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Welcome to The Accelerator, a monthly e-newsletter that keeps engineering students informed and helps them connect and succeed. Here you will find the latest news affecting student life, engineering, and higher education; information on contests, grants and scholarships, and internships; tips on career planning; and interesting examples of student research. Use our drop-down Resources menu above or click on one of the Categories on the right to find a growing collection of useful sources.

Spotlight: The International Dilemma

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For international students, gaining admission to a  U.S. university is one challenge. Staying in the United States after graduation is another one entirely. While engineers are in high demand and some surveys show that American students are less interested in technical fields than their foreign counterparts, the barriers to acquiring and keeping an engineering job are high for young international graduates.

In tech fields such as software development, computer science and IT, companies are lobbying for looser regulations. But for the second year in a row, the number of H-1B visa petitions (that are normally given to foreigners working in such skilled fields to allow them to work in the U.S. legally) reached the cap in less than a week. This year, employers filed 172,500 petitions altogether for the foreign employees they wanted in 2015, but the process — essentially a lottery — allows for just 65,000 visas, in addition to 20,000 visas awarded to graduates with advanced degrees.

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Collegiate Inventors Competition

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Have you invented a new technology at your university that you’re itching to share with the world? Held each year since 1990, the Collegiate Inventors Competition serves as a national platform for showcasing students’ emerging ideas and new technologies. Over $100,000 in prizes are available, which includes cash for the top three entries in each division as well as prizes for advisers of winning teams.

Teams are restricted to four students, with at least one being a full-time U.S. or Canadian university student. Qualifying inventions must have real-life applicability, with evidence that that they have been used in practice. Applications for the 2014 competition have just opened and are due June 15, 2014.

NIBIB Undergraduate Biomedical Design Challenge

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The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) is taking entries for its Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge, which is open to student teams working on innovative solutions to unmet health and clinical problems. Some areas of interest include diagnostics, therapeutics, technologies for underserved populations, point-of-care systems, precision and preventive medicine, and disability technologies.

Winners of the 2014 challenge will be eligible for up to $45,000 in cash prizes, which includes $20,000 for the first place team. The submission period for this year ends May 29, and winners are announced in August and presented with their awards at the annual meeting for the Biomedical Engineering Society in October.

NASA X-Hab Competition is Open for 2015

deep_spaceThe Exploration Habitat Academic Innovation Challenge, or X-Hab competition, is sponsored by NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation and gives undergraduate engineers a chance to design, manufacture, assemble, and test concepts that could potentially be used in deep space habitats.

X-Hab is now taking applications for the 2015 competition, and the deadline is April 30. Student teams must submit a plan for the design, manufacture, assembly, and testing of prototype systems that enable habitation and spacewalking capabilities for extended deep space missions on NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Orion is designed to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, including missions to an asteroid and Mars.

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U. Toledo Engineering Leadership Gets a Funding Boost

eli_group_summer_2010University of Toledo graduate Roy Armes, who is now a top executive at the northwest Ohio company Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., has donated $1 million dollars to the university’s Engineering Leadership Institute. The institute accepts around a dozen engineering students each year to help draw out their leadership potential and skills. Students in the program participate in events throughout the U.S. and also take on an individual senior project, according to the Toledo Blade. Armes founded the institute in 2009 with a $50,000 gift, and intends to name the institute after himself and his wife.

 Armes has been more directly involved as well. He recently organized a CEO forum in which a half-dozen local chief executives met with students in the program.

“Leadership roles are sometimes assumed to be reserved for graduates from other disciplines,” said Toledo’s engineering college dean Nagi Naganathan. “What I’m trying to say is you can be a leader in many different ways. Board chairs and CEOs are not reserved for non-engineers. It’s a question of identifying the talents within you, nurturing them, and stepping up.”