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ASEE Connections

May 2019




The issue of Connections sent April 25, 2019 contained an error in the Databyte section. Please see below for a corrected version.

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By Rossen Tsanov

With this Databyte, we are looking at the pace of salary growth for engineering faculty early in their careers (at the Junior Lecturer and Assistant Professor levels). We used data from the annual ASEE Faculty Salary Survey, comparing disciplines’ salary median in the span of five years.

The engineering discipline that outpaced all others in terms of growth in compensation for entry-level non-tenure track faculty between 2015 and 2019 was Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering, with a 23 percent growth rate. The pay for Civil Engineering entry-level faculty was able to keep up with the salaries in Computer Science, with both disciplines registering a 14 percent increase in salary for these faculty in the five-year period. Entry-level non-tenure track faculty include full-time lecturers, instructors and teaching assistant professors with less than 5 years of service.

For tenure-track assistant professors, the most noticeable increase between 2015 and 2019 was in Engineering Technology, where salaries grew by 15 percent in five years. Among engineering disciplines, assistant professors in agricultural engineering had the fastest growing wages for the period at a 13 percent rate, outpacing even computer science faculty, whose salaries grew by 10 percent in five years. Still, computer science remained the highest paid engineering faculty discipline.




II. 5G Terms and Acronyms Defined
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The Trump administration says it wants American astronauts to return to the moon in 2024, a first step toward a permanent lunar base. But as multiple news outlets have reported, NASA’s moon mission efforts are over-budget, behind schedule and underfunded, and the agency hasn’t yet told Congress how much the return trip would cost. Meanwhile, NASA wants commercial space companies to pitch in with new proposals. Enter Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder and head of Blue Origin, a private spaceflight company that’s been working on a new rocket to take humans back into space. Bezos this month unveiled a prototype lunar lander and a small rover. The former, dubbed Blue Moon, would be launched into space by a rocket. That, however, doesn’t seem to gibe with NASA’s current thinking, which is to place a mini-space station in orbit around the moon, from which landers would shuttle to and from the surface. Bezos also didn’t say what the cost of Blue Moon would be, nor did he say when it would be operational. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports, members of Congress are highly skeptical of the White House’s lunar plans. Kendra Horn, the Oklahoma Democrat who heads the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, told the Post that “the lack of planning, evident so far, is no way to run our nation’s human space exploration program,” and that moving up the deadline from 2028 to 2024 “left NASA in a tizzy—scrambling to develop a plan and hastening to pull together a budget amendment that still has not been delivered to Congress.”



With Democrats back in charge of the House, Congress’s lower chamber is getting around to passing climate legislation again, which was anathema to the previous Republican leadership. Earlier this month, on a mainly party-line vote of 231-190, the House approved the Climate Action Now Act, the first climate bill to win approval in nearly 10 years. It would bind the United States to the Paris climate accord and direct the president to determine how the country will meet its emissions goals, according to The Hill newspaper. Two years ago, President Trump said he would pull the U.S. out of the international pact that aims to cut emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Trump also stopped U.S. contributions to the Green Climate Fund, which provides assistance to developing countries to help them meet their Paris commitments. During the Obama presidency, the U.S. pledged billions of dollars to the fund. Trump also deeply cut contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to soon pass and send to the floor a spending bill that would allow the U.S. to resume those contributions, the paper says. The bill would also ban the use of congressional funds to withdraw the U.S. from the climate accord. The House effort is mostly rhetorical, since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY., has said climate bills “will go nowhere” in the upper chamber.



IV. Education and Research Resources for Success
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When it comes to organ transplants, speed is of the essence. Transplantable organs typically can last only 12 to 36 hours outside a body before they die. But getting organs to donors in time can require overcoming major transportation hassles. As of the end of last year, around 114,000 people in the U.S. were on organ donor lists, and 4 percent of shipments had an unanticipated delay of two or more hours. But the solution for swiftly transporting organs over long distances in rural areas or across congested urban landscapes may be drones. And in a breakthrough flight in late April, an unmanned drone specially engineered for the chore at the University of Maryland, delivered a live kidney to doctors at the school’s Medical Center nearly three miles away. It was then successfully transplanted into Trina Glispy, 44, a nursing assistant who had been waiting eight years for a donor kidney. Maryland engineers designed and built the drone with numerous redundancies to ensure a safe delivery. The drone features eight rotors, multiple powertrains, backup propellers, dual batteries, a second power-distribution board and a parachute recovery system. Moreover, the team created a new wireless mesh network to control and monitor the unmanned aerial vehicle. It not only had to meet Federal Aviation Administration regulations, but had to cope with the additional weight of the organ, cameras, and communications and safety systems. Darryll J. Pines, engineering dean, said the flight was a technological feat that “provides an exemplary demonstration of how engineering expertise and ingenuity ultimately serve human needs—in this case, the need to improve the reliability and efficiency of organ” deliveries.

Image Courtesy of University of Maryland



The Swedish-Swiss technology conglomerate ABB has opened the world’s first factory that’s carbon-dioxide-neutral and energy self-sufficient. Located in Luedenscheid, Germany, it’s run by Busch-Jaeger, an ABB subsidiary that manufactures smart-energy devices for homes and offices. The factory runs on solar photovoltaic cells and a backup battery-storage system. It should generate around 1,100 megawatt hours of power a year. Any surplus power it generates is fed back to the grid. ABB says the system should reduce nearly 700 tons of CO2 emissions a year. During peak demand times, if the facility needs extra electricity, it will source it from MVV Energie, a German utility that guarantees that 100 percent of its power comes from renewable sources. It took two years to design and build the factory. Its solar array covers around 37,670 square feet, just under an acre, built over the factory’s parking lots. ABB developed an energy management system that provides constant, largely autonomous, surveillance and control of production, consumption and storage. The system uses predictive data to optimize energy flow, then compensates for deviations in real time.

Image Courtesy of ABB






The teaching of cursive handwriting is making a comeback in many public elementary schools across the country, the New York Times reports, even though some teachers say it’s an unnecessary waste of time. After the Common Core standards went into effect nine years ago, the requirement to teach cursive was dropped. But since then, around 24 states—including Illinois, Ohio and Texas—have reintroduced the lessons, the Times reports. Most of the bills have been introduced by Republican lawmakers, and the paper notes that supporters of cursive associate the writing style with convention, tradition, and conservatism. Pam Roach, a former GOP state senator in Washington who introduced an unsuccessful cursive bill in 2016, told a local TV news program that “part of being American is being able to read cursive writing.” Other conservative lawmakers have argued it allows students to read historical texts, and emphasizes the importance of having a signature. There is, the Times notes, some research that shows that all handwriting—not just cursive—helps build brain development, motor skills, comprehension and memory, although cursive may be particularly helpful to the handful of students who have difficulties in forming letters because of poor motor control. But experts say some research has been taken out of context or twisted to boost pro-cursive arguments. “The world of handwriting is very much the world of fake news and crooked elections,” one expert tells the Times. And it quotes several teachers who say cursive lessons are out of touch with the realities of today’s classrooms, and take up time better used on other subjects. One South Carolina fifth-grade teacher tells the Times: “We should expose them, but I think you can do it in other ways that don’t involve ‘skill and drill.’”



Drones are soaring into the classrooms of a growing number of public schools as educators realize that unmanned aerial vehicles can be useful tools to teach STEM lessons, according to EdTech, an online magazine. But the publication points out that teachers need help and guidance to learn how to best incorporate the flying robots into lessons plans. “It’s easy to attract students and hook them with the coolness of flying drones,” Duane Roberson, a tech education specialist in Colorado Springs School District 11, tells EdTech. “The burden is on us to show them the career connection—that a drone is a tool and that many industries use it.“ EdTech proposes four basic steps schools should take before bringing drones into classrooms: ensure teachers have earned a Federal Aviation Administration-certified drone pilot license; make drone maintenance and repair part of the lesson plan; have plenty of batteries and charging stations on hand; create an advisory board of drone experts from local colleges and aerospace companies. Additionally, EdTech notes, many districts plan to have high-school drone students also take the FAA exam.





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The Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) would like to hear your thoughts on the future of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) undergraduate education through an online survey. The responses are confidential, voluntary, and will only be analyzed and reported in aggregate. The Division will use the information in their planning of a large convocation of educators, education researchers, scientists, industry partners, and select student representatives to examine the status of undergraduate STEM education and to look ahead. Please note that this is a legitimate online survey that has been approved by the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 10 minutes per response, including the time for reviewing instructions. The survey closes July 1, 2019. The survey is available at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/STEMEd2026




Receive the tools and training needed to prepare and deliver implicit bias workshops at your institution with the new train the trainer program Training for Action: Challenging Implicit Bias. This three-part program will commence with a full-day workshop on June 15th in conjunction with the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference. Applications open now! Learn more and apply: https://goo.gl/NSQMwF



Register for the 2019 Chairs Conclave—taking place June 16t in Tampa, FL—to connect with department chairs and learn the best practices of successful chairs. Topics covered include leadership skills, department culture, faculty evaluations, and entrepreneurship for chairs. The Chairs Conclave is an exclusive forum for engineering and engineering technology department chairs to exchange ideas, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. Learn more and register today—seating is limited—at https://chairsconclave.asee.org.

REGISTER FOR ASEE’s 126th Annual Conference, June 15–19, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. The conference features more than 400 technical sessions, with peer-reviewed papers spanning all disciplines of engineering education. Click here to register.




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