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

Leading the News

Texas A&M, UT, UNM Announce Joint Bid For Sandia Lab Contract.

The Houston Chronicle  (5/24, Wermund) reports the Texas A&M University, the University of Texas systems, and the University of New Mexico announced on Tuesday they would join Boeing and Battelle in a bid for the management contract for Sandia National Laboratories. “The universities would conduct research, provide workforce training and independent peer review of the work done at Sandia.” A&M Chancellor John Sharp said during the announcement, “I believe we bring an academic prowess that no one in this country can match.”

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (5/24, Robinson-Avila) quotes UNM President Robert Frank saying, “Sandia is a great lab, but as it now functions, it’s not as New Mexico-centric as it could be.” The Journal reports Frank “said the partnership could bring a lot more jobs and economic development opportunities to New Mexico” and if they win the contract, “they will prioritize work with locally-based companies and institutions in their bid to operate the lab.”

Providing similar coverage, the Texas Tribune  (5/24, Watkins), the Bryan College Station (TX) Eagle  (5/24, Kuhlmann), Albuquerque (NM) Business First  (5/24, Cardillo), Renewable Energy World  (5/24), Defense Daily  (5/24, Tabirian), KENS-TV  San Antonio (5/24), KRQE-TV  Albuquerque, NM (5/24), and KHOU-TV  Houston (5/24) also report.

Higher Education

Finnish Company Donates Ship Engine To Texas A&M Galveston.

The Houston Chronicle  (5/24, Rice) reports that “Wartsila, a $5.3 billion Helsinki-based company specializing in building marine engines and generators, oil and gas equipment, and conventional solar power plants,” has “donated a $500,000 ship engine to the Maritime Academy at Texas A&M University Galveston.” The Chronicle says “the 27-ton engine, the size of a school bus, will be used to teach students engine repair and about emissions and fuel economy as they work to obtain maritime licenses that will allow them to operate ships in oceans around the world.”

The Gilmer (TX) Mirror  (5/24) has a similar report.

Many College Payment-Assistance Programs Fail To Help Low-Income Students.

The Atlantic  (5/24, Marcus) reports that “some government, university, and private programs to help Americans pay for college have become more likely to benefit wealthier students than even the most academically talented lower-income ones.” The Atlantic says assistance is flowing to wealthier families “at a time when a new report from the University of Pennsylvania shows the proportion of wealthier students earning degrees continues to rise, while the proportion of lower-income degree recipients is falling.” Meanwhile, “proposals to reform these programs have had scant success.” The Atlantic says the Obama Administration includes a proposal in its 2017 budget that would let students use Pell grants “living expenses first and tuition second, nearly doubling the proportion who would become eligible for…tuition tax breaks from 44 percent now to 82 percent, according to calculations by New America.” But, “the Obama budget has already been rejected by Republicans.”

“Pay-to-stay” Sting Operation Involving Sham College Leads To 21 Indictments.

Inside Higher Ed  (5/24, Redden) reports that Jun Shen, “a Chinese national and U.S. permanent resident who owned an international student consulting company,” recruited approximately 150 foreign individuals to attend the University of Northern New Jersey despite knowing that they would not be attending classes “before federal prosecutors announced that UNNJ was a fake university set up by the government as part of an elaborate sting operation.” Insider Higher ED explains that “Federal officials allege that foreign nationals, with the help of recruiters like Shen, paid to enroll in the sham UNNJ as a way to maintain their status to live and work in the U.S. on student visas, though they weren’t genuine students at all.” The report says the operation resulted “in the indictment of 21 people, including Shen, on visa fraud-related charges, renewed focus on the problem of fake colleges, but its real target was the brokers, or agents, it ensnared.”

US Colleges Seeing Reduced Number Of Foreign Students.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/24, Korn, Omran, Subscription Publication) reports Eastern Washington University’s foreign student enrollment fell sharply in recent months, mainly due to a plummet in Saudi Arabian students funded by government scholarships. The school is one of many nationwide that had gone after Saudi and Brazilian students and now face a slew of business challenges tied to foreign-currency fluctuations and downward economic movements in both countries. Schools also face upcoming universities in foreign students’ home nations. Rahul Choudaha, CEO at DrEducation, a higher education research and consulting firm, said that schools that have relied on a small number of countries now must begin anew in alternative nations like Vietnam, Mexico, and Jordan, where competition is already fierce.

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

Bill Nye Observes Successful LightSail Spacecraft Test At Cal Poly.

The San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune  (5/23, Wilson) reports that Bill Nye, the educator and TV personality known as “the Science Guy,” visited Cal Poly on Monday “to monitor a successful test of a craft’s solar panel and antenna deployment at the university’s Advanced Technology Laboratories.” The Tribune explains that the $5.45 million citizen-funded LightSail project is team effort involving Cal Poly and the Georgia Institute of Technology that “has been coordinated by the Planetary Society, a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization that promotes the exploration of space.” The report explains that Nye is the society’s chief executive director.

KSBY-TV  San Luis Obispo, CA (5/24) has a similar report.

Rochester Institute Of Technology Wins Grant For Mobile App Tailored To Deaf Students.

WROC-TV  Rochester, NY (5/24) reports on its website that Rep. Louise Slaughter has announced “that the National Science Foundation has awarded an $820,504 grant to the Rochester Institute of Technology to develop a new curriculum for mobile app development.” WROC says “the 5-course curriculum is being developed and initially offered at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.” The report explains that “the award will be used to develop a new mobile app curriculum that will be appropriate for all students, with teaching techniques tailored to the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students at NTID.”

UC-Boulder To Create Region’s First Federal Research Data Center.

The Denver Business Journal  (5/24, Hendee, Subscription Publication) reports that “the University of Colorado-Boulder will join 19 other universities across the nation as a federal data research hub.” The Journal explains that “CU-Boulder will create the Rocky Mountain region’s first research data center, housed at the Institute of Behavioral Science using a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.” CU-Boulder says “researchers from the center will do U.S. Census research and projects that ‘advance scientific knowledge and simultaneously deliver tangible benefits to the federal statistical system.’”

Boeing, SpaceX Making Progress Toward Test Launches With Astronauts In The Near Future.

Florida Today  (5/24, Dean) reports Boeing and SpaceX are progressing in their efforts “toward launches of astronauts on test flights in late 2017 or early 2018 that aim to end U.S. reliance on Russia for rides to orbit.” Boeing recently joined the clamshell halves of a prototype CST-100 Starliner crew capsule being assembled at Kennedy Space Center, “where SpaceX continues to renovate a launch pad for launches of astronauts in Dragon capsules.” SpaceX’s upcoming milestones include “key engineering reviews of the Crew Dragon’s design and of its modifications to KSC’s pad 39A, a former Saturn V and space shuttle pad where a new access arm and ‘white room’ will be installed to lead astronauts to their capsules.”

Industry News

VW “On Track” In US Civil Suit.

The AP  (5/24, Thanawala) reports US District Court Judge Charles Breyer found that Volkswagen and the attorneys for VW vehicle owners “have made substantial progress in reach a deal,” which is due to the court by June 21. The AP notes that last month Breyer announced a tentative deal between the parties that gives the owners of nearly 500,000 2-liter, four-cylinder diesel engine cars “the option of having Volkswagen buy back or repair their vehicles.” The AP also notes that VW is working on “engineering studies and testing” for 90,000 3-liter, six-cylinder engine vehicles, and adds that the tentative settlement does “not cover potential fines and penalties.”

The AFP  (5/24) reports that VW is “on track to meet the court deadline” to reach an agreement “with the government and car owners.”

Reuters  (5/24, Sage, Shepardson) reports that the parties to the agreement are VW owners, the US Justice Department, the EPA, the FTC, and the state of California. Reuters adds that big questions still remain about the total amount of fines VW will pay and notes that the settlement will also include an fund for environmental remediation and money to promote energy efficient automotive technology.

Reuters  (5/24) also reports that VW does not think it will need to add to the 16.2 billion euros ($18.1 billion) it has already set aside for dealing with fallout from its emissions scandal. Reuters quotes a source saying the company knows “the sum we are facing as of today.”

However, Bloomberg News  (5/25, Hytha) reports that VW claimed the penalties the government is seeking “are excessive” in a court filing shortly after Judge Breyer’s comments. Bloomberg notes the “deal to resolve civil claims” is likely “worth around $10 billion.”

The Financial Times  (5/24, McGee, Subscription Publication) reports that the final agreement will not be approved until the public is given the chance to respond.

Engineering and Public Policy

PennDOT May Reopen Road Closed Since April 29 Gas Pipeline Explosion.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  (5/24, Erdley, Tierney) reports PennDOT announced Tuesday state Route 819 in Salem Township will “reopen as early as Friday or Saturday.” The road was closed April 29 due to an explosion of a Spectra energy pipeline. The explosion “left one man with extensive burns” and “seared about 40 acres of pasture and cropland,” also “destroying one home and damaging several others.” The cause is under investigation by Spectra, “third-party scientists, engineers,” and the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. It resulted in “a 24 1⁄2-foot section of 30-inch pipeline buried in the right of way flying 100 feet as a fireball soared hundreds of feet.” Spectra spokesman Creighton Welch said the company employed a contractor to resurface “2,100 feet of Route 819.” It must be approved by PennDOT before the road can be reopened.

The AP  (5/24) also reports on the story.

McCrory Threatens To Veto Coal Ash Panel Bill.

The AP  (5/24, Robertson) reports that North Carolina state lawmakers moved forward Tuesday with a plan to reconstitute the Coal Ash Management Commission which was shuttered by Gov. Pat McCrory “after the state Supreme Court ruled in January that lawmakers had too much control over the panel’s work.” McCrory “threatened to veto the bill if the entire General Assembly passes it in its current form,” while general counsel Bob Stephens argued that the plan is still unconstitutional. Duke Energy supports the measure, according to spokeswoman Paige Sheehan, as it has wanted to leave ash in place at most of the pits.

California PUC Draws Criticism After Emails Show PG&E, Wall Street Interactions.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News  (5/24, Avalos) reports that the group Consumer Watchdog said Tuesday a batch of 100,000 emails it has released from California regulators has raised fresh questions about the integrity of the Public Utilities Commission and its oversight. The emails disclose meetings and discussions among top PUC officials and executives in the power industry and financial sector. PUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said of the interactions, “A clear understanding of California’s policy goals helps investors to better understand the utility and our policies that the utilities must follow,” adding, “This knowledge leads to investors charging utilities less, which leads to consumers paying less.”

Missouri City Seeks To Decrease Solar Energy Cost In New Program.

The AP  (5/24) reports Columbia, Missouri is slated “to become one of the first communities in the country to join a program seeking to decrease the cost of soaking up solar energy.” SolSmart will assist community “in reducing costs associated with installing solar panels.” The program, which is run by The Solar Foundation, “is a $13 million investment by the Department of Energy.” Columbia started consideration of “being involved with the program in November when City Council member Ian Thomas attended a solar energy acceleration workshop at the National League of Cities conference in Nashville, Tennessee.”

Duke Energy Strikes Second Deal To Capture Pig Farm Methane.

The Charlotte (NC) Observer  (5/24, Henderson) reports Duke Energy has signed a second deal to turn swine waste from farms in North Carolina’s Duplin County into electricity. “The project will capture methane gas from the waste and inject it into natural gas pipelines that serve power plants in Wayne and New Hanover counties” and is expected to start operating by mid-2017. Duke’s strategy is to capture methane from pig farms and pipe it to a central site where it is cleaned and then sent into natural gas pipelines.

The AP  (5/24) also reports.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Baltimore Elementary School MakerLab Inspires Creativity, Ingenuity.

The Baltimore Sun  (5/25) reports when a Baltimore County’s Hillcrest Elementary School no longer had a MakerLab, fifth-grade teacher Peggy Koenig came up with the idea to turn the once computer lab into a “hub for imagination – without screens.” According to the Baltimore Sun, students now stand at tables and create projects from recycled materials, an activity that promotes critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration.

Eleven Programs Receive To Honors In Career Technical Education.

Education Week  (5/24, Gewertz) reports on 11 schools that on Tuesday were recognized by Advance CTE, the organization of state directors of career and technical education, for “outstanding career and technical education programs.” At these schools, students learned dairy farming, building parts for jetliners, architecture, early-childhood development, and pre-school teachers.

Oregon District Resolution On Climate Change Textbooks Ignites “A Firestorm.”

The Los Angeles Times  (5/24, Resmovits) examines how the Portland (Oregon) Public School Board ‘s May 17 resolution to “abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities” has taken on “a life of its own” outside of the city, with websites denouncing the districts move and claiming the district would “remove all books that weren’t up to snuff.” The Times states the resolution has “turned into something much more politicized,” showing “how touchy it can be to try to regulate how schools teach about an emerging field.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Study: Burning Of All Fossil Fuels Would Result In “More Profound Climate Changes.”
Asian-American Groups Seek ED Probe Of Ivy League Admissions.
Scientist Argues For Ground-Based Search For Killer Asteroids.
Manufacturing Apprenticeships Increasingly Open To Women.
Scotland On Its Way To Wind Energy “World Leader” With $4 Billion Wind Farm.
Frac Sand Mining Said To Be Harming Midwest Farming Communities.
STEM Makes A Difference In Early Learning.

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