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

Leading the News

LIGO Scientists Detect Second Gravitational Wave.

The Christian Science Monitor  (6/15) reports that the team of scientists with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory who made history in September by detecting gravitational waves “announced Wednesday that they had picked up a second signal.” The signal is the remnant of a black hole collision some 1.4 billion years ago, and the Monitor reports the “violent collision shook the very fabric of spacetime, sending ripples out across the universe.”

WAMU-FM  Washington (6/15) reports that the new detection “suggests that smaller-sized black holes might be more numerous than many had thought.” The piece explains that “Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves a century ago as part of his General Theory of Relativity.”

The Boston Globe  (6/15, Moskowitz), the New Orleans Times-Picayune  (6/15), and the Tri-City Herald (WA)  (6/15) also cover this story.

Higher Education

ED Recommends Stripping ACICS Of Accreditation Power.

Several media outlets are covering the announcement Wednesday that ED is recommending that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools be stripped of its accreditation authority. Coverage focuses on what this will mean for the embattled agency and for the for-profit colleges it regulates. The Washington Post  (6/15, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ACICS is the “largest national accreditation agency,” and that ED is calling for it to “lose the power to act as the gatekeeper between colleges and billions of dollars in federal financial aid.” The Post says that advocacy groups and state officials are urging the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity to “deny the accrediting agency the recognition needed to operate” when it meets next month. The Post notes that the move “would leave hundreds of schools scrambling to find a new accreditor to prevent students from losing federal financial aid,” adding that some troubled schools might not find other accreditors willing to approve of them.

The AP  (6/15, Binkley) reports that “dozens” of the 900 schools ACICS oversees could lose their Federal funding, explaining that the accreditor “has been under intense scrutiny after critics, including attorneys general in 13 states, accused it of overlooking deception at some schools.” Federal officials reviewing the agency “said they found major problems with its standards” and “slammed the council’s handling of institutions like the now-defunct Corinthian College.” Their report “blamed the council for failing to stop schools from falsifying data about the success of students, failing to stop misleading recruitment tactics and failing to punish schools that employed those practices.”

Michael Hiltzik writes in a column for the Los Angeles Times  (6/15) that ED “is preparing to bring down the hammer of one of these toothless watchdogs” that grants accreditation to for-profit schools that engage in fraud.

The NPR  (6/15) “NPR Ed” blog reports that the move “could be the beginning of the end” for the accreditor, which was criticized for approving of Corinthian Colleges schools “while the for-profit giant lied about graduation rates and used aggressive sales tactics to recruit students.” The article notes that ACICS oversees schools that collectively received over $4 billion in Federal student aid last year.

Politico  (6/15, Stratford) reports that the accreditor has been “a prime target of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats who say it’s fallen down on the job by approving too many dishonest for-profit schools.” The report “sets up a high-stakes showdown over” ACICS’ fate, and “could potentially jeopardize the ability of tens of thousands of students to use federal loans and grants to attend the for-profit colleges that the accreditor oversees.”

The Politico  (6/15) “Morning Education” blog says that terminating Federal recognition of the agency is “the most severe action the department could take” against it, and notes that ED’s report “says ACICS failed to meet about 20 separate federal standards for accreditation” and failed “to properly monitor problems at the schools it oversees and take action against troubled institutions.” The piece quotes an unnamed ED official saying, “These were not just narrow misses. These were quite severe, quite egregious … the mistakes they have been making over a long period of time.”

Other media outlets running similar coverage include Bloomberg News  (6/15, Nasiripour), Inside Higher Ed  (6/15), MarketWatch  (6/15), WAMU-FM  Washington (6/15), the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail  (6/15), ProPublica  (6/15), and the International Business Times  (6/15).

Michigan State University Board Approves 4% Tuition Hike.

The Detroit Free Press  (6/15) reports that the Michigan State University Board of Trustees has approved a 3.7% tuition hike for in-state freshman and sophomores and a 3.9% increase for in-state juniors and seniors. Nonresident students will see a 4.2% increase. The AP  (6/15, Gerstein) reports that university President Lou Anna K. Simon “cited years of slumping state aid for Michigan’s universities.”

Virginia, Maryland Community Colleges Creating programs Based On Open-Source Materials Instead Of Textbooks.

The Washington Post  (6/15, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that community college reform group Achieving the Dream “has selected a handful of schools in Virginia and Maryland to develop degree programs using open-source materials in place of textbooks,” which could save students over $1,000 per year. The piece notes that the popularity of open resources has risen along with textbook prices.

NEW REPORT on the Future of Making
ASEE convened leaders from the Maker Movement in November to discuss the current state and future of Making. Read the report.

Summer Prism Now Online
ASEE members can access the new Prism magazine online. Topics include research opportunities opening up with a thaw in US-Cuba relations and proposed changes to ABET criteria, among much more.

Research and Development

Defense Officials Say Role For Cybersecurity Has Expanded.

C4ISR & Networks  (6/15, Cordell) reports experts from DOD, DISA, and the US Navy spoke at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s DC chapter meeting on June 15 about the need for expanded roles in cybersecurity. DOD Deputy CIO for cybersecurity Richard Hale says people that are responsible for “designing, building, owning, and operating” devices have to help with cybersecurity. DISA Chief Technology Officer David Mihelcic says “security cannot be the sole domain of cybersecurity specialists,” but must “include the program managers and engineers who are developing and acquiring the system, the system administrators charged with operating the systems.”

Researchers Develop Self-healing Circuits For Wearable Tech.

C4ISR & Networks  (6/15) reports on a Pennsylvania State University research team’s work to create “more durable flexible wearable systems embedding circuits that can heal themselves after breaking.” According to the article, the “researcher’s self-healing material is capable of withstanding extreme types of physical deformation – including being cut in half.” C4ISR points out this technology would be useful “as part of the Air Force BATMAN program which seeks to put useful, wearable computer systems into the hands of war fighters.”

GE Healthcare To Unveil Two New Molecular Imaging Systems.

Medgadget  (6/15) reports that GE Healthcare has announced plans to launch two new molecular imaging systems. “The Discovery MI is a PET/CT that as some of its features offers a large field of view for improved brain studies, the ability to detect faster decaying tracers than are currently used in clinical practice, enabling new research and compatibility with future medical tracers, and the greatest sensitivity in the business,” Medgadget reports. “GE touts the Discovery NM/CT 670 CZT as the world’s first general purpose SPECT/CT imaging system with a cadmium zinc telluride (CZT) detector that converts gamma rays into electronic signals without using crystals or photomultiplier tubes. The technology allows for fast acquisition times and improved contrast and resolution to be able to detect small lesions.”

GE Digital Launches Plant Pulse Optimizer. Design World  (6/15, Martin) reports that GE Digital has rolled out its Plant Pulse Optimizer, “providing manufacturers with the ability to run the plant on up-to-date production, inventory, quality and product delivery information rather than intuition for the purpose of continuous process improvement.” The system is currently in use by GE Healthcare “in five manufacturing sites, including three in Asia that cover all modalities including Life Care Solutions and Ultrasound. The latest site in Wuxi represents one of the largest GE Healthcare ultrasound manufacturing sites worldwide.”

Secretary Of Energy Says Supercomputers Could Help Cancer Moonshot.

The Hill  (6/15, Cama) reports Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz says the Department of Energy plans to offer its supercomputers to help the Cancer Moonshot initiative being led by Vice President Joe Biden. Moniz serves on the task force for the initiative and said, “These exceptionally high-powered machines have the potential to greatly accelerate the development of cancer therapies by finding patterns in massive data sets too large for human analysis.”


Federal Officials Call For Focus On Attracting Women To STEM Fields.

USA Today  (6/15, Toppo) reports that as part of the Administration’s United State of Women Summit, NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman “noted that fewer than one-third of the agency’s scientists, and just over one-fifth of its engineers, are women.” Newman said that despite increased numbers of female students in higher education, “the low percentage of girls taking Advanced Placement (AP) computer science courses each year” is worrisome. Meanwhile, US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith “said the problem is more deeply rooted than just too few women taking advanced math or science courses,” and that there is significant bias “against women taking on top roles.”

Analysis: Booz Allen Seeks Technical Talent To Grow Cyber, Analytics Business.

In its ongoing analysis of the largest 100 government contractors, Washington (DC) Technology  (6/15, Walker) says eighth-ranked Booz Allen Hamilton is pursuing growth in its software-development services sector as it aims to ramp up its technology and technical capabilities. Booz Allen Executive VP Gary Labovich described the company’s focus on its Vision 2020 strategy, which pursues growth “in the area of systems delivery, engineering, cyber, management consulting and analytics.” Labovich also described the company’s challenge to find technical talent to address its backlog of business.

Engineering and Public Policy

Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Blocking A 2007 Minnesota Clean Energy Law.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune  (6/15) reports a federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a ruling that Minnesota’s 2007 clean energy law illegally regulates out-of-state utilities. The appellate court decision “is a win for the state of North Dakota and its utility and coal interests,” which argue that the Minnesota law hampered their ability to sell electricity from coal-fired power plants and build new coal generators. “Maybe we needed the law in 2007,” said Michael Noble, executive director of clean energy advocacy group Fresh Energy, “But in 2016, the three largest [US] coal companies have gone bankrupt, and coal [fueled] power plants are closing right and left.”

Dallas Officials Urged Texas To Strengthen Ozone Controls Rather Than Resist EPA.

The Dallas Morning News  (6/15) reports the Dallas City Council urged the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Wednesday to strengthen its plan to fight ozone pollution, “which has been called inadequate by the [US] Environmental Protection Agency.” Mayor Mike Rawlings said the city is caught in a fight between the TCEQ and EPA, a dispute he says could harm the local economy. “We want the state to not play a game of chicken with the EPA,” he said. “Often, we do not get caught up in national politics, but this is one we’re getting caught up in a little bit.”

Brown’s Plan To Expand California Electricity Grid Raises Concerns.

The Los Angeles Times  (6/15, Penn) reports Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to revisit a portion of SB 96, which the state passed in 1999, that “sought to expand the western grid by tying California’s electric system more intricately to its western neighbors.” Several state legislators in February wrote a letter to Brown expressing “concerns about the proposal hindering efforts to meet the state’s new mandate that 50% of the electricity supplied to Californians come from clean sources such as solar and wind energy.” Chairman of the California Energy Commission Robert Weisenmiller “defended the plan, saying that a regional approach to electricity would be more efficient and cost effective.” However, San Diego attorney Michael Aguirre cautions that such an effort “isn’t so much about spreading the clean energy gospel but returning the state to the era of manipulated energy markets that led to the 2000-2001 energy crisis.”

PG&E Pipeline Safety Trial Set To Begin Thursday.

The San Francisco Chronicle  (6/15, Egelko) reports that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. goes on trial Thursday, on criminal charges of violating pipeline-safety laws when gas lines exploded in San Bruno in 2010. The story outlines the charges and points out that the Department of Justice has increased its focus on workplace safety cases under the encouragement of DOJ Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

EPA, DOT To Investigate Complaint Against Maryland Power Plant.

The Washington Post  (6/15, Hicks) reports that the EPA and DOT announced that they will investigate if regulators in Maryland discriminated against a majority black community in Prince George’s County when it issued a permit for the proposed Panda Mattawoman natural gas power plant in the area. Last month, local residents working with Earthjustice filed a civil rights complaint claiming that the proposed power plant would disproportionately affect their majority black town of Brandywine.

Study: Average Global Cost Of Solar, Wind Could Fall To 59 Percent By 2025.

Reuters  (6/15, Chestney) reports the International Renewable Energy Agency said on Wednesday that the average cost of electricity generated by solar and wind energy “could fall by up to 59 percent by 2025 if the right policies are in place.” IRENA’s director-general Adnan Z. Amin said, “To continue driving the energy transition we must now shift policy focus to support areas that will result in even greater cost declines and thus maximize the tremendous economic opportunity at hand.”

Bloomberg News  (6/15, Hirtenstein) reports the drop is expected to be driven by technological improvements and increased economies of scale. “We’ve experienced a golden era for equipment cost reduction in solar photovoltaic and onshore wind,” said Michael Taylor, lead author of the IRENA report. “Now we’re seeing a lot of opportunity to reduce the non-equipment cost.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

ED Releases Dear Colleague Letter On Gender Equity In CTE Programs.

Andrew Ujifusa writes at the Education Week  (6/15) “Politics K-12” blog that ED has released a Dear Colleague letter “reminding schools that all students, regardless of sex or gender, must have equal access to the full range of career and technical education programs being offered.” The guidance “says the persistent under-representation of girls and women in CTE programs can hinder their earning power in their careers, decrease the workforce’s diversity.”

Common Core Math Standards Force Elementary School Teachers To Think Differently.

The Hechinger Report  (6/15, Ostashevsky) reports that under the Common Core, the old way to teaching will not work. University of Central Florida professor of mathematics education and author of several books on teaching math Juli Dixon said, “It’s a change in thinking. We used to teach procedural math, but now students have to understand the ‘why’ as much as the ‘how’.” According to the Hechinger Report, “most elementary school teachers did not learn math that way, and many now struggle to teach to the new standards.”

Tiered Approach To Math Gets Tentative Approval From North Carolina’s Senate.

The AP  (6/15, Gronewold) reports on a plan by North Carolina lawmakers “to reintroduce traditional math courses into public high schools in response to students’ and parents’ complaints that the multistate Common Core standards are confusing and overly complicated.” On Wednesday, the Senate provisionally allowed “school districts to offer traditional math courses like algebra and geometry alongside the newer “integrated” Math 1, Math 2 and Math 3 pathway that the state adopted as part of Common Core in 2012.” Senator Chad Barefoot said, “At the very essence of this bill is giving parents and students a choice over not what they learn, but how they learn it, and that is something we should strive for.”

Making US STEM Education Stronger And More Diverse.

Connecticut Public Radio  (6/15, Malcom) reports that according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment in STEM fields is “growing faster than any other sector of the U.S. economy,” but the US is still trailing behind other countries in STEM education, and new recruits in science and technology are overwhelmingly white and Asian men.

Arkansas Spends $400K On Middle School Computer Science Program.

The AP  (6/15) reports that Arkansas plans to spend $400,000 on an online computer science program called “Learning Blade” for middle school students aimed at increasing “interest in computer science and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.”

New Report Critical Of K-12 Computer Science Education.

Education Week  (6/14, Lewis) reported that a study by the Information and Technology Innovation Foundation (ITIF) “on the state of computer science education cites a deficit of relevant course-work, and inadequate teacher training in its conclusions, tracing a historical lack of progress back to the subject’s ‘fringe’ status.” According to the study titled “The Case for Improving U.S. Science Education,” failure to prioritize computer science has created “stagnation and decline in K-12 classrooms.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Federal Government Announces $82 Million For Nuclear Energy Research.
ED Proposes New Rules To Help Discharge Student Loans From Fraudulent Schools.
University Of Wyoming Joins Fossil Energy Research Coalition.
Former IBM Software Engineer Charged With Economic Espionage.
EPA Urged To Maintain Current CAFE Standards, Targets.
California Makes Strides In Improving K-12 Computer Science Curriculum.

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