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

Leading the News

AAAS Study Shows Federal R&D Funding On The Decline.

Bloomberg Business  (5/21, Wilson) reports that data put together by the American Association for the Advancement of Science show cuts to federal R&D spending that U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management chief marketing strategist Joseph Quinlan said “risk…a widening innovation deficit” between the US and the rest of the world. This year’s $131 billion is only 3.4 percent of the federal budget and is the fifth straight year in which the percentage spent on R&D has declined. Quinlan noted that federal research “pays powerful innovation dividends.”

Democrats Fear Republican Bills Are Attacking Science Research.

The Washington Examiner  (5/22, Colman) reports that “Democrats and liberal groups are raising alarms” about Republican bills that “pervert the basic principles behind independent science research.” The groups claim that while “high-profile” regulations are attacked, the GOP is simultaneously “quietly dismantling the underpinnings of climate change research” by calling them “matters of transparency and scientific fairness.” Republicans claim scientific panels “shut out public input.” The fact that transparency “sounds innocuous and sensible” has hurt science advocates, but the EPA science panel bill “contains a number of problems,” such as including officials from industries that are regulated to be on independent analysis panels.

Higher Education

Women In Technology Group Gives University Of Washington Recruitment Award.

The New York Times  (5/22, Miller, Subscription Publication) reports that while the computer science industry is “under pressure” to recruit more women, the “difficult question” is how to encourage them to study the subject early on. “Behind the scenes” of many colleges making advances is the National Center for Women & Information Technology, which consults with colleges on how to bring in and keep female talent. The Center will award the University of Washington a Google-sponsored award for its efforts. University of Washington computer science and engineering chairman Ed Lazowska has said that key actions have included getting elementary through high school students involved in computer science, adding computing classes to introductory courses, and to create a community for women in the field.

Congress Considering Holding Colleges Accountable For Student Outcomes.

Inside Higher Ed  (5/21) reports that members of the Senate HELP Committee from both parties are moving toward holding colleges “accountable for student outcomes,” noting that members said that “the government’s existing accountability metrics, like default rates, are inadequate.” Most members “backed the concept of risk sharing – the idea that individual colleges need to have a greater financial stake in what happens to the federal loans that students use to attend their institutions.”

The Memphis (TN) Business Journal  (5/22, Corbet, Subscription Publication) reports that HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander on Tuesday “held a hearing proposing universities and colleges share the risk of student loans with taxpayers and students.” Part of Alexander’s Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act would stipulate that “colleges and universities have a responsibility, or vested interest in, encouraging students to borrow wisely, graduate on time and be able to repay what they’ve been loaned.” The article cites ED data indicating that 70% of student loan defaulters never finished their degree.

Congressional Representatives Ask Secretary Duncan To Address Corinthian Debt.

The Inland Valley (CA) Daily Bulletin  (5/21, Yarbrough) reports that 16 Congressional representatives have asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan to “streamline” federal loan debt forgiveness for students formerly at Corinthian Colleges and affiliated colleges. The representatives’ letter says the company’s “deceptive practices and ultimate closure” has “jeopardized” the future of over 16,000 students and that the ED should “expeditiously develop and implement rules” to help the students.

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Research and Development

US Air Force Names New Chief Scientist.

Military  (5/22) reports that Greg Zacharias will be the US Air Force’s chief scientist, replacing Mica Endsley. Zacharias will be charged with overseeing development of UAVs, directed energy and hypersonic weapons, and other programs.

Marshall Space Flight Center’s History With 3D Printing Profiled.

WAAY-TV  Huntsville, AL (5/22, Barrett) reports that engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center learned about 3D printing in the 1990’s and “immediately realized the practical applications of it” for space travel. They bought at 500-pound machine and “got the OK to use NASA’s KC-130 airplane, which flew in parabolic arcs to simulate weightlessness.” While the device appeared to print okay in weightlessness, it was too heavy to send up on the Space Shuttle. Today, the startup, Made In Space, Inc., working with Marshall engineers, have a smaller 3D printer operating on the ISS.

FAA Testing New Air Traffic Tool With Dragon Spacecraft.

The Aviation Week  (5/22, Croft) reports that, in an indication of “a major shift in how” the FAA “will manage restricted airspace around future space launches and reentries,” the agency is beta-testing a new air traffic tool with the help of data from SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. Instead of people manually entering positions and possible hazards into the traffic-management system, “the Space Data Integrator (SDI), automates the manual process by ingesting telemetry data from vehicle tracking systems and sending the information directly to a traffic flow management situational display where the current and projected positions, as well as the projected areas where airspace must be protected, are plotted and managed.” Michael Romanowski, director of space integration for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, said, “There’s an increasingly complex integration into the airspace” for space launches, calling it “a challenge.”

Global Developments

India Signals Energy Interest In Mexico, Colombia.

Offshore Engineer  (5/22, Leon) reports that India’s petroleum minister Shri Dharmendra Pradhan expressed hopes of transforming the relationship among India, Mexico, and Colombia from “buyer-seller” to an “energy partnership.” Pradhan said in a press release, “Indian companies are willing to participate in the exploration and production activities in Mexico including in deep water and unconventional resources.” Pradhan met with Colombia’s minister of mines and energy, Tomás González Estrada, and address a business round table.

Industry News

House Passes Legislation To Aid Private Space Industry.

USA Today  (5/22, King) reports that on Thursday, the House passed legislation 284-133 that “would extend important legal protections to aerospace firms for the next decade while exempting the firms from certain rules.” Republicans said that the SPACE Act would prolong the “learning period” for the developing commercial space industry “as it makes key strides in getting people and goods into space.” Many Democrats opposed the bill, arguing it “would compromise safety and leave taxpayers on the hook if disaster strikes.”

NHTSA Extends GM Ignition Switch-Related Oversight Order.

The Detroit News  (5/22, Shepardson) reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “will extend a consent order” requiring GM “to disclose detailed safety issues and meet with government officials monthly for at least another year.” Last year, GM “agreed to the sweeping decree and paid a record-setting $35 million civil penalty for delaying a recall of 2.6 million older cars for ignition switch defects that are now linked to 104 deaths and nearly 200 injuries.”

Concept Car With Plastic Engine Set To Debut In 2016.

The Engineer  (5/22, Garlick) reports that Belgian chemical company Solvay and US engineer Matti Holtzberg have combined to create a four-cylinder, double-overhead CAM engine “mostly made from plastic” that will be dropped into a racing car for a 2016 race. The articles notes that according to Holtzberg, “There is metal where the heat is,” but “everything else is a composite material.” The article further details the engine design and Holtzberg’s goal to reduce engine weight and increase fuel efficiency.

Engineering and Public Policy

Senate Committee Approves Energy Legislation.

The Washington (DC) Examiner  (5/22, Colman) reports that the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a $35.4 billion spending bill that covers the Energy Department, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies without engaging in any partisan warfare over amendments. The measure allocates $6 billion for nuclear waste management, $167 million above current funding, and $10.5 billion on Energy Department programs.

The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel  (5/22, Collins) quotes Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) as saying that the bill moves the US “closer to doubling basic energy research, strengthening and rebuilding our waterways and ports, removing major obstacles to the use of nuclear power, maintaining our nuclear weapons stockpile and cleaning up hazardous materials left over at Cold War facilities.”

The Hill  (5/22, Shabad) notes that the funding levels are up from last year, but still $666 million less than the Administration requested. Notably missing is a provision for the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository.

The Tri-City Herald (WA)  (5/21, Cary) notes that the bill includes “$2.3 billion for environmental cleanup work at the Hanford nuclear reservation,” which is a project of Sen. Patty Murray. The appropriation is $79 million more than what was requested by the Administration.

GOP Bill Seeks To Ease Burden Of Getting Air Pollution Permits.

The Hill  (5/22, Cama) reports new Republican legislation “aims to ease the burden of obtaining air pollution permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for manufacturing facilities.” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Steve Scalise “said their legislation introduced Thursday would help the country’s energy and manufacturing sectors move forward in a way that is difficult now.” In a statement Capito said, “The EPA insists on holding America back with its onerous regulations and deeply flawed permitting process for new and expanding manufacturing facilities.” She added, “In order to tap into the full potential of our vital energy and manufacturing sectors, we must establish accountability measures that protect American manufacturing jobs.”

Opinion: President Obama Is Ignoring The Data On Clean Power Plan Costs.

Writing for The Hill  (5/22), George Marshall Institute President William O’Keefe argues that President Obama, despite priding “himself on relying on facts and figures rather than ideology to make policy,” is ignoring the data on how much the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan will cost the American economy. He cites a report by the National Association of Manufacturers that estimates the cost of implementing the plan at $140 billion annually and decries the regulation as “a job killer and a major blow to a still struggling economy.”

John Kerry, Big Energy Disagree On Who Should Lead Against Climate Change.

Bloomberg News  (5/22, Nicola) reports that the energy industry pushed back against comments made by US Secretary of State John Kerry at a business climate summit in Paris. Kerry is quoted as saying that “What we really need is for the private sector to encourage governments across the world to set ambitious emission targets and to set targets of their own.” Business leaders responded that government should lead the way by providing incentives for their industries to act.

Bloomberg News  (5/21, Nicola) notes separately that Kerry’s call is similar to those made by French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

New Mexico Businesses Support Shutdown Of Coal-Fired Plant.

The AP  (5/22, Bryan) reports that business leaders in New Mexico have urged the state Public Regulation Commission to approve a plan that would shut down part of the San Juan Generating Plant and replace its capacity with a mix of coal and gas or a renewable energy source. The article notes that “Members of the Association of Commerce and Industry, the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, Four Corners Economic Development and other groups are siding with the utility” though environmental groups say that the measure does not go far enough to reduce pollution.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Congress Moves On Science Research Funding.
IG Faults ED Over Pell Grant, Student Loan Estimates.
Ohio State Engineering Students Working On Prosthetic Leg For Dog.
Some Republicans Not Open To McCarthy’s Infrastructure Proposal.
Texas Instruments Foundation Awards $2.2 Million To Texas District.

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