Leading the News
US Faces Challenge Of Nuclear Waste.
In a piece titled “As World Expands Nuclear Power, US Grapples With Decades Of Waste,” the Christian Science Monitor (3/25, Gilmour) reports the Federal “government is seeking to stay relevant in an evolving global nuclear industry, in part by proposing new ways to confront a decades-old challenge: handling mounting nuclear waste.” The Monitor reports that, calling Yucca Mountain “unworkable,” the Obama administration “is now pushing for a new path forward on nuclear waste disposal that emphasizes a ‘consent-based’ approach and separate facilities for energy- and defense-related waste.” The Energy Department “said this week it will seek interim storage sites for commercial waste and begin planning a permanent geological repository for defense waste.” At a press conference on Tuesday, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, “A separate repository for defense waste could allow greater flexibility in selection of a site, and greater flexibility could help keep costs down. … We think these steps are just common sense.”
US News & World Report (3/26, Neuhauser) reports that “four Senators from both sides of the aisle promoted legislation Tuesday calling for the construction of interim disposal sites for nuclear waste, a potential alternative to decades of deadlock over a permanent facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.” The bill “mirrors recommendations published in January 2012 by the Energy Department’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.” Yesterday, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz “returned to some of the report’s conclusions during remarks at a think tank in the nation’s capital, adding that the department would seek to create two kinds of nuclear repositories: one for spent fuel from civilian nuclear reactors and the other for defense projects.” While DOE “can begin searching for potential sites, it ultimately needs action from Congress to construct any disposal facilities.” Moniz said, “We will be able to move forward in a generic way … building this consent-based process. … But we cannot execute in the end without new authority.”
Yucca Mountain Supporters Introduce Nuclear Waste Measure. The Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal (3/26, Theobald) reports that Freshman Nevada Rep. Cresent Hardy “may have kicked off this latest round” concerning the “sticky problem of nuclear waste disposal.” Hardy’s open letter Sunday called for an “honest conversation” about the “pros and cons of storing waste at Yucca Mountain” and this week the issue “received additional attention…with the introduction of bipartisan legislation in the Senate that outlines a plan for disposing of spent nuclear fuel and military waste, and a speech by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz describing a shift in the Obama administration’s approach to the issue.” Proponents of the Yucca Mountain site including: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Lamar Alexander (R-TN); and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), introduced the Nuclear Waste Administration Act Tuesday that would “create an independent agency to manage the country’s nuclear waste program, taking that duty away from the Energy Department.” The “agency’s administrator would be appointed by the president and subject to Senate confirmation.”
Cresent’s Op-Ed On Yucca Stirs Up Old Debate On Yucca Mountain. The Las Vegas Sun (3/25, Phillips) reports that Rep. Cresent Hardy’s op-ed “has all sides digging in their heels.” Nevada’s “Democratic leaders and ardent Yucca opponents responded predictably” with Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Dina Titus, criticizing Hardy’s call for “dialogue on storing the nation’s nuclear waste” at Yucca Mountain as “irresponsible.” Hardy’s commentary Sunday “is consistent with what he’s said since he was elected in November to represent North Las Vegas and central, rural Nevada.” His views have also “aligned with those of Rep. Mark Amodei…who told the Mesquite News in February that state leaders shouldn’t just scream ‘no’ on Yucca.”
Cal Poly Pomona Students Install Solar Panels At Low-Income Homes.
USA Today (3/26) reports that a group of 30 California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, students are spending spring break “installing solar panels at three low-income homes” this week, working with the nonprofit GRID Alternatives, which “helps homeowners go solar free of charge and trains students hoping to break into the solar industry.” The article quotes electrical and electronics engineering student Gregory Lynch saying, “We at Cal Poly Pomona are proud to represent our interests in helping the less fortunate with our skills and knowledge in engineering.”
NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium Awards Scholarships.
The Coeur d’Alene (ID) Press (3/26) reports the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium awarded $5,000 scholarships to 12 North Idaho College students so they can “pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” To qualify for all of the money, “the students will participate in STEM-related activities” through next year.
BLS Study Shows College Degree Doesn’t Guarantee Short Unemployment Period.
Bloomberg News (3/25) reports that while a college degree is “a clear plus” in the job market, with college graduates far less likely to be unemployed than high school dropouts, according to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis, “once you’re out of work, being better educated barely seems to improve your chances” of finding new work quickly. The piece reports that 37.7% of unemployed college graduates were out of work for 27 weeks or more, compared with 38.3% of high school dropouts.
NACAC Report Stresses Importance Of High School Counselors’ Role In College Transition.
Caralee Adams writes at the Education Week (3/26) “College Bound” blog that a new report from researchers with the National Association for College Admission Counseling “confirms that school counselors are critical to helping students transition from high school to college and career,” but points out that they often lack sufficient time to successfully complete this mission. Adams writes that the report, titled “A National Look at the High School Counseling Office,” stresses “the value of counseling services but points to a mismatch in administrator expectations and actual time granted for college counseling.”
Growth In Online College Enrollment Stagnates.
The AP (3/26, Balatsos) reports that for years, the online college sector has been growing steadily, but growth has tapered significantly in recent years. The AP reports that a pair of researchers with Babson College’s Babson Survey Research Group found that in 2012, the sector’s growth rate fell from an average of 9.7% to “a 10-year low,” and now has “stopped altogether.”
Research and Development
ANL Scientist Says That In The Future Homes May Be Engineered To Keep Pathogens Out.
In a piece about the indoor biome, “The Learning Network” blog of the New York Times (3/26, Cutraro) reports Argonne National Laboratory research scientist Jack Gilbert “says that in the future, it might be possible to design and engineer homes to keep out pathogens.”
Facebook Working Hard To Develop Artificial Intelligence Software.
The International Business Times (3/25, Nordrum) reports Yann LeCun, “head of Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Research lab, spoke Tuesday about how Facebook originally built the tools that currently handle the site’s many photos and how his team plans to expand on that proficiency to build the next generation of artificial-intelligence software.” LeCun and his 40-member team are “in a race against other major technological companies, including Google, to create the fastest and most sophisticated systems not only for facial recognition but also for a whole suite of products built on the tenets of artificial intelligence.”
Alcoa To Receive Loan From DOE Fuel-Efficient Vehicle Loan Program.
Bloomberg News (3/26, Plungis) reports the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program has “resumed lending after a four-year hiatus to retool the lending project’s focus.” Under the program, “Alcoa Inc. has been approved for a $259 million loan…to upgrade a factory making high-strength aluminum that can improve automobile gas mileage.” Executive director of the Energy Department’s loan program office Peter Davidson said, “The ATVM program is back in business.” The loan is slated to be announced today.
In an interview with the Detroit News (3/25, Shepardson), Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the agency has been in “very, very active early-stage discussions with potential applicants.” He indicated that “more loans may be forthcoming, declining to say how many current applicants the program is reviewing.” Moniz said, “I think we’re on the right track,” adding that the program “is running on all cylinders. … We are going to be very aggressive in terms of good projects — we’re going to try to move them out.”
The Wall Street Journal (3/26, Ramsey, Subscription Publication) also provides coverage of this story.
Engineering and Public Policy
High Court Appears Split On EPA Pollution Rules.
McClatchy (3/26, Doyle, Subscription Publication) predicts “some environmental protections could face a hazier future after a Supreme Court argument Wednesday in an important clean-air case that’s already divided states and leading energy companies.” Justices appeared “split over whether the Environmental Protection Agency must take cost into account in deciding to regulate mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants,” with “all smoke signs” suggesting “an eventual 5-4 decision, though it’s unclear in which direction it will blow.” The New York Times (3/26, Liptak, Subscription Publication) similarly describes the court as “closely divided over the fate of one of the Obama administration’s most ambitious environmental initiatives,” while Reuters (3/26, Hurley) indicates the five conservative justices, including Anthony Kennedy, appeared skeptical of the rules. The Wall Street Journal (3/26, Kendall, Subscription Publication) casts Kennedy as the key vote, but does not characterize his position during yesterday’s arguments.
WSJournal Criticizes Justice Breyer’s Defense Of EPA Mercury Rule. The Wall Street Journal (3/26, Subscription Publication) editorializes on yesterday’s oral arguments, arguing that the rule is part of an EPA effort to close coal-fired power plants. The Journal focuses on the EPA’s disregard for the cost of complying with the rule, despite the law’s apparent requirement that it do so, and criticizes an argument proposed by Justice Stephen Breyer that the EPA could take costs into account in implementing the rule. The Journal thinks this is unlikely and argues that the Court should strike down the rule in order to make the EPA adhere to the requirements of the act.
Fossil Fuel And Nuclear Power Said To Be Needed As ‘Hot Backups’.
Readers of the Los Angeles Times (3/26) react to an earlier op-ed . A former Los Angeles Department of Water and Power engineer writes, “politicians and environmentalists seem to ignore the fact that wind and solar sources are unreliable” because both are not “dispatchable” and so require nuclear and fossil fuel plants be “retained as ‘hot backup’ to wind and solar.”
AEA President Urges Congress To Eliminate Renewable-Fuel Standard.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (3/26, Subscription Publication), Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, makes a case against the renewable-fuel standard, calling it corporate welfare for ethanol producers and arguing that it increases food and fuel prices. Noting that most of the potential Republican presidential candidates have voiced support for the RFS, Pyle calls on Congress to eliminate it.
California District Adds Classes On STEAM Subjects For Third- To Sixth-Grade Students.
The San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune (3/25, Lambert) reports that San Luis Coastal Unified School District in California has added 12 five-week classes on STEAM subjects into its curriculum for third- through sixth-grade students. The classes include math, science and engineering as well as painting, movie making and theater and have been seen as successes to date.
Kansas City Science Fair Award Winners Listed.
The Kansas City (MO) Star (3/26) presented a list of all students that received awards at the greater Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair.
Girl Scout Inventors Meet With Obama.
The Huffington Post (3/26, Keady) reports that the “adorable” six-year old girl scouts that created a page-turning robot met with President Obama, who talked with them about their invention. Troop leader Suzanne Dodson said girls often “lose confidence” in their abilities in STEM subjects in middle school and that having positive experiences at a young age gives girls “a confidence boost.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Supreme Court To Hear Challenge To Mercury Regulations Wednesday.
Leading the News
Supreme Court To Hear Challenge To Mercury Regulations Wednesday.
Reuters (3/25, Hurley) reports that on Wednesday, the US Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Administration’s regulations intended to limit emissions of mercury and other pollutants, mainly from coal-fired power plants. After an appeals court upheld the regulations last summer, industry groups and some state governments appealed to the Supreme Court. The case will examine whether the EPA should have considered compliance costs when designing the regulations.
USA Today (3/25, Wolf) describes the regulations as being able to “could save thousands of lives each year” but at the “cost billions of dollars.” The challenge is the “latest in a series of environmental cases to come before the court,” and while the court’s “conservative majority has tread lightly on President Obama’s initiatives,” a “bigger showdown over ozone regulations could be yet to come.”
In an editorial, the Washington Post (3/25) says that to overturn the regulations, those challenging them “must convince the court that the agency was wholly unreasonable in the way it interpreted the Clean Air Act’s command to regulate hazardous air pollution when ‘appropriate,’” and that’s a “high legal hurdle” which the challengers “aren’t anywhere close” to clearing.
Rise In Foreign Student Population At US Universities Discussed.
The Wall Street Journal (3/25, Jordan, Subscription Publication) says that an unprecedented number of foreign students are enrolling in American universities, due to increasing affluence in China, generous scholarships from Gulf states, and aggressive recruitment from cash-strapped public universities. A DHS report to be released Wednesday is cited saying that 1.13 million international students are in the US, overwhelmingly in college-degree programs; the number is 14 percent higher than last year and 50 percent more than in 2010. The article says that a backlash is occurring in some states due to the perception that international and out-of-state students displace in-state residents at public universities, with the University of California and Iowa systems announcing caps.
UVA Board Approves 11% Tuition Hike, More Aid To Needy Students.
The Washington Post (3/24, Anderson) reports that the University of Virginia Board of Visitors has approved an 11% increase in tuition and fees for next fall, “one of the highest tuition-and-fee increases in the nation.” However, the plan includes a reduction in needy students’ debt burden. In-state tuition will increase from $12,998 to $14,468. The Post describes the plan as a “bold trade-off” in which wealthier students “will pay a higher sticker price, while those who are in need will have to borrow less than previously required” after receiving “larger grants.”
NSF Gives New York School $600,000 STEM Scholarship Grant.
The Potsdam (NY) North Country Now (3/25) reports that the National Science Foundation has given New York’s St. Lawrence University a $618,524 grant “to create a liberal arts science scholars program that will assist underrepresented groups pursue STEM-related majors and careers.” The school’s Liberal Arts Science Scholars Program “will offer scholarships to 20 underrepresented students in STEM field who will major in mathematics, geology, chemistry, computer science, physics or a non-clinical track of biology.”
Recommendations Can Help Community College STEM Students.
US News & World Report (3/24, Boyington) reports that according to NCES data, most community college STEM majors never earn their degrees, despite community colleges being good “starting points” for STEM students. The piece cites a Hanover Research report listing a number of obstacles that hinder the progress of many such students, and offers a number of recommendations by which students seeking “the benefits of community college and a STEM career can set themselves up for success.” Such steps include sharpening math skills, finding mentors, and utilizing colleges’ STEM resources beyond the classroom.
Research and Development
Researchers Develop Sidewinding S&R Robot.
The Engineer (3/25) reports that researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the Georgia Institute of Technology were inspired by sidewinder snakes to develop “a robot designed for entering dangerous environments.” The researchers studied the snakes “to work out how to make their robot take rapid and sharp turns as it moved.” The article reports that snakes are “a popular model for robot builders,” noting that researchers are exploring “how robotic reptiles might be used for dangerous and difficult tasks from decommissioning nuclear power stations to exploring Mars.”
University Of Akron Researcher Gets NIH Grant To Study Heart Healing Technology.
The Crain’s Cleveland Business (3/24) reports that University of Akron researcher Ge “Christie” Zhang, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, has received a $459,992 grant from the National Institutes of Health “to further research into a technology that could heal cardiac muscle that dies as the result of a heart attack.”
Alexander Says NIH And FDA Must Keep Pace With Today’s Cutting-Edge Scientific Advances.
The Chattanoogan (3/25) “Living Well” blog carries the text of Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) remarks during the second hearing considering the Senate Health Committee’s “bipartisan initiative to examine the process for getting medical products through discovery and development into medicine cabinets.” He noted that at the last meeting, the committee “heard from Dr. Collins, the head of” the NIH, and FDA Commissioner Dr. Hamburg, who “provided insights into what” the agencies “have been doing to try to improve the discovery, research and development, and regulatory processes from the government perspective.” The purpose of the second meeting, Alexander said, “is to hear from the researchers and innovators that interact with” the agencies “and can tell us how this is working and about potential solutions.” While he concedes that the agencies face “big challenges,” he says that “the NIH and FDA must keep pace with today’s cutting-edge scientific advances.”
Jenkins Sees Tesla Eventually Being Bought By Traditional Auto Company.
In his column for the Wall Street Journal (3/25, Subscription Publication), Holman W. Jenkins Jr. argues that Tesla, despite claims to the contrary, is not a disruptive company, as it doesn’t significantly change the automotive experience. He says that eventually, Tesla, which loses money, may have to sell out to a larger car company that needs the brand name to sell electric vehicles, as demanded by the President’s fuel economy rules.
Engineering and Public Policy
First Research Wind Turbines To Be Placed Off Virginia Coast.
The AP (3/24) reports that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a lease to Dominion Virginia Power for two 500-foot research wind turbines 25 miles off the coast from Virginia Beach. The turbines will collect data used to determine the wind power potential of the open sea site and both and are expected to be operational in 2017.
Bipartisan Cybersecurity Bill Introduced In House.
Reuters (3/25, Zengerle) reports that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on Tuesday introduced new legislation on Tuesday designed to encourage companies to share information about cybersecurity threats with the government without fear of lawsuits. The Protecting Cyber Networks Act has bipartisan backing, and Reuters says that it has a good chance of passing the House.
McClatchy (3/25, Doyle, Subscription Publication) reports that that House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes and Ranking Member Adam Schiff approach their jobs differently. Nunes avoids the spotlight, while Schiff regularly appears on the Sunday shows. Still, the piece notes their ability to work together despite their differing approach to the job, on issues such as the cybersecurity bill.
Students’ Hydrofuge To Be Tested On ISS.
KCNC-TV Denver (3/23) reports on its website that students in the Principles of Engineering class for Warren Tech students at Lakewood, Colorado High School will send their experimental hydrofuge to the ISS through the High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware program. The agency challenged students to find a way to grow things without gravity; the device removed water from roots so they don’t smother in zero gravity.
Maryland County Curriculum Supplement Melds Science, Math, And Reading.
The Baltimore Sun (3/25, Perl) reports that a new curriculum supplement based on the launch of bottle rockets is being implemented in seven public Baltimore County, Maryland schools as a way to combine science, engineering, math and reading skills. The exercise is meant to teach children about forces such as gravity and drag.
New Jersey District Launches STEM Academy.
The New Jersey Local News (3/25, Rojas) reports that Hopewell Valley Regional School District in New Jersey has launched its new STEM Academy, a magnet program designed to combine math and science with “collaborative, hands-on learning” to boost critical thinking and creativity. The program was under development for two years prior to launch and will continue to expand to middle and high schools.
Blacks, Latinos Underrepresented In STEM Careers.
The Huffington Post (3/24, Howard) reports that despite growing as a proportion of the population, African-Americans and Latinos have not become more prevalent in STEM careers since 2001. The Post interviews Rodney Williams and André Walters, two Black innovators, who argue that diversity brings different perspectives and ideas that help boost organizations, that minorities can help drive usage of technology, and that success often comes from the speed of adaptation.
Robot Races Could Pull Students Towards STEM Fields.
Reuters (3/24, Malone) reports that robot races and competitions are emerging across the US, which can help drive students towards STEM fields. Competitions also generate ideas that have the potential to become inventions, and inventions as prominent as Google’s self-driving cars have arisen from similar challenges.
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• At White House Science Fair, Obama Announces New STEM Commitments.
|Springer and Université Joseph Fourier release new, open source software to discover fake scientific papers|
STM publisher Springer has announced the release of SciDetect, a new software program that automatically checks for fake scientific papers. This is the result of an intensive collaboration with Dr. Cyril Labbé from Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France. The open source software discovers text that has been generated with the SCIgen computer program and other fake-paper generators like Mathgen and Physgen.
|Elsevier announces second edition of Handbook of Toxicology of Chemical Warfare Agents, publishes three additional Toxicology book titles|
STM publisher Elsevier has announced the second edition of its highly respected Handbook of Toxicology of Chemical Warfare Agents. Elsevier is introducing this essential reference – which addresses important aspects of deadly toxic chemicals used in conflicts, warfare and terrorism – along with three other new toxicology books at ToxExpo 2015.
|The National Science Library of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and IOP Publishing sign new MoU to support OA publications|
The National Science Library of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NSCL) and non-profit scientific publisher IOP Publishing (IOP) have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding to support open access publications for Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) researchers. The Memorandum indicates the commitment of both organisations to work together to create sustainable open access options for the future.
|Oklahoma Panhandle State University selects EBSCO Discovery Service|
EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO) has announced that the Oklahoma Panhandle State University has selected EBSCO Discovery ServiceTM (EDS) as its library discovery tool. The university chose EDS to increase resource usage and improve library visibility at its Marvin E. McKee Library.
|CCC’s Get It Now academic solution now integrated with OCLC’s WorldShare Interlibrary Loan service|
Global licensing and content solutions organisation Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. (CCC) has announced that its Get It Now academic solution is now integrated with OCLC’s WorldShare Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service, which claims to be the largest ILL network in the world. This integration with OCLC is based on the librarian-mediated version of Get It Now and supports payment of Get It Now article purchases through OCLC’s Interlibrary Loan Fee Management service.
|Gale announces integration of Gale Artemis: Primary Sources into Cengage Learning’s MindTap e-learning platform|
Leveraging its unique ability to bridge from the library to the classroom, Gale is integrating Gale Artemis: Primary Sources into Cengage Learning’s MindTap e-learning platform. The move brings library content directly into a student’s learning path, facilitates collaboration between librarians and faculty, drives usage of library collections and positions the library closer to the engagement taking place in the classroom.
|Four Kentucky university libraries select OCLC WorldShare Management Services|
OCLC, the non-profit computer library service and research organisation, has announced that Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky State University, Northern Kentucky University and the University of Louisville have selected OCLC WorldShare Management Services as their library management system. WorldShare Management Services (WMS) provide cloud-based library management and discovery applications in an integrated suite.
|Covington County Library System signs seven-year agreement with SirsiDynix|
SirsiDynix has announced that Covington County Library System (CCLS), a three-member system in Mississippi, has signed a seven-year agreement with SirsiDynix. In addition to selecting the Symphony Integrated Library System, CCLS has also selected Enterprise, eResource Central (eRC), and SMS Notifications.
Leading the News
At White House Science Fair, Obama Announces New STEM Commitments.
The New York Times (3/23, Shear, Subscription Publication)describes the President as awed by the accomplishments of the children who presented their inventions at the White House Science Fair, and notes that in brief remarks he announced “$240 million in new commitments from the government and private businesses to help children succeed in science, technology and math,” part of an initiative known as STEM. However, adds the Times, “it was clear that” for Obama, “the best part of the day was spending time with the young inventors.” In a brief report, NBC Nightly News (3/23, story 10, 0:20, Holt) said “Obama appeared to be quite impressed by a group of cape-wearing girl scouts from Tulsa, OK,” who showed him “the page-turning robot they built out of Legos designed to help the disabled. Pretty neat stuff.”
The AP (3/24, Kuhnhenn), meanwhile, notes that “the pledges the president announced include a $150 million philanthropic effort to encourage promising early-career scientists to stay on track and a $90 million campaign to expand STEM opportunities to underrepresented youth, such as minorities and girls.” Said Obama, “It’s not enough for our country just to be proud of you. We’ve got to support you.”
USA Today (3/23, Jackson, Today) reports that Obama hailed “up to $240 million in private sector pledges for” STEM education, describing his interactions with the participants.
Other media outlets that covered this story include the Huffington Post (3/24, Bondioli), the Christian Science Monitor (3/23), the New York Daily News (3/23, Friedman), US News & World Report (3/23), TIME (3/24), and the Arizona Republic (3/23).
NAE Announces Plan To Graduate 20,000 “Grand Challenge Engineers.” The National Academy of Engineering has announced that “more than 120 US engineering schools” presented President Obama with a letter of commitment at the White House Science Fair announcing “plans to educate a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century.” The piece explains that these “Grand Challenges” involve “complex yet critical goals such as engineering better medicines, making solar energy cost-competitive with coal, securing cyberspace, and advancing personalized learning tools to deliver better education to more individuals.” Each school pledged to graduate at least 20 students every year “specially prepared to lead the way in solving such large-scale problems, with the goal of training more than 20,000 formally recognized ‘Grand Challenge Engineers’ over the next decade.”
California State Legislator Advocates New, Science-Based UC.
State Rep. Mike Gatto writes an op-ed to the Los Angeles Times (3/23, Gatto) to counter a previous blog post from the Times’ Karin Klein. Gatto argues that elite UCs are at maximum capacity and will experience growing pressure that could be handled with increased capacity stemming from a new UC that focused on STEAM subjects, “practical subject areas that generate the best-paying jobs.” He notes that many high-merit students are rejected from UCs and often leave the state, which poses a long-term problem, and that students currently at UCs find themselves in a high-cost environment that did not allow ample interaction with professors. While he admits that there are short-term challenges that must be addressed, he notes that California is expected to grow, and the state’s “educational superiority” has always depended on planning for “long-term higher-educational needs.”
Research and Development
Researchers Make Strides In Metamaterial Applications.
The New York Times (3/24, Markoff, Subscription Publication) reports on advances researchers have made in recent years about the science of metamaterials, noting that they are “generating innovations in an array of fields, including radio antennas, radar, cosmetics, soundproofing and walls that help protect against earthquakes and tsunamis.” The piece explains that such materials are “constructed with subcomponents that are smaller than the wavelength of the type of radiation they are designed to manipulate.” Moreover, there are “obvious markets for the technology in automotive safety and self-driving cars.”
Rochester Institute Of Technology Emerges As Drone Research Leader.
The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (3/19) reports that Rochester Institute of Technology, long seen as a leader in aerial and satellite imaging, “has now emerged as one of the world’s leading centers for research on drones, small unmanned aircraft.” The head of the school’s Center for Imaging Science, David Messinger, “says he gets calls almost every week from companies seeking this expertise, and graduating students are in extraordinarily high demand.” The piece notes that graduates from the school’s Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Lab are “highly sought after by government and industry alike.”
Ohio State Researchers Bend Sound, Manipulate Temperature With Magnetic Fields.
The Columbus (OH) Dispatch (3/23) reports on research published by two Ohio State University researchers in the journal Nature Materials describing “how to bend sound and adjust temperature using magnetic fields.” The article reports that the university says the “researchers are the first to prove that tiny particles of heat and sound are magnetic,” meaning that these acoustic phonons “can be controlled by magnetic fields.”
Northwest University Researchers Working On Underwater Router.
The Boston Herald (3/24) reports that Northwest University researcher Tommaso Melodia is working on “the first underwater smartphone or wireless router,” noting that the school lured the “highly cited researcher who is pioneering subaquatic Wi-Fi” from SUNY Buffalo. The piece notes that the National Science Foundation has given Melodia a $300,000 grant “to expand his research, this time focusing on the possibility of real-time underwater video streaming.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Georgia Legislature Advances Ban On LEED Construction In State Buildings.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (3/24) reports that that a Georgia state Senate committee on Monday passed legislation under which “state buildings would be effectively banned from using environmentally friendly construction standards known as LEED certification,” noting that the state timber industry has attacked the certification standards as discriminatory “against the use of local wood products that aren’t registered through the Forest Stewardship Council.”
New Fracking Rules Discussed.
Scientific American (3/23, Lustgarten) reports, “The new rules announced Friday by the Obama administration governing how energy companies frack for oil and gas on federal lands managed to anger environmentalists and the industry alike, but represent a significant step toward protecting drinking water resources in some of the most heavily drilled parts of the country.” “Many of the regulations on the books at the Interior Department have not kept pace with advances in technology and modern drilling methods,” said Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior and a former petroleum engineer, in her statement announcing the new policy. “Our decades-old regulations do not contemplate current techniques in which hydraulic fracturing is increasingly complex.” “The bottom line is: these rules fail to protect the nation’s public lands—home to our last wild places, and sources of drinking water for millions of people—from the risks of fracking,” said Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Bloomberg News (3/23) reported an interview with Bloomberg’s Rob Barnett, examining how new fracking rules will impact the drilling industry. He says the government is the biggest landowner in the US and describes the difference between state and Federal regulations regarding fracking.
Obama Touts Internet Access Gains, Creates Broadband Opportunity Council.
The Washington Times (3/24, Wolfgang) reports that during his remarks at the White House Science Fair, President Obama said “98 percent of Americans now have access to fourth-generation mobile broadband,” a goal he had previously laid out to be “accomplished by the time he left office in 2017.” Said the President yesterday, “I can announce that we have achieved that goal and we did it ahead of schedule.” Also yesterday, Obama “signed a presidential memorandum to create the first Broadband Opportunity Council, tasked with extending broadband access and increasing competition.”
The Des Moines (IA) Register (3/24, Doering) notes that Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Commerce Secretary Pritzker will jointly chair the Council. As part of the initiative, USDA will award “a portion of $35 million in federal loan money to improve broadband infrastructure” to firms in Iowa, Arkansas and New Mexico. Vilsack said, “These telecommunications providers will deliver enhanced broadband services to help attract and grow businesses, as well as to improve educational and health care services. … Time and again, studies show that affordable broadband offers increased economic opportunities in rural areas.”
Broadband Providers Sue FCC Over Net Neutrality Regulations.
The Los Angeles Times (3/24, Puzzanghera) reports “an expected lengthy court fight” over new net neutrality regulations began with broadband providers alleging in lawsuits against the Federal Communications Commission that rules are “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.” Meanwhile, an FCC spokesperson said the lawsuits “are premature and subject to dismissal.”
EPA’s Power Plant Mercury Emissions Regulations Criticized.
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (3/24, Subscription Publication), Brian Potts, a partner at the international law firm Foley & Lardner LLP, criticizes the EPA’s regulation of mercury emissions from power plants. The regulations are now being considered by the Supreme Court. Potts argues that the EPA admits that the regulations wouldn’t greatly affect US mercury deposition, and suggests that the agency’s assumptions in calculating the harm from the pollution are ridiculous. He concludes that economic losses due to the children hurt by mercury are outweighed by the costs of complying with the rules.
HUNCH School Shows Off Work To Congresswoman.
The Macomb (MI) Daily (3/23, Fahr) reports that earlier this month, US Rep. Candice Miller saw what Romeo Engineering and Technology Center students created as part of the High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program under the supervision of Glenn Research Center employees. Glenn Aerospace Engineer Nancy Hall said, “The skills they are learning to build parts are the same skills NASA uses when we are building components for the International Space Station.”
Children Design “Adorable” UAVs As Part Of “Cuddly Drone” Program.
Popular Science (3/23, Kratochwill) reported that at South by Southwest, the Netherlands’ Setup media lab promoted its “Cuddly Drones” program, where children learn “about drone engineering and surveillance concerns.” The children also design their own “adorable” UAVs, some of which were displayed at the festival. While all could fly, the article noted that it may be “a few years” before they could actually take part in their intended purposes.
Immersive High-Skill And Tech Programs Gaining Ground In Schools.
USA Today (3/24, Webster) reports that combining “rigorous college preparation with hands-on learning” through direct immersion in a field is an increasingly popular way to reverse drop out rates, get top students experience before they choose a career, and keep students engaged. Proponents argue that this can cut the costs of college, where most students do not graduate on time as they try out different careers. USA Today reports through its own findings that STEM and high-skill blue-collar jobs will account for most new “livable wage” jobs until 2017, which will require “some form of post secondary education, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan notes it is critical for high schoolers to graduate prepared, and that students that drop out of high school are “basically condemned to poverty and social failure.” Schools are pairing with technology companies through programs like IBM’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School and applying for Federal grants to overhaul their systems.
Ten New CTE Programs To Be Awarded In New York This Fall.
The Chalkbeat New York (3/23, Snyder) reports that a new program will expand or found career and technical education (CTE) programs in 10 high schools in New York in the fall, which will focus on “mastery-based learning programs,” which measure development based on skills and completion of projects rather than attendance alone. Schools with one of New York’s more than 300 ongoing CTE programs or without a program may apply, with new programs awarded on need, desire, and qualifications. Similar programs have focused on technology or in-demand careers like healthcare.
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Administration Announces New Fracking Rules.
|Oman’s Ministry of Health selects Elsevier’s ClinicalKey|
|STM publisher Elsevier has announced that ClinicalKey, an electronic medical reference, will be utilised in 47 secondary and tertiary hospitals, 22 extended healthcare centers, and 170 primary healthcare centers in Oman. More than 10,000 health professionals in Oman will have access to ClinicalKey.
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|Jisc selects ProQuest to provide ebooks to UK Further Education colleges|
|ProQuest has been chosen by Jisc to continue to provide key ebooks to Further Education (FE) Institutions across the UK. The new agreement runs through 2016 and enables more than 400 colleges across the UK to access more than 400 key ebooks at no cost via ProQuest’s ebrary platform.
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|Penn State librarians approve OA policy for scholarly work|
|Penn State University Libraries faculty recently voted to embrace open access principles when publishing their scholarly articles. The Open Access Policy, passed into legislation at the February 11, 2015, Library Faculty Organization meeting, preserves the right of library faculty to publish where they wish, but encourages authors to take advantage of open access opportunities whenever feasible.
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|Blackboard completes acquisition of Schoolwires|
|Education technology company Blackboard Inc. has announced that it has finalized its acquisition of Schoolwires, one of the leading educational website, hosting and content management providers to K-12 schools and districts. With the close of this acquisition, Blackboard continues to demonstrate its commitment to be the leading K-12 provider of school websites and parent notification solutions.
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|United for Libraries now accepting applications for Baker & Taylor Awards|
|United for Libraries is accepting applications for the Baker & Taylor Awards, given to friends of the library groups and library foundations. Applications are due May 1, 2015. Given annually since 2000, the Baker & Taylor Awards have recognised more than 40 groups for outstanding efforts to support their library. Two winning groups will each receive $1,000.
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Leading the News
Administration Announces New Fracking Rules.
Media reporting of the Administration’s announcement on Friday of new regulations on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was straightforward and provided little depth. The coverage notes that the move received the anticipated reactions from the oil industry and environmentalists. Although the broadcast networks did not provide any coverage of the announcement, the major dailies all provided reporting on the story, but provided little depth and analysis. Reporting noted that the rules only apply to Federal land, diminishing its impact, and the industry immediately filed a lawsuit to begin its fight against the new regulations.
In what the Washington Post (3/21, Warrick) calls the Administration’s “most significant effort to tighten standards for hydraulic fracturing,” it announced Friday, according to the AP (3/21, Daly, Lederman) that “it is requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations,” otherwise known as fracking. The new rule “to take effect in June also updates requirements for well construction and disposal of water and other fluids” used fracking.
McClatchy (3/20, Cockerham, Subscription Publication) reports Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters that “Many of the regulations on the books today haven’t kept pace with advances in technology.” Jewell added that “many” of the current rules were in place “when I was working on drilling and fracking operations in Oklahoma over 30 years ago.”
Jewell “credited fracking with helping reduce” US “dependence on foreign oil to its lowest level in 30 years,” according to the Los Angeles Times (3/21, Susman) reports, but “said public worries mandated tighter regulation.” According to Jewell, “There is a lot of fear. There’s a lot of public concern, particularly about the safety of groundwater.”
The New York Times (3/21, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports the “vast majority of fracking” in the US is done “on private or state-owned land,” and Jewell noted that while the new rules do not apply to those efforts. Jewell said for many states, “these may be the only regulations they have,” adding that efforts to address the state or private land “must now be taken up in statehouses and boardrooms across the country.”
Bloomberg News (3/21, Harris) reports the oil industry “attacked” the new fracking regulations, and according to The Hill (3/21, Cama), “wasted little time” in responding with a lawsuit. The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance filed the complaint “less than an hour after” the Interior Department announced the new rules. The lawsuit “accuses federal regulators of promulgating ‘a reaction to unsubstantiated concerns’” that is not based on evidence.
The Washington Times (3/21, Richardson) reports Republicans were also “outraged, accusing” the Administration of “once again making it more difficult to develop Western energy resources of public land.” Sen. Steve Daines said statues such has his home state of Montana “have successfully overseen hydraulic fracturing for years” but the Administration “seems more set on overregulating…than promoting the responsible development of our nation’s vast energy resources.”
Reuters (3/21, Volcovici) reports Jewell indicated the new rules will benefit both the public and the drilling companies. Jewell said the regulations “will move our nation forward as we ensure responsible development while protecting public land resources,” adding it “is good for the public and good for industry.”
While environmental groups predictably “complimented the new rules,” according to USA Today (3/21, Jackson, Today), “some said the administration should simply ban the practice.” Dan Chu, the senior director for the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign, said the new steps “represent important progress;” however, “the only true way to protect communities from fracking is to not frack at all.” The Wall Street Journal (3/21, Harder, Gilbert, Subscription Publication) reports environmental groups were also concerned that the mandatory public disclosures will be done through an industry website called FraFocus. The groups wanted the Interior Department to receive the disclosures directly from companies.
Environmentalists Criticize Fracking Rules. The Washington Times (3/23, Richardson) reports that Friday’s announcement of new fracking regulations from the Department of the Interior “met with a chilly reception from fracking foes,” who had sought a complete ban of hydraulic fracturing on Federal land. A coalition on environmental groups called Americans Against Fracking said in a statement that the rules were “toothless,” and that the Obama Administration “has devised fracking regulations that are nothing more than a giveaway to the oil and gas industry.”
WPost Supports Interior’s New Fracking Regulations. In an editorial, the Washington Post (3/23) comments on the Administration’s newly finalized rules for fracking on public lands, commending the Interior Department for choosing “the sensible place in the debate,” rather than siding with fracking’s strongest supporters or opponents. The Post examines the concerns of both environmentalists and the energy industry, saying that unlike them, “the Obama administration is getting the balance right on fracking.”
University Of Illinois Launches College Of Medicine With Engineering Focus.
USA Today (3/22, Castillo) reports on the decision by the University of Illinois to start “the nation’s first college of medicine, which will have an integration in both engineering and medicine.” It is the first new college established at the university in “almost 60 years.” The university is partnering with Carle Health System in developing the college. The college will offer MD-MS degrees as well as MD-PhD degrees. It is hoping to produce “physician scientists, physician engineers and physician entrepreneurs.” The College of Medicine at the university “will be entirely dependent on tuition, clinical revenue, philanthropy, grants and contracts,” and will receive no state funding. A Harvard-MIT program in Health Sciences and Technology “trains physician-scientists who want to have a research component to their career.”
Obama Weighs In On Debate Over Amateurism In College Sports.
In an interview on Friday with the Huffington Post (3/21, Jamieson), President Obama weighed in on the controversy surrounding “amateurism in college sports,” claiming that “universities bear ‘more responsibilities than right now they’re showing’ toward their athletes and that the NCAA should require schools to guarantee athletic scholarships with no strings attached.” Obama “stopped short” of arguing in favor of the right of collegiate athletes to be paid or to unionize.
The AP (3/23, Superville) reports that Obama told the Huffington Post that paying college athletes “would ‘ruin the sense of college sports,’” and expressed frustration that coaches, athletic directors, and the NCAA all make “huge amounts of money” while athletes face harsh restrictions.
Colleges Increasingly Providing “Safe Spaces” To Protect Students From Emotional Trauma.
The New York Times (3/22, Shulevitz, Subscription Publication) reports that when a member of Brown University’s Sexual Assault Task Force learned last fall about a debate about campus sexual assault at which one party was considered likely to “criticize the term ‘rape culture,’” she helped to organize a competing presentation “to provide ‘research and facts’ about ‘the role of culture in sexual assault.’” Simultaneously, student volunteers organized a “safe space” during the event, “intended to give people who might find comments ‘troubling’ or ‘triggering,’ a place to recuperate.” Such facilities are part of an “increasingly prevalent” opinion among students that schools “should keep them from being ‘bombarded’ by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints.”
Sweet Briar Alumnae Seek To Keep School Open.
The New York Times (3/23, Stolberg, Subscription Publication) reports on the reaction of the Sweet Briar College community of students, alumnae, parents, and faculty to the decision of the board to close the college as of the end of the school year, describing “a hotbed of anger and activism.” A newly founded group, Saving Sweet Briar, “has raised $3 million and intends to demand this week that the school make its finances public — or face legal action.” The faculty held a unanimous vote rejecting the board’s decision. The closing of the school is “playing out against a backdrop of wrenching changes for small liberal arts schools, especially those in rural areas, and women’s colleges,” in which over the last fifty years the number of women’s colleges in the US has declined from 230 to 46.
The Washington Post (3/21, Balingit) reports that alumnae are organizing in an effort to reverse the board’s decision. President James Jones has said the college “needs an immediate infusion of $250 million just to keep the school afloat.”
Study Finds Students Whose Parents Open College Savings Accounts Graduate With Less Student Loan Debt.
The Wall Street Journal (3/20, Mitchell) reports that college-savings accounts may be “a key tool for helping Americans afford college while avoiding student debt.” That’s according to research published in the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review finding that “having a college-savings account established by parents substantially lowered a student’s probability of taking on student debt.” The study controlled for income as well as other variables, and found that students whose parents had established college savings accounts “are about 39 percent less likely to have student loan debt,” while those who did graduate with debt “had $3,208.88 less student debt,” than those who did not have such accounts. The authors conclude that encouraging college savings accounts “could be an important piece of the response to the student debt problem.”
WPost Criticizes GOP Plan To Freeze Pell Grant.
The Washington Post (3/22, Board) criticizes the House GOP for targeting the Pell grant in the budget. The Post says it disagrees with the “pretext” that the “administration’s expansion of student assistance is expensive and ill-targeted.” The Post adds that the “proposal is a poor way to achieve cost savings or increase the efficiency of federal student aid.”
Research and Development
Engineering Students Build Device To Extinguish Fires With Sound Waves.
The Washington Post (3/22, Jackman) reports that two engineering students at George Mason University have developed a way to extinguish fires with sound waves from a bass frequency generator. Although the students have only put out fires started with rubbing alcohol, they plan to “continue to refine” the device. Since applying for a provisional patent last November, a local fire department has already asked the pair “to test their bass waves on a structure fire” as a way to potentially “replace the toxic and messy chemicals involved in fire extinguishers.”
Self-Driving Cars Making Progress, Start Cross-Country Road Test.
ABC World News (3/22, story 10, 2:05, Llamas) reported on an Audi SUV which is driving coast-to-coast “without a human driver, just an engineer behind the wheel, hands-free.” The trip from San Francisco to New York is described as a “critical road test for the self-driving car.” There is a brief interview with Matt Lewis, Systems Engineer at Delphi Labs, who says self-driving cars can pick up on cars entering their lanes “much faster than a human,” and the car is “set up to drive very conservatively.” Karl Bruaer, senior analyst at Kelly Blue Book is quoted as saying “we’re about five years away” from self driving cars, “and even then it will probably only be done under certain circumstances.”
US Research Satellites Examined.
Under the headline “Infoporn: America’s Science Space Armada, From Hubble to CubeSats,” Wired (3/19, Dobush) published a slide show of US research satellites. Accompanying text noted NASA recently launched the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, adding, “from the granddaddy Hubble telescope to itty-bitty cutie-pie CubeSats, the science space armada is shaping up to be a powerful force.”
Former Female Twitter Engineer Sues Over “Secretive,” Discriminatory Promotional System.
The San Francisco Chronicle (3/22) reports that Tina Huang, a former Twitter engineer, has sued the firm alleging that its “‘secretive’ promotional system favors men.” Huang’s class action lawsuit comes amid similar complaints against firms in and out of the tech sector.
TIME (3/22) reports that Huang has sued Twitter “for gender discrimination while two other high-profile sexism lawsuits unfold in Silicon Valley.” Huang said that Twitter’s “unfairly favors men” and that the firm “has no formal procedures for granting promotions, and instead relies on a ‘shoulder tap’ process that explains why few women are in high-level engineering positions.” The article notes that Facebook is facing a similar allegation.
Engineering and Public Policy
Quakes’ Effect On Infrastructure Examined.
The Dallas Morning News (3/20, Weiss) reported on the uncertainties accompanying the rise in tremors and quakes in Northern Texas. “We do not expect problems with our infrastructure during small-magnitude earthquake clusters, but our expectations are based on limited experience and subject to change,” said Ian Buckle, an engineering professor at the University of Nevada Reno. The article reports that in addition to potential cracks to structures, roads and bridges, there is a potential risk for water and sewer pipes and some were not designed with earthquakes in mind. “Are we worried? Of course we’re worried. … But nobody has seen any impact,” said Randy Payton, assistant director for the Dallas Water Utilities department. “Unofficially, water equipment in the quake zone is getting an extra eyeballing,” the article reports. “There could be a pipe out there somewhere that is so badly corroded or a slip joint that is just at the point of pulling out,” said Douglas Nyman, who specializes in controlling natural hazards to oil and gas pipelines. “An earthquake might be just enough to trigger a problem.”
Federal Government Examines Potential For Drone Terrorist Attacks.
CNN’s Situation Room (3/18) broadcast a segment on concerns in the Federal government that unmanned areal vehicles could be used to conduct terrorists attacks, reporting that witness described potential dangers at a Capitol Hill hearing.
EPA Emissions Rules Face Legal Challenges.
The Wall Street Journal (3/23, Kendall, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that while the Administration’s air pollution reduction initiatives have survived several court challenges, a new round of litigation could ultimately determine whether the most ambitious initiatives in that area will survive. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on Wednesday over EPA regulations that require power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other air pollutants, and next month, a Federal appeals court will consider a legal challenge to the EPA’s proposal to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Hill Republicans Use Manatee Protection In Bid To Slow Emissions Rules. The Washington Times (3/22, Wolfgang) reports that congressional Republicans “have rushed to the manatee’s defense” in an attempt “to slow new carbon emissions regulations, while the Obama administration is rejecting claims that its forthcoming rules on coal-fired power plants will pose a direct threat to the Florida habitat of the endangered bulbous marine mammals.” Republican lawmakers argue that the EPA “erred by not consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service in designing its so-called Clean Power Plan because the proposal almost surely will force the closure of coal-fired power plants and subsequently reduce the warm water Florida’s manatees need to survive during cold winter months.” The Times notes that warm-water discharge from the plant “becomes home to hundreds of manatees for a roughly six-month stretch each winter.”
Wyoming Resuming Review Of Science Standards.
The Wyoming Tribune Eagle (3/22, Curtis) reports that the Wyoming Board of Education is taking a “middle road” in revising the state’s science standards, a process that was suspended last year “when a budget footnote ended all financial support for the state to even consider the Next Generation Science Standards.” The footnote has since been removed in a recent legislative session, allowing the board to “get back to its job” of revising the science standards. Officials said that the new standards should allow students “more opportunities with hands-on science.”
Illinois Schools Expand Computer Science Offerings.
The AP (3/23, Coleman) reports that schools in Illinois are “pushing forward” with computer science programs, “capitalizing on a growing interest in computer science, which the US Bureau of Statistics predicts will be the fastest-growing industry in the country.” The AP notes that schools in several Illinois districts are offering computer science courses, including Advanced Placement Computer Science and Project Lead the Way, which has inspired graduates to pursue degrees in the field.
Students Compete In Colorado Mathcounts Competition.
The Denver Post (3/23, Gauldin) reports that 170 Colorado students from 60 schools gathered Saturday for the statewide Mathcounts competition. The four winners will represent Colorado in the national competition in May. Noelle Cochran, the Colorado state coordinator for Mathcounts, said that many of the students who participate go on to pursue careers in math and science.
FIRST Robotics Competition Held In New Hampshire.
The Seacoast Online (NH) (3/21, Weyers) reports that over 500 students from across New England competed in the 2015 District FIRST Robotics Competition, held Saturday at the University of New Hampshire. FIRST, an acronym for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” aims to promote STEM education among high school students. The winners of the regional competitions “advance to championships and then nationals where they are eligible for scholarship prizes.”
RPI Hosts Engineering Fair.
The AP (3/21) reports that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY hosted the 25th Annual Greater Capital Region Science and Engineering Fair over the weekend. Over 150 middle and high school students from more than 20 schools participated in the competition, which allows them to “showcase their research in science, technology, and engineering.”
White House Hosts 5th Science Fair.
NBC News (3/23, Boyle) reports that the 5th annual White House Science Fair will take place today. The fair is used to showcase a lineup of “serious innovations,” including smartphone apps, and highlight the Administration’s support of STEM education. This year, President Obama is set to announce a “fresh batch of STEM initiatives” that aim to inspire young people, “especially those from traditionally underrepresented groups,” to enter STEM fields.
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Clemson Researchers Awarded For Creating Robot that Trusts, Regrets.
|AMI Software and Elsevier in deal to integrate Scopus Data into AMI Enterprise Intelligence|
STM publisher Elsevier and market intelligence solutions provider AMI Software (AMI) have announced an agreement to provide AMI Software’s core product AMI Enterprise Intelligence (AMI EI) with access to data from Scopus. The AMI-Elsevier agreement allows AMI customers, with a subscription to Scopus, to import bibliographic records from Scopus, via an automated process, into AMI EI.
|EBSCO unveils Orbit, an online catalogue of EBSCO Discovery Service apps|
EBSCO OrbitTM, an online catalogue of apps that enhance the EBSCO discovery experience for library users, is now available from EBSCO Information Services. The self-service environment allows libraries to browse and request apps, and offers the opportunity to have EBSCO manage these apps. Orbit includes a collection of nearly 100 apps which will continue to expand.
|Cambridge University Press adopts OrgRef for improved data quality|
Academic publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP) has adopted the OrgRef dataset to help clean and de-duplicate its customer data. OrgRef is a free and open dataset which has been created by DataSalon for the benefit of the scholarly publishing community. OrgRef shares structured information about organisations from Wikipedia and other open resources, and aims to cover the most important academic and research organisations worldwide.
|Prof. Venki Ramakrishnan to succeed Sir Paul Nurse as next President of the Royal Society|
Professor Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, a Wellcome Trust Investigator, has been announced as the next President of the Royal Society. The Nobel Prize-winning structural biologist will take up the position in December 2015 when the current President, Sir Paul Nurse, steps down.
|Singapore Institute of Management goes live with Ex Libris Alma|
Library automation services provider Ex Libris Group has announced that the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) is live with the Ex Libris Alma library management solution. The first library in Singapore to adopt Alma, SIM expects the migration to serve as a transformative platform to realize the Library’s ‘Vision 2020′ milestones.
|ALCTS names Michael Levine-Clark as 2015 winner of HARRASSOWITZ Leadership in Library Acquisitions Award|
International booksellers and subscription agent HARRASSOWITZ has announced that the Acquisitions Section of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) has announced the 2015 Winner of the HARRASSOWITZ Leadership in Library Acquisitions Award. The ALCTS Award Jury has selected Michael Levine-Clark, Associate Dean for Scholarly Communication and Collections Services and Professor at the University of Denver, to receive the award for 2015.
Leading the News
Clemson Researchers Awarded For Creating Robot that Trusts, Regrets.
GSA Business (3/20) reports that Clemson University researcher Yue “Sophie” Wang has received a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program “for work she says is improving opportunities for humans and robots to collaborate in manufacturing.” Wang’s research focuses on “trust and regret while aiming to develop ‘control algorithms.’” Wang’s colleague Jacob Sorber also won the award for research that “enables low-cost, low-power sensors to gather data for long periods.”
WSPA-TV Greenville, SC (3/20) reports that Wang’s award is for “a robot coded to understand trust and regret,” while Sober’s is “for a device that never needs to be plugged in to charge.” Sorber’s research is in developing “tiny sensors that can operate for decades” by harvesting “renewable solar, thermal or vibration energy” and making “the most efficient decisions about where that energy should go.”
MOOCs Poised To Transform College Admissions Process.
A Washington Post (3/19, Carey) article about the college admission process discusses the traditional criteria by which schools select students, including high school GPAs, scores on college aptitude tests, and extracurriculars, but notes that the advent of massive open online courses is likely to “level the playing field for students in America and abroad.” The piece explains that MOOCs “give students a chance to prove that they’re ready for a university — and in turn, the institution gets an accurate measure of whether a student is prepared for its academics.”
Engineering Education Being Transformed By 3-D Printing.
US News & World Report (3/19) reports that “additive manufacturing,” as represented by 3-D printing techniques, is “putting a new spin on graduate education in both engineering and industrial design.” The article touches on the expected growth of 3-D printing in the coming years, and notes that Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Complex Engineered Systems is “one of several academic research centers exploring” the bounds of additive manufacturing “through collaborations of faculty, students and companies.”
Engineering Programs Form Bridge Between Research And Consumer Markets.
US News & World Report (3/19) reports on a number of consumer products and processes that “were developed in the research lab by engineering graduate students, who have delivered or are delivering them to the marketplace.” The article describes several products of “‘translational research,’ or engineering conducted at the lab bench with an eye toward rapidly getting it to customers or, in a medical context, to the bedside.” The piece reports that engineering schools are increasingly embracing such research “reflecting the growing push to tailor graduate study ‘to be more driven by real-world experience – designing real systems and building things that work.’”
Research and Development
Utah State Freshman Recreates 18th Century Steam Engine.
KSTU-TV Salt Lake City (3/15) reports that after seeing “a couple of photographs showing just a couple of angles,” Utah State University freshman Charles Roos was able to “recreate a working model of an 18th Century steam engine, and now he’s being recognized with an award given by the largest engineering company in Europe.” The piece explains that USU engineering professor John Devitry “started the project after a visit to the Henry Ford museum in Detroit, where he observed an old steam engine once owned by Ford himself.” Roos “found a special interest in the assignment,” and later entered his project “in the Siemans Solid Edge Design Competition, where it won top honors.”
Scientists Call For Investigation Of Indoor Biomes.
The New York Times (3/20, Zimmer, Subscription Publication) reports on indoor biomes which it says “remains at science’s frontier.” Twenty-five scientists “have issued a manifesto” in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, “urging serious scientific investigation of the indoor biome. We need to find out not only what is living in our homes and workplaces, the scientists say, but how they got there.” The Times notes that current “research may eventually help us engineer the indoor biome to push pathogens out of our homes.” Argonne National Laboratory microbiologist Jack Gilbert said, “We will have an ability to start to design healthier buildings.”
Split Opens Up On Capitol Hill Over Science Funding.
Chemistry World (3/20) reports on the “battles over what science gets funded” from Congress. Science advocates and researchers are “particularly worried now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress,” and they “fear that science budgets will be cut and the independence of research agencies curtailed.” According to the article, their worries have been fueled “by two simultaneous developments: increasing public criticism by key Republicans of research funded by agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a congressional power shift that has placed many vocal so-called climate change sceptics [sic] and opponents of environmental regulations in positions of power.”
Scientists Discover Optical Fibers That Can Create Synapses.
Engadget (3/19, Moon) reports that researchers have found that “optical fiber made from chalcogenides can create synapses to latch onto each other,” similar to the way our brains operate. Engadget notes that the fibers could eventually be made into an AI system but the researches have yet to “find a way to combine multiple fibers to form an artificial neural network.”
Solar Eclipse Poses Challenge To Europe’s Increasing Use Of Solar Power.
The New York Times (3/20, Eddy, Subscription Publication) reports that the “cosmic coincidence involving a solar eclipse, a supermoon and the spring equinox” is causing some concern in Europe “that the lights might go out.” That is because of “Europe’s increasing reliance on solar energy” and the eclipse’s casting of “a partial shadow across much of Europe, nearly blocking out sunlight.” One expert said the problem is “the speed at which the energy generated by solar panels was expected to drop and then rise again, at a time of day when demand was high.” It is particularly incorporating the sudden return of power into the grid that offers the challenge.
The New York Times (3/20, Overbye, Subscription Publication) reports, “The only places on land where the eclipse will be total are the Faroe Islands and Svalbard,” though there will be a “partial eclipse” over Europe, Russia, and North Africa.
FAA Gives Amazon Approval To Test Drones Outdoors.
The Wall Street Journal (3/20, Bensinger, Subscription Publication) reports the Federal Aviation Administration awarded Amazon.com an experimental airworthiness certificate, allowing it to engage in open space tests of its drone delivery systems with certain restrictions and reporting requirements. Amazon is attempting to develop unmanned vehicles for 30-minute package delivery.
Seattle News Helicopters Encounter Drone. ABC World News (3/19, story 7, 1:50, Robach) reported that the FAA is investigating an incident that ABC characterized as “an alarming danger” that saw two news helicopters “nearly colliding” with a drone that was “violating Federal regulations by flying so high”. Such reports were said to be increasing to “25 a month” and were “raising real concerns about safety in the skies.”
Sales of Cars With Recall Defects Investigated.
ABC World News (3/19, story 10, 1:55, Robach) reported that some dealerships are selling cars with “potentially dangerous defects” that are subject to a complete recall status, which is illegal. The investigation “uncovered hundreds of new cars” around the country that were “sold with unfixed safety recalls.”
GM CEO To Be Deposed Over Switches. The Wall Street Journal (3/20, Bennett, Subscription Publication) reports that General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra and other employees will testify under oath during a deposition this October with legal representatives of consumers as part of a class-action suit seeking damages for an issue that is the subject of an on-going recall concerning a malfunctioning ignition switch.
Honda Adds 105,000 Vehicles To Air Bag Recall. The AP (3/20, Krisher) reports that Honda’s US recall – which started in 2008 due to issues with exploding air bag inflators, made by Takata Corp. of Japan – is adding another 105,000 vehicles.
Engineering and Public Policy
Obama Orders Cuts In Federal Greenhouse Emissions
President Obama’s signing of an executive order Thursday reducing Federal greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent was not covered on any of last night’s network newscasts, but it is generating reports in the nation’s major dailies and wires this morning. Reports note that the move represents the latest in a string of executive actions by Obama and fulfills a commitment he made last year as part of a climate deal with China.
The executive order, the New York Times (3/20, Davis, Subscription Publication) reports, “set new goals for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of federal agencies,” but notes that the Federal government’s “share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States is minuscule — less than 1 percent in 2013.” But the goals are “in line with a commitment” the US made as part of a climate deal with China. The Detroit News (3/20, Shepardson) notes the order includes reducing emissions from the Federal government’s “655,000 vehicles by 30 percent by 2025.”
The AP (3/20, Lederman) says that by reducing pollution “within the US government, Obama sought to increase political pressure on other nations to deal seriously with climate change.” During a visit to DOE headquarters, Obama said, “We thought it was important for us to lead by example. These are ambitious goals, but we know they’re achievable goals.”
USA Today (3/20, Jackson) notes the executive order “also directed the government to increase its use of renewable resources to 30% of energy use,” and the White House announced that “several major federal suppliers — including IBM, General Electric, Northrop Grumman and Honeywell — have committed to their own reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Interior To Issue Fracking Regulations Today The Wall Street Journal (3/19, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that the Interior Department today is expected to announce long-awaited regulations for hydraulic fracturing in the oil and natural-gas industries. Interior Secretary Jewell said Tuesday, “The rule will include measures to protect our nation’s groundwater—requiring operators to construct sound wells, to disclose the chemicals they use, and to safely recover and handle fluids used in the process.”
Shimkus Hopeful Yucca Mountain Can Move Forward Now Reid Is Not Majority Leader.
The Hill (3/19) reports Rep. John Shimkus “is hopeful Congress can move forward on sending the nation’s nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain in Nevada now that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is no longer the majority leader.” The GOP lawmaker “tells The Hill that Reid had blocked a law to create a nuclear repository there when Democrats controlled the Senate. The chamber is now in GOP control.” In an interview with The Hill, Shimkus stated, “Remember, there hasn’t been a vote on Yucca Mountain in the Senate since Sen. Reid was the majority leader. … Now he’s the minority leader, and being the minority leader, he can’t block what bills come to the floor, especially if there is a majority of senators — a supermajority of senators — who say, ‘No, we’ve got to move this bill.’”
Duke Energy, ElectriCities Do Not Support Renewable Direct-Sales Bill.
The Charlotte (NC) Business Journal (3/20, Downey, Subscription Publication) reports in its “Energy” blog that Duke Energy and ElectriCities of North Carolina are “clearly not on board” with a bill in the state’s House allowing renewable energy developers to “bypass utilities and sell power directly to customers.” They are concerned that net metering rules enable customers to “escape paying their full share of the fixed cost for infrastructure and transmission” and seek legislation that would “deal comprehensively with the issues.” North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association spokesperson Allison Eckley is “wary” that Duke is trying to delay a bill which has bipartisan support and mirrored what is already in place in 24 states.
Thirty-Eight Teams Set To Participate In Bridgewater, NJ Robotics Competition.
The Middlesex County (NJ) Home News Tribune (3/19, Bhatia) reports that 38 teams will compete in a robotics competition in Bridgewater, NJ on March 28 and 29. The competition is sponsored by FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization that advocates for STEM education and hosts a “range of annual robotics competitions” for students from elementary to high school. Last year’s competition at Bridgewater Raritan High School drew more than 2,000 attendees, who, in addition to watching the competition, are able to “learn about the opportunities in math and science that FIRST provides.”
Fifth Annual Philadelphia Science Festival To Be Held Next Month.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (3/20, McCullough) reports that the fifth annual Philadelphia Science Festival, hosted by the Franklin Institute, will be held from April 24 to May 2. The festival brings together “hundreds of the region’s parks, libraries, universities, museums, eateries and pubs” to host over 100 events. The festival’s events are designed “to stoke interest in science and technology” with a “boggling array of grand, engrossing, and goofy opportunities for science education.” According to officials, the festival, which began with a grant from the National Science Foundation, is now “self-sustaining” and funded primarily by sponsors.
Middle School Students Participate In Underwater Robot Design Program.
The Pioneer Press (IL) (3/19, Michaels) reports that 23 members of a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Club at a La Grange middle school have been meeting since the beginning of the school year to design an underwater robot. The program is part of Shedd Aquarium’s Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle competition and affiliated with the Marine Advanced Technology Education organization, “which sponsors international contests.” The competition teaches skills such as “soldering and basic wiring” and requires students’ robots to perform “mock” underwater tasks: teams “command their robots to pick up sea urchins (a toy on the bottom of the pool), and repair an oil pipeline (a PVC pipe with a valve).”
Carnegie Science Center Directors Attend STEM Conference In Washington, DC.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (3/20, Majors) reports that around 100 education leaders gathered in Washington on Wednesday to discuss how to “get kids more enthusiastic” about STEM fields. Among the participants were the directors of the Carnegie Science Center, whose director Ann Metzger noted Pennsylvania business leaders’ concerns about finding workers with skills they need. Last year, the Carnegie Science Center started pilot programs for the STEM Excellence Pathway in several school districts, the results of which have “been encouraging,” according to Science Center directors.
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Dominion To Build Biggest Solar Farm In Virginia On Land Leased From Phillip Morris USA.