Leading the News
King Stands By Decision To Withdraw Recognition From ACICS.
The Washington Post (12/12, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that Education Secretary John King has rejected the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools’ appeal of ED’s decision to withdraw recognition from “one of the largest national accreditation agencies,” which had been “the gatekeeper between colleges and billions of dollars in federal financial aid.” Earlier this year, ED officials had “deemed the council incapable of rectifying years of lax oversight of troubled for-profit colleges.” The accreditor has faced a chorus of accusations that it let “schools accused of fraud or with abysmal graduation rates receive millions of dollars in federal loans and grants, despite the risks to students and taxpayers.”
The AP (12/12, Horwitz) reports the move “will bar hundreds of schools from providing federal financial aid and likely force some to close.” Over 600,000 students at 250 schools could be impacted, and ACICS interim president Roger Williams has released a statement saying “the organization would ‘seek immediate redress from the courts’ to avoid losing recognition as an accreditor.” The AP notes that if the decision stands, those schools will have to “scramble” to find new accrediting agencies. The schools now must “provide the government with a ‘teach-out plan’ to provide an orderly shutdown if necessary.”
The Wall Street Journal (12/12, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that the move could spell the end of the agency’s existence, and quotes King saying in a letter to ACICS that “because of the nature and scope of ACICS’s pervasive noncompliance, I further conclude that ACICS is not capable of coming into compliance within 12 months or less.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education (12/12) reports that ACICS “had accredited for-profit colleges that suffered recent high-profile collapses,” including Corinthian Colleges Inc. and ITT Educational Services Inc.
Students To Compete For $100,000 In Prizes At Robotic Boat Competition In Hawaii.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (12/12) reports over 200 university students will participate in a robotic boat competition for $100,000 in prizes. The competition will take place this week “off Sand Island.”
WSJournal A1: Research Shows College Towns Withstand Loss Of Manufacturing Jobs.
The Wall Street Journal (12/12, A1, Davis, Subscription Publication) reports that research indicates that many college towns have been able to withstand the economic challenges that global trade and technological innovation present to manufacturing. The Journal cites a Brookings Institution nationwide study that found half of 16 geographic areas where overall job growth was strong despite the fall of manufacturing employment were college towns.
Private Sector Eyeing Student Loan Market Under Trump.
Politico Morning Education (12/12) reports that the private student loan industry, eyeing “what’s expected to be a more business-friendly White House come January,” is “making a push to expand its role in the Department of Education’s growing $1.3 trillion portfolio of federal student loans.” Lobbyists for the sector are reaching out to the Trump transition team with “a series of proposals that included a bold plan to auction off some of the existing portfolio of federal loans to private investors.”
Some Borrowers Outraged By Plans For Student Loan Forgiveness.
The Wall Street Journal (12/12, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) reports that borrowers who will see no relief from Federal programs that forgive student debt are expressing outrage over plans that determine student loan payments as a share of borrowers’ earnings – and eventually forgive some of their balances.
Research and Development
NASA To Attempt Tuesday Launch For Pegasus After Monday Scrub.
USA Today (12/12, Dean) reports that the launch of Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL rocket carrying the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) was “scrubbed” Monday due to a problem with the carrier aircraft’s rocket release system. NASA Launch Director Tim Dunn said, “Ideally, we’re going to get that resolved today,” adding, “We’re all leaning forward as if we can go [Tuesday].” After a delayed departure due to fog Monday morning, the rocket “took off under the belly of the L-1011 Stargazer aircraft,” but as the aircraft “neared its drop point more than 100 miles east of Daytona Beach, Florida…engineers reported a problem with a pump in the hydraulic system” that releases the rocket.
Michigan Tech Spin-off Builds Device To Test Blood Of Donors At Centers.
Modern Healthcare (12/12, Henderson, Subscription Publication) carries a story from Crain’s Detroit Business on MicroDevice Engineering Inc., a spin-off of Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan, that is preparing “to market a battery-operated device to help blood donation centers determine blood type and screen for diseases and anemia in the blood of would-be donors.” The device “would eliminate waste and speed up the donation process.” The company was founded by an associate Dean, Adrienne Minerick, and an assistant dean, Mary Raber, while they were both part of the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program. That program has also aided the firm with over $1 million in grants. It has also won support from the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (M-TRAC) program and the Michigan Tech Transfer Talent Network (T3N).
University Of Washington Team Develops Very Low Power Wi-Fi.
Fast Company (12/12) reports on “passive Wi-Fi,” developed by a team of engineers from the University of Washington that can generate “transmissions that use 10,000 times less power than conventional means.” The team has been able to create download speeds of 11 megabits per second so far, with the technology’s end game allowing users “to download many things at once without sucking up all your battery life.”
NIH Challenge Seeks Wearable Alcohol Biosensor.
In continuing coverage, Health Data Management (12/12, Slabodkin) reports the National Institutes of Health has challenged “the biotech community to design a wearable device capable of monitoring blood alcohol levels in real time.” Kathy Jung, the director of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Division of Metabolism and Health Effects, said, “Our primary need for this device is actually in research settings – and perhaps in clinical settings – for people who already have an underlying alcohol cause of disease.”
Canalys: Playstation VR Leading Headset Shipments.
PC World (12/12, Shah) reports research firm Canalys released sales figures on VR headsets, finding total shipments to be about 2 million for 2016, with the Playstation VR leading the way. Canalys found that Sony shipped 800,000 units of its headset, while HTC shipped 500,000 Vive headsets, and Oculus shipped 400,000 Rifts. PC World also notes that Chinese manufacturers are also making themselves known, at least locally, as the global market grows, with Canalys expecting shipments to hit 10 million in 2018, and 15 million in 2019.
Engineering and Public Policy
Bill Gates Predicts Cuts Around Green Technology Under Trump.
In an interview with Bloomberg News (12/12, Vance), Microsoft founder Bill Gates discussed his recent phone call with President-elect Trump, during which, he was able to “present a small part of his philanthropic and investment agenda.” Gates said, “The key point I was pushing there was the opportunity for innovation in not only energy but also medicine and education and encouraging the idea that that’s a great deal and a great thing for American leadership.” Asked if he is “optimistic” in the wake of the call “and Trump’s recent appointments,” Gates said, “Well, we’ll see. Innovations could be bipartisan. We should all do our best.” Gates also “acknowledged that there are likely to be severe cuts around green technology,” saying, “We will probably see at the federal level less incentives for renewable deployment. … That is unfortunate.”
The New York Times (12/12, Tabuchi, Fountain, Subscription Publication) reports that Gates on Monday announced “the start of a fund to invest in transformative energy research and development to reduce the emissions that cause climate change.” The efforts “would supplement and build on basic research already underway at government labs that may be threatened by the incoming administration.” While Trump has “expressed skepticism about climate change,” Gates “said he expected the president-elect to recognize that government funding of basic research would eventually be good for business, jobs, infrastructure and other economic elements that Mr. Trump campaigned on.”
Trump Seen Targeting DOE Grid Modernization Efforts.
EnergyWire (12/12, Behr, Subscription Publication) reports that scientists leading the $220 million Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium “are being targeted by President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.” The grid modernization project, championed by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, “is trying to pull together cutting-edge science conducted across a cluster of national labs.” It has bipartisan support, according to consortium co-chair Carl Imhoff at PNNL. “We have a large national security directory, we have a lot of fundamental science work, and then we have all our applied energy and environmental work,” Imhoff said. “So there are pockets where we could expect to see a significant change with a shift in administration.” Imhoff emphasized that Congress has supported Moniz’s efforts to increase collaboration across the labs, but added, “That’s not a guarantee.” E&E reports that “the inclusion of the national lab operations in the questionnaire dovetails with conservative critiques of national lab operations,” such as Heritage Foundation papers contending that the labs have moved too far from basic research. The Christian Science Monitor (12/10, Lindsay) reports that Trump’s transition team’s questionnaire “has received serious pushback from scientists who are already worried the new administration will not respect scientific integrity.”
Educators Suggest Exposure To Risk, Failure Important For STEM Education.
The Seventy Four (12/12, Stringer) writes that a STEM report released by the Department of Education and the American Institute for Research in September “suggested that exposure to risk and failure in the classroom is essential for math, science, engineering, and technology education, because it reflects real-world STEM career practices.” This kind of teaching requires students have much more time to figure out solutions for “in a school day that is already very tightly scheduled.” Additionally, students face “the very real prospect of getting bad grades if they can’t puzzle through challenging questions.” However, “most educators agree that, in the long run, learning through mistakes gives students a better understanding of the skills needed for STEM success – training that most schools currently do not provide.” Education Department deputy director of STEM initiatives Melissa Moritz, said, “The educators I talked with, they love teaching in this way.”
New York Adopts New Science Education Standards.
The Wall Street Journal (12/12, Brody, Subscription Publication) reports New York state education officials approved new science guidelines, based on the National Research Council’s “Framework for K-12 Science Education” and the nonprofit Achieve’s Next Generation Science Standards, that increase the emphasis on hand-on projects, engineering, and real-world problems, which supporters say will produce a deeper understanding of scientific phenomena than memorized facts.
Tips For Improving Teens’ Science Skills.
U.S. News & World Report (12/12, Pannoni) writes in its “High School Notes” blog that a new report found that many US high schoolers want to pursue a career in science, with 38 percent of 15-year-olds in the US taking the Program for International Student Assessment expecting to work in a science-related career at 30, but US students “scored about average in science among their global peers.” Ways to help teens improve their science skills include pushing them to participate in activities outside that classroom that allow them “to explore real data or to practice science in a hands-on or meaningful way.” Also, literacy skills are important; families reading short news articles with their teens and talking about the articles afterwards can improve comprehension skills. Finally, students can be exposed to the variety of science-related careers such as lab technicians and primary investigators.
Study: STEM Toys Disproportionately Branded As Boy’s Toys.
The IFL Science (12/12, Hale) reports a study by the UK Institution of Engineering and Technology “found that only 11 percent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) toys were listed as a girl’s toy on search engines and toy retailer websites” compared to 31 percent of such toys listed only under “boys.” The IET is concerned that the gender-bias could discourage girls and young women from maintaining an interest in science and choosing it as a career. Mamta Singhal, toy engineer and IET spokesperson, said in a statement, “The marketing of toys for girls is a great place to start to change perceptions of the opportunities within engineering.”
Future Engineers Program Links Students With STEM, NASA.
Forbes (12/12, Murnane) reports on Deanne Bell, a mechanical engineer, television host, and founder and CEO of Future Engineers, which provides a “pathway into STEM for students in grades K through 12.” Launched in 2014, “Future Engineers has developed and hosted design challenges that invite students in grades K-12 to design 3-D models of tools that could be used in space and made on the Zero-G 3D Printer on the International Space Station.” The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, assisted by NASA, sponsors the challenges. The current challenge requires students “to create a digital 3D model of an object that could be used by an astronaut to maintain physical health on a 3-year mission to Mars.” In her field, Bell stands out and “is noticed because women are underrepresented in STEM fields.” She has become a role model in a field where evidence shows “girls and young women benefit from having positive role models.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Missouri Students Learn To Program Lego Robots At Educational Competition.
• South Dakota Mines Students Building Robot For Mars Exploration.
• Universities Receive Grants For Transportation Research.
• Microsoft Developers Conference Moves To Seattle Next Year.
• Nebraska Lawmakers Urged To Boost Biotech Industry, Change Tax Incentives.
• Minnesota High School Offers Engineering Fabrication Lab For Students.