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

Leading the News

Administration Selects Colleges For Dual-Enrollment Pilot Program.

The Washington Post  (5/16, Douglas-Gabriel) “Grade Point” blog reports the Administration on Monday selected 44 colleges – 80 percent of which are community colleges – for an experiment in which as many as 10,000 public high school students enrolled in higher education courses pay for them with roughly $20 million in Pell grants. The experiment will last for three years. The colleges must allow students to earn at least 12 credit hours, and “provide academic support and assist in filling out the FAFSA.” Education Secretary John King Jr. said Monday, “The courses students take in high school … are major factors not only in whether students go to college, but also how well they will do when they get there. The more rigorous and engaging the classes are the better. With this pilot program, we are one step closer to making college more affordable and accessible to all students.” The Post reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell “said the administration hopes the experiment will offer insight into the impact of providing earlier access to financial aid on low-income students’ college access, participation and success.” The Post quotes Mitchell saying, “We’re very interested in whether the availability of Pell grants in removing those obstacles increases the enrollment of low-income students in dual-enrollment programs, and then leads to higher rates of participation in four-year degree programs and completion.”

The AP  (5/16, Kerr) reports that the schools are in nearly two dozen states, and that the program is “designed to help students from lower-income backgrounds.” The program was announced last October, and colleges applied to take part. This piece quotes Mitchell saying, “Innovation is an important underpinning in our efforts to expand college access and increase college completion for our nation’s students. These sites will help us learn how the availability of Pell Grants impacts participation and success in dual enrollment programs.”

Politico  (5/16) reports in its “Morning Education” blog that King touted “the administration’s support for dual enrollment this morning, during a roundtable discussion at the College of Southern Maryland, in La Plata, Md.” The piece says dual enrollment programs currently “vary widely across the country, with some combination of states, school districts, colleges or students themselves picking up the cost.”

US News & World Report  (5/16, Camera) reports that the program is part of the Administrations efforts “aimed at increasing access to higher education, especially for low-income students.” ED, the article says, sees dual enrollment programs “as a potentially promising approach toward improving academic outcomes for students and increasing their odds of earning a degree.” This piece quotes Mitchell saying, “Dual enrollment programs are game changers for all students, and especially those who are first-generation and from low-income families.” The Wall Street Journal  (5/16, Korn, Subscription Publication) and District Administration  (5/16) run similar reports.

Local Coverage. Several media outlets cover this announcement with a focus on area colleges that will be taking part in the program, including WEWS-TV  Cleveland (5/16), the Culpeper (VA) Star Exponent  (5/16), the Peoria (IL) Journal Star  (5/16), Colorado Public Radio  (5/16), the Norwalk (CT) Hour  (5/16), the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail  (5/16), the Taunton (MA) Daily Gazette  (5/16), the Connecticut Mirror  (5/16), KFVE-TV  Honolulu (5/16), and the Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate  (5/16).

Higher Education

Dartmouth To Expand Engineering School With $25 Million Gift.

The AP  (5/16) reports that Dartmouth College is embarking on “a significant expansion of its Thayer School of Engineering,” which is being funding by a $25 million gift from Barry MacLean, who graduated from the school in 1961. Noting that this is the largest gift the school has ever gotten, the piece reports that $15 million “will go toward the design and construction of a 180,000-square-foot engineering building, with $10 million being used as a challenge grant to create endowed professorships at Thayer.”

WPost A1: Low-Income Ivy League Students On Full Rides Still Struggle Financially.

In a 2,082-word front-page article, the Washington Post  (5/16, Anderson) reports that for low-income students accepted into Ivy League schools, “the reality of a full ride isn’t always what they had dreamed it would be.” Such students often resort to cutting meals from meal plans, not purchasing textbooks, and skipping “excursions routine for affluent classmates.” Furthermore, many say that it is difficult to have a normal social life because of financial disparities with their peers. In recent years, students have begun to speak out about these issues in online forums and undergraduate surveys. Awareness in the Ivy League has grown in recent years, leading schools to “confront what it takes to help those students thrive after they arrive on campus.”

College Discounts Increase To Nearly Half Tuition In 2015, Report Finds.

The Washington Post  (5/16, Douglas-Gabriel) reports a survey of 401 private colleges released Monday by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) found tuition discount rates “reached an estimated 49 percent for full-time freshmen in the 2015-2016 academic year, up from 47 percent a year earlier and the highest level on record.” The data showed “private colleges put nearly 43 cents of every tuition dollar toward scholarships and grants.” NACUBO Director of Research and Analysis Ken Redd cautioned, “With net revenue growth slowing down and the nation’s student population evolving, many schools are testing strategies to ensure they can continue to deliver on their missions and remain financially sustainable in the years ahead.”

Private Colleges’ Financial Strain May Cause Education Quality To Deteriorate. The Hechinger Report  (5/16, Zinshteyn) says private colleges are spending more dollars to attract students which may threaten “to unravel their fiscal health,” and which may in turn “harm the quality of education colleges can offer.” The National Center for Education Statistics indicated private colleges receive only “30 percent of their funding from tuition and fees” on average.

Analysis: Rising College Costs Take Toll On Massachusetts Families.

In a 1,900-word analysis, the AP  (5/16) profiles Massachusetts families struggles to afford rising college costs, and cites financial analysts who are advising families against the value of college. The College Board indicated “the average annual tuition and fees at a private, four-year institution has nearly doubled over the past 25 years,” after taking inflation into account. US Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA) said he has “floated ideas like allowing families to refinance high-interest loans and establishing income-driven loan repayment plans,” and supported investments in Pell grants.

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

Virginia Tech Engineer Seeks To Promote Natural History Museums As Spark For Innovation.

The Augusta (VA) Free Press  (5/15) reports that while engineers are often inspired by nature when designing things like “an amphibious robot, an indestructible fiber, or a wind turbine blade that slices quietly through the air,” they “don’t always have access to the actual biological structures or the expertise to analyze them.” Rolf Mueller, associate professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, wants to bridge this gap by informing engineers about museums’ ability to conduct such analyses, saying this “would dramatically speed up the pace of innovation.”

Carnegie Mellon Researchers Attach Camera On Robotic Hand.

Science Daily  (5/16) reports that Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute researchers “have shown that a camera attached to the robot’s hand can rapidly create a 3-D model of its environment and also locate the hand within that 3-D world.” This is an improvement over “doing so with imprecise cameras and wobbly arms in real-time.”

Startup Hopes To Bring Self-Driving Technology To Trucks.

The AP  (5/17, Liedtke) reports on Otto, a startup founded by Anthony Levandowski, described as “a robot-loving engineer who helped steer Google’s self-driving technology.” The AP says Otto plans to equip self-driving technology on trucks, though the technology would be used only on highways for now. Levandowski insists self-driving trucks could actually improve safety outcomes despite fears held by the public because self-driving vehicles would not speed and would not get fatigued. Steven Shladover, program manager for mobility at the University of California’s Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology, believes self-driving technology is unlikely to be fully realized and allowed on the road for “decades” because the “consequences of any kind of failure in any component would be too severe.”

The New York (NY) Times  (5/17, Markoff, Subscription Publication) reports that Otto’s self-driving trucks have driven more than 10,000 miles, and the company recently demonstrated its technology in Nevada. The Times also touches on the “job killer” aspects of automated trucking, reporting that the introduction of automated trucks threatens not only the jobs of the three million American truck drivers but also the jobs of people in small towns who rely on truck drivers.

Industry News

Delphi Unveils Supplemental 48-Volt System To Help Automakers Reach Efficiency Targets.

The Detroit Free Press  (5/16, Gardner) reports that auto supplier Delphi unveiled a “new 48-volt electrical system” on Monday that it “[says] is crucial for complying with emissions and fuel-economy standards” in the face of growing electrical needs in modern vehicles. Delphi vice president of engineering and program management Mary Gustanski said the system “will be a key building block to close the gap between automakers’ current fuel economy and the targets they will have to meet by 2025.” The system is meant to “supplement, not replace, traditional 12-volt batteries” and the company predicts “that 12.5 million vehicles worldwide, or slightly more than 10% of global demand, will need the additional electrical power” by 2025.

Engineering and Public Policy

Sources Say Engineer Was Distracted Before Deadly Amtrak Derailment.

News outlets, including all three cable networks, report that sources say NTSB investigators believe Amtrak 188 engineer Brandon Bostian was distracted by radio conversations prior to last year’s deadly crash. The CBS Evening News (5/16, story 3, 2:00, Pelley) reported that Bostian told investigators that before the derailment, “he heard radio traffic between a dispatcher and the engineer of a Philadelphia commuter train that had been hit by a rock.” The exchange reminded Bostian of “a coworker in California who was injured in a train collision and had glass impact his eye from hitting a tractor-trailer.” Around this time, Bostian accelerated the train at a curve before hitting the emergency brakes. Former NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenkar explained, “All of those things put together created, I believe, an environment where he maybe lost situational awareness.” CBS added that NTSB is expected to “renew its call for positive train control, technology that could slow a speeding train” during the hearing on Tuesday. ABC World News Tonight (5/16, story 5, 0:35, Muir) reported that due to his distraction, the engineer was speeding at up to 100 mph at an area where the speed limit was 50 mph. NBC Nightly News (5/16, story 2, 0:20, Holt) reported that the engineer said he only has a “dream-like memory” of the crash. ABC News  (5/16) and CBS News  (5/16, Van Cleave) provided similar details in online reports.

CNN  (5/16, Marsh) writes that there were 11 minutes between the Philadelphia train station and the derailment site. CNN suggests that NTSB investigators believe “seven to nine of those minutes the engineer was listening to and participating in the radio conversations regarding other trains being hit with a projectile.” CNN adds that the NTSB investigators “found no evidence the Amtrak engineer was using alcohol, drugs or a cell phone.” CNN mentions that additional details on the probable cause will be announced at the public meeting on Tuesday. USA Today  (5/16, Jansen) adds that the NTSB’s four-member board will vote at the conclusion of the hearing on “the official findings of the investigation, the probable cause of the crash and recommendations to avoid future crashes.”

The AP  (5/16, Balsamo) reports NTSB spokesman Peter Knudsen “said the agency would not comment ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.” The AP writes that the NTSB is expected to “recommend that engineers be retrained about distractions and recommend the city wait for ambulances to take injured people to the hospital at mass-casualty incidents.” The Philadelphia Inquirer  (5/16, Laughlin, Tamari) adds that the NTSB is also expected to recommend that the FRA “study whether having two engineers or other crew operating the trains would be safer than one engineer.”

The Washington Post  (5/16, Halsey, Laris) reports that the incident prompted Amtrak to install Positive Train Control in its Northeast Corridor. The article writes that, “If PTC had been activated before engineer Brandon Bostian allowed the train to hurtle into a sharp bend in the tracks at more than twice the posted speed limit, the system automatically would have slowed its speed.” The article mentions that FRA head Sarah Feinberg “threatened to fine passenger and freight railroads last year when a year-end deadline for its installation approached,” but Congress extended the deadline to 2018. The Wall Street Journal  (5/16, Tangel, Mann, Subscription Publication) mentions that the NTSB has also recommended the installation of PTC for several years.

Similarly reporting are the New York Post  (5/16, Furfaro), the New York Daily News  (5/16, Greene), New Jersey Local News  (5/16, Milo), The Hill  (5/16, Zanona), Reuters  (5/16), Bloomberg News  (5/16, Levin), The Week  (5/16, Garcia), NPR  (5/16), the WCBS-TV  New York (5/16) website, the WNBC-TV  New York (5/16) website, the WABC-TV  New York (5/16) website, and the WPVI-TV  Philadelphia (5/16) website.

The story was covered on local television by WXXA-TV Albany, NY (5/16, 10:34 p.m. EST), 12-TV Bronx, NY (5/16, 10:16 p.m. EST), WTXF-TV Philadelphia (5/16, 10:08 p.m. EST), and WCBS-TV New York (5/16, 6:41 p.m. EST).

US Appeals Court Delays Arguments On Obama’s Clean Power Plan To September.

The AP  (5/16, Biesecker) reports the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit scheduled oral arguments on the legality of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan for Sept. 27. A three-judge panel was originally scheduled to hear the case June 2. Nearly two dozen “mostly GOP-led states” sued the over the carbon-cutting plan. The Supreme Court delayed implementation until its legal challenges are resolved. According to the AP, the change to the nine-judge appeals panel may be preferable to the Administration because five were appointed by Democratic presidents.

Reuters  (5/16, Hurley) mentions President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, is a member of the appeals court but the order indicated he will recuse himself from the case.

The Hill  (5/16, Cama) adds the decision to delay the case and expand the panel was made by the court on its own and not in response to a request from any particular litigant. By delaying the rule, the “court could also speed up the entire litigation process, since it precludes any parties from appealing a ruling to the court’s full panel of judges.”

E&E Publishing  (5/16, Bravender, Subscription Publication) says President Obama’s environmental legacy “won’t be entirely clear” when he exits office because the fate of his “blockbuster air and water regulations remain mired in court fights” that could be determined by judges or the next occupant of the White House.

Grid Security Subject Of DOE Workshop.

Bloomberg BNA  (5/13) reports “grid operators, utilities, and energy companies say that the energy industry and the federal government need to continue to work together to improve protection of the US electricity grid from cyber and physical attacks.” Experts spoke during an Energy Department workshop last week “about the growing number of cyber and physical threats on the electricity grid, especially with the introduction of more microgrids and distributed energy resources that further decentralize the grid, making it more vulnerable.” DOE’s senior control security consultant Curtis St. Michel said, “I believe [cybersecurity] is a national responsibility. … There is a capability out there to corrupt our critical energy systems, and it is one of the functions of various elements of the government to respond to that.” Bloomberg adds “several of the electricity specialists said that additional federal funding is needed to harden transmission infrastructure so it can withstand physical attacks from weather events.”

Companies Propose Deep-Ocean Wind Turbines Off Hawaii’s Shores.

The AP  (5/16, Bussewitz) reports two companies have proposed offshore wind turbine projects for federal waters off Hawaii’s shores to meet the state’s “aggressive” goal for its utilities to use 100 percent of renewable energy by the year 2045. The federal agency responsible for deciding whether to approve ocean leases for the projects, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, held a meeting about the proposals Monday. Texas-based AW Hawaii Wind and Progression Hawaii Offshore Wind “are proposing to use a technology called WindFloat, where a turbine that stands about 600 feet is attached to a triangular platform that floats near the surface of the ocean.” The plans remain in the early stages and would “face years of environmental reviews and community meetings before possible approval.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Arkansas Statewide Hosts Electric Vehicle Rally For High School Students.

Electric Co-op Today  (5/16, Holly) reports the “whir of electric motors was a sure sign of spring in Arkansas as more than 200 students wrapped up a year of electric vehicle study with the Arkansas Electric Vehicle Rally on May 6.” The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas “sponsored the event for the 13th consecutive year as students from 15 schools across the state turned out for a day of competition, exhibitions and skills demonstrations in Little Rock.” Rob Roedel, manager of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, said, “The EV Rally has grown each year, which reflects the growing interest in electric vehicle technology. Our program enables students to obtain hands-on experience in technology that encourages critical thinking skills, teamwork and creativity.” ECT adds the students “participated in the EV program throughout the school year, developing skills in math, auto mechanics, physics engineering electronics and journalism.”

Virginia Adds Computer Science Component To SOLs.

The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch  (5/16) reports Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed a bill “that calls for the state’s board of education to incorporate computer science, computational thinking and computer coding into Standards of Learning curriculum.” McAuliffe said the measure, “designed to help prepare students for technology jobs,” is “is critical for students to leave school prepared for a job market that demands they have specific skills if they expect to be hired.” McAuliffe also painted the measure as a way to entice employers to the state with a qualified workforce.

Louisiana Education Superintendent Urges Focus On Technical Training.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune  (5/16) reports Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White said Monday that “a ‘crisis of workforce readiness’ is plaguing public schools in New Orleans, where a growing percentage of young people are neither employed or in school.” While “getting kids to college is important,” he said, “so is giving kids the technical training needed to move into jobs that are in high demand, including those do not require a four-year degree.”

German Apprenticeship Program Created In Georgia.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (5/16, Bluestein) reports Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has launched the Georgia Consortium of Advanced Technical Training, an apprenticeship program “modeled after a successful three-year German program that has provided a steady pipeline of highly-skilled industrial workers.” It will give Georgia high schoolers “the chance to earn a high school diploma, a German apprenticeship certificate and an associate degree in industrial mechanics.”

Akron, Ohio STEM High School To Graduate Its First Class.

The Akron (OH) Beacon Journal  (5/16, Jenkins) reports that the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School in Akron, Ohio will soon graduate its first class. Eighty students who “started out together four years ago in the former Central Hower High School building with the challenge of starting something new” will graduate on Wednesday.

Milwaukee Team Advances To National Finals Of Navy Robotic Submarine Competition.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (5/16, Johnson) reports a middle school team from Milwaukee Montessori School won the Navy SeaPerch Robotic Submarine regional competition and is “headed to the national competition Friday in Baton Rouge, La.” The competition, “in its sixth year, grew out of a program designed to teach school-age students about robotics, drawing on principles of math, science and engineering, as well as naval architecture and marine technology.”

Girls Outscore Boys On 2014 NAEP Technology And Engineering Test.

The Washington Post  (5/17, Brown) says the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reported this morning that among 21,500 eighth graders in more than 800 schools nationwide, “45 percent of girls and 42 percent of boys scored proficient” on “a national test of technology and engineering literacy that the federal government administered for the first time in 2014.” The test aimed “to measure students’ abilities in areas such as understanding technological principles, designing solutions and communicating and collaborating,” and found “girls were particularly strong in the latter.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

Climate Activists Protest Fossil Fuel Use In New York, Washington.
King Calls On Colleges To Rethink Asking Applicants About Criminal Backgrounds.
Self-Driving Cars Expected To Increase Traffic.
Energy Company Bankruptcies Surge Despite Rising Crude Prices.
Lockheed Martin Looks To Sell Small Warships To Southeast Asian Navies.
GOP Lawmakers: EPA Violating Court Stay On Clean Power Plan.
Georgetown Professor Discusses Career, Technical Education.

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