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

Leading the News

LIPA Approves Nation’s Largest Offshore Wind Project.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports that the Long Island Power Authority approved the nation’s largest offshore wind farm on Wednesday for a 256-square-mile area of water, with room for as many as 200 turbines. The 15-turbine project approved is “the first of several planned by the developer” Deepwater Wind. The Times reports offshore wind energy in the US has lagged but “been given new life by New York State’s aggressive push to meet Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s goal of drawing 50 percent of the state’s power from renewable sources by 2030.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Eltman) reports environmentalists and union officials celebrated the news. Kit Kennedy of the Natural Resources Defense Council said Cuomo “has positioned New York state to be the leader in realizing the infrastructure, jobs and economic development benefits of the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry.” The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has auctioned several large tracts of the Atlantic Ocean for wind energy development including a 79,000-acre area southeast of New York City and a March auction is set for 122,000 acres off North Carolina. Newsday (NY) Share to
FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Harrington) reports LIPA has said the $740 million 90-megawatt wind farm, transmission line and other system upgrades will increase average customer bills by $3.67 by 2016. The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(1/25, De Avila, Subscription Publication) also reports.

Higher Education

Lenders See Opportunities As Trump Expected To Curtail Federal Student Loans.

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Yerak) reports that investors see opportunities in the stock of student loan issuers and servicers as President Trump is “widely expected” to curtail federal student loan lending. The Tribune cites how since the election, such stocks “have outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500,” and “shares of Sallie Mae, a private student loan originator, are up 65 percent.” However, the Tribune points out, “student loan debt is a problem even for older consumers heading into retirement, as they help finance their own educations and those of their children,” according to a recent CFPB report.

However, in its “Grade Point” newsletter, the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Douglas-Gabriel) says bankers “are reluctant to renew a relationship” with the federal student loan program, as it is “fraught with uncertainty.” The Post cites how private lenders “were rocked when” President Obama eliminated the $60 billion Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program that backed private student loans. Nevertheless, “Education financiers have already positioned themselves to capture” the business of loans made to graduate students and parents, despite bipartisan opposition to those “loans for having high fees, minimal protections and saddling parents with debt they cannot afford.”

Blog Warns Of Economic Implications Of Large-Scale Student Loan Default.

A MoneyTips Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/24) blog post said student loan default numbers are greater than previously believed, citing last week’s report in the Wall Street Journal. According to an Education Department memo dated Jan. 13, “previous statistics on student loan repayment had been erroneously reported due to a programming error,” and “repayment rates had been overstated.” MoneyTips warned of the far-reaching economic implications of “large-scale non-payment of student loans.”

NYU Invests $500M Into High-Tech Campus Expansion.

The New York Daily News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Chapman) reports New York University will invest $500 million to expand its high-tech campus in Brooklyn. The investments will add on to the existing NYU Tandon School of Engineering, which opened in 2014 and currently enrolls over 5,000 students. The project will add 500,000 square feet of by developing the former transportation HQ on Jay Street, which the University received a 99-year lease on.

States Pushing For Free College Despite Political Climate.

U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Lanza) reports 44 million Americans owe $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, which has spurred the push for free college in the US. “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo unveiled bold plans to make public college more affordable.” The New York plan offers free college to children of families making less than $125,000, while the Rhode Island has no income threshold. Some states are considering a GPA threshold to incentivize students to work harder. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators hold a less than optimistic view of achieving free college after the results of the 2016 election ushered in the Trump Administration.

From ASEE
ASEE’s New Position Statement on Support for Engineering Education
As a new administration and Congress assume office, ASEE urges that bipartisan support for engineering education and research continue and, if possible, increase. Read the full statement here.

ASEE Winter Webinars – Student and Early Career Success
Join ASEE in January and February 2017 for two professional development webinars for students and new professionals. On January 25, learn about ASEE-administered fellowships for all grade levels and discover tips for crafting successful applications. On February 15, learn how to build strategic networks and enhance your social capital.

Research and Development

Maryland Students Use Math Modeling Program To Plot Efficient School Bus Routes.

The Howard County (MD) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/26) reports University of Maryland students have created a mathematical modeling program that district officials in Howard County, Maryland have used to “determine the best bus routes should schools start and dismissal times change in the coming year.” The district is not planning to change its schedules until at least the 2018-19 school year, but district Director of Transportation David Ramsay “said transportation is a major factor in the decision-making process.” Given the complexity of changing bus schedules, district officials “contacted the University of Maryland, College Park to present their problem to students in the QUEST Honors program, where undergraduates create and design projects.”

NASA Resumes Testing Of James Webb Space Telescope After Delay.

The Baltimore Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Dance) reports that last week, NASA resumed testing of the $8.7 billion James Webb Space Telescope “after a glitch prompted a more than six-week delay.” During a December 3 test, the telescope – the Hubble Space Telescope’s successor – “started shaking more than engineers expected,” causing an automatic shutoff. Engineer Lee Feinberg said that the test resulted in “valuable lessons that will be applied to the final pre-launch tests of Webb at the observatory level once it is fully assembled in 2018.” NASA “had built in a six-month cushion for delays to keep the project on track,” and spokeswoman Felicia Chou said that “officials are ‘reworking’ their to-do list to minimize any effect the delay might have.”

Five Teams In Final Round Of Google Lunar XPrize Competition.

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25) reports that the Google-funded XPrize Foundation announced this week that “five international teams have qualified as finalists in a race to the moon worth millions.” The Lunar XPrize “aims to stimulate the development of space technologies by rewarding the first team to land an operational rover on the moon’s surface with $20 million, a feat previously accomplished only by the Russian, American, and Chinese governments.” The article lists the teams as Florida-based Moon Express, Japan’s Hakuto, Israel’s SpaceIL, India’s Team Indus, and “an international team composed of members hailing from over 15 countries, known as Synergy Moon.”

NSF Accepting Proposals To Administer Arecibo Telescope.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Coto) reports that the National Science Foundation on Wednesday announced that “it was accepting proposals from those interested in assuming operations at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico,” placing “the future of one of the world’s largest single-dish radio telescopes” in doubt. The piece reports that the NSF has run out of operating funds to support the facility, adding that officials stressed “that the agency prefers that the observatory remain open with the help of collaborators that would provide a funding boost.”

Workforce

CBS Examines Possible Jobs Created By Pipelines.

The CBS Evening News (1/25, story 8, 2:10, Pelley) examined President Trump’s statement that the Keystone XL Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline could lead to 28,000 jobs. CBS’ Barry Peterson said a State Department report indicated that the Keystone XL Project could create 16,000 full and part-time construction jobs. Meanwhile, Peterson added that Energy Transfer Partner, which backs the Dakota project, said up to 12,000 construction jobs will have been created by the project. However, Peterson said that the Dakota pipeline is about 90 percent complete and the two projects “will leave behind only about 100 full and part-time maintenance jobs once construction ends.”

Lofgren Introduces H-1B Reform Bill.

CNN Money Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, O’Brien) reports Rep. Zoe Lofgren on Tuesday introduced a new bill to reform the H-1B visa program, “seek[ing] to address a main criticism of the H-1B program – that outsourcing firms exploit it to hire foreign workers.” The article says the “bill provides guidelines on how much employers would have to pay workers in order to get first dibs on visas,” which would vary by category of job, skill level and location. Additionally, “it would set aside 20% of the allocated H-1B visas each year for startups.”

Lawmakers Introduce Bills Targeting H-1B Visas, OPT Program.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/24, Purnell) reports lawmakers have introduced a number of proposed immigration bills lately in response to President Trump’s campaign promise to put American workers first; some proposed measures call for more robust regulations and changes to the H-1B program. According to research director Eric Ruark of NumbersUSA, Trump could also tighten the Optional Practical Training program, through which foreign gradates in technology, engineering, science, and math fields can find American jobs for up to 29 months, by scaling back the allotted time threshold or shrinking eligible fields of study.

Industry News

Analysts: Widespread Adoption Of Electric Vehicles Will Require More On The Road To Start.

Utility Dive Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Walton) reports that, according to analysts, widespread adoption of electric vehicles “will essentially require more of the vehicles on the road to begin with.” According to the article, “an essential part of that is pushing utilities and private companies to build charging infrastructure, so potential EV drivers are assured they will have a spot to plug in.” The article highlights California, where Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Pacific Gas & Electric last week “proposed spending $1 billion on electric vehicle infrastructure.” The article adds that “SCE’s $570 million proposal was the largest of the bunch, with a focus on support trucks buses, forklifts and other off-road equipment.”

Engineering News-Record Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25) provides additional coverage.

Engineering and Public Policy

States Vying For Part Of Proposed “Trillion-Dollar Infrastructure Spending Sprees.”

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Pérez-Peña, Blinder, Smith, Subscription Publication) reports that state governors, “who cite years of pent-up demand for fixing or expanding old assets and building new ones,” are supporting President Trump and Congressional Democrats proposal for “trillion-dollar infrastructure spending sprees.” Trump’s Administration last month, according to the Times, requested that the governors association “collect wish lists” from the states that emphasize “shovel ready” projects that could use money quickly and plans “that enhance national security and economic competitiveness, especially in manufacturing.” The governors association indicated that that 40 states and some territories have submitted lists that include more than 300 projects.

NYTimes Analysis: Trump’s Move On Keystone XL “Unwelcome Good News” For Trudeau.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25, Austen, Krauss, Subscription Publication) reports President Trump may have given Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “unwelcome good news” when he “revived” the Keystone XL pipeline. The Times says Trump’s move “is likely to complicate a delicate balancing act Mr. Trudeau has been trying to keep up” as he has said that Canada must develop its energy industry, but “also stands for aggressively cutting the country’s carbon emissions.” Trudeau, according to the Times, “spoke up swiftly” on Tuesday by “welcoming Mr. Trump’s action,” but “now people on all sides are angry with him.” The Times says Trudeau’s “welcome” of the Keystone XL project and his approval of two others “has alienated many environmentalists in Canada, and has also strained his relations with some indigenous communities affected by the pipelines.”

Yucca Mountain Discussed At Las Vegas Metro Chamber Of Commerce Event.

The Las Vegas Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25) reports on the Preview Las Vegas event, which was organized by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, and featured a discussion between “Rob Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West at UNLV, and John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution.” The pair discussed Yucca Mountain which was “declared dead by former Sen. Harry Reid” but has again become “a topic of discussion under Trump.” A lot of money “would be needed to just to begin looking at revival of the shuttered site north of Las Vegas, and Lang seemed at least somewhat encouraged that a change in congressional committee leadership is going to put Western leadership in charge of” the debate. The Sun adds, “Less encouraging is the nomination of Rick Perry for energy secretary, as Perry lacks experience dealing with nuclear issues.” Lang said, “The current nominee for energy secretary won’t take it off the table.”

NV Energy, Apple, Strike Deal To Build 200MW Of Solar.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25) reports NV Energy and Apple have agreed to build 200 megawatts of additional solar energy in Nevada by early 2019. NV Energy will co-file to enter into a Power Purchase Agreement in the coming weeks.

Solar Energy Employs More People Than Fossil Fuels In US Power Sector.

Niall McCarthy writes for Forbes Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25) highlighting a recent DOE reports indicating that 43 percent of US power sector employment in 2016 was in solar, “while fossil fuels combined accounted for just 22 percent.” About 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, while coal, gas and oil power generation combined had a workforce of about 187,000. “The boom in the country’s solar workforce can be attributed to construction work associated with expanding generation capacity,” and the gap is growing with net generation from coal falling 53 percent over the last decade.

Biofuel Credits Drop On Uncertainty, EPA Reaffirms RFS A Priority.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25) reports that prices for US renewable fuel credits dropped to more than one-year lows on Wednesday, “extending the previous day’s slide on news of a government freeze that heightened uncertainty over the program.” The EPA is delaying 30 regulations, including implementation of 2017 biofuels requirements announced in November, which has “exacerbated the uncertainty of some in the biofuels industry as Trump seeks to install leaders who have criticized the program.” Chris Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, on Wednesday cited recent comments from Scott Pruitt indicating “that he plans to operate the program as intended by Congress.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

STEM Advocates Introduce Students To Possible Careers Earlier And Reduce Gender Gap.

The Tampa (FL) Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/25) reports STEM advocates are making a new effort to show students science and math are fun. Advocates are looking to get students interested in STEM careers as early as possible, and they are also looking to reduce the gender gap in STEM fields.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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