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

Leading the News

Tech Sector Objects To Trump Move To Block “Startup Visa” Program.

The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Dinan) reports that the Department of Homeland Security announced in a notice Monday that it was delaying until March 2018 the implementation of an Obama-era program designed to allow foreigners “trying to build or invest in startup companies” to be granted “parole” into the US – a special permission to live in the US with a work permit, legal status, and a chance at eventual citizenship. DHS said that USCIS “is already overwhelmed with those duties and can’t spare time to hire and train officers for the entrepreneur parole program.”

Forbes Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Bosilkovski) reports that the decision to delay “was met with an outcry from the tech industry,” while Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Sink) says, “It’s the latest example of the Trump administration taking a step to restrain immigration to the U.S. despite objections from business groups.” Bloomberg adds, “The move is also likely to draw the ire of some of the president’s allies on Capitol Hill.”

The Seattle Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) reports that the delay “has Seattle tech leaders frustrated by a national immigration policy once again.” The Times explains that the program was “supported by the technology industry.” The piece says the rule “would have let international students studying in the U.S. remain in the country after graduation while they start a company,” adding that “immigrant founders make up a large part of the entrepreneur group that has helped to expand Seattle’s technology industry.” The San Jose (CA) Mercury News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) reports, “Silicon Valley tech advocates say the move will send an unwanted message to future startup pioneers and risk the region’s long-term competitiveness.”

The San Francisco Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) editorializes that the International Entrepreneur Rule would have been a “narrow program” that “by no means would have constituted an end-run around Congress, where comprehensive immigration reform has been stalled for more than a decade.” However, it “was too much for President Trump’s immigrant-bashing administration.” The Chronicle adds, “Given President Trump’s campaign promises, this frustrating decision isn’t surprising. But it will have nothing but negative impacts on the United States in general, and the Bay Area in particular.”

Higher Education

ED Begins Rewriting Higher Education Regulations.

U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Camera) reports that on Monday ED began “the process of overhauling Obama-era regulations meant to protect federal student loan borrowers, mainly from for-profit colleges, and to provide relief to students defrauded by them.” The article says Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently argued that they “were created and a highly politicized process and will cost taxpayers a significant amount of money.” On Monday, ED hosted “an all-day public meeting to collect feedback from stakeholders on how officials should rethink the regulations.”

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) reports that the rules in question are ED’s gainful employment rules and borrower defense to repayment rules. This piece reports that consumer and student advocacy groups are opposed to the decision to delay and rewrite the rules, saying that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten was expected to call on DeVos to reverse the decision.

Diverse Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) reports that ED “drew both scorn and praise” at the hearing, with such groups as the National Consumer Law Center condemning the plan. Meanwhile, “proprietary college officials took exception to being branded and lumped together as ‘predatory.’” The Chronicle of Higher Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) summed up testimony by saying it “tended to fall into one of two categories: Carry out the rules as written, or renegotiate the rules to ensure ‘equity’ across all sectors.”

Former ITT Tech Student Sues DeVos Over Rule Delay. The Oregonian Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) profiles Niesha Wright of Portland, Oregon, who “completed an associate’s degree program at ITT Tech last summer, weeks before the for-profit giant began to crumble under increasing regulatory pressure from the Obama-era Department of Education.” Wright had “hoped to obtain relief…through a federal student loan forgiveness program.” However, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last month “she would delay the Obama administration’s proposed rules governing the loan forgiveness program. … On Monday, Wright sued DeVos in federal court.”

Papers: DeVos Prioritizes For-Profit Colleges, Not Students. An editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) criticizes Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as being unsympathetic to “seeing vulnerable young people cheated by shady for-profit schools year after year.” The piece is DeVos has spent her time in office “siding with the for-profit career college industry and against students” and “appears intent on returning to the days when too many students got an unwelcome introductory course in Fraud 101.”

Similarly, the Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) editorial board criticizes efforts to ease regulations on the for-profit sector, saying that “even the leaders of a wholly dysfunctional administration must recognize that fraud is fraud. Out-and-out cheating, lying to potential customers, isn’t just unethical. It’s illegal.”

Analysis Finds One In Four Los Angeles Unified Graduates Immediately Enroll In Four-Year College.

According to a data analysis from the National Student Clearinghouse that was obtained by the Los Angeles School Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10), 27 percent of Los Angeles Unified School District’s graduating class of 2016 “enrolled in a four-year college immediately after high school graduation, the same as in 2015,” and 36 percent enrolled in a two-year college, down two percentage points from 2015. “LA Unified has made 100 percent graduation a singular focus and has made gains with 77 percent of students graduating in the Class of 2016,” the article says, “but questions have been raised about whether high school graduation has improved college preparedness and college-going.” School board members and academics are skeptical of the district’s reliance on credit recovery courses and the rigor of those courses. Furthermore, the district’s four-year college enrollment rate “lags behind national averages,” which according to the National Center for Education Statistics is between 38 and 42 percent.

University Of Wyoming Campaign Encourages Students To Pursue Engineering.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) reports the University of Wyoming College of Engineering and Applied Science is launching various state and nationwide incentives “designed to get students and teachers excited about engineering opportunities, while recruiting the best students to UW, said Teddi Hofmann, the college’s outreach coordinator.” In February, for example, the school hosts Engineers Week, during which “Hofmann and the college encourage teachers and engineers around Wyoming to work together,” and engineers “visit their local third-grade classrooms to teach the students about their particular field of engineering and guide them through a hands-on project.” In June, it hosted a summer camp for the 30th consecutive year that introduced gifted students from across the country “to engineering opportunities in the West, while giving attendees a feel for college life at UW.” It will host a separate camp in July for teachers “to learn about engineering and how to teach it.” About 100 teachers are expected to attend, compared to 50 last year.

Growing Number Of Coding Schools Shifting To Immersive Learning Format.

MarketWatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) reports a growing number of coding schools are abandoning “an a la carte bootcamp format” for one modeled after the “academic rigor of the traditional colleges they’re competing with.” These coding immersion programs expose “would-be coders” to “a commitment of several hours a day and over several weeks or months,” an approach not only more closely aligned with industry trends, but also allows students to emerge “from coding programs with marketable projects.” Coding immersion may also help “narrow the gender gap in some STEM fields” because the “study-at-home flexibility” appeals to both women and men who may “need to balance home life.” Since students are often limited in what loans they may take out for coding schools, many provide payment plans. ED under former President Obama “announced an experiment to allow eight programs uniting for-profit entities – including coding boot camps” – to access Federal student financial aid, although the program’s future “under a different administration wasn’t entirely clear.”

ASEE Annual Conference Video Highlights
Good Day Columbus broadcast LIVE from our exhibit hall. (Click the picture to play the video)

Interview with NSF Director France Córdova.

The Conference “Living Wall.”

Members on the next big thing in engineering education.

VIDEO – 2017 Global Colloquium in the Azores
This event, September 16-18 (in conjunction with the SEFI Annual Conference), links engineering educators across international borders and brings together lecturers, researchers, and corporate colleagues for an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and perspectives.

Research and Development

NSF Gives University Of Wisconsin Grant For Anti-Bias Algorithm Research.

The Wisconsin State Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) reports that the National Science Foundation has given researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison a $1 million grant to support their efforts to “root out race bias and other unfairness that has surfaced in computer programs used increasingly by private companies and government offices to decide if you’re hired, approved for a bank loan or sent to prison.” Computer science professor Aws Albarghouthi says that there is a growing body of evidence indicating that computers “can be programmed by people in ways that deliver decisions that are prejudiced and incorrect.” The researchers are working to develop “a tool called FairSquare that can detect biases in software and algorithms and fix them automatically.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) runs a similar report.

Stony Brook University Researchers Say Waste Concrete Can Absorb Atmospheric Pollutants.

Livemint (IND) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/9) reports that researchers at Stony Brook University in New York say that concrete services have the property of being able to absorb sulfur dioxide, which is a major air pollutant. Researchers at the school say that “the strategy of using pollution causing material and turning it into an environmental solution could lead to new thinking in urban design and waste management.” The article quotes association professor Alex Orlov saying, “Even though producing concrete causes air pollution, concrete buildings in urban areas can serve as a kind of sponge adsorbing sulfur dioxide to a high level.”

Google Launched “PAIR” Initiative To Improve How Users Work With AI.

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Novet) reports Alphabet announced Monday that it has “kicked off a new research initiative aimed at improving human interaction with artificial intelligence systems.” The People + AI Research (PAIR) program currently consists of a dozen people “who will collaborate with Googlers in various product groups,” along with “outsiders” such as Harvard University professor Brendan Meade and MIT professor Hal Abelson. Alphabet said the research could “eventually lead to refinements in the interfaces of the smarter components of some of the world’s most popular apps.” Google Brain senior staff research scientist Fernanda Viegas stated, “One of the things we’re going to be looking into is this notion of explanation — what might be a useful on-time, on-demand explanation about why a recommendation system did something it did.” Google Brain senior staff research scientist Martin Wattenberg told CNBC that, “while end users — such as YouTube’s 1.5 billion monthly users — can be the target of that, the research is also meant to improve the experience of working with AI systems for AI researchers, software engineers and domain experts as well.”

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Developing Platform To Accelerate “Medical Research Breakthroughs.”

The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Crocker) reports that scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Computational Sciences and Engineering Division are “developing a secure platform for researchers to access the healthcare data of 22.5 million military veterans, accelerating the timeline for medical research breakthroughs.” The article adds that the initiative is “part of the laboratory’s involvement in a national partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Energy Department,” which “aims to address complex health issues that disproportionately affect veterans more than other communities, like prostate cancer, cardiovascular conditions and suicide prevention.”

New Traffic Tech Coming To Columbus, Ohio Through Vulcan-funded Smart Cities Challenge. Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Jackson) posted an article about the future of Columbus, Ohio, the first city to receive funding from the US Department of Transportation and Vulcan Inc. as part of the Smart City Challenge. According to the article, Columbus, which received $40 million from DOT and $10 million from Vulcan, “is poised to become the blueprint for the future of urban planning.” The article quotes a number of local officials commenting on the anticipated upgrades to the city’s traffic infrastructure, which they believe will become safer and more efficient. “It’s going to allow people in and out of the city for major events with less congestion,” said Doug Marsden, chief technology officer at Transportation Research Center Inc. “It’s going to allow them to find parking spots quicker through mobile applications on their phones and parking lot sensors. It will expose people to these advanced technologies that are going to be commonplace in five, 10 years.”

Vulcan-backed Tri Alpha Energy Achieves First Plasma With Norman Generator.

GeekWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Boyle) reports that Vulcan Capital-backed fusion energy venture Tri Alpha Energy “says it has achieved first plasma in its latest generator.” GeekWire reports that the $100 million device, named “Norman” for late Tri Alpha co-founder Norman Rostoker, “is designed to take advantage of advanced field-reverse configuration and neutral-beam injection to sustain nuclear fusion. The method, which sets magnetized plasma spinning like a top inside a containment vessel, is considered a potentially low-cost alternative to the multinational, multibillion-dollar ITER fusion research project now taking shape in France.” Michl Binderbauer, president and chief technology officer at Tri Alpha, is quoted saying: “This important milestone is a great achievement for our company, and will allow us to further our leadership in breakthrough fusion technology while critically validating our unique vision of generating clean, sustainable and abundant energy.”

Greentech Media Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Fehrenbacher, Subscription Publication) reports that Tri Alpha “has won over a lot of converts,” including former Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz, who joined the company’s board of directors earlier this year. The company has received $500 million in funding “from investors like Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Goldman Sachs, Wellcome Trust, and Silicon Valley’s NEA and Venrock,” Greentech Media reports, adding that, if Norman is successful, Tri Alpha will need further investment, “likely in the form of project financing, to build the next reactor.”

Researchers “Harness” Hopping Hydrogens For High-Efficiency OLEDs.

Nanowerk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) reports researchers at Kyushu University’s Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics Research (OPERA) “demonstrated that a molecule that slightly changes its chemical structure before and after emission can achieve a high efficiency in organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs).” The researchers explain that “excited-state intramolecular proton transfer (ESIPT)” makes highly efficient OLEDs “by creating the necessary conditions to enable thermally activated delayed fluorescence (TADF).” In essence, the process uses higher efficiency OLEDs to emit more vibrant colors.

Dominion Partners With DONG On Offshore Wind Power Project.

PennEnergy Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) reports Dominion Energy Virginia and DONG Energy of Denmark are partnering to build two 6-megawatt turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach. DONG Energy will be start on engineering and development work on “the newly named Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project” immediately to “support the targeted installation by the end of 2020.” This will be the second offshore wind project in the US, and the first to be owned by an electric utility company.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Henry) reports the project “aims to produce six-megawatts of power, or enough for about 3,000 homes.” The project’s announcement follows a “series of delays and cost overruns.” Dominion lost a federal grant for the project last year “due to higher than expected costs.”

Advocates Push For More Generous Federal Renewable Fuel Volume Standards.

Natural Gas Intelligence Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Nemec, Subscription Publication) reports advocates for increasing the use of renewable natural gas warned that the EPA “could unintentionally curb future RNG production with a new way of calculating standards for the increasingly popular fuel for natural gas vehicles (NGV) and other near-zero emission technologies.” An early draft of the Renewable Fuel Volume Standard (RVO) for cellulosic biofuels “has drawn the ire of the Sacramento, CA-based Coalition for RNG even before it becomes an official EPA proposal.” The RNG Coalition is suggesting “an RVO of at least 421 million gallons is needed, and the EPA draft standard calls for 238 million gallons, some 73 million gallons less than the agency’s 2017 RVO of 311 million gallons.”

Houston Company Developing Underground Wind Storage.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Subscription Publication) reports Houston-based startup Apex CAES is raising $500 million to build a underground wind storage facility in Palestine, Texas. The concept “could help expand renewable energy on the power grid.” During the night, Apex “would use electricity to compress air into an underground system.” At certain times during the day, “when the price was right, the company would release the air through turbines to generate electricity.” According to the article, this would be the first facility in Texas to store wind energy in this manner.

Industry News

Young Ford Engineer Playing Key Role In Company’s Future.

The Street Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Byrnes) profiles 23-year-old Ford research engineer Victoria Schein, who has “at least 15 patents under her belt” and “is the future” of the company. According to The Street, “Schein will continue to well…shine…and amaze. And you will continue to hear her name. She is our #AlphaRising and we’re hoping she brings a lot of young girls with her.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Chicago Sun-Times: Net Metering Will Help Illinois Become A Leader In Solar Energy.

The Chicago Sun-Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) editorialized that Illinois is in line to “become a leader in solar energy” thanks to a new law that went into effect July 1 that updated the state’s “net metering program,” which allows homeowners and small businesses with solar panels or wind turbines to sell excess electricity back to power companies. Utility lobbyists have “persuaded state governments to pull the plug on net metering” across the country, arguing that “people with solar or wind installations are essentially freeloaders who use the electrical grid to sell excess power.” According to the Sun-Times, “encouraging homeowners and small businesses to use renewable energy reduces reliance on fuels that are threatening to drastically change Earth’s climate.” The push will also help build a market for renewable energy companies, “which in turn drives down costs and spurs research.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

NSF Gives Maine Organization $2 Million Grant To Improve After-School Science Education.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/9) reports that the National Science Foundation is giving a grant worth nearly $2 million to the Maine Mathematics & Science Alliance “to provide training for out-of-school educators.” The funding “will train educators such as librarians to bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics into their communities” and will “help with the alliance’s Afterschool Coaching for Rural Educators in STEM program.”

Los Angeles Unified Slated To Receive California’s First State-Run STEM School.

The Los Angeles School Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10, Favot) reports the California state Senate Education Committee will hear on Wednesday a measure introduced by state Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra that would establish the state’s first “public school focused on teaching students from low-income and ethnically diverse areas science, technology, engineering, and math.” The school would serve 800 sixth-through-twelfth graders in the Los Angeles Unified school district. In a press release, Bocanegra said California is “seeing a growing number of good-paying, STEM-sector jobs” that demand “advanced STEM degrees.” In the news release, state civil rights attorney and advocate Constance L. Rice commented, “It should alarm everyone that less than six percent of Silicon Valley tech engineers are African-American or Latino.” She added, “A California STEM School committed to enrolling a racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse student body reflective of the demographics of Los Angeles is exactly the kind of innovative, intentional project our city needs.”

San Diego Union-Tribune Urges California To Adopt Computer Science Graduation Requirements.

In an editorial, the San Diego Union-Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/10) recalls how former President Clinton in 1998 “called for computer literacy to be a high school graduation requirement and declared that training should begin in middle school to ensure students had early exposure to invaluable tech job skills,” but after 19 years, an “astounding lethargy” to manifesting that goal remains. California state Board of Education member Trish Williams wrote in an EdSource article last week “about California’s slow-motion efforts to increase access to computer science” and outlined crucial, “long-overdue” state legislative developments; however, the Union-Tribune argues, “Californians shouldn’t be remotely satisfied with these baby steps.” The Urban-Tribune says it is “incomprehensible” that state leaders have not yet grasped “what was obvious to Bill Clinton in 1998,” and demands they “develop a sense of urgency about the need to revamp high school graduation requirements that have long been out of sync with the needs of the modern world.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

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