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

Leading the News

ED Moves To Sever Ties With ACICS.

Several major media outlets are covering ED’s decision to shut down the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Cohen, Subscription Publication) reports that ACICS is “the nation’s largest accreditor of for-profit colleges,” and “had stood watch as failing institutions like Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute teetered on a pileup of fraud investigations.” In a letter to the agency, ED cited 21 areas in which it is out of compliance with Federal regulations and expressed doubt that the accreditor has the capacity to correct these issues. ACICS says it plans to appeal the decision.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Douglas-Gabriel) says ED’s decision upholds an independent advisory board’s earlier vote to bar the agency “from serving as the gatekeeper between colleges and billions of dollars in federal financial aid, setting the stage for a protracted fight.” ED’s Emma Vadehra wrote in her letter that ED doubts the accreditor’s “ability to rectify years of lax oversight of troubled for-profit colleges.” The Post explains that ACICS has faced criticism from “lawmakers, state attorneys general and advocacy groups” who say it let “schools under investigation for fraud or with rock-bottom graduation rates receive millions of dollars in federal loans and grants, putting students and taxpayers at risk.” Critics of the agency say its recent reforms and leadership shakeups are “too little, too late.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Kerr) reports that on Thursday ED “withdrew recognition” of ACICS, which in turn released a statement saying it would appeal directly to Education Secretary John King. The AP says that the move “could force schools to close and threaten financial aid to hundreds of thousands of students.” The AP says that Vadehra’s decision “followed staff and advisory panel recommendations to sever ties with the council.” The piece explains that “hundreds of schools would be forced to find a new accreditor within 18 months” in order to have continued access to Federal student aid.

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Stratford) characterizes ED’s action as “rare,” saying it “amounts to what is effectively a death penalty” for the accreditor, whose “seal of approval had allowed billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded Pell Grants and federal loans to flow to the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges” and ITT Educational Services schools. The piece reports Democratic praise and Republican scorn for the move on Capitol Hill.

Other media outlets covering this story include BuzzFeed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22), the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22), U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22), and the Chronicle of Higher Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22).

Senate Democrats Look To Give ED More Power Over Accreditors. U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22) reports that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and other Senate Democrats have introduced a bill aimed at “beef[ing] up the federal role in the college accreditation process as a check on accrediting agencies that continue allowing for-profits schools to receive federal student aid amid reports of fraud.” The bill would give ED “new tools to more effectively hold accrediting agencies accountable by terminating or fining those that fail to do their jobs.” This article touches on ED’s moves against ACICS and its overall push for accrediting agencies to “beef up their reviews of colleges and universities, just as lawmakers have called on the department to step up its review of accreditors.”

King: Appeal Would Be “Resolved Quickly.” The Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Stratford) “Morning Education” blog reported before Vadehra’s decision was announced that King “said Wednesday that if an appeal comes his way regarding the nation’s largest for-profit college accreditor, it would get ‘resolved quickly,’ suggesting the matter could get settled before President Obama leaves office.”

Higher Education

Rice’s Rebecca Richards-Kortum Named MacArthur Fellow.

In continuing coverage, the Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/21, McGuire) reports Rice University bioengineering professor Rebecca Richards-Kortum, an American Society of Engineering Education member, has been named a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. The honor is “a nod to the global work she’s done to deliver low-cost medical technology to Third World countries,” including technology “that assists babies who struggle to breathe and has significantly decreased mortality rates in countries using it.”

The NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22) “Goats and Soda” blog reports Richards-Kortum “encourages students to come up with medical devices that will be valuable in the developing world.” She was recently informed that she “won a grant totaling $625,000,” even though “she hadn’t even been aware that she’d been nominated for the prestigious award.” The piece reports that Richards-Kortum “co-founded, with Maria Oden, a hands-on engineering training program at Rice University called Beyond Traditional Borders” which “challenges undergraduates to solve medical problems in the developing world.” PBS NewsHour Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22) also mentions the award.

University Of Texas Partners With Census Bureau To Track Graduates’ Careers.

The Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Stratford) “Morning Education” blog reports that the University of Texas System will “soon be able to track where its graduates work, and how much they earn” through a partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau that will “give UT information from the bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics program.” This pilot program “could signal that the Census Bureau is willing to use its data to help track college outcomes.” The article notes that a “growing number of advocates,” including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Gates Foundation “have called on the federal government to track students as they move through and beyond college.”

Proposed Bipartisan Senate Bill Seeks To Boost College Access, Graduation Rates.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that Sens. Christopher A. Coons and Johnny Isakson have introduced legislation to address “concerns that the federal government, which pours about $180 billion a year into student loans, grants and tax benefits, is not doing enough to hold colleges accountable for providing access to qualified students and ensuring they graduate.”

Roll Call Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22) reports that the senators developed the plan because many colleges have many different ways of defining success, leading “to a crisis where a record number of students never finish college and are left with an unmanageable level of debt that they cannot pay off.” Under the plan, “selective, wealthy colleges that do a poor job of recruiting and admitting low-income students would have four years to boost low-income student enrollment or be required to pay a fee to participate in any federal student assistance program. High-access, low-performing colleges would have the option to get up to $2 million a year for four years to improve student outcomes. But if they fail to improve, they’d be cut off.”

Liberal Arts and Engineering Education
The Teagle Foundation’s Liberal Arts and the Professions initiative embeds the liberal arts in undergraduate engineering education by forging curricular links between faculty in the disciplines and professional fields. The result is students more fully appreciate the social, cultural, and ethical dimensions of their work. To be considered for a grant, read the application guidelines and submit a 3-5 page concept paper to Contact Loni Bordoloi Pazich at for more information.

Maker Summit
The ASU Citizen Science Maker Summit 2016  is a two-day event (Oct 27-28), hosted by Arizona State University in partnership with SciStarter, exploring the crossroads of citizen science and the Maker movement. Registration now open with discounts before Oct 1. Read ASEE’s Maker Report.

Profiles Survey Now Open
The annual Profiles of Engineering and Engineering Technology Schools survey is open. Make sure your institution is included in this important report.

Research and Development

Georgia Tech Systems Engineers Use Inspiration From Honeybees To Improve Internet Efficiency.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Rawlings) reports that research into how honeybee colonies interact “is helping make your work on the Internet quicker and more efficient.” The piece explains that a trio of Georgia Tech systems engineers in 1988 “were inspired by a National Public Radio feature on the foraging practices of honeybees.” The piece explains how the research was later used to attempt to “determine the most efficient way to allocate Web-hosting computer servers among various applications to meet the demands of ever-changing Internet traffic.”

UK Startup To Use Deep Learning Supercomputer For Alzheimer’s Drug Research.

Fierce Biotech Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Taylor) reports that UK startup BenevolentAI “has become the first European firm to install a purpose-built version of the DGX-1, an Nvidia supercomputer designed for deep learning.” The firm “will use the technology in its algorithm-driven drug discovery programs, the potential of which have reportedly netted the startup $100 million in funding and an Alzheimer’s pact worth up to $800 million.”

Yahoo! Finance Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Dormehl) reports that BenevolentAI Vice President of Engineering Derek Wise said, “We’re taking giant corpuses of data, hundreds of millions of documents and structured data sources, and using it to discover relationships between chemicals, diseases and information about the body. From that, we want to create a learning model that can help us predict more successful drugs – which work more effectively with fewer side effects – as well as [create] completely new, novel ideas for drugs that have never been attempted before.”

NASA STTR Program Selects R&D Proposals From 41 Firms.

SIGNAL Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Ackerman) reports that NASA’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program has chosen research and development proposals from 41 companies that aim to “enable future solar system missions,” and are also designed to benefit the US economy. Proposals cover areas that include “space weather prediction; gas-sensing technology for spacesuits; planetary compositional analysis and mapping; information systems for robotics; and advanced propulsion system ground test and launch.”

NASA Solicits Proposals For Research On Microbes Aboard ISS.

Popular Science Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Baggaley) reports that NASA has issued a solicitation for project proposals to investigate microbes from the bodies of astronauts who have returned from the International Space Station. According to NASA Space Biology Program Scientist David Tomko, the research will aim to investigate the evolution and adaptation of microbes aboard the ISS, in order to “better understand how to control the microbial environment in future human exploration spacecraft.”


Cuts To North Dakota CTE Programs Spark Concerns About Future Oil Industry Workforce.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22) reports on concerns in the energy sector about cuts to career and technical education programs in North Dakota. The piece explains that lower oil prices reduced revenue in the state, leading to K-12 cuts that have sparked worries “about a potential shortage of skilled workers when the oil industry ramps up.” North Dakota Association for Career and Technical Education Executive Director Rick Ross says “the state needs to continue to invest in career and technical education,” and that “the state still has 10,000 unfilled jobs and 70 percent of them require trade skills.”

Industry News

German Media Claims Audi Heavily Involved In VW Dieselgate.

Deutsche Welle (DEU) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22) reports German media reports are indicating that Volkswagen’s luxury Audi subsidiary “was more deeply involved in the Dieselgate emissions-cheating scandal than was previously” discussed. Two German broadcasters reported that four Audi engine designers were suspended, allegedly because “they either developed illegal software for the three-liter TDI diesel engine or knew about it.” Reports claim investigators discovered “numerous documents they believe prove Ingolstadt, Germany-based Audi’s role in the fraud.” In a 2007 email, an Audi engineer wrote to executives about “strict exhaust emission limits in the US,” stating it wouldn’t be possible for Audi cars to comply with requirements “completely without cheating.” An Audi spokesman has not yet commented.

Engineering and Public Policy

Trump Vows To Deregulate US Energy Production.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Miller, Subscription Publication) reports that in remarks Thursday to a conference of gas industry executive, managers, and salespeople in Pittsburgh, Donald Trump promised to deregulate gas, oil, and coal production as part of his “America-first energy” plan. Trump said he would remove restrictions on the country’s “untapped energy—some $50 trillion dollars in shale energy, oil reserves and natural gas on federal lands, in addition to hundreds of years of coal energy reserves,” promising to end “all unnecessary regulations, and a temporary moratorium on new regulations not compelled by Congress or public safety.”

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Fontaine) reports that Trump promised to be “the energy industry’s ally as president,” claiming that “his energy plan would boost the gross domestic product by $100 billion, create 500,000 new jobs annually and generate trillions of dollars in new taxes over the next several decades.” However, the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Davenport, Subscription Publication) says Trump “promise[d] the impossible: a boom for both coal and gas,” adding that his “promises to those attending a corporate conference contained a fundamentally incompatible concept, as expanding the exploration of natural gas is the surest way to hurt coal production, and vice versa.”

FAA Advisory Group Adds Cybersecurity Language To Future Industry Standards.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Pasztor, Subscription Publication) reports an FAA technical advisory group, RTCA Inc., accepted language that will recommend cybersecurity protections in future industry standards. The Journal says the language does not mandate engineering requirements, but the move makes cybersecurity a high priority for the industry.

Native American Tribes Voice Dakota Access Pipeline Opposition To US Congress.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22) reports Native American tribes “took their fight to Washington on Thursday” to stop the a $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, as democrats “urged the federal government to scrap construction permits and reconsider the project.” Senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee Representative Raul Grijalva, called on the US Army Corp of Engineers “to withdraw the existing permits for Dakota Access pipeline.” Several House Democrats organized a forum to “provide a platform for Native American tribes to voice their opposition to the pipeline and the government’s permitting process.” In another fight, aboriginal tribes from Canada and the northern US signed a treaty on Thursday to “scrap proposals to build more pipelines to carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands,” and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is one of the treaty’s signatories.

Obama To Meet With Tribal Leaders Next Week. Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Volcovici) reports the leaders of hundreds of Native American tribes will meet with President Barack Obama at his eighth and final Tribal Nations Conference at the White House next week, while thousands of activists are encamped on the North Dakota prairie protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in the “largest Native American protest in decades.” The conference “offers the last chance for this administration to hear from tribal leaders about the shortcomings of the current consultation system.” Standing Rock Sioux spokesman said, “There’s an issue between what the Corps believes is consultation and what the tribe believes is consultation.” His Horse is Thunder said “tribe members voiced specific concerns with the government about the proximity of the pipeline to sacred burial sites, but these concerns were ignored.” But, US Army Corps of Engineers’ Amy Gaskill “said the tribe canceled several scheduled meetings,” and, “This was documented in a judge’s decision to reject the tribe’s request for an injunction.”

EPA Study Highlights Ways For Ports To Reduce Emissions.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Phillips, Subscription Publication) reports that according to new research published Thursday by the EPA, ports can reduce diesel-engine emissions by replacing old equipment and improving cargo-handling operations. In a statement Thursday, Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said researchers found proven ways to reduce pollution at ports, affecting 39 million Americans who live near port hubs.

SunCulture Solar Building “Smart” Panels With Integrate Batteries.

Fortune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22) reports on a startup called SunCulture Solar, led by entrepreneur and inventor Christopher Estes, which has “redesigned the solar panel, integrating batteries into the panel itself, overlaying it with smart sensors and software and wirelessly linking it to a computing hub and cell phone app.” Estes has described his new solar panel as “the smartest on the planet,” and he hopes that rethinking the panel “will do for the solar industry what smart phones did for the computer industry.”

Xcel Announces Large Expansion Of Wind Power.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Hughlett) reports Xcel Energy announced yesterday that “it will increase its wind generation capacity in the Upper Midwest by 60 percent, enough electricity to power about 750,000 homes.” The company “plans to add eight to 10 wind farms that will serve Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.” Combined “they will provide about 1,500 megawatts of power when the wind’s blowing” which is nearly “as much as the 1,600 megawatts of power produced by Xcel’s two Minnesota nuclear facilities.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

NYC Council Discuses Expanding CTE Programs, Tracking Progress.

Chalkbeat Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Veiga) reports New York City Council education committee members at a Wednesday hearing “consider[ed] a bill that would require the Department of Education to report each year on student demand for [career and technical education], how many CTE programs are offered, and graduation rates for students in CTE schools and programs.” The meeting comes after the city’s Department of Education announced $113 million in additional spending for CTE programs. Among the topics discussed were obstacles “such as teacher training, infrastructure needs and the state’s cumbersome approval process.”

Springfield, Ohio Hopes New STEM School Will Help Local Economy, Keep Graduates At Home.

A 2,121-word analysis on the NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22) website discusses the new focus in Springfield, Ohio on STEM subjects, but questions whether the new emphasis with help in “to turn the tide” and stop young people from departing the city after graduation. With its the city seeing “its manufacturing base erode” and household incomes fall, “people with more resources moved away from downtown” and forced “a majestic hundred-year-old high school” to be shuttered. The city now hopes its new school, the Global Impact STEM Academy, the popularity of which is “drawing students from Springfield and surrounding communities,” “could create a higher-skilled workforce for local companies and it might attract new businesses.”

Michigan Positioned To Be National Leader In Training Of STEM Teachers.

In a Detroit News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/22, Hull) op-ed, Stephanie Hull of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, writes that “[e]ffective teachers can make even the schools with the fewest resources successful, putting their students well on the way to achieving their full potential.” While headlines suggest that few good people want to assume the challenge of teaching – especially math and science – in high-need schools, “this summer Michigan hosted an event that disproved some of those assumptions,” when science, technology, engineering, and math teachers from across the nation gathered in Detroit, whose selection as host city recognized Michigan’s work to improve STEM teacher preparation. With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Hull’s foundation selected six Michigan universities to implement “rigorous, highly selective, clinically based programs” that “combined disciplinary content and pedagogical instruction.” Hull says “[i]t is only because of the commitment of states like Michigan that there is now a critical mass of educators experienced enough to mentor others.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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