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

Leading the News

Possible Immigration Changes Alarm Tech Industry Leaders.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/27, Wingfield, Isaac, Subscription Publication) reported a draft of one of President Trump’s executive orders related to immigration policy changes was leaked last week, and “some language” in the draft “alarmed people in Silicon Valley,” which heavily recruits engineers from other nations through the H-1B visa program. The draft proposes a regulation to “restore the integrity of employment-based nonimmigrant worker programs” and consider H-1B program modifications that will “ensure that beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest.” Tech industry leaders also expressed concerns about possible changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and Trump’s temporary ban on some visas, implemented on Friday. The Computer Research Association objected to the visa ban on grounds that it “creates uncertainty and potential hardship among current students and researchers already here making important contributions and endangers our leadership role in a key field.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/28, Durbin) explained that the visa ban prohibits “anyone from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen” from entering the US for 90 days. Even though Trump intended for the order to prevent extremists from entering the country, the move “could now also heighten tensions between the new Trump administration and one of the nation’s most economically and culturally important industries,” especially if Trump restricts H-1B visas next. The AP notes that despite the tech industry’s insistence on the necessity of the H1-B program, “it has drawn fire for allegedly disadvantaging American programmers and engineers, especially given that the visas are widely used by outsourcing firms.”

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/28, Lien) reported Trump’s temporary visa ban “blindsided” the technology sector, which “thought that its main battle on the immigration front was over the number of H-1B visas” to be made available per year. Executives from Silicon Valley companies, including Google and Facebook, spoke out against the temporary visa ban in company memos, and venture capital firms labeled it “a slap in the face” and a threat to international investing. Foreign skilled employees in the US on EB-1 visas, which are granted to people with “extraordinary ability,” denounced the measure as “personal, too.”

Higher Education

Rowan University Holds Grand Opening Of New Engineering Building.

WPVI-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Philadelphia (1/26) reports Rowan University’s new engineering hall had a grand opening Thursday afternoon, displaying its “biomedical research labs, more than a dozen classrooms, and space for automotive projects.”

The Camden (NJ) Courier Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/26) reports on Rowan University’s new Engineering Hall including a video on the website. It is named for Henry M. Rowan, “an electrical engineer who changed the university with a $100 million gift” in the early 1990s. His daughter, Virginia Rowan Smith, was on hand for the grand opening. She said, “He would be thrilled to see how far we’ve come today.” Henry Rowan died last year. She said the school is changing from a “boutique” school to “the home of big ideas and big innovation.” It has “nearly 1,500” engineering students now and has “its eye on 2,000 students in engineering programs over the next six years.”

SNJ Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/26) reports the new building is an “88,000-square-foot, three-story building” that “will help the college of engineering educate its nearly 1,500 students.”

California Students Qualify For SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Race.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/27, Chan) reported 50 students from the University of California, Irvine competed against teams from around the world on Sunday for Weekend I of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition. The UCI team began designing a high-speed ground transportation system prototype shortly after Elon Musk announced the contest almost two years ago. The UCI team won fifth place in the SpaceX competition’s Design Weekend last year and qualified their concept, dubbed the HyperXite pod, for Weekend I’s one-mile track race. The HyperXite pod “is built to float on a thin film of air and to brake using electromagnets.” According to project manager Mackenzie Puig-Hall, HyperXite is capable of reaching speeds up to 230 miles per hour.

Professor Suggests Students Avoid Business Major.

Arizona State University professor Jeffrey J. Selingo, a regular contributor to the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/28, Selingo) “Grade Point” column, wrote that finance, marketing, management, accounting, and general business collectively account for one out of every five undergraduate bachelor’s degrees awarded annually. Even though business is the most popular undergraduate major, “not all business majors are created equal in the job market.” Math-focused business majors, such as finance and accounting, generally earn more than general business and marketing majors, who are more likely to be underemployed or unemployed. Furthermore, Selingo wrote, business majors generally receive the lowest GMAT scores, make “significantly fewer gains in college in critical thinking, writing and communication, and analytical reasoning,” and spend less time studying. Selingo advised students to pursue majors that are both challenging and focus on specific skill-oriented tasks, such as writing.

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.


North Carolina Apprenticeship Program Prepares Students To Fill Manufacturing Workforce Gap.

The Asheboro (NC) Courier-Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/28, Bare) reported a number of manufacturing jobs are available in North Carolina’s Randolph County, but those positions require technical skills that are scarce among the county’s available workers. To bolster the county’s qualified personnel pool, Randolph County Schools, Randolph Community College, Asheboro-Randolph Chamber of Commerce, and manufacturing industry leaders established the Apprenticeship Randolph program. The four-year educational and on-the job training program is modeled after the Guilford Apprenticeship Partners, and accepted students simultaneously work as apprentices for participating companies and “begin taking college courses at RCC during their senior year of high school.”

Industry News

Blue Bird Receives Grant For Electric School Bus Development.

The Macon (GA) Telegraph Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/27, Morris) reported Blue Bird received the largest portion of the Energy Department’s $15 million grant, intended “to accelerate the adoption of advanced and alternative fuel vehicles.” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said the “initiative will provide resources to explore alternative fuels for school transportation while sending energy back to the grid,” and that investing in low-cost, electric school buses “could save state resources in the long term.”

Commentary: School District Involvement Needed For Widespread Adoption Of Electric School Buses. In commentary for Ars Technica Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/28, Cirino), freelance science writer Erica Cirino wrote that school buses consume an estimated annual 822,857,143 gallons of diesel and gasoline, and a transition to all-electric fleets would “significantly cut down on the nation’s fossil fuel use and thus its contribution to climate change.” Cirino says the risk of crash-related bus fires would also decrease if buses no longer had 50-gallon fuel tanks. Yet, electric school buses cost up to $300,000 per bus–compared to up to $85,000 per traditional bus–and their parts and maintenance expenses have hampered their widespread adoption. According to transportation experts, the widespread adoption of electric school buses can only be achieved if school districts pressure local lawmakers for rebates, regulations, and infrastructure that will offset these costs.

Foundation Grant Awarded To Louisiana Startup For Road Uniformity Material.

For The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/29, Griggs) reports the National Science Foundation, through Louisiana State University’s Business & Technology Center, recently awarded the startup company Louisiana Multi-Functional Materials Group a $225,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant. The startup will use the funds “to establish the technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential” of its newly-developed, two-way shape memory smart polymer. Chief chemist and LSU mechanical engineering professor Lu Lu explained that the researchers’ design will solve road potholes, which he described as “the biggest problem of the concrete maintenance and installation job.” The startup hopes to test the material by April at the latest and “have test results in hand” by the end of May, when the researchers will “begin writing their Phase II grant proposal.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Higher-Education Leaders Denounce Temporary Ban On Visas, Refugee Program.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/29, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports President Trump’s executive order prohibiting travelers from seven nations from entering the US for 90 days and ceasing the refugee program for 120 days affects 17,000 students enrolled in American institutions during the 2015-16 school year, according to the Institute of International Education. University and higher-education associations, including the Association of American Universities and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, released statements on Saturday in which they condemned the order and warned of its potential long-term damage to the US as a global leader.

Canadian Government Implements Measures To Increase International Student Population.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/26, Smith, Subscription Publication) reported that in November, the Canadian government adjusted its Express Entry electronic immigration-selection system to ease international students’ pathway to citizenship, and a proposed bill calls for the restoration of a rule in which international students would be able to apply their time as students toward residency requirement. The efforts reflect the government’s “strategy to reshape Canadian demographics by funneling well-educated, skilled workers through the university system” as it attempts to reconcile its increasing aging population and slowing birthrate. The Times wrote that the initiative “seems to be working” because Canada’s international student population grew at a rate equal to about one percent of the population, compared to the international student growth rate in the US, which amounted to about one-third of one percent of the population.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Tennessee Shifting Away From Graduation Rate-Based Standards Towards College And Career Prep Standards.

The Memphis (TN) Commercial Appeal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/27) reported Tennessee officials are shifting the focus away from graduation rates and more towards college preparedness. The state will begin awarding schools grades ranging from A to F. The schools will be judged on the following criteria: percentage of students who either scored a 21 or higher on the ACT, completed four college-level courses, or completed two college level courses and received one work-based certification. Graduation rates will also play a smaller role. Currently, only 25 percent of students in Tennessee participate in college level classes while in high school.

Girls As Young As Six Are Acting On Stereotype That Boys Are More “Brilliant.”

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/27, Botkin-Kowacki) reported a study published in the journal Science found that girls as young as six years old have learned stereotypes about boys and girls. Researchers claim girls believe boys are more “brilliant,” and the report shows that girls are acting on this assumption as well. “It’s heartbreaking to see this association immediately begins to influence the scope of activities,” said lead author Lin Bian, a psychology PhD student at the University of Illinois. One of the impacts of this stereotype is that men make up over three-quarters of STEM professionals, while women make up over three-quarters of all teachers. Researchers argue the best way to alleviate this stereotype is for parents and teachers to reemphasize the importance of hard work, not outcomes.

Nebraska Teachers Win Agriculture In The Classroom Awards.

The Omaha (NE) World-Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/28) reports two teachers received the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom 2017 Teachers of the Year award from the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation. Jane Gundvaldson, a fourth-grade teacher at Thomas Elementary School in Gretna, and Matthew Koth, a third-grade teacher at Highland Elementary School in Omaha, accepted the awards for teaching agriculture through “innovative” ideas in the classroom. The winners will receive a free trip to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, as well as free tours of local agricultural businesses.

Wisconsin Students Learn Trade Skills In Boat-Building Program.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/28, Carballo) reported the Building2Learn Consortium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, launched a hands-on, construction-based student program to address the expected shortage of qualified carpentry employees. Through the program, teenage students from two schools worked with an industry adviser to construct a 12-foot boat. The students learned “applied mathematics, team-building and how to understand technical documents” not only to accomplish the task, but also to establish a solid foundation for construction and manufacturing industry jobs. B2L’s board president, Joe Schmidt, explained, “Traditional technical application wasn’t mapping students to career paths.” Schmidt added that students who begin their careers with apprenticeships generally have less debt than their peers who go to college “because they get paid to learn.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

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