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

Leading the News

Demonstrators Participate In Climate Marches To Protest Trump’s Environmental Policies.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29, Fandos, Subscription Publication) reports “tens of thousands of demonstrators” on Saturday took part in Peoples Climate Marches in Washington, DC and other cities around the country on Saturday to protest “what they see as a dangerous assault on the environment by the Trump administration.” The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29, Mooney, Heim, Dennis) reports the “large-scale climate march marked President Trump’s first 100 days in office, which have already seen multiple rollbacks of environmental protections and Obama climate policies.” The Post also says the annual event was “symbolically striking” because “the temperature reached 91 degrees at D.C.’s National Airport at 2:59 p.m., tying a heat record for April 29 in the district set in 1974, which only amplified the movement’s message.” The CBS Weekend News (4/29, story 7, 0:15, Ninan) provided similar coverage in a brief report.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29, Simpson) reports that “while a good-natured mood prevailed and there were no signs of violence, many demonstrators said they were angered by the prospect of Trump carrying through on his vow to roll back protections put in place by his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29, Johnson) reports the rallies “came one week after supporters of science gathered in 600 cities around the globe, alarmed by political and public rejection of established research on topics including climate change and the safety of vaccines.” On Saturday, participants in the Peoples Climate Marches “said they object to Trump’s rollback of restrictions on mining, oil drilling and greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants, among other things.”

The Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29, Fleming) says that in Boston, “thousands rallied…to demand action on climate change” while the Miami Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29, Harris) reports that in Miami, “hundreds of activists gathered Saturday afternoon in one of the cities most threatened by the rising seas fueled by climate change as well as in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and at hundreds of other protests around the world.”

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29, Lee) reports protesters also “braved a near-constant rainfall and chill in Federal Plaza on Saturday to decry the ecological policies of Trump’s administration,” as does the Chicago Sun-Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29, Charles), which says “thousands…braved [the] miserable weather…to march through the downtown area, speaking out against climate change.” Meanwhile, the Denver Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29, Sanchez) reports snow “could not stop a few thousand people from rallying for action on climate change Saturday at Denver’s Civic Center park.”

Corporate Executives Embracing Activism Over Trump Administration’s “Anti-Science Policies.” The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28, Bhattarai) reported “corporate executives and their employees were among the thousands who marched April 22 to support science in an unprecedented political act that many say was aimed at the anti-science policies championed by the Trump administration.”

WPost Analysis Examines If Democratic Activists Can Maintain “Momentum.” The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29, Somashekhar) considers whether the “nascent Democratic movement” opposed to the President’s policies “can maintain enough momentum to create change as effectively as tea party conservatives did after Barack Obama’s election.” Although liberals “remain fractured after the election,” the Post says the “newly energized activists say they are well aware of the hurdles,” which they “hope to avoid…by remaining engaged beyond the presidential level and becoming well versed in the minutiae of the democratic and political processes.”

Higher Education

Grad Student Succeeds In Campaign To Install Statue Honoring Female Engineers At University Of Illinois Campus.

The Urbana/Champaign (IL) News-Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28) reports that Sakshi Srivastava, an electrical engineering graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has succeeded in her quest to “get a statue honoring women in engineering on the University of Illinois campus.” The statue was “scheduled to be unveiled at its home on the east side of the Micro and Nano-technology Laboratory” last week. Srivastava’s efforts to get the statue, which is a gift from Texas Instruments, “included launching an online petition drive and helping draft resolutions that were supported by the Illinois Student Senate and Academic Senate.”

Complaints About Student Loan Servicers Mount As ED Rolls Back Protections.

Consumer Reports Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28, Rosato) reports that while there may be no direct causal link with ED’s recent moves to roll back consumer protections for student loan borrowers, new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau data show that there has been a recent surge in complaints being filed about student loan servicers. The data show “complaints about student loans jumped 325 percent the first three months of the year compared with the same period a year ago.” Of those complaints, two-thirds were about student loan servicers.

NYTimes Urges ED To Enforce For-Profit College Regulations.

In an editorial, the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/1, Board, Subscription Publication) argues that for-profit colleges “have longed to escape the rules that rein in their predatory practices, and now they have the Trump administration with its aversion to regulation.” Amid fears of “voter backlash,” the Times says Congress is “unlikely to pass legislation that opens the door to more misconduct by these schools,” but the Education Department, “which is far too close to the industry, could accomplish the same thing by rolling back rules or failing to enforce existing ones.”

NYTimes A1: Free Tuition A “Powerful Lure” For Students In New York.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/30, A1, Foderaro, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that New York State’s Excelsior Scholarship is serving as a “potent new weapon” to attract high school seniors to attend universities in the state. The scholarship is the “first in the nation to offer free tuition at a state’s two- and four-year publicly funded schools,” the Times says, and is accessible to those in-state students who come “from households earning up to $100,000.” The article notes “the promise of free tuition seemed a powerful lure for students and parents considering New York’s public campuses,” though it also says it is still too early to know “how the program will shape college attendance in the state.”

From ASEE
Lisa Benson Named Editor of Journal of Engineering Education
Benson, a faculty member at Clemson University, succeeeds Michael Loui as editor of the scholarly journal. Read the announcement here.

Stephanie Farrell Elected President-Elect
ASEE members elected Rowan University’s Stephanie Farrell to the position of President-Elect in our recent Board elections. She will serve one year in this role and assume the presidency in June of 2018.

ASEE Elects Seven Officers to its Board of Directors
The board members will begin their terms at the society’s annual conference in June in Columbus.

Research and Development

Researchers Could Use Drones To Explore Ocean Floor.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/30, Pierceall) reports that “Virginia Tech researchers and a professor at Old Dominion University have teamed up to develop a fleet of 12 underwater drones costing $125,000 each that they hope will survey the deepest parts of the ocean faster – and cheaper – than anyone has done before.” Describing the possible applications for the technology, the AP adds “the oil and gas industries wouldn’t mind knowing more about what lurks below and the military has already sought ways to position sensors on the bottom of the ocean.”

Teams Compete In Shell Eco-marathon Americas.

The Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29) reports on the Shell Eco-marathon Americas which took place in Detroit on Sunday which was “all about getting students to show off cars they built for mileage that’s just unreal.” The piece reports that “last year’s winner logged an astounding 2,600 m.p.g., squeezed from a glass gas tank the size of tomato juice can.” The teams are “hoping to beat last year’s gasoline mileage mark or other targets set for the ‘battery electric’ and hydrogen categories — like the sleek, three-wheeled hydrogen-powered car that had two Texans cheering on Saturday.”

IBM Develops Magnetic Disk Storage Technology.

Forbes Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/30, Press) contributor Gil Press writes a weekly article highlighting tech companies’ historic achievements. In this week’s article, Press writes that milestones in the history of technology for the week beginning on May 1 “include the opening of the first world fair, two early British computers,” the “birth of Sony Corporation,” and IBM’s announcement in 1955 that its team of engineers developed a magnetic disk storage technology, which “gave birth to the disk drive industry.”

NASA-Backed Study: Mars Surface Material Could Be Used For Bricks.

The Independent (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/27, Correspondent) reports that a new NASA-funded study published in the journal Scientific Reports concludes that Mars’ soil could be used to make bricks for structures on the planet. Conducted by University of California San Diego Professor of Engineering Yu Qiao through a series of tests in California using simulated Martian soil, the research found that “bricks could be made [by] simply pounding the soil with a hammer.” A “previous suggestion was to build a nuclear-powered brick kiln,” but the new technique utilizes the soil’s iron oxide as a binding agent to avoid the need for firing.

FAA Testing New Technology To Avoid Drone Collision With Aircraft.

The Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28, Shine, Writer) reports the FAA spent the last week testing new technologies at the DFW Airport that is “meant to quickly identify drones in restricted airspace.” The Morning News says officials are becoming “increasingly worried about potentially catastrophic encounters as drones become more widely used by businesses and hobbyists.” The tests at DFW “are the sixth and final in a series of tests around the country evaluating different technologies for drone detection.” The collected research “allows the FAA to compare different proposed systems, gauge how many sensors would be needed to monitor a given area and see what combination of sensors provides the quickest and most accurate detection.”

DOE Halts Funding For ARPA-E Grants, Projects.

Science Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28, Mervis) reported that the Energy Department has stopped the processing of paperwork for more than a dozen projects across four new ARPA-E programs. Due to a gag order on ARPA-E program managers, researchers have been left “in the dark about the status of their grants.” Scientists say “the resulting uncertainty is having a devastating impact on research terms…and even threatens the viability of small companies for whom these major awards are so important.”

Salzberg Slams Freezing Of ARPA-E Grants. Steven Salzberg, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University, writes in a piece for Forbes Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/30) criticizing the Energy Department for halting “its process to award $70 million in new grants that its research agency, ARPA-E, had announced this past December.” ARPA-E was “created to fund high-risk, high-reward new ideas about energy.” Salzberg says that “even more alarming is that DOE has imposed a gag order on the program managers, so that scientists have no idea why their funding is being delayed, or it if will ever arrive.” Salzberg concludes, “All that Mr. Trump has to do to save these valuable, high-tech jobs is nothing; just let the DOE’s ARPA-E program do its work. Unfortunately, this seems to be too much to ask.”

FAA-Commissioned Report: UAVs “Far More Safe” Than Previously Assumed.

Digital Trends Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29, Chang) reported that new findings prepared for the FAA conclude that small UAVs “are far more safe to operate around people than earlier models had assumed.” According to the report by the Alliance for Safety System of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE), today’s UAV’s feature “unique aerodynamic and structural properties that mitigate the force involved in a collision.” Aviation International News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28) reported that the “FAA plans to incorporate the findings in a regulation governing flights of small drones over people, which is currently not allowed.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Nevada Lawmakers To Oppose Trump On Yucca Mountain.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28, Martin) reports President Trump’s budget proposal includes $120 million “to continue the license application process for Yucca Mountain with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission” and find interim storage for waste in the meantime, despite objections from Nevada lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval. However, Republicans are short of a 60-vote majority in the state’s senate, which opponents hope to use to delay legislation that would reopen Yucca Mountain.

FirstEnergy Hoping For Financial Incentives To Keep Nuclear, Coal Plants Open.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28, Litvak) reports FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones announced Friday that the company’s subsidiary that runs coal and nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania and Ohio “has delayed a decision on filing for bankruptcy until the US Department of Energy releases a study it commissioned two weeks ago” to determine “the extent to which continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.” Jones hopes that there will be a “financial incentive for these plants to not close.”

Court Delays Ruling On Clean Power Plan Case.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28, Kendall, Subscription Publication) reports the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit blocked a case examining Clean Power Plan on Friday. The pause spares the Trump Administration a possible ruling on the prior administration’s arguments, which would have complicated changes at the EPA. Those fighting the rules praised the decision. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28, Eilperin, Dennis) reports industry lawyer David Rivkin said the court “has done the right thing,” and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso called the delay “a win for Wyoming’s energy workers.” The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports industry lawyer Jeff Holmstead called the decision “important,” because it “will now be easier for the Trump E.P.A. to revoke or revise the Clean Power Plan.” However, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/28, Biesecker Sam Hananel) reports the delay disappointed environmentalists who pushed the court to rule on the merits of the case.

Editorial: Repealing Clean Power Plan Won’t Bring Back Coal Jobs. In an editorial, the San Antonio Express-News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29) argues that “coal jobs are not coming back,” no matter what regulations President Trump repeals. The Express-News claims that “coal has declined mostly from competition, not environmental regulation,” and adds that repealing the Clean Power Plan is another step toward “sacrificing America’s leadership on clean energy.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Startup Offers STEM Education For Young Kids.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/30, Haislip, Subscription Publication) reports that the startup Engineering For Kids offers after-school programs and classes for elementary and middle school kids that focus on science, technology, engineering and math. The program now operates in 28 countries, and aims to open 25 new locations in the US every year.

Nebraska Event Encourages Female Students To Pursue STEM Fields.

The Omaha (NE) World-Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/30) reports about 100 female students in Nebraska attended the American Association of University Women’s National Tech Savvy program at the College of Saint Mary on Saturday. The all-day “event was designed to teach the girls in sixth to ninth grades more about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).” The event also offered sessions for parents on issues like how to save for college, avoid social media pitfalls, and understand teenage brain development. Tech Savvy chair and AAUW-Omaha president Marilyn Bombac commented that too many girls are still discouraged from entering the STEM fields.

Texas Middle School To Participate In 21st Century NASA STEM Challenge.

The Rio Grande Valley (TX) Morning Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (4/29) reports Lyford Middle School’s After School Program in Texas was accepted into the 21st Century NASA STEM Challenge. The STEM Challenge is a joint initiative launched by ED’s Office of Academic Improvement and NASA. Through the initiative, students in the After School Program’s robotics and STEM club will develop engineering projects alongside NASA scientists through online video conferences.

Friday’s Lead Stories

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