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

Leading the News

Obama: Chemical Safety Law’s Passage Shows Bipartisan Achievements Are Possible.

President Obama’s signing into law of an overhaul of chemical safety rules receives relatively light coverage, with no broadcast networks and only some major newspapers covering it. However, what coverage there is focuses heavily on the President’s message that the new law itself is less significant than the fact that it was a bipartisan bill passed overwhelmingly in both chambers, despite political divisions and the acrimony of an election year.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Lederman) reports that in signing “the first major overhaul of toxic chemicals rules in 40 years into law,” Obama called it “proof that Washington can function despite intense polarization.” The President “praised both chemicals industry groups and environmentalists alike for finding consensus despite their usual differences of opinion.” He said, “If we can get this bill done, it means somewhere out there on the horizon, we can make our politics less toxic as well.”

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Korte) says the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which passed the House 403-12 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter and the Senate by voice vote, was touted by Obama as “a rare example of bipartisanship from a Congress widely seen as unable to agree on much of anything.” The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Miller) says that “more than a dozen lawmakers from both parties” joined the President for the culmination of the “unexpected bipartisan achievement in an election year.”

PBS NewsHour Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22) correspondent Lisa Desjardins said, “This is incredibly significant. We’re talking about a vast universe of things that we touch in our everyday lives. … The law passed 40 years ago was essentially toothless.” She later said, “Nothing is getting done in Washington. A sweeping bill over an $800 billion industry? Well, that’s the answer.”

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Devaney, Wheeler) says the new law “promises to completely revamp the way the federal government oversees thousands of potentially toxic chemicals sold to millions of Americans every day in common products.” The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, McCarthy) reports EPA Administrator McCarthy “said in a statement that her agency is ‘excited to get to work’ putting the new law into action.”

National Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Plautz, Subscription Publication) reports Sen. Tom Udall, who led the push for the bill among Senate Democrats, said the “kind of ‘good old-fashioned legislating’” that made its passage possible “is increasingly rare.” Udall’s home-stateAlbuquerque (NM) Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Coleman) reports Udall said in a statement, “I want to thank President Obama for his support for this landmark new law. When the ink dries on his signature, we will put 40 years of broken law behind us. It is a historic step forward that will improve the health and safety of every American family.”

The New Orleans Times-Picayune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Rainey) reports Sen. David Vitter, the GOP co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement, “Cynics will say there’s no bipartisanship in Washington. Well, today, we’ve proved them ‎wrong.” New Jersey Local News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Salant) reports Lautenberg’s widow Bonnie was on hand for the signing. The President said, “Frank was passionate about this. For him to be able to see this legacy completed must be greatly satisfying. He’s looking down on us and feeling pretty good right now.”

TIME Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Worland), the National Law Review Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22), and West Virginia Public Broadcasting Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22) also have online reports.

Higher Education

Mitchell Addresses NACIQI Ahead Of ACICS Vote.

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22) reports in its “Morning Education” blog that the National Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, “the bipartisan federal committee that reviews accreditors,” began three days of meetings on Wednesday, “as the Obama administration in its final months looks to hold accreditors more accountable for student success at the colleges they evaluate.” The piece reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell was scheduled to address the meeting on Wednesday, and advises readers to “expect the big accreditation fireworks to fly” Thursday, “when the panel discusses and holds a vote on the fate of the largest for-profit college accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Kerr) reports that ACICS “faces a vote Thursday that could lead to its demise, leaving hundreds of thousands of students at risk of losing access to federal financial aid.” The AP explains that the accreditor “oversees about 900 campuses” and “is under scrutiny for lax oversight of its schools.” If the panel loses its Federal recognition, schools under its supervision “could lose their ability to participate in federal financial aid programs.” The AP reports that Mitchell “says many accrediting agencies are working hard to evaluate the quality of colleges” but others are not. The piece quotes Mitchell saying, “When we see schools provide extremely poor outcomes for students — or even commit fraud — while maintaining accreditation, that is a black mark on the entire field. The unfortunate reality is that not all institutions have students’ best interests at heart or are investing their resources in ways that maximize student success. Accreditors should be the failsafe in these instances.”

WSJournal: Administration Targeting Accreditors Of For-Profit Schools. The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Subscription Publication) editorializes against what it describes as the Administration’s campaign to revoke recognition from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) merely for accrediting for-profit colleges on the Administration’s kill list.

Tuition Soared In Past Decade, But Fees Have Increased Faster.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that Seton Hall University professor Robert Kelchen analyzed ED data and found that fees charged by public colleges and universities for “students to use campus facilities and cover operation costs” have increased “faster than tuition.” Schools have increased tuition rates “to offset a retreat in state higher education funding” in recent years, and “fees add on over 20 percent to the price of tuition at the average four-year public university.” Kelchen found that “the only significant institution-level factor in fee increases was tuition,” explaining that fees dropped as colleges raised tuition and rose as tuition fell. He added that colleges are increasingly subsidizing “library services, information technology and other core priorities that used to be included in the price of tuition” with student fees.

Minnesota Launches “Dual Admission” Project For Community Colleges In Twin Cities.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Lerner) reports that this Fall a number of universities in the Minnesota State college system will take part in a “dual admission” pilot project with community colleges in the Twin Cities as part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities board of trustees new “baccalaureate strategy”. This program will allow students in the community college to complete their four-year degrees without leaving the two-year campus by partnering with one of Minnesota’s seven state universities.

Louisiana Tech Receives $1 Million STEM Grant.

KTVE-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter El Dorado, AR (6/22, Lawrence) reports the Louisiana Tech engineering department was awarded a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation “to focus on retaining students in science, technology, engineering, and math.” Dr. Hisham Hegab, Dean of the College of Engineering and Science explains, “It’s gonna help us improve our retention and help our students be more successful, help them graduate on time and that will really, really help them save money. “

Column: Epidemic Grade Inflation Is Undermining The Grade System.

In a PBS NewsHour Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22) column, Vikram Mansharamani writes the results of a recent study by Inside Higher Ed show that “42 percent of four-year college grades are A’s, and 77 percent are either A’s or B’s,” revealing a pattern of epidemic grade inflation. There are several theories attempting to explain the cause of the more recent trend of grade inflation including that with the rising cost of tuition students are driven by the expectation of being treated like consumers, consequently devaluing an A-grade. Mansharamani argues that grade inflation is a collective action problem and must be addressed with a top-down approach in order to “secure a robust grading system.”

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

Universities Team Up To Create “Smart Manufacturing.”

The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/21, Goodman) reports President Obama has created a “coalition” of 200 groups including universities, “industry” partners, and “nonprofits” to work on “develop[ing] cost-saving sensors and other measures for advanced manufacturing” as part of a “‘smart manufacturing’ initiative.” The initiative is anticipated to have $140 million from universities that can be used to “develop smart sensors for advanced manufacturing.” The Rochester (NY) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(6/21, Gable) adds this initiative will be “in partnership with the Department of Energy.”

Washington University Researcher Creates App To Help Law Enforcement Search For Trafficking Victims.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Cambria) reports a new app called TraffickCam “is intended to make the search for young trafficking victims strikingly faster for law enforcement.” The app allows user to take photos of hotel rooms then upload the photos. The Post-Dispatch says the collection of photos will go into a “national database that has a search tool enhanced by cutting-edge computer image analysis.” The app was created by “three Maplewood conference planners” and 26-year-old Washington University researcher Abby Stylianou, who attended the FBI Citizens Academy in 2014.

Keysight To Create Atlanta Software Development Center.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Subscription Publication) reports Keysight Technologies plans to invest $14 million in a software development center in Atlanta’s Tech Square, which will create 250 jobs. A Keysight spokesperson said that the company hopes to combine its resources with “the talent that’s coming out of [Georgia Tech’s] engineering program” to incubate solutions “that will fuel a wide range of next generation technology innovations.”

University Of Pittsburgh Launches Grid Research Collaboration With Depart. Of Energy, Utilities, Manufacturers.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/23, Conti) reports that the University of Pittsburgh is starting the Energy Grid Research and Infrastructure Development (GRID) Institute that researchers hope “will make it easier to collaborate with utilities and related firms on developing technology to modernize and improve the electrical grid.” Initial partners in the institute include utilities FirstEnergy and Duquesne Light, and manufacturers such as Eaton Corp., Siemens and Emerson. In addition to projects focused on integrating renewable energy, building energy storage and coordinating AC and DC systems, “the institute will work with Pittsburgh officials and the Department of Energy on a project developing smaller, localized grids through a concept called district energy.”

Lamborghini To Share Forged Composite Research With VW AG.

Forbes Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Trop) reports that Lamborghini opened its new Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory in Seattle on Monday to develop a cheaper and stronger material to replace carbon fiber, research it plans to share “with its fellow Volkswagen Group brands.” The new facility will focus on the carmaker’s “development of a carbon fiber-based material called Forged Composite” – which it makes by mixing “a paste of chopped carbon fiber threads and resin.” The company’s process makes “in five minutes for a fraction of the cost” a material that previously “required 28 hours and $20,000” to make.

Research Shows Diesel Cars Produce More Emissions In Cold Weather.

According to the Telegraph (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Morley), research from testing firm Emissions Analytics has found that many popular diesel vehicles in the UK are “emitting more pollution” when the outside temperature falls below 18C, which means drivers may be polluting more than they realize. EA tested 213 models from 31 automakers, finding the worst problem “among cars approved between 2009 and 2011” – also called “Euro 5” cars. Carmakers “claim the practice is legal” and cars are specifically designed “to prevent them breaking down.”

Global Developments

Partners Begin Work To Develop Israel’s Leviathan Gas Field.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Benmeleh) reports that according to a Tel Aviv Stock Exchange filing Wednesday, the partners in Israel’s Leviathan natural gas field “authorized Texas-based Noble Energy Inc., a 40 percent stakeholder in the field, to sign a contract for engineering work worth an estimated $120 million.” Designing a platform for the project is the first stage of the field’s development, Israel’s Delek Drilling, another stakeholder, said in a statement. Delek Drilling CEO Yossi Abu said in the statement that “we will also advance tenders for the supply of equipment and services, in order to make a final investment decision by the end of 2016 and be able to pump gas by 2019.”

Engineering and Public Policy

US Healthcare Industry Emits More Greenhouse Gases Than The UK, Study Estimates.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Cohen) reports the US healthcare industry emits more greenhouses gases than the UK, according to a new study published in PLoS One that estimated the pollution generated by the industry caused “an annual loss of 405,000 to 470,000 years of healthy life.” The study was co-authored by Dr. Jodi Sherman from the Yale School of Medicine and environmental engineer Matthew Eckelman and also concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from the industry increased by over 30% between 2003 and 2013.

Obama Signs Pipeline Safety Reauthorization Bill.

The Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Spangler) and Detroit News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Laing) both report the President also signed a pipeline safety reauthorization bill Wednesday. The measure includes higher standards for pipelines in and around the Great Lakes. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton said, “We came together, Republicans and Democrats, to improve and strengthen the safety of our pipeline – and we got the job done.”

Judge Blocks Rule Governing Fracking On Public Lands.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that US District Judge Scott Skavdahl in Wyoming has blocked an Interior Department rule that sets more stringent standards for fracking on public lands. He ruled that Congress hadn’t given the department authority to issue the rule. Skavdahl, an Obama appointee, said the issue before his court wasn’t whether fracking “is good or bad,” but rather whether Congress had given the Interior Department the necessary authority. The Journal says the ruling highlights the limits of executive power and doesn’t bode well for Hillary Clinton, who has vowed to continue Obama’s environmental agenda. The Journal reports the government is expected to appeal.

Ruling Is Latest Setback For Anti-Fracking Movement. The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Richardson) also reports that, even before a ruling blocked the Administration’s fracking rule, “foes of fracking were struggling to dig their way out of a hole after a string of policy and regulatory reversals.” The Times points out that the White House had characterized the “ruling as a temporary and isolated setback and noted that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is also reviewing the case.” The Times says the ruling comes on the heels of a Colorado Supreme Court decision striking “down fracking bans passed by two localities” and the release of an EPA assessment that concluded fracking activities are “carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

WSJournal: Fracking Decision A Rebuke To Administration. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Subscription Publication) says Judge Skavdahl’s ruling is the latest rebuke to the Administration’s disregard for the rule of law. The Journal says the Bureau of Land Management disregarded a 2005 energy law that stripped the executive branch of fracking jurisdiction because BLM wasn’t named in the law. But, Judge Skavdahl wrote, “Having explicitly removed the only source of specific federal agency authority over fracking, it defies common sense for the BLM to argue that Congress intended to allow it to regulate the same activity under a general statute that says nothing about hydraulic fracturing.” The Journal concludes that this decision helps restore constitutional norms that Obama has worked to dismantle.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Missouri Business, Education Leaders Call For More CTE.

The Southeast Missourian Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22, Brown) reports that over 100 business, education, and community leaders gathered Wednesday at the Career and Technology Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri to “discuss the skills gap” in Southeast Missouri and to call for “more technical education to produce skilled workers.”

Game Allows New York High Schools Students To Compete With Code.

The Webster (NY) Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22) reports that students at two high schools in Webster, New York competed in a “battle royale” earlier this month, which “allowed students to pit their code against each other, as the code played a digital version of the game Gobblet.” The students “used game engine software developed by researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology. The software was part of a 2011 National Science Foundation grant aimed at teaching introductory computer science concepts in new ways.”

Louisiana BESE Approve Science Standards Review.

The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/21, Sentell) reports that the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday “endorsed a potentially controversial review of science standards in Louisiana’s public schools.” The standards date from 1997 and are the nation’s third oldest. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/22) reports that according to the Brookings Institute, the standards “lack integration in the all-important STEM” subjects.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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