• NSF awards $12 million to spur an engineering education revolution

    To solve twenty-first century technological challenges, society will rely upon today’s undergraduate engineering and computer science programs and their ability to prepare diverse communities of students with professional skills. The National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorates for Engineering, Computer and Information Science and Engineering, and Education and Human Resources have jointly awarded $12 million to engineering and computer science departments to enact groundbreaking, scalable and sustainable changes in undergraduate education.

  • Purdue “Skunkworks” targeting engineering education

    Purdue University will create an Engineering Education Skunkworks as part of a national effort to transform how undergraduate engineering is taught in U.S. universities. Purdue’s role is to create the Engineering Education Skunkworks to “spark a departmental revolution” focusing on mechanical engineering. The Skunkworks will allow researchers to fast-track concepts that are most likely to be successful, said Edward Berger, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and engineering education who conceived the concept.

  • Giant foam blocks keep approach slabs of bridges from settling

    The majority of the world’s largest cities, often built in areas near water bodies, have soft and compressible soils. For example, a good number of the 52,000 bridges in Texas have bump problems on entry due to settling of the soil under the pavement slabs. A research team at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) is using giant lightweight geofoam blocks to bolster the earth beneath roads and bridges and slow down the settling of roadways and bridges.

  • U Vermont breaks ground for STEM complex, largest capital project in UVM history

    The University of Vermont officially broke ground 15 May on its $104 million STEM project, the largest capital project in UVM history. The 266,000-square-foot STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) complex will include two new buildings for classrooms, science labs, and meeting space. Of the $104 million total project cost, $26 million will come from non-debt sources, including private gifts. To date, $4.6 million has been raised in private gifts.

  • Designing the future of rail travel

    Increased traffic, congestion, security of energy supply, and climate change are just some of the many pressing issues that the EU currently faces. In order fully to tackle these challenges, the railway sector must modernize and take on a larger share of transport demand over the next few decades. EU-funded researchers have just begun work on three exciting projects that could very well determine the shape of rail travel in the coming years.

  • Strengthening increasingly unstable rail tracks

    The big chunks of rock — crushed limestone or dolomite that engineers call ballast — which keep railroad tracks in place look like a solid footing even as freight cars rumble overhead. Temperature and vibration, however, can destabilize ballast over time, keeping it from safely transferring the weight of a loaded train to the soil below, draining water, and preventing vegetation from crowding the tracks. In some states, a booming industry of mining sand for use by oil and gas drillers in hydraulic fracturing has presented a new challenge: fine grains of sand can leak from rail cars, accumulate in rail bed ballast and, during a rainstorm, turn into mushy, track-loosening mud.

  • Students who take a hands-on approach to learning perform better in science

    Students who physically experience scientific concepts understand them more deeply and score better on science tests, according to a new study. Brain scans showed that students who took a hands-on approach to learning had activation in sensory and motor-related parts of the brain when they later thought about concepts such as angular momentum and torque. Activation of these brain areas was associated with better quiz performance by college physics students who participated in the research.

  • Nepal should use updated, upgraded building codes in post-disaster construction: Experts

    Urban planners and disaster experts who have been arriving in Kathmandu to inventory, assess, and make recommendations have been urging the Nepalese authorities to “Build it back better.” There are plenty of examples of post-disaster construction built significantly safer, using low-cost traditional materials and methods. Nepal has last updated its building code in 1994.

  • Young students compete at the Sea Level Measurement Device Design competition

    Global warming is bringing about a rise in the mean sea level, and this increases the risk of coastal flooding brought by storm surges during the passage of tropical cyclones. Two-hundred young students – from 4th grade to junior high — from twenty-five primary, secondary, and international schools designed and produced sea level measurement devices to compete for various prizes in the Sea Level Measurement Device Design Competition held last Sunday at the University of Hong Kong.

  • Disaster and recovery: The unexpected shall come to be expected

    In the days following the Nepal earthquake, the media has been focusing on the heart-wrenching human interest and hero-tragedy stories, but what must be emphasized is that this disaster was anticipated. More importantly, we now have the tools and building technologies to mitigate the impact of even major earthquakes. The frequency of earthquakes has not changed over the past few million years, but now millions of people live in vulnerable situations. The unexpected must come to be expected. Much-needed humanitarian assistance must transition into long-term development efforts. Simply put, instilling a culture of disaster risk reduction, investing in hazard mitigation, building as best as we can, and retrofitting what remains, will save lives.

  • DoD invests in STEM education

    The Department of Defense (DOD) is making an investment to ensure military children have access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education with the expansion of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) College Readiness Program. The program has experienced an 82 percent increase in qualifying advanced placement math and science scores in just the first year of the College Readiness Program for military-connected children. DOD notes that thanks the expanded program, an additional 17,000 military-connected students will have access to STEM education, bringing the program’s total impact to 50,000 military-connected students throughout the nation.

  • STEM education, STEM jobs, and immigration

    Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) is a leading critic of immigration reform which would legalize the status of undocumented immigrants, and a chief proponent of limiting the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States. One of his arguments is that Americans with college STEM degrees cannot get a job in their fields because these jobs are taken by skilled foreigners. There are two problems with Sessions’s argument: First, his definition of “STEM job” is so narrow, that Apple CEO Tim Cook and a Noble Prize scientist who works as a university professor would not be regarded as holding STEM jobs; second, his argument contradicts what basic economic teaches: Skilled immigrants contribute to American prosperity and security, and the labor market is not a zero-sum proposition.

  • Doubts about burying CO2 underground to address climate change

    Burying the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, has been mooted as one geoengineering approach to ameliorating climate change. To be effective, trapping the gas in geological deposits would be for the very long term — thousands of years. Now, researchers have reviewed the risk assessments for this technology, suggesting that a lack of knowledge means we should be cautious of turning to this method rather than finding sustainable ways to reduce emissions at their source.

  • Joplin, Missouri hospital re-built to withstand powerful tornadoes

    In 2011 St. John’s Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri was devastated by one of the most ferocious tornadoes in U.S history. Today, Mercy Hospital Joplinstands on the site of the former hospital, occupying a new structure designed to survive future tornadoes, with windows that can withstand 250-mile-per-hour winds. The buildingis covered in concrete and brick paneling, and houses an underground bunker where generators and boilers are kept.

  • How much science, math homework is too much?

    When it comes to adolescents with math and science homework, more is not necessarily better — an hour a day is optimal — but doing it alone and regularly produces the biggest knowledge gain, according to new research. “Our data indicate that it is not necessary to assign huge quantities of homework, but it is important that assignment is systematic and regular, with the aim of instilling work habits and promoting autonomous, self-regulated learning,” said one of the researchers.