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

Leading the News

NYTimes Analysis: Black And Hispanic Students Remain Underrepresented At Top Schools Despite Affirmative Action.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, A1, Ashkenas, Park, Pearce, Subscription Publication) in an analysis reports that “after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago” with “the share of black freshmen at elite schools…virtually unchanged since 1980” at “just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans.” While, “more Hispanics are attending elite schools…the increase has not kept up with the huge growth of young Hispanics in the United States.” The analysis is based on data from “100 schools ranging from public flagship universities to the Ivy League.”

Higher Education

NSF Grant To Help Northern New Mexico College To Launch Cybersecurity Program.

Albuquerque (NM) Business First Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Ortega) reports the College of Engineering and Technology at Northern New Mexico College in Española will receive “a nearly $434,000 grant from the National Science Foundation so it can launch a cybersecurity concentration under its Information Engineering Technology bachelor’s degree program.” The school will work with the University of South Florida “to create a curriculum and training program of 100 to 400-level classes.” Jorge Crichigno, chair of the Northern New Mexico College’s College of Engineering and Technology, has also been working with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Florida Center for Cybersecurity, Western Academy Support and Training Center in California and Network Development Group in North Carolina on the program.

NSF Grant Supports Brown’s Data Science Initiative.

The Providence (RI) Business News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Gowdey) reports Brown University has been awarded “a $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant to establish a mathematical and computational data research institute.” The school started a Data Science Initiative “less than a year” ago in an effort to use “big data to solve some of the world’s most complex and universal issues.”

NSF Grant To Support Center For Autonomous Chemistry At University Of Massachusetts.

The Greenfield (MA) Recorder Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) reports the National Science Foundation has awarded a “three-year, $1.8 million grant” to University of Massachusetts chemist Sankaran Thayumanavan “to create a multi-university Center for Autonomous Chemistry.” He explains, “We’ll be looking to nature for mechanisms and techniques, looking into biomimicry, to try to understand how biological systems accomplish autonomous responses to subtle changes in their environment.”

NSF Funds Extension of University of Toledo Science Education Program.

The Toledo (OH) Blade Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24) reports, “The National Science Foundation awarded the University of Toledo” a $991,00 grant Thursday to “enhance,” and extend its NURTURES program through 2021. The Blade explains that NURTURES “aims to improve science readiness scores for preschool through third grade students in the Toledo area.” NURTURES includes “a two-week summer session for students with access to scientists, professional development during the academic year, and family science activity packets.” US Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) described the program as “a tremendous opportunity for the young children, their families, and teachers in our region” to learn more about science.

New Career Development Program: Streamlined Course Design
In October 2017, ASEE launches Streamlined Course Design, a new, instructor-led, interactive program, developed to streamline course design and produce effective courses. Led by Drs. Karl Smith and Ruth Streveler, this program is held over eight weeks, with four seperate 2.5-hour sessions. Register to (re)design one of your current courses with continuous input and guidance from expert facilitators and fellow participants. The ASEE members price is only $495. Learn more about the program on the ASEE website and join us for a free informational webinar about the program on September 15th at 2pm, ET.

International Activities
Learn more about the ASEE Global Colloquium in the Azores, Sept. 16-18.

See ASEE’s growing list of international partners.

Research and Development

Clemson Professor Leads Research Into Using Astronaut Urine, Breath For Nutritional Supplements, Plastics.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/23, Degrandpre) reports, “NASA is funding new research to determine whether human urine and the carbon dioxide people exhale can be used to produce nutritional supplements, plastic parts and hand tools to help astronauts” during possible missions to Mars. Clemson University’s Mark Blenner, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, presented some of his findings Tuesday in Washington at the American Chemical Society. The Post adds, “Blenner’s biological system includes a variety of strains of the yeast Yarrowia lipolytica,” and his research shows “the yeast can obtain their nitrogen from urea in untreated urine” and “carbon from CO2, which could come from astronauts’ exhaled breath,” but that requires “a middleman to ‘fix’ the carbon into a form they can ingest” and could “rely on photosynthetic cyanobacteria or algae.”

ZDNet Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Osborne) reports the research was presented at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society by a “team, led by Mark Blenner, Ph.D.” Blenner has proposed that “by using molecules gained from human waste, it is possible to gain not only polyesters and material for printable plastics, but additional nutrients.” If that could be done, it “could mean less fuel would be used to carry replacement tools and food.” Further coverage appears in The Guardian (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/22, Davis), Chemistry World Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Stoye), New York Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/22), CBC (CAN) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/22, Riva), Seeker Network Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Staedter), Space Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/23), Fast Company Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/22, Locker), Telegraph (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/22, Knapton), Engineer (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/23), and International Business Times (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/23, Sharma).

Oil Industry Re-Emerging As Major Source Of Research Funding.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Subscription Publication) reports that the oil and gas industry has started to fund research again, as companies place a high premium on new technology to drive innovation. Baker Hughes recently broke ground on its Inspection Technology Customer Solutions Center, which will be a hub for collaborative R&D.The company hopes that its advances in advanced sensors and equipment scanning devices will be able to significantly reduce the time it takes to conduct integrity and safety inspections. Baker Hughes says the labor-saving solutions will help keep costs down, allowing oil companies to stay in business, retain employees, and expand their payrolls.

Industry News

Jacobs Engineering Group Wins Potential $1.1 Billion NASA Contract.

GovCon Wire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Adams) reports that Jacobs Engineering Group’s technology business unit has “received a potential eight-year, $1.1 billion contract from NASA to perform a range of engineering and scientific services” in support of the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Michoud Assembly Facility. NASA said Thursday that the Engineering Services and Science Capability Augmentation contract is meant to address those sites’ needs for engineers, scientists and engineering technicians. Work is expected to commence on December 1.

Tesla’s Self-Driving Car Push Sparked Dissent.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/24, Subscription Publication) reports that Tesla CEO Elon Musk surprised his own engineers when he announced last year that the company would develop a hardware upgrade what would allow its vehicles to drive themselves. The Journal says Tesla’s Autopilot team hadn’t yet developed a product they believed could safely and reliably control a car on its own. The Journal says Musk’s surprise announcement may have led to Autopilot director Sterling Anderson’s resignation.

Engineering and Public Policy

Trump Signs Executive Order To Streamline Infrastructure Project Approval

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/15, Jackson, Jackson) reported that President Trump “signed an executive order Tuesday meant to speed up the approval process for road, bridge, and airport projects across the country – a major priority of his legislation.” On signing the measure, Trump said it “would dramatically reform the nation’s badly broken infrastructure permitting process.” USA Today also quoted the president saying, “one agency alone can stall a project for many, many years and even decades.” The order, the article added, “would require one lead agency for each major infrastructure project – and hold agencies accountable if they don’t take action to make their permitting process faster.” CNN Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/15, Tatum) reported that the president insisted that his Administration “is working every day to deliver the world-class infrastructure that our people deserve, and frankly, that our country deserves.” The order, Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/15) reported, also calls for revoking “an Obama-era executive order aimed at reducing exposure to flooding, sea level rise and other consequences of climate change.” According to the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/15, Fears, Mufson), Trump said the approval process “was ‘badly broken’ and that the nation’s infrastructure was a ‘massive self-inflicted wound on our country,’” adding that there will “no longer” be “one job-killing delay after another” for new projects.

Also in the News

Lithium In Drinking Water May Impact Alzheimer’s Risk, Research Suggests.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/23, Emery) reports, “Long-term consumption of tiny amounts of lithium may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but only if the dose isn’t too small,” researchers found after comparing “the estimated amount found in the water supplies of 275 municipalities” in Denmark “to the rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, in those areas.” The study also revealed that “the wrong amount may actually increase dementia risk.” The findings Share to FacebookShare to Twitter were published online Aug. 23 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Medscape Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/23, Brooks) reports the study “included 73,731 patients with dementia and 733,653 controls.” The study found that “the incidence rate ratio (IRR) of dementia was lower in individuals exposed to 10.1 µg/L of lithium or more compared with their peers exposed to 2.0 to 5.0 µg/L, reaching statistical significance among those exposed to greater than 15.0 µg/L of lithium (P < .001).” But, “exposure to 5.1 to 10.0 µg/L of lithium was associated with an increased IRR of dementia compared with 2.0 to 5.0 µg/L (P < .001).”

US Economic Expansion May Last Two More Years, Experts Say

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/11) reported that according to a poll of economists it conducted, the majority believe that “the U.S. economic expansion will last at least another two years.” The article added that “the recovery from the devastating 2007-2009 financial crisis has been unusually lengthy,” and, “the latest growth stretch has already lasted 96 months.” Describing its poll responses, Reuters wrote that “the U.S. expansion has more than two years to go, according to 34 of 57 economists who answered an additional question on the business cycle,” and it added, “of those economists, 21 said it would last two to three years and 13 said more than three years.”

NY Fed: August Manufacturing Index Highest Since September 2014

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/15, Wiseman) reported that “factory activity in New York surged this month to the highest level in nearly three years.” The article states that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Empire State Manufacturing Index “jumped to 25.2 this month from 9.8 in July,” and adds that “the August reading was the highest since September 2014.” The AP wrote that “new orders, shipments and hiring all picked up in August.” In addition, “factories also expressed optimism that conditions would continue to improve over the next six months.” The article also pointed out that the Empire State Index “measures sentiment among firms in New York State, but is closely followed by economists because it provides an early read on factory output nationwide.” The Rochester (NY) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/15, Spicer) reported that “business activity grew strongly among New York’s manufacturers in August.” The Business Journal added that “looking ahead, manufacturers were quite optimistic about business conditions,” noting that “the index of future business conditions rose 10 points to 41.3.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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