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

Leading the News

Senate Committee To Vote On DeVos Nomination Today.

The Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Spangler) reports the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee “is expected to vote” on the nomination of Betsy DeVos at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The Weekly Standard Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Lloyd) reports DeVos is expected to be confirmed “along party lines.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Fram) reports the committee is “expected Tuesday to advance…wealthy conservative activist Betsy DeVos to head the Education Department.” The AP explains that DeVos’ support for “charter schools and allowing school choice” has “prompted opposition from Democrats and teachers’ unions, which view her stance as a threat to federal dollars that support public education.”

Schumer To Oppose “Nearly All” Of Trump’s Cabinet Appointments. USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Gaudiano) reports Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Monday announced “he will oppose eight” of President Trump’s cabinet nominees. Schumer voted to confirm CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, but he plans to oppose Trump’s choices for OMB director, HHS secretary, Treasury secretary, EPA administrator, Labor secretary, Education secretary, secretary of State, and attorney general. The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Siciliano) quotes Schumer saying that Trump “is attempting to fill his Cabinet with billionaires and bankers.” U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Williams) reports Schumer said that he will “vote against nearly all” of Trump’s cabinet nominees.

Murray Says DeVos’ Answers To Democrats’ Questions Are Unsatisfactory. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Strauss) reports on Monday, education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos “delivered answers” to over 1,000 questions asked by Democratic senators on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. In reply, the senators said “they were not satisfied.” Ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) again requested the committee’s vote on the nomination be delayed, but committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) refused. Murray said that the committee “staff has identified a number of critical questions about Ms. DeVos’s financial disclosure to the committee and other areas that have not been answered to anywhere close to satisfaction.”

Higher Education

Utah Researchers Launch Air Quality Study.

The Logan (UT) Herald Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/19, Kent) reported researchers from Utah State University launched the month-long Utah Winter Fine Particulate Study in hopes of understanding, “almost at the molecular level, what’s going on in our air,” according to USU professor and air quality expert Randy Martin. The study is “one of the largest and most comprehensive air quality studies ever conducted in the state.” Martin said that the study was not well-funded and most university participants “are doing it back-of-the-envelope, bootstrap.” The current study emerged after the Utah Environmental Quality Department and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released the results of a 2015-16 pilot study on the matter, and will involve “more participants, more equipment and more locations.”

On its website, KSL-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Salt Lake City (1/30) reports the Environmental Protection Agency granted instruments and a “specialized trailer” to the researchers. EPA research chemist Russell W. Long said the instruments will “provide data that they can use and analyze to see what goes into these particulate matter (PM) episodes,” their formation processes, and what happens to the particulate matter once formed. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association also equipped the Utah researchers with a monitoring plane. These two instruments will help Utah researchers study and analyze the state’s bad winter air, which Martin described as the “perfect storm to create this ammonium nitrate problem.”

The Provo (UT) Daily Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/21, England) said the NOAA-provided aircraft is capable of flying within 15 feet of the ground and can maintain altitudes of up to 2,100 feet above inversions, where researchers are studying chemical reactions. The Daily Herald noted Brigham Young University and University of Utah researchers are also participating in the $2 million research project.

Hundreds Of California Students Affected By 90-Day Visa Entry Ban.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Watanabe, Xia) reports President Trump’s “executive order imposing a 90-day ban on entry into the United States from seven Muslim-majority nations” has had the greatest impact on California, “whose universities and colleges host the largest number of students from the targeted countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Syria.” University of California President Janet Napolitano told the Times, “Universities like UC depend on the exchange of students and faculty across the world and getting the best researchers and the best young scholars that we can.” In the fall of last year, the University of California’s 10-campus system enrolled 495 graduate students and 40 undergraduate students from the seven targeted nations with 95 percent from Iran. The University of Southern California was the individual campus with the largest number of students affected by the ban, with 252 enrolled students–including 239 from Iran–granted visas in 2015.

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.

Webinar:  Building Strategic Networks – Mentors and More
For students and new engineering professionals, strategic relationships are an invaluable resource to career development and growth. Tune in on February 15 to discover how to establish and build these relationships to help you succeed. This webinar is only $5 for ASEE student members! Register here.

Webinar: Beyond Doom and Gloom
Are you or your students worried about climate change impacts and not sure how to help create significant improvements? This free March 1 webinar, offered as part of ASEE’s relationship with the Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability, focuses on expert curricular materials to engage students in current and future solutions that can be used in any course and in any discipline. Register here.

Research and Development

Scientists, Researchers Worry Trump Immigration Ban May Hurt Science.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Fountain, Subscription Publication) reports researchers and scientists are worried that President Trump’s immigration ban “could hinder research, affect recruitment of top scientists and dampen the free exchange of scientific ideas.” Association of American Universities president Mary Sue Coleman explains that about 17,000 students currently come from the seven countries included in the ban, and others warn that countries competing for the talent pool will recruit those students instead, hurting the US’ standing in the scientific community. The order could also “prevent many foreign researchers from making short-term trips to attend conferences and other scientific meetings overseas for fear of not being able to return,” and prevent others from attending meetings in the US.

Industry News

Immigrant Tech Workers Worried About Travel Ban.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Swartz) reports immigrant tech workers are deeply concerned by President Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven majority-Muslim nations and expressed fear the ban could lead to greater discriminatory regulations, such as internment camps. Their concerns were “deepened Monday, with a Bloomberg report that the Trump administration is preparing an executive order that would take a sledgehammer to work-visa programs that supply tech companies with tens of thousands of workers annually.”

Another USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Cava) report says a new executive order “takes aim at both H-1B visas, which are capped at 65,000 a year and are set aside for so-called ‘specialty positions,’ as well as visas used for temporary agricultural workers, summer student workers and intracompany transfers.” The CEOs “of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Uber, Airbnb and Tesla Motors noted the policy was affecting their own employees working here legally, and would jeopardize their competitive quest for talent.” Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Newcomer) reports that the temporary immigration ban is bringing tech companies together in “unified anger like never before.” Even though the ban doesn’t hurt the tech industry financially, it does violate its “self-image of inclusion and tolerance.”

CNN Money Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, O’Brien) reports that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Monday indicated President Trump “will continue to talk about reforming the H-1B visa program, among others, as part of a larger push for immigration reform.” He also said “Trump will do so through order, as well as by working with Congress.” Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Elstrom, Rai) reports it is unclear “how much force the executive order would have if it is signed by the president.” Congress is also “working on visa reforms and the parties will have to cooperate to pass new laws.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Montana State University Hosts High School And Middle School Robotics Competitions.

KPAX-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Missoula, MT (1/30) reports that Montana State University hosted middle school and high school students for robotics competitions at The Montana First Lego League and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge. KPAX-TV reports that FIRST, “is a non-profit organization designed to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology and gives kids the chance to compete as a team.”

Botetourt, Virginia Pursues Mechatronics Program To Prepare Students For In-Demand Jobs.

The Roanoke (VA) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30) reports that after Italian auto parts maker Eldor Corp. said Botetourt, Virginia would be the site of its first North American production facility, advanced manufacturing job training for high school students is being pursued in the form of a pilot mechatronics program being planned with Virginia Western Community College. The Times reports, “The pilot program aims to train 20 mechatronics engineering technicians annually for five years.” State Delegate Terry Austin is seeking $310,000 to fund the effort and is quoted explaining that, regarding the stigmas around the lack of four-year degree requirements for jobs associated with career and technical education, “I think this is the way we bridge that gap … We marry the community college to the public schools system.”

Tech-Based Math Curriculum From Nonprofit New Classroom Struggles In Mountain View District.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30, Woo, Subscription Publication) reports that last fall, Mountain View, California’s public school district turned from its standard sixth-grade math curriculum to a new methodology from Bill Gates-backed nonprofit education technology startup New Classroom, which combines teacher instruction and web-based work and is customized for varying student abilities. The Journal reports that while parents were initially optimistic, there are now extensive complaints and questions about the order of lessons, technical glitches, distractions in the classroom, Internet trouble, and lack of teacher involvement. Joel Rose, New Classroom CEO and co-founder continues to defend the program, citing communication issues around the rollout, as do Mountain View school officials.

New York Teacher Defends Next Generation Science Standards.

In an opinion piece for the Lower Hudson Valley (NY) Journal News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30) Elementary School teacher in the South Orangetown Central School District in New York, Kottie Christie-Blick, writes, “I appreciate having the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS),” which she says focus students on “understanding scientific concepts, and learning how to think like scientists by wondering, exploring, observing, experimenting, recognizing patterns and cause-and-effect relationships, as well as learning background information from reliable sources.” Christie-Blick says that she understands the concerns about testing as the tests for the NGSS haven’t yet been distributed, but that “our state has adopted an academically rigorous set of science standards with its version of NGSS.”

STEM Conference Equips Teachers For Curriculum Integration.

The Memphis (TN) Commercial Appeal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30) reports the Discovery Education STEM Academy at the DeSoto County School’s Career Tech Center West attracted 130 teachers and administrators to explore curriculum integration methods. The program joined school staff to identify “strategies and practice exercises” as well as “digital tools and other resources” for bringing STEM to classrooms. Teacher Melanie Shoffner affirmed the program’s success, saying “What I learned today reinforces that it’s OK for me to take that opportunity to talk about science even in English class.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

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