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

Leading the News

NSF Gives Purdue $20 Million Grant To Develop Shale Gas Research.

The Lafayette (IN) Journal and Courier Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports that the National Science Foundation is giving Purdue University $19.75 million over five years to fund the new Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources, which “aims to create a new way to produce fuels that could transform the energy industry within the next decade.” The center “will develop new technologies to produce fuels from shale gas deposits in the U.S.” The piece quotes Purdue chemical engineering professor Fabio Ribeiro saying, “We have in our country enough fuel in shale reserves to power this country for 100 years. But this energy is in a form — a large fraction of it is in a form — that we cannot use because it’s a gas.”

The Indianapolis Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports that the center “proposes to convert light hydrocarbons from shale gas into chemicals and transportation fuels, using a network of modular processing plants.” Purdue officials said “the technology could result in lower carbon emissions by reducing the cost of extracting natural gas and improving energy efficiency in converting light hydrocarbons to fuels and chemicals.” WISH-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Indianapolis (9/12) also covers this story.

Higher Education

ED Delaying Loan Forgiveness Requests For Students Of Fraudulent For-Profit Colleges.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports that according to documents obtained by the AP, “tens of thousands of former students who say they were swindled by for-profit colleges are being left in limbo as the Trump administration delays action on requests for loan forgiveness.” The piece says ED is “sitting on more than 65,000 unapproved claims as it rewrites Obama-era rules that sought to better protect students.” The AP says that according to California federal court documents, “acting Undersecretary James Manning says the department will need up to six months to decide the case of a former student at the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges and other cases like hers.”

Purdue Faculty Criticize Plans For New Online University.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports that some Purdue University faculty members are criticizing the school’s plan to create a new online school, explaining that the “proposed school, called NewU, would emerge from Purdue’s purchase of for-profit Kaplan University.” Faculty members “say they’re worried about the reputation of Kaplan University and parent company, Kaplan Higher Education,” both of which “face investigations and lawsuits in multiple states targeting their hiring and recruitment practices.” The AP explains that the deal requires the approval of ED and the Higher Learning Commission.

Employers, Colleges Moving To Protect DACA Beneficiaries.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Wilson) reports major “corporations and colleges and universities are mobilizing to protect” DACA recipients, who are estimated to work legally for “at least 72 percent of the 25 largest-grossing corporations in the United States.” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith reportedly “offered to pay the legal bills for any of the company’s 39 employees enrolled in the program should the government try to deport them.” Smith said, “If Congress fails to act, our company will exercise its legal rights properly to help protect our employees. If the government seeks to deport any one of them, we will provide and pay for their legal counsel. In short, if Dreamers who are our employees are in court, we will be by their side.” The Hill says “similar messages of support have come from colleges and universities,” including the University of California – which last week filed suit against the Justice Department’s push to end DACA, which it said “was based on ‘nothing more than unreasoned executive whim.’” The Hill speculates that the amount of similar “litigation could grow in the coming months, especially given that few expect Congress will be able to find agreement on an immigration bill before the deadline.”

ASEE Board Reorganization – Feedback Needed
ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents rationale on a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Please leave your feedback (ASEE member login required).

NEW Online Career Development Program: Streamlined Course Design
Don’t miss out on Streamlined Course Design, a live, online program to help faculty streamline the course design process. Led by experts Karl Smith and Ruth Streveler, this program takes place as 4 sessions over 8 weeks. Produce more effective courses and sign up today. (Tune in for the free info session on September 15th at 2 PM, ET!)

FREE Action on Diversity Webinar: Empathy in Engineering — Why it Matters
Tune in 9/20 at 2:00 PM, ET for a FREE 90-minute webinar on empathy in engineering! Drs. Jo Walther and Nicki Sochacka will explore how faculty can encourage empathetic thoughts and actions in the classroom, and why empathy should be a core skill for future engineers. Dr. Shari Miller will offer her unique perspective on empathy as an expert in the field of social work Register today.

VIDEO: ASEE President Bev Watford on Priorities for 2017-2018
brief interview from the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition

Research and Development

NSF Awards Georgia Tech Grant To Establish Center For Cell Manufacturing Technologies.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Stirgus) reports the National Science Foundation awarded Georgia Tech a $20 million research grant to establish a new Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies. Some of the research will also be conducted at the Georgia Tech Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing. Georgia Tech will collaborate with the private sector and Emory University, the University of Georgia, and several other institutions to “develop technology to produce at lower costs therapeutic cells that can be used for more patients worldwide.” Georgia Tech will also use the funds “to train more people to do bio-manufacturing work,” which has been hindered by a “lack of a highly-trained bio-manufacturing workforce.” The Journal-Constitution says the “grant comes as Tech and several other Georgia research colleges and universities have raised concerns about possible reductions in research funding by the Trump administration.”

The Atlanta Business Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Subscription Publication) also reports on the NSF grant, and says examples of some of the “highly promising therapies” to be developed and researched at the new center “include T cell-based immunotherapies for blood cancers and a gene-modified stem cell therapy recently approved in Europe for a form of the so-called ‘bubble boy’ syndrome.”

Healthcare Industry Intrigued By Diagnostic Potential Of Artificial Intelligence.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Parmar, Subscription Publication) reports that deep-learning artificial intelligence has the potential to greatly increase the accuracy of medical diagnoses, and many companies throughout the healthcare industry are attempting to develop the technology.

Researchers Working On Various Ways To Improve Diagnoses. In a separate article, the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Landro, Subscription Publication) details several of the most encouraging ways researchers are attempting to minimize misdiagnoses, including establishing computerized tracking systems and large-scale information sharing networks.

Medical Professionals See Innovation In 3-D Printing For Healthcare.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, McConnon, Subscription Publication) reports medical professionals are turning to 3-D printing for treatment research and development as well as surgery planning and medication creation. Research institutions such as the Mayo Clinic are relying on 3-D printing as manufacturers develop healthcare-specific technology to support medical researchers’ needs.

Texas A&M Receives NSF Grant To Research Urban, Rural Health Disparities.

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Ellis) reports the National Science Foundation awarded Texas A&M University with a $35 million grant to research ways to improve upon healthcare access and general health for underserved populations in both urban and rural settings, in part by establishing a new engineering research center with $19.75 million of the grant. According to the Chronicle, “Rice University, Florida International University and the University of California at Los Angeles will also participate in the research team, which will be based at a Texas A&M facility.” The Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Cobler) also provides coverage.

Lockheed Martin Unveils New UAS During DSEI Event.

Military & Aerospace Electronics Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports Lockheed Martin unveiled a new unmanned aircraft system (UAS) during this year’s Defense Security Equipment International (DSEI) event in London. The device, know as the Outrider, is a “lightweight, canister-launched UAS designed by engineers at Lockheed Martin U.K.’s Havant facility in partnership with Wirth Research, an engineering company specializing in aerodynamics and composite materials.”

Scientists Develop Report Outlining Research Goals For Building Microbiomes.

MedPage Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Frieden) reports an analysis from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine examines how buildings present micriobiomes that impact human health. The “Microbiomes of the Built Environment: A Research Agenda for Indoor Microbiology, Human Health, and Buildings” report “discusses what is currently known about the impact on human health of microbiomes in built environments, interventions that can be used to reduce the presence of hazardous microbiomes, and the gaps in knowledge that need to be filled,” and also offers “a vision for the future and a suggested research agenda.” One report author said researchers would benefit from support from the National Institutes of Health.

National Science Foundation Awards Boston University $20 Million To Create Personalized Heart Tissue.

The Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Mascarenhas) reports Boston University received a five-year, $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation “to create real human heart tissue, using stem cells, tissue engineering, and nanotechnology methods, for clinical purposes.” The grant will fund research aimed at creating “personalized cardiac tissue, tailored from an individual’s stem cells, that could lead to more effective treatment for heart attacks or be used to test out medications.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Energy Department Announces Obama’s Solar Goal Met Early.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Natter) reports the Energy Department announced Tuesday that former President Obama’s goal of “slashing” the cost of solar power down to 6 cents per kilowatt hour “has been achieved early, taking credit for” a “milestone even though the new administration is skeptical of renewable power.” The department also “announced $82 million in new funding for solar research.” The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Siciliano) reports DOE “announced that the Obama-era Solar Shot program’s 2020 price-reduction goals for solar energy have been met by big, utility-scale solar power plant projects.” The article adds that “the cost of producing electricity has been dropping dramatically across all types of solar because of dramatic reductions in component costs, such as for photovoltaic cells that make up solar panels.” Secretary of Energy Rick Perry “intends to focus on continuing those advancements by refocusing the program on research and development that strengthens the electric grid by making solar energy more reliable, according to the Energy Department.”

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Henry) reports, Daniel Simmons, DOE’s acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, said, “With the impressive decline in solar prices, it is time to address additional emerging challenges. … As we look to the future, DOE will focus new solar R&D on the secretary’s priorities, which include strengthening the reliability and resilience of the electric grid while integrating solar energy.” Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports the new funding aims “to make solar, which depends on the sun’s rays to generate power, more reliable.” The agency “said it will provide up to $62 million to support advances in concentrating solar power that can be stored or used in other applications when the sun is not shining.” In addition, it will “spend up to $20 million to fund early-stage projects to advance electronics such as solar inverters that can help solar arrays communicate with the electric grid.” Simmons said, “We will drive early-stage research to help make solar more of an on-demand energy resource, and less of a weather-dependent one.”

Greenwire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Subscription Publication) and PennEnergy Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) also provide coverage of this story.

Millions Could Be Without Power In Florida For Days.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Plumer, Subscription Publication) reports that Hurricane Irma left as many as 15 million people in Florida without power, according to the Department of Homeland Security. “This is going to be a very, very lengthy restoration, arguably the longest and most complex in U.S. history,” Robert Gould, vice president for communications at Florida Power & Light. The delay is because crews must check inspect all the damage first to determine how to best restore service.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, McWhirter, Ailworth, Campo-Flores, Subscription Publication) reports that nearly 60,000 utility workers have traveled to Florida to help with restoration efforts, with more on the way. Florida Power & Light Co. said it expects power to return to the eastern part of the territory by the end of the weekend, but it may take more than a week for power to return to the western side of the state.

The Orlando (FL) Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Harris) reports Florida officials said Tuesday that “some of the 5.2 million customers statewide could be without power for a week or more. They say it will be the largest restoration process in history.” Duke Energy spokeswoman Ann Marie Varga “said it will take time to get the lights back on because it suffered widespread damage to its transmission lines.” Similarly, Florida Power and Light (FPL) “said customers who live on the west side of the state may not be restored until Sept. 22 while those on the east coast by Monday.”

The South Florida Sun Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Davis) reports that FPL “promised” Tuesday that power “should be back on throughout South Florida by the end of the weekend,” and the Naples (FL) Daily News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Riley) reports that a “small army of Florida Power and Light employees has been working to restore power in the state…but customers on the west coast will have to wait longer than others — up to as late as Sept. 22.” According to the Palm Beach (FL) Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12), “As of 5 p.m. [on Tuesday], more than half of FPL’s customers in Palm Beach County now have power restored.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12, Achenbach, Berman) reports that the “unprecedented outages…also unleashed a cascade effect across the region. Millions of people who fled Irma may struggle to return home for weeks as crews try to deal with downed lines, debris and a storm-swamped electrical grid. Electrical power is needed, too, to keep water and sanitation systems operating.” Christopher Krebs, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection at DHS, said Tuesday morning that “as many as 15 million people in Florida lacked power, an astonishing figure that represented three-quarters of the state’s entire population.”

Solar Developers “Hoard” Panels In Advance Of Possible Tariff.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/11, Ryan, Martin) reports that “solar developers are suspending construction as the looming threat of U.S. import tariffs has driven up prices and spurred hoarding, crimping panel supplies.” The article adds that “the disruptions date to about May, after bankrupt panel manufacturer Suniva Inc. filed a trade complaint asking for protection from cheap imports,” and as that case advanced, “developers rushed to stockpile every available panel.” The US International Trade Commission is hearing the case, and President Trump “has the authority to impose tariffs” based on its findings. Bloomberg states that “the crunch is an abrupt reversal for the $29 billion U.S solar industry, which six months ago was awash in inexpensive panels,” and now “developers say prices have swelled by about 40 percent in the past four months, making some projects uneconomical to build.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

NSF Awards Penn State Behrend Grant To Enhance Regional Manufacturing Education.

The Erie (PA) Times-News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports the National Science Foundation awarded Penn State Behrend a $554,000 grant “to improve science and engineering education in the region” by hosting a six-week summer program on manufacturing simulation and automation research. Each summer for three years, 12 high school and community college teachers will attend the program and “use their research to engage and create lessons for their students.” Rep. Glenn Thompson, who announced the grant on Tuesday, commented, “It is expected that 6,000 students will benefit from this program and help fill the skills gap in our manufacturing sector.” Behrend industrial engineering assistant professor Faisal Aqlan said the award will “help fill the skills gap” in America’s manufacturing workforce.

Denver-Area School District Becomes First In Colorado To Offer Complete STEM Curriculum.

The Denver Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/12) reports that with a $400,000 grant from the Denver-based Gill Foundation, Englewood School District “created STEM labs in Bishop and Clayton Elementary schools and Charles Hay World School – the last three campuses in the district to be outfitted with the specialty gear.” Because of the funding, Englewood became “the first school district in Colorado to provide a complete, integrated STEM curriculum and STEM lab classrooms for all students from kindergarten to grade 12.” Gill Foundation, “which is a national leader in funding for LGBT causes, chose Englewood Schools as its first recipient of STEM program educational grants in schools” based on “four priorities: equal treatment for all people; safe schools; recognition of all families; and a prosperous Colorado. In its support of a prosperous Colorado, the foundation funds STEM education, LGBT advocacy and services, financial services and public broadcasting.”

Illinois Program Assists Teachers With New State Science Standards.

The Naperville (IL) Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/10) reports that this summer through Project SMILE, or “Science and Math In Line with Engineering,” Indian Prairie District 204, West Aurora District 129 and All Saints Catholic Academy elementary and middle school teachers “met with STEM industry professionals and college educators to learn how the math and science lessons they teach in their classrooms correlate to jobs today and in the future.” The Illinois State Board of Education awarded Project SMILE with a two-year, $500,000 grant to cover the program’s costs and materials. In the last few years, school districts in Illinois “not only adopted the Next Generation Science Standards and subsequent assessment testing, they also turned their science curricula upside down, focusing more on a student-driven, hands-on approach to learning rather than students memorizing facts from a textbook.” Project SMILE was created to help teachers overcome their anxieties about teaching “science by showing them what impact those lessons can have on students’ lives.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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