained that the competition was moving from the Knoxville Convention Center “to such a large arena” because of the “support and excitement that the Smoky Mountain Regional.” Robinson expects “dozens of teams, 75,000 students and 19,000 mentors and volunteers” to “flood the arena at 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.” The program is supported by the University of Tennessee’s College of Engineering.

Digital Schools Survey Reports Tech Priorities.

THE Journal  (3/31, Schaffhauser) reports that the Digital School Districts Survey cosponsored by the Center for Digital Education and the National School Boards Association found that “half of school districts believe they’ve completed their 1-to-1 initiatives” and associated infrastructure, while 38 percent are planning to “modernize” in the next 12 to 24 months. The survey also places “personalized learning” at the top of districts’ priority lists for the coming year and reports that 28 percent use a “social media channel” to “take the pulse” of school board issues.

Michigan District’s STEM Competition Draws On Classroom Experiences.

The Southgate (MI) News Herald  (3/31, Rigg) reports that the Gibraltar School District hosted a STEM project fair for students, with district winners working on projects relating to helicopters, catapults, and Rube Goldberg machines. The fair featured Michigan civil engineers as guest judges and leveraged classroom time for much of the data analysis and presentation practice required. According to fourth-grade teacher and fair director Crystal Brown, the activity “reinforces lessons already being learned in the classroom.”

New Technical Courses Approved At California High School.

The Fallbrook (CA) Valley News  (3/31, Ault) reports that the Murrieta Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees approved course outlines for new technical education class at Vista Murrieta High School, the products of a $560,000 Career Technical Education Incentive grant from the California Department of Education, the goal of which is to provide “technical and professional training” and “prepare students for jobs in high-demand fields.” The two new courses will be on the topics of criminal justice and computer integrated manufacturing.

STEAM Program Leverages Tech At Pennsylvania Elementary School.

The Somerset County (PA) Daily American  (4/1) reports that the Windber Area Elementary school is utilizing “advanced technology” through the STEAM system to enable students to play with 3-D printers, tablets, digital broadcasting, and Legos as a taste of “what awaits them down the road.” Students have designed and built off-road vehicles and composting systems and experimented with programming.

Illinois District Students Explore STEM On Spring Break.

The Barrington (IL) Courier-Review  (3/31) reports that Ela Township’s Thrive After Three Youth Program asked students to “think, explore, problem solve and create through hands-on activities and experiments” at a spring break STEM camp with help from guest science instructor Sharona Javit. The program also offers homework help and recreational activities.

Also in the News

Jobless Claims Up 11,000, Reach Two-Month High Of 276,000.

Bloomberg News  (3/31, Stilwell) reports the Labor Department announced Thursday that initial jobless claims rose last week by 11,000 to 276,000, “a two-month high.” Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected “filings to hold at 265,000.” The less-volatile, four-week average “increased to 263,250 from 259,750.” Bloomberg adds, “The data may indicate that improvement in the labor market, which has been the strongest part of the economy lately, is being tempered by still-weak manufacturing, flagging business investment and soft consumer spending. Initial claims would still need to show a sustained trend higher to confirm that layoffs are on the rise.”

Bloomberg: Consumer Confidence Fell To Three-Month Low Last Week.

Bloomberg News  (3/31, Darie) reports the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell “to a three-month low” last week “to 42.8 during the period ended March 26 from 43.6 the prior week.” According to Bloomberg, the decline, which is “the biggest since November,” comes as “Americans’ attitudes about the economy and their financial prospects deteriorated.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

EPA Partners With Energy Companies To Reduce Methane Leaks.
University Of Wisconsin Wins $35 Million From NSF To Continue IceCube Five More Years.
Survey Finds More Computer Programmers Self Taught Than Products Of Boot-Camps Or Industry Certification.
Meridian Energy To Begin Constructing New Refinery In North Dakota, Largest In 40 Years.
China’s State Grid Envisions Global Power Grid.
Twenty-Four States Receive Grants To Improve Career Readiness.
ADP: Private-Sector Employment Remains Strong In March.

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