August 2011 Subscribe
In This Issue:
    • The Long-Term Growth of Minorities in Graduate Education
    • A Snapshot of ASEE's Membership Demographics

    • Deficit Reduction: Researchers Spared Pain, For Now
    • New Reality Facing NIH: Austerity
    • Immigration Reform Hearing Looks at High-Tech Workforce

    • A Smartphone App that May Someday Save Many Lives
    • A Gust of Good News for Wind Farm Design

    • Rapper's TV Show Gives Kamen's FIRST a Boost
    • Michigan Officials Want to See More Online Courses
    • Camp Google: Bonfire of the Coders

    • A Selection of Current Job Openings

    • ASEE Webinars, Free for ASEE Members
    • Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program
    • ASEE/NSF Small Business Postdoctoral Research Diversity Fellowship

    • What's ahead in the September 2011 edition of Prism

    • Do you have a comment or suggestion for Connections?

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I. Databytes

The Long-Term Growth of Minorities in Graduate Engineering

The percentage of underrepresented minorities (URMs) receiving graduate degrees in engineering has climbed steadily over the past four decades.  Master's and doctoral degrees reached all-time highs in URM degree totals and the percentage of degrees awarded to the three groups in the URM category (African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans). The percentage of engineering master's awarded to URMs in 2009-10 was 11.5, while 9.4 percent of engineering doctorates were awarded to URMs.

Long Term Growth of Minorities in Graduate Engineering

Source: American Society for Engineering Education, Engineering Workforce Commission, Engineering Trends

A Snapshot of ASEE's Membership Demographics

Race/Ethnicity/Gender 2005 2010
Black/Non-Hispanic 4.3% 5.1%
Hispanic 3.7% 4.3%
Asian/Pacific Islander 12.3%  13.5%
American Indian 0.5% 0.3%
White/Non-Hispanic 70.6% 68.8%
Declined to Answer 8.6% 8.1%
Female 17%  21.3%
Total Responders 6,759 8,333
Note: This data is based on responses received. 
For 2005, 57.2% of the membership provided this information.
In 2010, 61.7% of the membership provided this information

Other data trends can be viewed at





II. Congressional Hotline

Deficit Reduction: Researchers Spared Pain, For Now

The deficit-reduction deal signed into law in early August won't cause immediate pain for engineering and science researchers. The agreement's fiscal 2012 numbers for discretionary spending are actually higher than in the Tea Party-driven House budget. This gives Senate appropriators room to negotiate somewhat bigger sums than their House counterparts have allowed for funded research – "red meat for lobbyists," reports Jeff Mervis of Science. At least agencies will be spared huge across-the-board cuts in 2012, according to Chemical and Engineering News. It's what happens once a bipartisan congressional committee looks for longer-term savings that's worrisome for researchers, according to Michael Lubell, director of public affairs for the American Physical Society. He says it's unlikely that committee will touch either entitlement or tax reform. "If the committee fails to agree on a plan or Congress fails to pass it, across-the-board budget reductions . . . would be triggered, beginning on January 2, 2013, for all discretionary spending," with non-defense cuts of $11 billion. He says "it is hard to see how American science could avoid serious long-term contraction under the legislation approved – unless the economy grows very substantially and federal revenues increase accordingly."

New Reality Facing NIH: Austerity

The National Institutes of Health have long enjoyed bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. But that's wearing thin, Congressional Quarterly reports, given the GOP's budget-slashing mood and the departure of NIH research champions like former Sen. Arlen Specter (R, Pa.), the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D, Mass.), the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R, Alaska) and Rep. David Obey (D, Wis.). "Republicans are increasingly skeptical the agency should be spared from budget cuts," CQ says.

Immigration Reform Hearing Looks at High-Tech Workforce

A hearing in late July by the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration entitled "The Economic Imperative for Enacting Immigration Reform" highlighted contributions by highly skilled foreign nationals to U.S. innovation and entrepreneurship, according to a newsletter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D, Vt.) said, "The loss of skilled graduates is particularly acute in the science and engineering fields." Ronil Hira, an electrical engineer who teaches public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said loopholes in H-1B, L-1, OPT, J-1, and B-1programs "have made it too easy to bring in cheaper foreign workers, with ordinary skills, "and thus have "lost legitimacy amongst much of America's high-tech workforce."





Team of computing engineering students at the University of Central Florida

A Smartphone App that May Someday Save Many Lives

Malaria kills thousands of children every day in Sub-Saharan Africa, but the only tests available in the region consist of cotton swabs that change color when they contact contaminated blood. It's a cheap but unreliable method that results in false positives in 60 percent of the tests. That means billions of dollars are spent each year treating people who don't have the disease. But a team of computing engineering students at the University of Central Florida have developed a smartphone app that will allow doctors to diagnose malaria quickly and accurately. The phone's camera, outfitted with a microscopic lens, snaps a picture of a blood sample and an image-analyzing algorithm can determine if malarial parasites are present. The Lifelens app was developed for the 2011 Imagine Cup, and the UCF team took second place in the contest's national finals. Lifelens is currently being field tested, and the team may collaborate with Harvard labs to further develop the device. It may also some day be used to detect other blood-borne diseases, including sickle cell anemia. Learn more

John Dabiri
A Gust of Good News for Wind Farm Design

Wind farms are not all that efficient. The propeller-like horizontal-axis turbines that we're all familiar with can only produce 2 to 3 watts of electricity per square meter of land. And to get them to even that meager level they need to be made bigger and taller to reach the stronger winds that blow at higher altitudes. John Dabiri, a professor of aeronautics and bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology, likens today's wind turbines to "sloppy eaters" who waste as much or more food than they consume, because the turbines allow so much available wind energy to go unused. Dabiri's research team is rethinking how wind farms should look and work. In a new paper, he describes the results of a demonstration farm he erected in 2010 using six vertical-axis turbines. They resemble whisks and, at only 33 feet in height, can capture winds closer to the ground. Using the concept of constructive interference he observed in his studies of schooling fish, Dabiri positioned his turbines quite close to one another, roughly 16 feet, and this completely eliminated the aerodynamic interference between neighboring turbines. To have the same effect with traditional turbines, they would have to be placed a mile apart. His vertical-axis turbines generated between 21 to 47 watts of power per square meter of land. And Dabiri, who is planning a larger study using 18 turbines, thinks he can produce even more power by tweaking the designs of the off-the-shelf wind turbines he used in the first trial. Learn more about John Dabiri





Rapper's TV Show Gives Kamen's FIRST a Boost is best known as the front man of top-selling rap group, the Black Eyed Peas. But he's also a technology fan and a huge supporter of teaching science in schools, according to CBS's What's Trending show. After a backstage spin on a Segway, he was motivated to track down the inventor, engineer Dean Kamen. That contact developed into a friendship, and during subsequent conversations he learned more about Kamen's global robotics competition, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an extracurricular program that helps students ages 8 to 19 delve into STEM subjects. spent his own money to buy air time on ABC for a live, back-to-school special about students competing in the 20th Annual FIRST Robotics Competition. The show also featured the Peas performing live, and appearances by Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake and Bono. The teaching and celebration of science should be paramount in all U.S. schools, he told What's Trending. Learn more

Michigan Officials Want to See More Online Courses

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is pushing the state's legislature to remove rules that place caps on online enrollment in schools, according to the Detroit Free Press. Although lawmakers have yet to act, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is doing an end run around the solons. It recently released guidelines that will allow more middle school students to take classes online and allow some districts to open virtual charter schools. Michigan's been a pioneer in online education -- its Michigan Virtual High School has grown from 100 to 15,000 courses since it was created 10 years ago -- but some officials say the caps have slowed progress. Current law limits students to two online classes a semester, unless districts or schools have waivers from the MDE. The new rules will make it easier for schools and districts to apply for waivers and allow them to offer online courses to a larger percentage of their students. Online courses appeal to a wide variety of students, the Free Press says: gifted students looking for additional coursework, students looking to make up credits, students who want to take classes not offered at their school, and students who face missing lessons because of illness, pregnancy or expulsions.

Camp Google: Bonfire of the Coders

Soon-to-be ninth-graders from schools around the U.S. are participating in summer camps offered by Google that teach them the basics of computing. The five-week-long Computer and Programming Experience (CAPE) camps are based at five locations around the U.S., according to NY1. Students will cover topics ranging from binary numbers, computational thinking and the languages of computer science. They'll start by working on animation, progress to Android smartphone apps, and move on to making robots move through coding. The camps are geared toward bright students -- though many of them have no programming or computer science experience -- and to get selected for CAPE students had to nominated by their schools. Google hopes to also learn from this first year program, and eventually post that knowledge online for free so other schools and organizations can run similar camps.

Read more K-12 Education News in ASEE's eGFI For Teachers Blog





Job-hunting? Here are a few current openings:

1. Aerospace Engineering -- 1 opportunity

2. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering -- 2 opportunities

3. Environmental Engineering -- 1 opportunity

Visit here for details:





Wednesday, September 14th at 2pm ET, ENGAGE Presents,
ASEE Webinars, Free for ASEE Members:

Wednesday, September 14th at 2pm ET, ENGAGE Presents "Everyday Examples in Engineering"

ENGAGE works with teams of engineering faculty to implement three classroom strategies known to boost learning. The first involves showing how complex concepts apply to "everyday" items. The other two techniques help forge engineering knowledge and identity by improving students' spatial visualization skills and increasing interactions with faculty. The effort, advanced through seminars and webinars by top researchers in each strategy, is meant to enhance rather than overhaul the curriculum. More information on this webinar including the registration page will be emailed to all ASEE members next week and posted on the ASEE homepage. To learn more about the ENGAGE program you can read a recent PRISM article here.


Wednesday, October 26 at 2:00pm ET, Autodesk, Inc. and ASEE Present,

Wednesday, October 26 at 2:00pm ET, Autodesk, Inc. and ASEE Present "Classroom Strategies for Applying Sustainability Principles to Real-world Engineering Problems"

Intended Audience: Mechanical engineering professors and educators interested in sustainability.

Join Dawn Danby, senior sustainable design program manager and Jeremy Faludi, LEED AP, sustainable design strategist and researcher as they walk you through the newest educational resources available on Autodesk® Sustainability Workshop. These free instructional videos and tutorials teach how to minimize energy use and materials toxicity, and maximize the performance of buildings, infrastructure and product design. Find out how to use these learning tools in your coursework to teach whole systems and life cycle thinking, energy effectiveness and materials selection strategies. You'll walk away with a deeper understanding of how to bring project-based, sustainable design learning into your teaching so the engineers of our future can create a more sustainable world.

More information on this webinar including the registration page will included in the next issue of Connections and posted on the ASEE homepage.

Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program

The Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program is an opportunity for students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines to receive a full scholarship and be gainfully employed upon degree completion.

Participants in the SMART Scholarship for Service Program receive:

  • Full tuition and education related fees
  • Cash award paid at a rate of $25,000 – $41,000
  • Paid summer internships
  • Health Insurance reimbursement allowance up to $1,200 per calendar year
  • Book allowance of $1,000 per academic year
  • Mentoring
  • Employment placement after graduation with the Department of Defense

The SMART Scholarship for Service Program is open only to citizens of the United States, and students must be at least 18 years of age to be eligible. For more eligibility information click here.

Applications for 2011 open on August 15 and will close December 1 2011.



ASEE/NSF Small Business Postdoctoral Research Diversity Fellowship

The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) announces the Small Business Postdoctoral Research Diversity Fellowship Program, which will place 50 recent Ph.D. recipients in designated active Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) participating companies. The program encourages creative and highly trained recipients of doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines to engage in hands-on research projects in their areas of expertise at the kind of small innovative businesses that historically have fueled the nation's economic engine. To be eligible, candidates must have been awarded, within three years to the date of the application, a Ph.D., Sc.D. or other earned doctoral degree in a STEM-related discipline supported by the National Science Foundation. Spring 2011 Ph.D. candidates may apply but may not begin the fellowship until the degree is received. In addition, the candidate must be a U.S. Citizen, U.S. National or a permanent resident. Qualified women and underrepresented minorities are especially encouraged to apply. Fellowship recipients will receive an annual stipend of $75,000 plus full health benefits for at least one year. The deadline is ongoing, positions will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

For further information, please visit the ASEE website at or contact the ASEE program administrator, Curt Millay, at or 202-649-3832.





Coming up in the September 2011 edition of Prism magazine:

Cover Story: The new freshman engineering curriculum: Universities are stressing classes that let students actually practice engineering. The previous emphasis on core math, physics, and chemistry discouraged many students from continuing.

Feature 1: Shale: To its proponents, it's part of the answer to our energy needs. But how to make it clean and green?

Feature 2: Profile of ASEE president Don Giddens.

Read the current issue of Prism magazine





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