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

Leading the News

Puerto Rico Still Dealing With Widespread Outages.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Dorell) reports that more than a month after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico “with 155-mph winds, three-quarters of the residents are still without power, lining up at banks for cash and gathering at shopping malls, hotels or government buildings just to charge their cellphones.” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló acknowledges “that his pledge to restore 95% of power by mid-December is ‘aggressive.’” The article adds, “Col. Jeff Lloyd of the Army Corps of Engineers in Puerto Rico, which the federal government is relying on to help the U.S. territory restore power, would not commit to Rosselló’s mid-December timeline. The Corps has ordered $130 million worth of supplies, including 62,000 telephone poles from the U.S. mainland.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Shinkman) reports Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, commander of U.S. Army North, “remains defiant in the face of critics who say the response has been too slow or too small, echoing President Donald Trump’s defenses of the relief effort thus far.” Buchanan said, “It’s hard to mass resources when you’re dependent on sealift and airlift to get anything here. You can’t just drive down the road like what happened in Florida and Irma.”

Billionaire Richard Branson and Amory B. Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, in a piece for the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Branson, Lovins, Subscription Publication), urge grid modernization as a way to prevent sustained outages following a severe weather event.

Higher Education

ED Announces Further Delay Of Borrower Defense Rules.

MarketWatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) reports that ED has announced that it “plans to further delay an Obama-era rule aimed at making student loan borrowers whole when they believe they’ve been misled by their colleges.” The piece reports that ED plans to release a pair of statements Tuesday indicating that it will delay the implementation of the borrower defense rules, originally scheduled to take effect last July, until 2019. The move comes “as the Department is facing multiple lawsuits, including one from 19 attorneys general, over earlier plans to delay the rule.”

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “this week will formally undertake a pair of regulatory moves designed to make sure that the ‘borrower defense to repayment’ regulations finalized by the Obama administration won’t see the light of day while the Trump administration works on its own version of the rules during the next couple of years.” The rules “aimed to make it simpler for defrauded students to have their student loan debt wiped clean” and gave ED “new powers to go after schools it deemed financially risky.”

Warren Requests SEC Insider Trading Probe Of Shares In Navient.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Schroeder) reports that in a letter sent to the SEC Monday, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) “requested an insider trading probe of three large trades made in” student loan service Navient’s stock “hours before a congressional committee disclosed that a regulator feuding with the company would no longer have access to certain information about it.” Reuters says this request comes after approximately “900,000 shares of the company’s stock were purchased across three trades on Aug. 31, one day before it became public that the U.S. Education Department would no longer share information about the company with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a top regulator that had accused the company of wrongdoing.”

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Nasiripour) reports Warren and Bonamici wrote the well-timed trades “raise questions about whether one or more [Education] Department officials may have engaged in the unauthorized disclosure of material, nonpublic information.”

University Of Wyoming Feels Impact Of Faltering US Science Education.

The Casper (WY) Star-Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) reports the Programme for International Student Assessment’s latest triennial report of 15-year-old students across the globe found American teenagers are “behind many other comparable countries when it comes to science and math proficiency among its students.” The implications “are felt in the University of Wyoming Department of Physics and Astronomy, particularly within the physics graduate program, where the disparity between domestic and foreign students is perhaps greatest.” The state “is in the process of implementing updated Science Standards,” but the impact “will not be assessed until all schools have a chance to implement them.” Additionally, the state “Department of Education’s annual Roadmap to STEM conference aims to improve the state’s science education, from kindergarten to college.” At the University of Wyoming, efforts are also underway to encourage students to pursue science and mathematics, including some targeting “female graduate students in various STEM fields where they are underrepresented.”

Economics Professor: Sanders’ Free College Proposal “Would Be Disastrous.”

Weber State University John B. Goddard School of Business and Economics dean and economics professor Dr. Jeff Steagall, in a piece for the Ogden (UT) Standard-Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23), says Sen. Bernie Sanders’ renewed call for “four-year colleges and universities, vocational schools, technical colleges and even apprenticeships to be free for anyone with an annual family income below $125,000” may sound “glorious,” but in fact, “The reality would be disastrous.” Steagall explains that his experiences have shown him “that one must expect less state support over time, not more, eroding the quality of education and defeating the original goal of expanding education to all.” Steagall argues, “More federal scholarship funding and more transparency regarding the quality and cost of education across institutions will do more to improve access to and cost of high-quality higher education than making it free.”

ASEE Week of Giving
This week, we’re asking members to help us get to 25 by 125 – that is, $25K in time for our 125th anniversary next year. Donate here!

NEW from ABET – Engineering Change: Lessons from Leaders on Modernizing Higher Education Engineering Curriculum
This issue brief offers a glimpse into the best practices at play for driving change within engineering programs across the country, and the benefits that have been realized as a result.

Research and Development

National Science Foundation Gives Worcester Polytechnic Institute Professors Grant For Robotic Snake.

The Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) reports that the National Science Foundation has given Worcester Polytechnic Institute professors Jie Fu and Cagdas Onal a $400,000 grant for work on “a clear, tube-shaped” robot that moves with a snakelike “sidewinding locomotion.” The researchers “are hoping to show their technology isn’t just a neat (or gross, depending on your affinity for slithering critters) trick” and “are working to develop a soft robot capable of autonomously navigating wreckage or disaster-hit environments where humans, animals and even rigid robots cannot safely go.”

Researchers Propose Framework For Image Analysis With 3D Modeling To Aid Wound Healing.

Aunt Minnie Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24, Alonso) reports that a group of researchers “have proposed a novel approach to chronic wound healing that involves image analysis combined with 3D modeling and bioprinting.” The group led by Peyman Gholami and colleagues from the Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran, Iran, have “introduced a framework to produce biologically compatible 3D prints of deep chronic wounds” to determine if “such custom-made wound fillings could potentially aid with the healing process.” The article adds, “The research group aims to provide a proof-of-concept Share to FacebookShare to Twitter that integrates various technologies into a unified solution.”

Researchers Discover Distant Star That May Have Consumed 15 Planets.

SPACE Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Mathewson) reports that researchers at Princeton University have discovered a new star, dubbed Kronos, in a binary star system 350 light-years from Earth. The astronomers found that the yellow G-type star, but not its counterpart, showed “an unusually high level of rock-forming minerals, suggesting it feasted on roughly 15 Earth masses’ worth of rocky planets in its lifetime, according to the study.” The minerals were concentrated in Kronos’ outer layers, rather than distributed throughout the star. Graduate student Semyeong Oh said, “All of the elements that would make up a rocky planet are exactly the elements that are enhanced on Kronos. And the volatile elements are not enhanced, so that provides a strong argument for a planet engulfment scenario, instead of something else.” NASA Exoplanet Science Institute Astronomer Jessie Christiansen, who was not associated with the study, said that this research “may provide crucial constraints for planet formation theories,” as scientists are “still at the stage of piecing together different observations to determine how and when exoplanets form.”


Former Twitter Engineer Says Lawsuit Means To Prove Firm Blocks Women’s Advancement.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Rosenblatt) reports former Twitter computer engineer Tina Huang says she “was denied a promotion, led to believe her coding skills were inferior, asked to take a leave of absence, and scolded for taking that leave.” She sued the firm two years ago “contending that the company systematically thwarts the advancement of female engineers. Since then, she’s been gathering data on gender and pay for her peers there and says she can prove Twitter stacks the deck.” Huang says her intention is to “pry open entrenched, male-dominated barriers in the technology sector.”

Industry News

Edmunds Report Ranks Tesla Highest For Autonomous Safety Feature Availability.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Hull) reports that according to a report by research Edmunds, Tesla “leads the pack among automakers offering the safety features that are making vehicles more autonomous.” According to the report, Volvo and Honda also rank in the top three. Edmunds ranked companies by the “prevalence within their lineup of adaptive cruise control, automatic parking, blind-spot detection and lane departure warnings.” Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell said, “These features are the stepping stones to fully autonomous driving.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Government UAV Advisory Group Wrestles With Dysfunction, Distrust.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Laris) reports that a government advisory group, “formally known as Task Group 1 of the Drone Advisory Committee,” has met in secret over the past several months to draft US UAV policies. While the meetings were designed to promote thoughtful and open discussions, the process has instead “been riven by suspicion and dysfunction, according to internal documents and emails obtained by The Washington Post, and interviews with participants.” This comes as the Trump Administration prepares to launch a pilot UAV program, which Transportation Secretary Chao said this May will “let local communities try different regulatory concepts for controlling drone activity.” Group “deliberations have at times been ugly,” and members have found it “very bizarre” that not only is “multibillion-dollar Chinese drone manufacturer” DJI represented on the panel, but that a DJI lobbyist is co-chair of the task force. Group member and University of Oklahoma Center for Applied Research & Development Director James L. Grimsley has “said industry interests were overrepresented and pointed to the role of PrecisionHawk, a DJI partner and drone-technology firm, and Amazon, which is aggressively pursuing airborne package delivery.”

Some Analysts Say Trump Policies Could Accelerate Decline Of Coal.

The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Wolfgang) reports on its front page that while President Trump “has dismantled much of his predecessor’s environmental agenda and rolled back the regulatory war on coal,” according to “analysts,” “coal’s long-term future is bleak and that the administration’s friendly policies toward natural gas could speed up the decline.” Analysts “say Mr. Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, despite their best efforts, simply cannot ward off market forces that have been building for years.” Moreover, “research shows the administration’s fossil fuel-centric energy policy – which is focused not just on coal but also on revving up oil and gas production on federal lands and loosening restrictions on private land exploration – could have adverse effects on coal.”

EPA Seeks To Repeal Obama-Era Emission Standards For Truck Components.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Eilperin) reports that the EPA is seeking to repeal a rule adopted in the last months of the Obama Administration imposing tighter emissions standards on truck components. The OMB “posted a notice saying that on Saturday it received the proposal to rescind the rule,” which “applies the standards now used for heavy-duty trucks to new truck components called gliders and trailers.” The rule, the Post adds, “has been widely embraced by the trucking industry.”

EPA Criticized For Pulling Scientists From Climate Change Panel Discussion.

The EPA’s decision to pull its scientists from a panel discussion at a Rhode Island conference highlighting the impact of climate change on the Narragansett Bay is drawing criticism, USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, King) reports. The move “has sparked fresh criticism about EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s skepticism toward the broad scientific community’s conclusion that human-caused global warming is a proven fact and a growing concern.” Rhode Island Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse “criticized the EPA’s decision during an appearance Monday at the conference in Providence, R.I.” Whitehouse said, “This has traditionally been a bipartisan issue. … So there is no reason for it to have to be this way. And it should not take away from the terrific scientific work that is being done, because at the heart of all this is not the politics, it’s the knowledge.” Reed “said he was ‘disheartened and disappointed’ that the EPA scientists were not allowed to publicly present their findings.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Dennis, Eilperin) says the Administration decision “gave the event a suddenly high profile, with protesters outside, media inside and angry lawmakers and academics criticizing the move.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Kentucky Nonprofit Introduces Drone Technology Education Into Schools.

The Seventy Four Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Nix) reports “thousands of drone-related jobs are projected to be added to the nation’s economy over the next few years, and training and business incubator programs,” including one organized by the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, “have popped up around the country.” Meanwhile, “Schools are also beginning to experiment with integrating the technology in the classroom, said Laura Zieger, chair of the department of educational technology at New Jersey City University.” This year, about 150 students enrolled in aviation and aerospace courses spearheaded by the Kentucky cooperative, which is now “hoping to take its aerospace program to the next level by building a $25 million drone testing site in Hazard, Kentucky, to help scientists and entrepreneurs hone their drone-related inventions and to prepare students for jobs in the emerging industry.” It is also hoping “to expand the program with a four-year aviation and aerospace curriculum for high school students.”

Wyoming State Legislatures Recommend Adding Computer Science To Graduation Requirements.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) reports the Wyoming state Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration “is recommending a change in Wyoming law to allow high school students to take computer science in place of one of the three science classes currently required for graduation.” It is “also is recommending the addition of computational thinking to replace keyboarding in the state’s common core of skills.” According to state Rep. Albert Sommers, “students also could choose to take computer science in place of a higher math requirement for the Hathaway Success Curriculum.”

Virginia DOE Renews Assistance For High School Robotics Team.

The Alexandria (VA) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) reports the Virginia Department of Education granted renewal to the TC Williams High School FIRST Robotics Competition Team 5587, dubbed the “Titan Robotics” club, to expand and support its activities. The team was established three years ago “to spread awareness of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to the local community by competing each season in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition.” The team will receive a $5,000 grant “to help to cover the team’s competition fees and will enable the team to expand their outreach to” other students and the community. The Titan Robots team currently has “more than 35 students, who design, build, and program a robot from scratch to compete as part of the First Robotics Competition.”

Florida District Poised To Become First In Nation To Offer K-12 STEAM Program.

The Pensacola (FL) News Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) reports Santa Rosa County School District in Florida is expanding its STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education program into its high schools this year. When the district introduced STEAM concepts in 2015, “80 teachers were brought into the program after going through a selection process.” In 2016, 20 more teachers were added, and this year, 34 more will join, “making Santa Rosa the first district in the U.S. to have a comprehensive kindergarten through 12th grade STEAM program, according to Discovery Education.” On Tuesday, the Santa Rosa teachers and school administrators will attend a day-long conference at the headquarters of the global cybersecurity company AppRiver, “and later in the day, educators will have a chance to break off into individual sessions for additional training.” The district also collaborates “with the University of West Florida on interpreting data from STEAM surveys to judge the effectiveness of the program.”

Michigan Sees Spike In CTE Program Enrollment.

The Detroit News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) reports 109,005 Michigan students enrolled in career and technical education courses in the 2016-17 school year, compared to 104,038 in the 2014-15 year. State education officials credited the nearly 5,000-student enrollment increase “to more state funding in CTE education and the state’s ‘Going PRO’ campaign, which emphasizes to students that skilled trades are careers that often require less schooling and debt than a four-year degree.” The state also increased funding for CTE programs in the 2015-16 year by $10 million, bringing total state CTE funding to $35.8 million. That funding level will continue for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. This year, the state also allocated more than $1 million for competitive grants for CTE counselors. At the local level, education leaders are encouraging students enrolled in CTE courses to complete certificates, as completion rates for CTE programs were under 30 percent in the 2015-16 school year, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

Monday’s Lead Stories

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