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

Leading the News

EPA Proposes Modest Increase In Biofuels Plan.

Reuters  (5/18, Shepardson, Prentice) reports that the EPA has proposed a modest four percent increase in the amount of corn-based ethanol and biofuels that must be blended into diesel and gasoline in 2017. The oil industry and corn industry have both criticized the announcement, with Big Oil claiming that the target went too far, and Big Corn claiming it did not go far enough.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/18, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that at 18.8 billion gallons, the proposal amounts to nearly 700 million gallons more than what is currently required, but is still far less than the 24 billion gallons anticipated by a 2007 law. According to Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, “This administration is committed to keeping the RFS program on track, spurring continued growth in biofuel production and use, and achieving the climate and energy independence benefits that Congress envisioned from this program.”

Higher Education

Analysis: Increased Access To Higher Education Saddling Low-Income Students With Debt.

In an 8,400-word piece for the Boston Globe  (5/18) magazine, Neil Swidey writes that increasing access to higher education for low-income students is worsening the student debt crisis by saddling them “with staggering debt that is completely out of whack with the earnings boost they’ll likely get from a degree at a nonselective or less selective college.” He writes that this is especially true in Boston, which has a high concentration of colleges.

Utah State University Demonstrates In-Motion Electric Vehicle Charging.

The Logan (UT) Herald Journal  (5/16) reports that the Conference on Electric Roads and Vehicles was held at Utah State University so that attendees could “see the first-ever demonstration of an electric vehicle being wirelessly charged in motion.” Attendees were seeing the university’s new Electric Vehicle and Roadway at its Innovation Campus. The facility “allows USU researchers to build on the work they have already done with stationary wireless power transfer and test the viability of such power transfer for vehicles in motion.”

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

Retention Strategies
Going the Distance” is a video showcasing effective retention strategies at six universities.

Research and Development

Moniz Discusses Potential R&D Partnerships With University Of Delaware.

The Wilmington (DE) News Journal  (5/13, Goss) reported that last week Delaware “may have inched a step closer…to landing a major research and development hub backed” by the Energy Department. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and “top officials from the agency’s 17 national laboratories visited the University of Delaware on Friday to discuss existing and future partnerships.” The end goal, according to the officials, “is to eventually convince one of those national labs to open a satellite facility here to anchor a public-private partnership devoted to energy research and development.” Moniz’s visit “is the clearest sign yet that the department and its national labs also value coming to Delaware, said Charles Riordan, UD’s deputy provost for research and scholarship.” During the “fireside chat,” UD’s incoming president Dennis Assanis “asked Moniz for advice on what UD can do to get one or more of those national lab extensions in the near future.” Moniz replied, “Continue to build on excellence is the most important advice, obviously.” The Philadelphia Business Journal  (5/13, Subscription Publication) also covers this story.

New York Institute Of Technology Gets Federal Approval To Work On Classified Cybersecurity Projects.

Newsday (NY)  (5/17, Madore) reports that DHS and NSA have named New York Institute of Technology as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, meaning the school will be able to “work on cybersecurity projects involving classified information.” The designation “allows faculty and students to use classified materials in research, with proper clearance,” and “boosts Nassau County’s plan for a cyber defense research facility in Bethpage, where research would be conducted and startup businesses housed.”

Innovate Long Island (NY)  (5/16) reports that the National Center of Academic Excellence program “designates schools based on their specific degree programs and ‘close alignment to specific cybersecurity-related knowledge units.’”

Purdue Engineering Students Working On Technology To Facilitate Education For Visually Impaired.

WLFI-TV  Lafayette, IN (5/15) reports on a partnership between engineering students at Purdue University and students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to work on “projects aimed at creating better education technology for blind and visually impaired students.” One project “creates a better line of communication between the students and teachers,” while another “will create a magnifier, magnification stand and an app that can be used on an iPad or e-reader so students can read text with less hassle.”

University Receives FAA Permission To Research Drones Nationwide.

WKYT-TV  Lexington, KY (5/18) reports the FAA “has given the University of Kentucky permission to research unmanned aerial systems or drones.” University Director of Unmanned Systems Research Consortium Suzanne Smith “said in a release that UK is among the first universities in the country to receive the FAA’s public Certificate of Authorization, which allows UK researchers to fly drones that are less than 55 pounds up to 400 feet and less than 100 mph at sites across the U.S., away from airports and under other FAA procedures.” In order to fly under the Certificate of Authorization, the drone must be registered, a 24-hour Notice to Airmen must be issued, and a certified pilot must oversee all flights.

Global Developments

China’s Largest Wind Turbine Producers Buys Texas Wind Project.

Fuel Fix (TX)  (5/18, Blum) reports China-based wind turbine manufacturer Goldwind said this week it bought the developing 64-turbine Rattlesnake Wind Project. Goldwind just surpassed Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems as the world’s top wind turbine supplier, followed by Germany’s Siemens and General Electric, according to a new report Wednesday from Navigant Research. David Halligan, Goldwind Americas CEO, said in a prepared statement, “This investment in the Rattlesnake Wind Project highlights our long-term commitment to the U.S. wind market and represents our first step of a five-year growth strategy to capitalize on the extension of the production tax credit.”

Engineering and Public Policy

California Suspends Urban Water Restrictions.

The New York Times  (5/18, Nagourney, Lovett, Subscription Publication) reports that in a “sharp reversal,” California’s State Water Resources Control Board on Wednesday adopted rules that suspend its mandatory statewide 25% reduction in urban water us, “telling local communities to set their own conservation standards after a relatively wet winter and a year of enormous savings in urban water use.” The rules, which don’t apply to agriculture, “are likely to mean a huge rollback – and in some places, an elimination – of water reduction mandates.” However, Max Gomberg, the climate and conservation manager for the board, said a review would be ordered in January and, “If it’s looking like people have forgotten about the fact that there’s a drought, and gone back to wholesale water wasting, we’ll take that into consideration.”

DOE Looks To Address Compressors, Battery Chargers.

The Hill  (5/18, Devaney) reports the Energy Department “is proposing new efficiency rules for compressors” and “proposing test procedures for battery chargers.” The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE “said Wednesday it is looking to strengthen the energy conservation standards for compressors” and that the public will have a chance to comment for 60 days. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE proposed a new test procedure yesterday for “uninterruptible power supplies.” The public will also have 60 days to comment on this issue.

Impact Of Proposed Cuts To Clean Coal Research Funding Explored.

The Houston Chronicle  (5/18) discusses the impact of proposed cuts to Federal funding for clean-coal research, reporting the technology “is falling into greater uncertainty, as the Obama administration slices funding for technologies once considered critical in fighting climate change.” However, according to the article, Department of Energy assistance secretary Chris Smith recently affirmed the Administration’s commitment to clean coal “while admitting its economic prospects were limited without a carbon tax or other mechanism” to incentivize emission reductions. Meanwhile, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity vice president Laura Sheehan claims the Administration has attempted to block the development of clean-coal technology “at every instance,” and argued that “this is first-generation technology, and you’ll never get to second or third generation without commitment to furthering it.” The article mentions that Southern Company’s clean-coal project in Mississippi has faced delays and cost increases, though DOE says the project is expected to come online within the next nine months.

EIA: Clean Power Plan Seen Modestly Raising Electricity Prices.

E&E News PM  (5/18, Subscription Publication) reports that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan may raise electricity prices by 3 percent in the years following implementation, according to an early release of the EIA’s outlook for 2016. “Those figures are significantly lower than analyses cited by opponents of the climate rule that project 11 to 14 percent increases.” Paul Holtberg, EIA’s program lead on the analysis, said the “national average prices are higher as the rule’s introduced, and it peaks about 2025, but by 2040 they’re back pretty much to the same place.” EIA’s study found electric demand would be 2 percent lower in 2030 under the EPA’s rule, “a far less significant decrease in demand than EPA projects,” but the numbers “could still bolster EPA’s case that the Clean Power Plan won’t leave Americans with much higher electricity bills.”

Maine Communities Reconsider Solar Projects.

Drawing on coverage from the Portland Press Herald, the AP  (5/18) reports that several communities in Maine “are reconsidering large-scale solar energy projects or putting them on the backburner following a failed bid to reform the state’s solar policies.” Several “cities and towns including Portland and Falmouth were planning to install photoelectric panels on top of capped landfills to provide renewable power to municipal buildings, schools and streetlights.” The AP adds that “the project needed the Legislature to change the way solar producers are compensated for power and allow larger projects to offset construction costs.” The legislation was vetoed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage last month.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Experts Talk About Integrating Coding And Computational Thought In K-12.

US News & World Report  (5/18, Alphonse) reports a Wednesday session at the US News STEM Solutions Conference in Baltimore focused on teaching coding, with “four experts” describing challenges “making coding and computational thought an integral part of K-12 curriculae.” Jim Kurose, assistant director of the National Science Foundation for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, spoke about the President’s “Computer Science for All” initiative. Digit All Systems Inc., CEO Lance Lucas said, “Education needs to be centered around employment.” Ryan Seashore, founder of CodeNow, said students need “multiple entry points” to STEM fields.

Engineers Help Third Graders With Math And Science.

The Shelby County (AL) Reporter  (5/18, Davidson) reports on civil engineers Alicia Bailey, Tony Montanaro, and Matt Stoops working with the third grade class at Inverness Elementary School and teacher Pam Taylor. They take part in the “back-to-back math and science periods.” They also propose “real-life engineering scenarios” and work with the students to develop solutions. The students said that the engineers helped them in math by teaching them “tricks.”

“Number Talks” Boosts Mental Math Among Young Elementary Students.

Chalkbeat Tennessee  (5/18, Tatter) reports on Cheatham County teacher Amy Castleberry, who uses “Number Talks” to help young elementary students explore math, through “a 10-to-15-minute conversation about math.” The talks encourage “mental math.” The program also encourages teachers “to think of math in conversational and conceptual terms.”

Competitions Touted As Effective Way To Build Interest In STEM Fields.

US News & World Report  (5/18, Camera) reports on a discussion at the US News STEM Solutions Conference in Baltimore where experts argued that competitions are a “more effective way of getting students excited about STEM fields than traditional classroom learning.” They said that was because competitions “force students focus on teamwork, communication and time management,” along with requiring “abstract thinking and problem solving.” One said the message of competitions is that math is “about figuring things out.”

White House Launches Webpage To Hear From Students About STEM.

The Washington Post  (5/19, Balingit) reports President Obama after speaking to Jacob Leggette, 9, at the White House Science Fair, took up his idea of “a child science adviser”, saying, “We should have a kid’s advisory group that starts explaining to us what’s interesting to them and what’s working, and could help us shape advances in STEM education.” To do that, “the White House created a Web page” where children could “share their thoughts and views on” STEM fields. The page was launched Thursday.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Girls Outscore Boys On 2014 NAEP Technology And Engineering Test.
UC Davis Hosting C-STEM Day.
Apple Adds uBeam Engineers; Wireless Charging May Follow.
Apple Suppliers’ Early Hiring Sprees Cause iPhone 7 Speculations.
NTSB Determines Human Error As Probable Cause Of Fatal Amtrak Derailment.
French Billionaire Opens Tuition-Free Software Engineering School In Silicon Valley.

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