Leading the News
US Regulators, Automakers To Reveal Safety Agreement Friday.
Reuters (1/12, Shepardson) reports that Transportation Secretary Foxx and top executives from leading automakers are expected on Friday to announce an unprecedented voluntary safety agreement at the Detroit auto show. Reuters says safety advocates may not be satisfied by the voluntary nature of the agreement, but the accord, which has been under discussion since early December, may set the stage for a new era in cooperation between regulators and automakers. Experts, according to the CBS Evening News (1/11, story 6, 2:05, Pelley), say the agreement “could be as revolutionary as seat belts and air bags,” as it would call for vehicle-to-vehicle communication to be phased into all new vehicles sold in the US over a few years. Foxx: “It’s a technology that can substitute for human judgment and help us avoid those crashes. We think we can get as much as an 80 percent reduction. That’s a huge change.”
NHTSA Chief, Fiat CEO Hold Constructive Talks Regarding Regulations. The Detroit Free Press (1/12, Snavely) reports that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchoinne and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administrator Mark Rosekind met on Monday at the auto show, with both characterizing their discussion as positive. The two have “been butting heads for several years” as NHTSA regulations increased. Rosekind said he hopes to meet with as many auto executives as possible this week. Marchoinne said of Rosekind, “I have no interest in paying fines and he has no interest in imposing them. So we have to find a different way of running this business.” However, he added that the NHTSA must realize that automakers have financial limits on what they can do to improve safety.
University Of Tennessee To Add Automotive Engineering Concentration.
The Knoxville News Sentinel (1/9, Slaby) reports that the University of Tennessee is launching an automotive engineering concentration for graduate students in mechanical, electrical, and materials science engineering programs. The piece reports that College of Engineering Dean Wayne Davis “said it’s likely other areas of engineering will develop similar concentrations for their graduate students,” quoting him saying, “It’s an exciting longterm area. Your vehicle today is a complex mechanical, electrical device.”
Opinion: Congress Helped Higher Education In Omnibus Agreement.
In an opinion piece in the Springfield (MA) Republican (1/12) Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts President Richard Doherty and Mount Holyoke College President Lynn Pasquerella praise Congress for taking action to help higher education in their recent budget deal. Doherty and Pasquerella detail several provisions of the recent agreement that help institutions of higher education such as the permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Charitable IRA Rollover. The two co-authors also praise Representative Richard Neal, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, in particular for helping to pass the provisions.
Schumer Launches Online Campaign To Make College More Affordable.
The Oneonta (NY) Daily Star (1/11) reports Sen. Charles Schumer has launched an online campaign to make college more affordable. Schumer says student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt and car loans, and that Congress must work to address the issue of college affordability in order to improve the economy. Schumer spoke on Monday saying, “Student loan debt is a huge burden on the shoulders of millions of young Americans, and it is holding back their ability to achieve the American Dream and is a significant drag on our economy.” The Corning (NY) Leader (1/11) reports Schumer is asking students and parents who struggle to pay for college to share their stories online as part of his campaign. Schumer believes members of Congress and others learning more about what a struggle it is to pay for college now will help bring about changes.
Research and Development
Purdue To Launch $250 Million Life Sciences Initiative.
The Lafayette (IN) Journal and Courier (1/7) reports that Purdue University has announced that it “will invest $250 million over the next five years toward a campuswide life sciences initiative,” including “the $60 million ‘Pillars of Excellence in the Life Sciences’ initiative.” The school will hire new faculty, “purchase advanced instrumentation and launch new facilities at Discovery Park, including the Integrative Neurosciences Center and Institute for Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Diseases.”
Researchers Seeking To Lower Aircraft Emissions.
The New York Times (1/11, Fountain, Subscription Publication) reports on efforts to rethink airplane design in order to lower carbon emissions, including a project at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center called LeapTech. The Times explains that researchers are studying concepts like distributed propulsion, batteries or hybrid gas-electric systems, and lighter wings in order to lower emissions. Meanwhile, the EPA has “moved to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, although the rule-making process is expected to be contentious and lengthy.”
Navy Provides Grant To Develop Drone That Flies, Swims.
Navy Times (1/11, Larter) reports that the Office of Naval Research reached out to Rutgers University Professor Javier Diez to offer a $618,00 grant to further his research on a drone that can fly and swim. Diez said, “By next summer, we plan to demonstrate a vehicle that can swim in a seawater environment and do complex maneuvers.” He added, “At that point, we’ll start to outfit it with whatever sensors the Navy wants to have, such as cameras and sonar detectors.”
Volkswagen CEO To Present Emissions Scandal Fixes To EPA.
The Hill (1/12, Cama) reports that Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller hopes his meeting Wednesday with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will result in a solution to the emissions cheating controversy. “I tell you we are working together with the EPA and also with the [California regulators] for three months, and from our point of view we did huge progress,” Mueller said, according to the AP. “We will talk to Ms. McCarthy and we’ll see how the reaction will be.” Reuters (1/12, Johnson) adds that Mueller on Monday said Volkswagen has set aside $7.28 billion for the repair process of all its affected diesel cars globally, expecting that the amount “should be enough.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Planetary Defense Office To Track Asteroids Passing Near Earth.
CBS News (1/11, Kraft) reports on its website that a NASA-managed Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) has been set up to detect and track asteroids that pass near Earth’s orbit. If an actual asteroid impact threat is detected, adds CBS News, the PDCO will work with FEMA and other federal agencies to prepare an emergency response. In a statement, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said his agency is “dedicated to protecting against all hazards.” The PDCO, he added, “will further enhance FEMA’s collaborative relationship with NASA.” The CBS News article also appears on the CNET News (1/12) website.
An online Fox News (1/11) report quotes from a NASA statement, which said the PDCO “will continue to assist with coordination across the US government, participating in the planning for response to an actual impact threat, working in conjunction with FEMA, the Department of Defense,” other federal agencies, “and international counterparts.” The Christian Science Monitor (1/11) also covers this story.
Climate-Modeling Supercomputer To Be Replaced By More Powerful Machine In 2017.
Citing an announcement by the National Center for Atmospheric Research on Monday, the AP (1/12, Gruver) reports that the Yellowstone supercomputer in Wyoming, “one of the most powerful computers in the world dedicated to climate change, weather and other earth science research,” will be replaced in 2017 by a new machine called Cheyenne. The Cheyenne supercomputer will be about three times as efficient as Yellowstone, “using 90 percent as much electricity but taking up to a third as much space.” California-based Silicon Graphics International Corp. will build the machine.
WSJournal Blames Administration For Bankruptcies And Job Losses In Coal Industry.
The Wall Street Journal (1/12, A12, Subscription Publication) in an editorial says that the Administration’s policies have been successful in causing the loss of 40,000 jobs in the coal industry since 2008 and the bankruptcy of Arch Coal on Monday as well as earlier bankruptcies of 27 coal companies including Patriot Coal, Walter Energy, and Alpha Natural Resources. In addition, Peabody Energy has seen its shares decline by 95% over the past year. The Journal says that those who lost their jobs in the coalfields have not yet seen new jobs from the President’s clean energy plans.
EPA’s McCarthy To Meet With WDC Solar Entrepreneur.
The Washington Examiner (1/12, Lott) reports that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will be meeting Tuesday with former NBA player and solar energy entrepreneur Mark Davis before attending President Obama’s last State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Davis has been touted by environmentalists as an example of how the “clean energy revolution is creating new jobs,” according to the Sierra Club’s website. The White House says Davis “was inspired by the president’s focus on climate change to do something to protect the planet and help his community.” Davis’ firm, WDC Solar, “is growing, profitable and giving back,” the White House says, adding that it has installed more than 125 solar systems in DC at no cost to homeowners with good credit, through tax credits and private funds.
Ohio Students Take Part In FIRST Lego Competition.
The Canton (OH) Repository (1/9) reports that 29 teams of elementary and middle school students from Northeast Ohio “participated Saturday in the First Lego League challenge at the University of Akron.” Teams were “vying for a chance to compete at the state competition next month,” and students said they learned “that working as a team can be challenging, but it’s also rewarding.”
Oregon Group Organizes STEM Event For Girls.
The Coos Bay (OR) World (1/12) reports the Zonta Club of the Coos Bay Area in Oregon is sponsoring the second annual GIRLS ROCK event later this month that aims to help girls discover and cultivate an interest in STEM. The article notes that according to the National Science Foundation women make up only 26% of those working in computer and mathematical sciences and 13% of those working in engineering.
Mississippi City Chosen As Site For STEM Initiative.
The AP (1/12) reports the Thurgood Marshall College Fund has selected Vicksburg, Mississippi as one of two sites in the US to host the Vivian Burey Marshall STEM Pilot Initiative, named for former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s first wife. The $5.7 million initiative aims to expose students to STEM subjects. Vicksburg Superintendent Chad Shealy says he is overjoyed about the opportunity provided by the initiative.
Delaware Working To Implement Next Generation Science Standards.
On its website, WHYY-FM Philadelphia (1/12, Wolfman-Arent) reports Delaware is working to implement the Next Generation Science Standards, which the state adopted in 2013. A pilot program this year is using almost 75 teachers to test out different units of a possible curriculum based on the standards. The teachers will provide feedback about how to improve the units. The state recently put out a request for bids to develop a new state science test based on the standards.
Also in the News
IBM Engineer Builds “Star Wars” Droid That Can Be Controlled With The Mind.
Business Insider (1/12, Weinberger) reports that Joshua Carr, a lead engineer at IBM, built a BB-8 droid from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which he can control with his mind using Emotiv Insight, “a consumer headset that can read your brain waves, plus some under-the-hood plumbing from IBM’s cloud computing platform.” The article also includes a video of Joshua Carr with his BB-8 droid.
Monday’s Lead Stories
• TransCanada Starts Two Legal Actions To Challenge Administration On Keystone.