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

Leading the News

Study: Burning Of All Fossil Fuels Would Result In “More Profound Climate Changes.”

A study released Monday says that if all the fossil fuel on the planet was burned “the world could heat up by as much as 18 degrees in the next three centuries,” USA Today  (5/23, Rice) reports. Researchers called the finding “a critical warning message on global warming,” with one expert noting this would be “as warm as when dinosaurs roamed the Earth about 65 million years ago.” According to the study, which appeared in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Climate Change, “The unregulated exploitation of the fossil fuel resource could ultimately result in considerably more profound climate changes than previously suggested.” Although this is “an extreme scenario, such warmth would render some parts of the world uninhabitable and damage the planet’s economy, human health and food supply, the study said.”

Virgin Islands AG Withdraws Subpoena Of CEI In Climate Change Probe. The Washington Times  (5/23, Richardson) reports that amid “criticism over his investigation into climate-change dissenters,” Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker “has withdrawn his subpoena of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.” CEI general counsel Sam Kazman said Monday that his organization “would still push the court for sanctions against Mr. Walker, one of an 17-member coalition of attorneys general pursuing fraud allegations against climate skeptics.” Walker “has also issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil for its documents and communications related to climate change with more than 100 universities, researchers and free-market think-tanks, including CEI.”

Exxon Investors To Vote On Resolution Over Climate Change. The New York Times  (5/23, A1, Krauss, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that Exxon shareholders will vote Wednesday at the company’s annual meeting “on a resolution to prod Exxon Mobil to disclose the risks of climate change to its business.” While similar resolutions have failed in recent years, “there is a growing chorus of investors, many of them large institutional shareholders,” who worry “that the optimism of Exxon Mobil’s outlook for oil demand is dangerously misguided.” For instance, Exxon projects the global demand of oil will grow to 109 million barrels of oil per day by 2040, but the International Energy Agency’s projections “include one scenario where demand could drop by 22 percent by 2040.”

Higher Education

Asian-American Groups Seek ED Probe Of Ivy League Admissions.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/23, Belkin, Subscription Publication) reports that a group of Asian-American organizations on Monday asked the ED to investigate Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Yale University, alleging that the schools discriminate against Asian-American students in their admissions processes. Although the population of college-age Asian Americans has doubled in 20 years and the number of qualified Asian-American students has increased significantly, the percentage accepted at most Ivy League schools is flat, due to “racial quotas and caps, maintained by racially differentiated standards for admissions that severely burden Asian-American applicants,” the lawsuit alleges.

NBC News  (5/23) reports that the 132 groups, led by the Asian American Coalition for Education, accuse the schools “of denying admission to Asian-American students with near-perfect SAT scores and GPAs in the top one percent while accepting applicants of other races with similar accolades.” The coalition filed a similar complaint with ED last year, the article adds, noting that ED “closed that complaint in June because of an on-going lawsuit filed in November 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. that makes the same accusations.”

Inside Higher Ed  (5/23), the Politico  (5/23) “Morning Education” blog, and NewBostonPost (MA)  (5/23) also cover this story.

Colleges, Students Making Wait-List Decisions.

The Washington Post  (5/23, Anderson) reports on the end this month of “wait-list limbo” for many prospective college students who were placed on college admissions wait-lists earlier this spring, noting that leading schools “often offer thousands of applicants a place on their wait lists but wind up admitting relatively few — or even none — of them.” In May, “admitted students have a deadline of May 1 to choose where they want to enroll and place a deposit to secure a seat. Meanwhile, colleges are sifting through their wait lists for qualified candidates.”

DeVry, Apollo Ending Use Of Forced Arbitration Clauses.

The Washington Post  (5/23, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the parent companies of DeVry University and the University of Phoenix “will no longer bar students from filing class-action lawsuits or otherwise taking their grievances to the courts,” noting that both firms are ending the use of “mandatory arbitration clauses that consumer advocates say rob students of their rights.” The piece says that for-profit college firms “have come under fire for tucking arbitration clauses into their enrollment contracts to protect their financial interests,” and notes that ED “is considering an all-out ban or limiting the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in enrollment contracts.”

Tennessee Law Defunds University’s Office Of Diversity And Inclusion.

USA Today  (5/23, Maycan) reports a new Tennessee law defunds the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion “in favor of minority engineering scholarships and ‘In God We Trust’ decals for law enforcement vehicles.” While some of the office’s units will be reorganized, the school’s Pride Center will now be unstaffed. Students known as Price Center Ambassadors will now run the center. The piece says GOP state lawmakers have been urging defunding of the Diversity office “for a while now,” in part because of a statement from the office last summer asking the school to use “gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘ze.’”

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

Scientist Argues For Ground-Based Search For Killer Asteroids.

The New York Times  (5/23, Chang, Subscription Publication) reports on a disagreement by scientists over how best to identify and monitor asteroids that could enter Earth’s atmosphere. Former chief technologist at Microsoft, Nathan P. Myhrvold argues that ground-based Large Synoptic Survey Telescope under construction in Chile “could find up to 90 percent of near-Earth asteroids if it spent more time looking low in the sky, closer to the Earth’s horizon.” That telescope is a $665 million collaboration of the US Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and other organizations.

Toyota Resurrects Stair-Climbing Wheelchair Project.

Mass Device  (5/23, Perriello) reports that Toyota has announced that it will revive the iBot stair-climbing wheelchair developed by DEKA Research & Development. “The deal calls for DEKA to complete the development and launch of a new version of the iBot, the Japanese auto maker said. Toyota said it will also license the balancing technology developed by the R&D firm for medical rehabilitation and perhaps other purposes.” Mass Device notes that the iBot, which has received FDA approval, was previously shelved by Johnson & Johnson after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it would only reimburse patients with $6,000. Qmed  (5/23, Crotti) and the Christian Science Monitor  (5/23) also cover this story.

University Of Wisconsin-Madison Engineering Students Design Turbine To Power Cell Towers In India.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (5/23) reports a group of engineering and business students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison aiming to “make electricity more available in rural parts of India…has designed a wind turbine that could provide power to cellular phone towers.” The students are part of a team dubbed WiscWind, which “will compete this week in New Orleans at a national competition hosted by the American Wind Energy Association and sponsored by the Department of Energy.” Twelve schools are competing in “the wind industry’s version of the national Solar Decathlon. A Wisconsin team.”

Clemson Researchers Working On Rejection-Resistant Coating For Artificial Joints.

The Greenville (SC) News  (5/23) reports that a group of researchers at Clemson University are working on a coating to prevent the body from rejecting artificial joints, noting that the researchers have won a National Science Foundation grant for the work. The piece explains that an immune response from the body can “lead to increased loss of function and damage to the material.”

Engineers Tout “Chem-Phys Patch” For Monitoring Biochemical Signals.

HealthDay  (5/23, Preidt) reports University of California at San Diego engineers said they “developed a small, wearable health monitor they’re likening to the ‘Star Trek’ tricorder” called the Chem-Phys patch. The device “tracks biochemical and electrical signals in the human body” then “communicates all that wirelessly to a laptop, smartphone or smartwatch,” providing “real-time data on electrocardiogram (EKG) heart signals, plus levels of lactate, a biochemical that helps chart physical effort.”


Manufacturing Apprenticeships Increasingly Open To Women.

The Hartford (CT) Business Journal  (5/23, Seay), reporting on the growing number of women apprentices in US factories, profiles 21-year-old Hannah Lenoce, who is acquiring skills as a toolmaker at Marion Manufacturing in Cheshire, Connecticut. Lenoce, who is among 130 winners of the NAM-affiliated Manufacturing Institute’s 2016 STEP Ahead awards for women in manufacturing, said, “I really like the hands-on part” of her apprenticeship. “I really have to think. Every day there’s a new challenge.” Besides her “salary, health benefits and a matching 401(k) retirement-savings plan at Marion,” Lenoce is studying engineering at Central Connecticut State University tuition-free, an added incentive from company owner Doug Johnson, the story says.

Global Developments

Scotland On Its Way To Wind Energy “World Leader” With $4 Billion Wind Farm.

CNBC  (5/23, Frangoul) reports Scotland will “strengthen its credentials as a world leader in wind energy” after finalizing the $3.8 billion Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project, according to an announcement Monday. SSE, the company behind the 84-turbine project, predicted it would power 450,000 homes and called the project “one of the largest private investments ever made in Scottish infrastructure,” in a news release. Politicians “welcomed Monday’s announcement, with the Scottish government’s minister for business, innovation and energy describing it as ‘great news.’”

Poland Restricts Where Wind Farms Can Be Built, Citing Noise Complaints.

Reuters  (5/23, Barteczko) reports Poland has a new law restricting building wind farms close to houses, resulting in higher taxes for wind farm owners. Industry says the move could slow Poland’s move away from coal toward to renewables, and result in bankruptcies for wind farm projects. Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party, the architects of the new regulations, said that the industry needed reforms to address citizens’ noise complaints about wind farms. The EU, however, is calling on Poland to increase its share of renewables in electricity generation to 15 percent by 2020 and decrease coal usage.

Engineering and Public Policy

Frac Sand Mining Said To Be Harming Midwest Farming Communities.

Nancy C. Loeb at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law writes for the New York Times  (5/23, Loeb, Subscription Publication) on “the destruction of large areas of Midwestern farmland” resulting from sand mining for fracking operations. Rich agricultural land in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota sits atop another a highly prized deposit of fine silica sand called St. Peter sandstone. “The Chicago Tribune found that mining companies had acquired at least 3,100 acres of prime farmland from 2005 to 2014,” Loeb writes, adding that the mining impact local communities and that silica is a carcinogen. Loeb argues that “unfettered frac sand mining is ruining the rural communities of the Midwest.”

Newport Bridge Error Will Cost Almost $500,000 To Fix.

The Wilmington (DE) News Journal  (5/23, Baker) reports Delaware’s Department of Transportation (DelDOT) in 2011 spent over $5 million to rebuilding a Newport bridge overpass to accommodate taller freight trains. In 2012, DelDOT found the bridge was too low. DelDOT subsequently requested a waiver from CSX to leave the bridge as is, but CSX refused. Correcting this error on the bridge will cost approximately $500,000. According to DelDOT state bridge engineer Barry Benton, the DelDOT survey team “mistakenly measured the clearance for the span from the ground rather than from the top of the tracks’ steel rails.”. Federal Highway Administration spokesman Doug Hecox said, “Incidents like this are teachable moments” that “actually serve to make the engineering community more thorough in their work.”

Also reporting on the story is the AP  (5/23).

Lake Erie Wind Test Project Gets DOE Grant.

The Medina (OH) Gazette  (5/23) reports that the Department of Energy has awarded a $3.7 million grant to Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. which intends to build a 20-megawatt demonstration wind farm on Lake Erie. LEEDCo is doing engineering work on the proposed project which is estimated to cost up to $128 million.

Following SunEdison’s Bankruptcy, SolarCity’s Role In K-Solar Program Expanded.

The AP  (5/23, Walsh) reports that New York’s “ambitious” K-Solar program “to install solar panels at New York’s public schools” must find a new partner after SunEdison, “one of the nation’s largest solar companies,” filed for bankruptcy last month. SunEdison’s bankruptcy leaves SolarCity as the only viable contractor for the program. Newsday (NY)  (5/23, Harrington) reports that following SunEdison’s bankruptcy, the state granted SolarCity the right to provide as many as 65 Long Island school districts with solar power, as it does elsewhere in the state. When the New York Power Authority awarded K-Solar “contracts to SolarCity and SunEdison, it essentially divided the state in half, with SunEdison getting western and central New York, and Long Island, while SolarCity got the rest of the state, including New York City.” However, with SunEdison declaring bankruptcy, the NYPA decided to shift its territories to SolarCity and “is contemplating issuing a new bid request for the program that could result in a second solar developer for K-Solar.” Under the program, “schools don’t own the panels, but enter into power purchase agreements to get electricity that is guaranteed to be cheaper than from a utility.” Once the contract ends, “schools can renew their contract, buy the systems or have SolarCity remove them.”

White House, Top House Democrats Back Chemical Regulation Bill.

The AP  (5/23, Daly) reports the White House said Monday it will support bipartisan legislation to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act. The White House announcement came hours after House Minority Leader Pelosi, House Minority Whip Hoyer, and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said they would support the measure. While the lawmakers said they “remain concerned that the bill limits states’ ability to act aggressively on toxic substances,” recent changes by Democrats “ensure the measure will protect families and communities from toxic substances.” Support from the top Democrats and the White House “clear[s] the way for the bill’s passage in the House and Senate.”

A National Journal  (5/23, Plautz, Subscription Publication) analysis says that although the legislation “gives the EPA more regulatory power, industry groups want a single national regulatory system instead of a patchwork of state schemes,” which “had to be balanced with concerns of health groups who wanted strong regulation and testing.” Noting “a flurry of lobbying around the bill,” National Journal says more than “130 separate lobbying-disclosure filings were entered in just the first quarter of 2016 alone that mentioned work on either the Senate or House TSCA-reform bill.”

New Mexico Sues EPA Over Gold King Mine Spill.

The Farmington (NM) Daily Times  (5/23, Smith) reports that New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Albuquerque against the EPA “and two mine owners for economic and environmental damages caused by the Gold King Mine spill.” The suit, which, in addition to the EPA, names EPA Administrator McCarthy, “Environmental Restoration, Kinross Gold Corp., Kinross Gold USA Inc. and Sunnyside Gold Corp.,” is “demanding the defendants ‘abate the imminent and substantial threats’ from the Sunnyside Mine network and remediate residual contamination from mine releases.” In addition, the state is seeking “compensation for environmental and economic damages.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

STEM Makes A Difference In Early Learning.

US News & World Report  (5/23) reports on four year old children doing engineering through STEM using “the engineering six-step method” of “identifying the problem, planning the solution, building the solution, testing the solution, reflecting/revising when it doesn’t work, and sharing the results when it does work.”

Massachusetts High School Students Design Water Filtration System.

The Houston Chronicle  (5/23) reports that over “two years, Dylan Nadeau, Patrick Casey and Nick Valiton, all seniors less than a month from graduation, designed and built a non-electric water-filtration system for which they applied and received a provisional U.S. patent.” According to Casey, “the whole system is estimated to cost $379, which could supply 30 people for four years before the filter has to be replaced at a cost of $159…The filter would need to be replaced every 40,000 gallons.”

Article Explores Why “Maker Faires” Are Important For Kids.

TIME  (5/23) reports that over 150,000 people attended this year’s at the San Mateo Events Center. According to Time, “these shows have become increasingly important as a means to introduce kids to” science, technology, engineering and math. Time reports that “at Maker Faires, children get hands-on experience with electronic gadgets, from programming to soldering. Kids can play with robotic kits, try building a drone and generally tinker with all sorts of gizmos.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

IBM Research Team Builds Nanosized Neuron-Like Device.
Northeastern University Civil Engineering Students Helping Design City’s Accessibility Infrastructure.
Undersea Robot Sparks Controversy Related To Anthropomorphism In Robotics.
How GM Lightweights Its Vehicles.
Report: US Nuclear Plants Need To Improve Safety, Monitoring Of Radioactive Pools.
National Robotics Competition Held In Pennsylvania.

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