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

Leading the News

Climate Activists Protest Fossil Fuel Use In New York, Washington.

The AP  (5/14) reports a group of climate activists on Saturday protested the continued use of fossil fuels at a “crude oil shipment hub on the Hudson River in upstate New York.” In an effort to promote “an accelerated transition to renewable energy sources,” the groups “sat on tracks used by crude oil trains headed to the port.” They were part of an effort called Break Free 2016, which is a two-week long “series of actions targeting key fossil fuel projects around the globe to protect local communities and fight climate change.” A prior protest on Friday by 40 activists from a number of groups was derailed by police and the Coast Guard.

The AP  (5/14, Le) reports another 150 climate activists similarly “blocked railroad tracks leading to two oil refineries in northwest Washington state.” According to the AP, the activists pitched tents on railroad tracks just north of Seattle and spent the night to prevent oil shipments from being able to pass. The protesters also held demonstrations at the Shell and Tesoro refineries Saturday.

Mississippi Clean Coal Plant Facing SEC Investigation. The Wall Street Journal  (5/14, Smith, Subscription Publication) reports Southern Co. is facing a series of financial woes stemming from its construction of the Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi, a carbon-capture clean coal plant. Partially financed through government subsidies, construction costs have risen, which has led to an investigation from the SEC over financial controls and misinformation to the public about construction timelines, as well as a lawsuit from local businesses worried they will be forced to shoulder the cost of the building of the plant. Southern Co.’s credit rating was also downgraded by Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investor Services, in part due to it’s Kemper Plant problems.

Higher Education

King Calls On Colleges To Rethink Asking Applicants About Criminal Backgrounds.

USA Today  (5/13, Toppo) reports that the Obama Administration last week “forcefully called on U.S. colleges and universities to reconsider asking prospective students if they have a criminal history when applying for admission.” The piece reports that Education Secretary John King said in a Dear Colleague letter that “people with criminal histories ‘are our neighbors, our colleagues, and our family members.’ Since about 95% eventually get out of prison, he noted, allowing these people the opportunity to get training and education ‘is wise criminal justice policy, smart economics, and a critically important investment in our future.’”

HBCUs Stand Behind Effort. Diverse Education  (5/12) reports that White House Initiative on HBCUs Executive Director Ivory Toldson “said that he is supportive of recommendations from Beyond the Box, a new report from the Education Department that urges colleges to reconsider how they ask applicants about their criminal records.”

WPost A1: Students Protest Tuition Fees For Unpaid Internships.

A front-page article in the Washington Post  (5/13, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that some students are “pushing back against the long-standing college practice of charging tuition for the credits students earn through unpaid internships.” The Post says that while students gain tangible advantages from many of these positions – particularly “as they seek employment” – students are decrying the policy by making the argument that “paying to work is an outdated and unfair model.” The Post says some schools counter by highlighting the high costs of running an internship program. The outcry has resulted in some schools exploring alternatives, such as “raising money to fund unpaid internships for students in need” and vetting programs that “let students split their time between classes and short-term work.”

For-Profit Capella Moving Toward Coding, Job Skills Training.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune  (5/14) reports that for-profit college firm Capella Education Co. has made a series of deals over the past year which “have pushed the Minneapolis-based for-profit education firm into a new business” in which it is “teaching job-ready skills that will get people into today’s most in-demand professions.” Capella has purchased Hackbright Academy, a San Francisco school “that teaches women about software programming and engineering.” Capella also “bought DevMountain, a Provo, Utah, firm that teaches even more specific tech skills, such as creating apps, in classrooms in the Salt Lake and Dallas metro areas. And early this year, Capella formed a joint venture with the employment website firm CareerBuilder.”

Northeastern University’s Cooperative Education Programs Seen As Model For Workforce Training.

The Washington Post  (5/14, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that Northeastern University’s “extensive cooperative education programs” could “serve as a guide to satisfy employers’ demand for experienced graduates and students’ need for paid employment.” The article cites the drive in higher education to integrate “traditional classroom learning and workforce training,” and explains that Northeastern’s programs let “students split their time between classes and short-term, work assignments.”

From ASEE
SPECIAL SECTION: Prism Magazine on Whistleblowing
ASEE’s Prism magazine features engineering educators using their expertise to challenge authority when needed.

Online Workshop
Applying Evidence-Based Teaching Practices in Computing Education will show how such practices can be effectively used when teaching graduate and undergraduate students. The workshop will be held June 1 and lasts for 3 hours. Registration is $50.

Research and Development

Self-Driving Cars Expected To Increase Traffic.

The AP  (5/15, Lowy) reports that the use of self-driving cars may lead to an increase in traffic. The article writes that KPMG estimates that the use of self-driving cars by children and seniors would increase miles traveled in the US by an addition 2 trillion miles each year by 2050. KPMG also calculated that this increase could double if self-driving cars without passengers are used to run errands. The article mentions that self-driving cars may also pose competition to airlines “as people choose to travel by car at speeds well over 100 mph between cities a few hundred miles apart instead of flying.” Similarly, transit agencies will need to develop ways to stay competitive.

Google UAV Group Looking For Engineer Who Thinks “Flying Airplanes Is Cooler Than Crashing Airplanes.”

Business Insider  (5/12, Oreskovic) reports that Alphabet subsidiary Google X, which manages its parent company’s UAV efforts, “is looking to hire various aerospace experts, from guidance and navigation control managers to computer vision engineers.” In a new job listing for an engineer focused on “airspace management,” Google X states that the ideal candidate will have “an interest in airspace management practices and think that flying airplanes is cooler than crashing airplanes.”

Workforce

Energy Company Bankruptcies Surge Despite Rising Crude Prices.

Reuters  (5/13, Wade) reports the number of US oil and gas companies filing for bankruptcy have now reached 68 this week, which it says is a sign that it may be too late for small energy companies to recover even if crude prices make it to $50 a barrel. With crude prices now at $46 a barrel, the article indicates the futures market shows that benchmark prices for crude may not exceed $50 for at least another year. Small companies, the article states, are running out of money and have also exhausted alternatives for raising capital.

Global Developments

Lockheed Martin Looks To Sell Small Warships To Southeast Asian Navies.

Motley Fool  (5/14, Smith) reported Lockheed Martin is making a move to construct and sell small warships, “one of the hottest markets for military hardware in the” Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. Militaries there are expected to spend some $200 million over the next 20 years improving their navies. Lockheed Martin announced last week it has teamed “with South Korean shipbuilder Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) to design and build a new class of corvette-sized Multi-mission Combat Ships (MCS).” The article says if Lockheed Martin could crack the $10 billion-a-year Asian naval business, it could “both significantly grow Lockheed’s revenues and, by adding scale to the business, allow it to earn higher profit margins as well.”

Apple Invests $1 Billion In Chinese Uber-Competitor, Didi Chuxing Technology.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/13, Wakabayashi, Subscription Publication) reports that Apple on Friday made a $1 billion investment in Chinese Uber-competitor, Didi Chuxing Technology Co, indicating the enormous emphasis Apple appears to be placing on the potential success of autonomous-vehicle technology ahead of potential forays into self-driving vehicles and similar services. The Washington Post  (5/13, Peterson) reports the move also gives Apple “a stronger connection to a country that is critical to its future success.” Apple has not provided official insight into its future plans in the autonomous-vehicle space, but an increase in research and development causes many experts to believe this is the first of many waves the company will make in the industry for the long-term.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/13, Frangos, Gallagher, Subscription Publication) also reports separately that the bigger motivation for the investment may have been to gain credibility with Chinese regulators. CNBC  (5/16) has a similar report.

Engineering and Public Policy

GOP Lawmakers: EPA Violating Court Stay On Clean Power Plan.

The Hill  (5/13, Cama) reports Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Friday sent a letter to the EPA, accusing it of violating a Supreme Court stay of the Clean Power Plan. The Hill indicates Rep. Fred Upton stated the EPA’s actions “represents ‘a shadow regulatory structure.’” In their letter, the lawmakers wrote the “EPA has been expending resources on several regulatory processes that are integrally related to the suspended rule and that would compel states and regulated entities in turn to expend resources to respond to these proceedings – or otherwise forego legal rights – and, indirectly, participate in implementation of the stayed rule.”

Clapper, Pritzker To Discuss Cybersecurity In Chicago.

Lynn Sweets writes for the Chicago Sun-Times  (5/14) about the final months of Commerce Secretary Pritzker’s tenure, noting that on Monday, she will be on a panel in Chicago with DNI Clapper “to talk more about cybersecurity and digital challenges.”

Dickson: Threat Sharing Is Key To Preventing Further Cyberattacks. In an op-ed for TechCrunch  (5/15), author and software engineer Ben Dickson claims that a solution to constant cyberattacks “is the sharing of threat intelligence in order to raise awareness and sound the alarm about new attacks and data breaches as they happen.” Dickson says threat sharing is a way to “avoid major security incidents from recurring and prevent emerging threats from claiming more victims.” Dickson adds that “many tech firms are now offering security solutions founded on the cyberthreat intelligence sharing concept.”

Pittsburgh Emerges As Center Of Cybercrime Investigations. Foreign Policy  (5/13, Groll) reports investigators in Pittsburgh “have blended gumshoe tactics, sophisticated digital tools, and the area’s high-tech research centers” to become a “perhaps surprising center of high-profile cybercrime investigations.” Foreign Policy says of the federal encryption debate that “on the front lines in the fight against crime, law enforcement officials are simply looking for solutions.”

Washington Turbines To Improve Conditions For Fish.

The AP  (5/14) reported the Bonneville Power Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA Fisheries have collaborated to install “new state-of-the-art turbines at the Ice Harbor Lock and Dam on the Snack River.” The AP indicated the new turbines “are expected to be more efficient as well as improve conditions for fish that pass through the turbine area.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Georgetown Professor Discusses Career, Technical Education.

In an interview with NPR  (5/14, Sanchez) Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, discussed the current state of career and technical education in high school, arguing that schools “need a middle path [between academic and skills preparation] with a different kind of pedagogy focused on real-world knowledge.”

CIJE-Tech To Host STEM Competition On Long Island.

Newsday (NY)  (5/15, Cassese) reports that the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education-Tech (CIJE-Tech) will host its Young Engineers Conference on Long Island on May 18. The event will draw “more than 600 students from 26 schools,” inviting them “to demonstrate their working robotic, electronic, biomedical products and prototypes as well as compete against area teams and schools.”

High School Freshman Wins Top Awards At Massachusetts Science Fair.

The West Roxbury (MA) Transcript  (5/14) reports that Emma Kelly, a freshman at Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, “won a string of top awards at the 2016 Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair for her project ‘Ovarian Cancer: Clues to Giving Women the Gift of Time.’” Kelly was also awarded “an $84,000 college scholarship with a $3,000 summer internship grant.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

Metro Looks To Address FTA’s Call For Immediate Repairs.
Maryland Sees Increase In Dual Enrollment High School Students.
MIT Researchers Create Origami Robot To Retrieve Swallowed Batteries.
Amazon, Alphabet In Drone Delivery “Race.”
Michigan Governor Announces Free Water For Flint Residents During May.
Virginia Governor Signs Bill Increasing High Schools’ CTE Focus.

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