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

Leading the News

Advocacy Groups Press Congress To Uphold Gainful Employment Rule, Other Higher Education Regulations.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that in the wake of ED’s recent decision to give colleges that have run afoul of its gainful employment rule “more time to appeal their reviews,” advocacy groups are expressing the concern that “career-training programs with poor outcomes will endure to the detriment of students.” On Wednesday, a coalition of such groups “sent a letter urging Congress to uphold gainful, student-debt-forgiveness rules and other regulations to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in higher education.” The groups are concerned that “the Trump administration will gut rules like borrower defense to repayment” or “relax the ban on incentive compensation that discourages colleges from steering students into loans to boost revenue.”

An editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22) characterizes ED’s regulations on the for-profit college industry as an effort “to weed out the worst offenders” in the sector, the reputation of which “has been sullied for decades by con-artists and scammers.” The piece says the Trump administration is now working to undo the “small progress” of denying bad actors in the sector “the federal student loan money that is the lifeblood of the entire industry.” The piece calls on Congress to prevent the administration from efforts “to pare back regulatory reforms designed to protect students from the worst for-profit college practices,” lamenting that ED recently “announced it would delay the imposition of the so-called ‘gainful employment’ rule, which is intended to keep for-profit career colleges from loading up students with debt they can never repay because the schools don’t prepare them for real jobs.”

Student Advocates Urge Congress, DeVos To Maintain For-Profit School Regulations. USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Yu) reports 53 organizations including advocates for teachers, students, and veterans sent a letter to Congress and Education Secretary DeVos Wednesday, urging lawmakers to maintain or expand regulations on for-profit schools amid concerns about President Trump’s deregulation efforts. Jennifer Wang, the Washington, DC office director for the Institute for College Access & Success, which helped draft the letter, said the Education Department’s directive that delayed the implementation of the Obama-era gainful employment rule last week was particularly alarming. The education advocates also worry the Administration will target regulations regarding borrower defense and commissioned sales for recruiters.

Higher Education


Vanderbilt Chancellor Urges Congress Not To Cut Research Funding.

The Tennessean Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22) reports, “Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos and other college leaders are turning to Congress for help beating back a White House push to gut research funding through what he called ‘a bad budget for America.’” The piece quotes Zeppos saying, “Our biggest threat to innovation and economic growth is cutting American research funding. This is not a path forward to really sustain and grow the economy.”

$5 Million Donation Helps University of Indianapolis Open New Engineering School.

WRTV-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Indianapolis (3/22) reports that the Robert B. Annis Foundation donated $5 million to the University of Indianapolis to launch a new school of engineering, with classes set to begin this coming fall. University President Dr. Robert Manuel said the donation was “truly a special one.”

Many Colleges Are Providing Inaccurate Information To Potential Students.

The Hechinger Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Marcus) reports that much of the information students receive from colleges when deciding on which one to attend are sometimes inaccurate, with most colleges relying on “unscientific” means to answer meaningful questions such as how much one will make with a certain degree, or even how much their education will cost them. This practice does not only include for-profit colleges and universities either, and several law schools have been sued by their own graduates for allegedly falsifying job-placement rates, however some courts have found that institutions can not guarantee employment therefore students are enrolling in higher education at their own risk. Vice President of policy research at the Institute of Higher Education Policy Mamie Voight said colleges “should be held responsible for meeting their end of the bargain.” However, many outside organizations have now stepped in to provide more accurate information to students in regards to their questions, although many are not aware such organizations exist.

NYC Science And Tech Building Boom Changing Urban, Economic Landscape.

According to the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Chen, Subscription Publication), new science and technology building projects for Columbia University, Cornell University, and New York University are “remaking the urban and economic landscape” of New York City at a “frenetic” pace. The Times says the developments are aimed at luring workers who might otherwise flock to Silicon Valley or Boston, and the city’s Economic Development Corporation estimates the Cornell and NYU initiatives could generate $33 billion in activity in the next 30 years. NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Police founder Michael Schill said the science and technology push represents a culture change for universities where “applied sciences” and “entrepreneurship” were once “dirty words.” The Times says other universities are set to expand their NYC presence, and it notes Mayor Bill de Blasio’s December pledge to invest $100 million for a City University of New York applied life sciences campus.

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Research and Development

US Navy Railgun Test Fire Video Released.

Popular Mechanics Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21) hosts a video showing a test fire of the US Navy’s railgun. The railgun is shown “blasting away with astonishing ferocity, and from any angle you could ever want.”

The Daily Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22) covers the US Navy’s railgun tests, which will “fire projectiles at six times the speed of sound.” The weapon uses “immense kinetic energy” which is “transferred to the target on impact, obliterating it.” BAE Systems, according to the article, has been involved in the program since 2005, first building “pulsed power technology” and in 2012 moving to the second phase, which “will further develop the pulsed power system and the launcher system.”

University Of Delaware Student Develops “Stretchable Electronics.”

The Wilmington (DE) News Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/20) reports University of Delaware doctoral candidate Ru Chen “has been selected as one of six individuals to present an invention at the National Academy of Inventors Student Innovation Showcase in Boston next month.” Chen and her research team “have developed wearable electronic sensors made of a robust soft material with conductivity and the ability to stretch more than traditional materials. Dubbed ‘stretchable electronics,’ the material can be incorporated into clothing and sports equipment” and could be used to make stretchable batteries and wearable sensors.

Massachusetts Researchers Testing New Hotter Oil Slick Burn Technology.

NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Elliott) reports that Ali Rangwala, a professor of fire protection engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts is leading a team of researchers field-testing an invention called the Flame Refluxer off the coast of Alabama. The device, which uses copper coils and a copper blanket to “make a hotter, faster and more complete burn that leaves less pollution” when burning off an oil slick.

DoD-Funded Scientist’s Nanotech Geared To Halting Damage From Spinal Cord Injuries.

STAT Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Ross) posts a question-and-answer interview with Vinod Labhasetwar, a biomedical engineering professor at the Cleveland Clinic and co-founder of ProTansit Nanotherapy, on his work in using nanotechnology to halt the process of degradation that begins in the body after a spinal cord injury. Labhasetwar discusses how the related product, Pro-NP, is injected as “tiny particles containing antioxidant enzymes…to limit the damage from their injuries and, he hopes, preserve critical movement.” Labhasetwar’s company is the recipient of a $1.7 million Department of Defense grant geared to the manufacture of Pro-NP in the hope that “it could eventually be injected into battlefield trauma victims while they’re being transported to a treatment center.”

BMW Uses Unreal Engine, 3D Printing In New, Mixed Reality Vehicle Development Process.

TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Etherington) reports BMW is using “Unreal Engine’s rendering capabilities” to enhance its car design process, creating “virtual surfaces and objects overtop 3D-printed prototype vehicle pieces” that allow “designers and engineers [to] preview how various materials or surfaces will look on a final shipping vehicle without having to actually make the thing first.” The process will allow the company to save both time and money on VR facilities and prototypes, as well as “dramatically [improving] ergonomic design” and fostering “collaboration between designers and other staff across offices from around the world.” The company says the process is, according to TechCrunch, “less wasteful since it doesn’t require the development of multiple iterations of the same models to see how each change will affect the design.”


Survey: Tech Workers Want Diversity, Fear Trump Administration May Stymie Efforts.

The San Francisco Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22) reports that according to a survey of US “tech workers and middle managers” conducted by software firm Atlassian found that the election of President Trump “heightened awareness and anxiety around the issue of” workplace diversity. The survey found that “tech workers feel a sense of urgency and want to push for more diverse workplaces, but worry their efforts may be thwarted or undermined in the current political climate.”

Industry News

Miller: Automotive Industry Must Embrace Cybersecurity “Transparency.”

Cybersecurity expert Charlie Miller writes in the Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22) about the cybersecurity risks of automobiles, recounting the engineering design choices that led to “the end-to-end hacking that landed us in the security conundrum we find ourselves in today.” Miller writes, “While it is not realistic to think that [automobile manufacturers] will make vehicles with fewer features or make them less connected, there are still a variety of solutions available to them to help make vehicles more secure.” Miller notes solutions that “filter” or encrypt communication between automobile components, saying such “large changes may be necessary” but “we need simpler solutions that can be implemented more quickly,” such as “some kind of intrusion detection and or prevention system.” Miller also suggests implementing “over the air updates.” Miller adds, “The biggest improvement would come from more transparency by the automotive industry” regarding vulnerabilities.

GE Healthcare To Double Its Software Engineers To Create “App Store” For Predix.

Business Insider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Ramsey) reports that GE Healthcare is planning on adding about 5,000 software engineers over the next several years. The company currently employs about 5,000 software engineers now, “which make up 10% of GE Healthcare’s total employment.” The new software engineers “will be building out a kind of ‘app store’ for Predix, GE’s cloud formula.” Philly (PA) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Owusu) also covers the story.

Engineering and Public Policy

Trump Initiatives Fuel Coal Country’s Push To Deregulate Energy Suppliers.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Martin, Collins) reports Ohio lawmakers held hearings on Tuesday for the first of three bills that would reduce energy efficiency efforts. Bloomberg adds that Kentucky’s Public Service Commission put energy efficiency programs under review last month, following consumer cost increases. President Trump’s plans to cut conservation program funding and repeal greenhouse gas emissions regulations have given momentum to a push to deregulate power suppliers in coal country, according to Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago staff attorney Samantha Williams. She said in an interview that this could result in higher fossil fuel consumption and ultimately help Trump.

Texas AG Hopes To Bring Radioactive Waste Storage To Texas.

The High Plains Public Radio (KS) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Baker) reports that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing the federal government to decide whether Texas can store nuclear waste within its borders. Nuclear waste storage in Texas is supported by “many GOP policymakers,…including former Governor Rick Perry, who fought to bring the waste to the state.” The article notes that president of the company now seeking to store radioactive waste in the state was “one of the Perry’s most avid campaign contributors,” and that Attorney General Paxton has received “at least $15,000” from the company’s political action group.

Energy Cyber Incidents Increases Almost A Third In 2016.

The San Antonio Express-News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Eaton) reports the Department of Homeland Security said it received reports of 59 cyber incidents at energy facilities last year, up almost a third from the prior year. The agency said that more than a quarter of the 290 total intrusions originated from spear phishing emails and more than 10 percent came from network probing and scanning. Homeland Security data shows that the number of intrusions into energy computer controls last year means the industry has had more than 400 incidents since 2011. Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team said, “Every year, adversaries develop increasingly sophisticated attacks against control system networks. … There is no way to know what cybersecurity threats 2017 will bring, but we do know that new threats will emerge.”

Energy Efficiency Programs Face Cuts In Ohio, Kentucky, Washington, DC.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Martin, Collins) reports Ohio lawmakers held hearings on Tuesday for a bill that would reduce efforts to cut energy use. This mirrors efforts by Kentucky regulators last month to review energy efficiency programs following consumer cost increases and by President Trump with his budget proposal that would cut billions in federal funding for conservation programs. Ohio House Public Utilities Committee Chairman Bill Seitz indicated the bill is the first of three he intends to introduce on the topic this year.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Grand Rapids High School, Community College Launch Program To Train Students For In-Demand Jobs.

MLive (MI) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Scott) reports Grand Rapids companies are collaborating with Kent ISD and Grand Rapids Community College to create the “Launch U,” “a tuition-free, hands-on early college program.” Students can earn a diploma and a specialized associate degree during a fifth year of high school or obtain a certification in a skilled craft. GRCC President Steven Ender said the Early/Middle College programs give students “access to 21st century workforce skills and college credits at no cost,” and manufacturers look forward to a new crop of qualified workers. Steve Heethuis, training director at Autocam and a member of the Launch U design team, said, “We desire student interest in manufacturing to expand as our workforce ages. The EMC structure specifically addresses this need by intentionally broadening the candidate pool.”

NSA, NSF Fund High School Cyber Security Camp At Marshall University.

The Montgomery (WV) Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22) reports the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation will provide funding for Marshall University to host the first GenCyber Camp in the mid-Appalachian region for high school students with an interest in cyber security, according to Assistant Professor of Digital Forensics Joshua Brunty. Brunty will be the week-long camp’s program director this June. He said there are 24 fully-funded spots available to students in grades 9-12 on a competitive basis.

Virginia Elementary Teacher Starts All-Girls After-School Math And Engineering Program.

WTVR-TV Richmond (VA) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Richmond, VA (3/22, Cardwell) reports Swift Creek Elementary School teacher Nancy Rader started the Science and Technology Interpreted through Engineering and the Arts, all based in Mathematical elements (STEAM) program to generate interest among young girls in engineering and math. Having met a female engineer from NASA recently, Rader was inspired to start the all-girls after-school club that meets twice monthly. She hopes the program helps girls find confidence in the disciplines.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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