ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Durbin Announces Bill That Would Boost Scientific Research Funding.

The Chicago Tribune  (3/16, Elahi) reports “Sen. Dick Durbin announced plans Monday for legislation that he said would keep the U.S. competitive in research and development for decades.” Of his American Innovation Act, Durbin said he wants to boost basic scientific research five percent over the course of the next 10 years. He “said the bill would lift automatic spending caps and provide funding to benefit the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and the Department of Defense Science and Technology programs, among others.”

The Chicago Sun-Times  (3/17, Guy) reports the legislation was announced “at the 1871 technology startup hub at the Merchandise Mart after he received a ‘Champion of Science’ award from the Science Coalition.”

Science Philanthropy Alliance Seeks Private Donations To Support Basic Research.

The International Business Times  (3/17, Nordrum) reports that “a coalition of science-minded foundations called the Science Philanthropy Alliance” (SPA) is seeking to raise “a billion dollars of private donor money” to support “basic research programs of 16 leading universities within five years.” Newly chosen SPA president and former MIT physicist Marc “Kastner and his colleagues…admit that private philanthropy can’t make up for the gap in federal funding, but they think it’s a smart place to start.” The International Business Times reports that, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, total Federal funding for “research has declined by 3 percent since 2005 to about $65 billion.”

Higher Education

Experts Offer Advice To Engineering Students Considering Graduate Programs.

US News & World Report  (3/16, Haynie) reports that engineers with a bachelor’s degree are on “solid footing” in that they have “high salaries and some of the best odds of finding full-time work,” and those who choose to further their education must make the “big decision” of deciding between a master’s program and a Ph.D. According to the article, experts recommend that students consider the “requirements of their field” as well as the benefits and risks of both degree programs. While a master’s degree is more focused on developing professional skills, the research-oriented Ph.D. provides “even more specialization” in the field.

California Educators Scheduled To Fly On NASA’s Airborne Observatory.

The Mountain View (CA) Voice  (3/16, Forestieri) reports that Foothill College physics professor David Marasco and Los Gatos High School teacher Dan Burns will be taking a ride this year on NASA’s airborne observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), as “education ambassadors.” Afterward, the two will be “tasked to bring their experience and what they’ve learned to kids all over the country.” The Voice reports that SOFIA, “stationed in the Southern California city of Palmdale,” is a modified “Boeing 747 with a large infrared telescope inside, and its missions involve flying at 41,000 feet,” which allows it to avoid air traffic and obscuring water vapor in the lower atmosphere.

Senate Bill Would Extend Bankruptcy Protections To Private Student Loans.

The Christian Science Monitor  (3/16, Gross) reports that a bill introduced in the US Senate would allow private student loans to be subject to the same protections as secured and government loans if a borrower files for bankruptcy. Although the “fate of the bill is unclear,” President Obama unveiled a “Student Aid Bill of Rights” on Tuesday that aims to make it easier to pay off student loan debt. Under this initiative, the ED will create a website “to let student loan borrowers file complaints and provide feedback about lenders, collection agencies and colleges and universities involved in collecting on their debt.”

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Research and Development

MESSENGER Observing New Features On Mercury.

SPACE  (3/16, Redd) reports on the release of two new maps of Mercury developed from MESSENGER spacecraft data, showing “never-before-seen formations on the planet’s surface.” The studies based on those maps found that the formations were likely “not from the planet’s crust but from just below it, in the mantle.” For instance, one of the studies, led by Patrick Peplowski of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, “four distinct geochemical terranes on the planet.” Larry Nittler, “deputy principle investigator of the mission and co-author on both studies,” said that the MESSENGER data should result in “critical constraints” for future models of Mercury’s mantle and crust.

According to Nature  (3/16, Witze), MESSENGER is capturing “the best images ever taken of the planet” just ahead of its “inevitable doom” on April 30 when it no longer has enough fuel to overcome Mercury’s gravity. The spacecraft is taking “new low-altitude images” of “the ice that lurks in permanently shadowed craters near Mercury’s poles.” According to the article, scientists looking at data from the Dawn mission at Ceres are “anxious to see” if the “bright glints” observed there have are similar at all to features at Mercury.

Sen  (3/16, Howell) also covers the story.

NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne Recently Tested 3D Printed Rocket Engine Injectors.

3DPrint  (3/16, Edwards) reports that NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne recently tested 3D printed rocket engine injectors for the AR1 “500,000 foot-pound, thrust-class liquid oxygen and kerosene fueled booster rocket engine.” This was a “critical milestone” for the engine’s development and certification process before “full production in 2019.” Tyler Hickman, the team lead at the Glenn Research Center, said, “Rocket engine components are complex machined pieces that require significant labor and time to produce. … The injector is one of the most expensive components of an engine.” Linda Cova, the executive director of Hydrocarbon Engine Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne, noted that engine’s development is “the best path” for creating a replacement for the Russian-built RD-180 engine now used in Atlas V rockets.


Working Group Aims To Promote Retention Of Women In STEM Fields.

Reuters  (3/17, Belisomo) reports that the Initiative on Women in Scientific and Engineering Working Group, a panel composed of 28 members, seeks to promote women’s participation in STEM fields through a seven-point plan. Reuters notes that women often leave STEM fields and those who stay often do not advance as rapidly as their male colleagues. The panel’s suggestions include direct financial support to women in science and engineering, grants to help pay for assistance at work or home, and the creation of gender equity report cards.

Global Developments

Jordanian Engineering Students To Create CubeSat.

Al Bawaba  (3/17) reports that a group of Jordanian engineering students “will develop a CubeSat by this summer that will be flown on rockets planned for upcoming launches by NASA into the space.” The students say they recently took part in training for developing the devices at NASA’s Ames Research Center, and will work on the project with “NASA experts and the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Eleven GOP Governors Challenge EPA Ozone Rule.

The Hill  (3/17, Cama) reports that 11 Republican governors told the Environmental Protection Agency that its proposed rule to reduce ozone emissions is “onerous” and “job-crushing.” The group said that balancing emissions and development turns economic development into a “zero-sum game” with new costs to the public. The National Association of Manufacturers suggested that compliance could cost $1.1 trillion. The Hill  (3/17, Cama) separately reports that the American Petroleum Institute suggests that it is “inappropriate” for the Administration to tighten ozone rules when many counties still don’t meet the current standard set in 2008.

The Columbia (SC) State  (3/16, Fretwell) reports that Monday’s letter from the GOP governors was “no surprise.” Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch said that arguments by industry against a stronger rule “bear no relationship to reality.”

The Indianapolis Star  (3/16, Groppe) also covers this story.

LA Times Supports Stronger Ozone Rules.

The Los Angeles Times  (3/16, Board) editorializes that the Federal government has “not adequately addressed its own lax rules” on emissions of smog-forming compounds. Los Angeles and other counties in California have not met current Federal standards even as the Environmental Protection Agency considers raising ozone standards. States and municipalities, the Times argues, are “powerless” to tighten ozone standards and base them on local conditions. Lowering ozone pollution is more than a “moral and legal imperative.”

SolarCity To Offer Microgrids To Compete With Utilities.

The New York Times  (3/17, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports that although SolarCity has “pushed hard against the utility industry,” accusing it of “standing in the way of change,” the firm’s microgrids will compete as “state regulators are encouraging utilities to add more decentralized sources of energy” to the grid. SolarCity’s offerings would enable localities to create “independent electricity networks using a combination of rooftop solar power, batteries, backup generators and demand management.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

SpaceX Will Launch Turkmenistan’s First Satellite On Saturday.
Elon Researchers Working On Better X-Ray Scanners.
NASA Launches Magnetospheric Science Satellites.
Impact Of Robots, Automation Expected To Put Pressure On Jobs, Wages.
FAA To Begin Testing Lead-Free Aircraft Fuels.
Maryland High School Student Wins Intel Science Talent Search Top Honors.
“Rocket Girl” Tells Life Of Woman Who May Have Helped Launch First US Satellite.

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