Leading the News
DOE Funding Massive Wind Turbine Blade Project.
The San Diego Union-Tribune (3/10, Nikolewski) reported that a new design being proposed by wind turbine developers is larger than “most people can barely imagine: Blades up to 200 meters, or 656 feet, long.” Eric Loth, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia, “is one of the leaders of a team that includes four universities and two national laboratories that has three years to build and test a scaled prototype in the hopes of making the über-blade concept a reality.” The Energy Department “is funding the project through its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program at a cost of $3.5 million.” In the US, “wind accounts for 4.4 percent of the country’s electricity generation, according to the US Energy Information Administration.” In 2015, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz “called for efforts to ‘fully unlock wind power as a critical national resource’ and get wind energy supplying 20 percent of the nation’s electricity demand by 2030.”
Michigan Townships Look To Freeze Wind Turbine Development. On Sunday, the AP (3/13) reports that four Michigan townships in the rural Thumb region “have halted or are considering moratoriums” on wind energy developments, following a wind turbine collapse in neighboring Huron County. The Port Huron (MI) Times Herald (3/13, LeBlanc) reports that Exelon Corp. is planning new wind farm projects in Marion, Bridgehampton and Custer township, but Bridgehampton is considering a ban and Marion township approved a wind development moratorium on March 3, “halting any future wind projects for at least six months.” The article says the freezes on wind energy development stem from “concerns about allowable setbacks” and alleged conflicts of interest “where some public officials voting on turbine-friendly ordinance changes also hold leases with Exelon” and other wind companies. The Times Herald writes that, according to an email from Exelon spokeswoman Kristen Otterness, the company is “evaluating the impact a moratorium may have on the Michigan Wind 3 project” and that Exelon works with the community “to develop a constructive approach to permitting wind generation facilities.”
Kentucky College Suing ED Over Financial Aid Restrictions.
The Washington Post (3/11, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that Kentucky’s St. Catharine College is suing ED “for withholding more than a million dollars in federal loans and grants,” saying the restriction is threatening the school with closure. Noting that the school has been on heightened cash monitoring status for over a year, and quotes St. Catharine President Cindy Gnadinger saying, “We’re very close to closing our doors. We’re in a dire financial situation. All of what we’ve built is in great jeopardy based on the egregious act of the Department of Education. I wanted to work with them. I did everything I could. It’s just become impossible.” The Post reports that the college is seeking reinstatement of the funding, reimbursement, and other damages.
Everest University Facing Challenges One Year After ED “Rescue.”
The AP (3/13, Horwitz) reports that Everest University is facing “significant problems” one year after ED “rescued [it] from near collapse.” Even though the school is engaged in “new federal oversight and pledges of a turnaround by the schools’ current nonprofit owner.” Once a major component of Corinthian Colleges Inc., faced “allegations of fraud and mismanagement…before the Education Department helped transfer Everest and a sister institution to Zenith Education Group, a nonprofit affiliate of a student-loan debt collection firm.” The AP reports that there has been a lack of “revolutionary change” at the school, which was accused of admitting ‘anyone with a pulse’ and churning out unprepared graduates deeply in debt.” The AP reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell “said the schools’ transformation is incomplete” and that Everest’s operations have improved and he expects continued progress.” The piece quotes Mitchell saying, “If Zenith is not doing right by its students, we won’t hesitate to act.”
NYTimes: Reforming For-Profit Colleges Is Crucial.
In an editorial, the New York Times (3/11, Subscription Publication) hails a recent appeals court ruling that “recognized” for-profit colleges “represent an especially destructive form of corporate welfare” and which “emphatically reaffirms the administration’s authority to rein in predatory education companies.” The Times also lists some “sensible principles” that will “make for a strong, consumer-oriented approach to this problem.”
Low Oil Prices May Discourage Petroleum Engineering Studies.
In an NPR (3/12) “All Things Considered” program, Marietta College in Ohio is reported to have “global reputation” for its petroleum engineering program, with students graduating and finding good jobs in the energy sector, but this spring only 30 to 40 percent of graduates “will have jobs waiting.” The NPR report said Marietta College and other large universities with petroleum programs such as the University of Texas at Austin, Penn State and Texas A&M said that enrollment numbers are down, but that petroleum majors are also required to take liberal arts courses, “which may give them a leg up in shifting career choices.”
Colleges Increasingly Provide Emergency Funds To Help Students.
A Philly (PA) (3/13, Snyder) blog writes that a growing number of US colleges have “designated special funds to help students bridge unexpected circumstances.” National organizations do not yet have an estimate of total colleges which offer emergency aid, but NASPA, a national association of student affairs administrators expects to have a number this spring. National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators President Justin Draeger says emergency aid is viewed “as a real retention tool, so we can keep students in school and moving toward completion,” according to the Philly News blog.
Trial Questions Law Schools’ Claims Of Jobs After Graduation.
The Los Angeles Times (3/12, Warth) reported that a trial at San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law is the first of 15 cases in a “national discussion over how law schools have marketed themselves” to determine whether law schools “overstated the success of its graduates.” LA Times wrote that this suit and others have been filed by students who enrolled “after being enticed by their schools’ records of producing graduates who found quality jobs in the legal field.” So far, all judges in these cases “denied class-action status for the lawsuits,” but the judge over the San Diego case did allow one case to continue as a civil suit.
Research and Development
University Of Arkansas Student’s Research Could Lead To Faster, Smaller Fiber Optic Devices.
The Baxter (AR) Bulletin (3/13) reports that Raymond Walker, a doctoral candidate in mathematics and physics at the University of Arkansas, has “published research that could pave the way for new fiber-optic devices,” noting that the research could “further shrink the size and accelerate the speed of such devices.”
University Of Michigan Researchers Develop “Icephobic” Material.
The Christian Science Monitor (3/13) reports that researchers at the University of Michigan have “developed a new ‘icephobic’ material that could improve and simplify the process of ice removal across a variety of surfaces.” The technology “has led to the creation of rubbery repellants that are energy efficient and extremely effective at clearing away ice.” Instead of using ice-melting chemicals, “the Michigan scientists found that the use of rubbery polymers was more practical at pushing off the frozen substance.”
IUSM Researchers Use 3D Bioprinters To Study Tissue Engineering.
IConnect007 (3/13) reports researchers at the IUSM are using a 3D bioprinter “to create living tissue, now for use in research laboratories, and potentially for use in humans.” David Burr, PhD, an associate vice chancellor for research at IUPUI as well as a professor of anatomy and cell biology at the IUSM and of biomedical engineering at IUPUI, said, “We have a large and robust group of investigators in these fields who are interested in 3D bioprinting for aspects of their work,” He added, “Having this device positions us, and these investigators, to conduct research and obtain grant funding in new areas that many universities are simply not able to compete for yet.” 3Ders.org (3/11, Buren) explains the IUSM researchers are “joining the fray” in 3D printing, having acquired “one of the most impressive existing 3D bioprinters: the Regenova by Cyfuse Biomedical, and will use it to pioneer 3D printed skin, inner ear and nipple tissue, among others, for use in regenerative surgery.” The article examines the specific printer, which uses stainless steel needles “to sculpt biological patterns within a range of ~10x10x10mm at 500um resolution.”
Google Funding Expansion Of Program To Aid Entrepreneurs Of Color.
USA Today (3/12, Guynn) reports that Google is providing financial backing for “the expansion of a program from non-profit CODE2040 with the goal of creating more opportunities for African-American and Latino entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley.” Minority entrepreneurs are eligible for “a $40,000 yearly stipend and free office space to build their start-ups while they build bridges to technology for minorities in those communities.”
Lab Working To Find Abandoned Oil, Gas Wells And Determine Emissions.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (3/13, Conti) reports that efforts are underway to find abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania which are not included in the EPA’s annual inventory of emissions sources. Natalie Pekney, a research engineer at the National Energy Technology Lab said, “There’s certainly justification for collecting more data, not just in Pennsylvania but in other states as well.” The lab is working with the state Department of Environmental Protection and is studying well emissions as the state “is writing rules to limit methane leaks from shale gas wells and related equipment, though older, conventional wells will not be covered.”
Boeing Announces CTO John Tracy’s Retirement, Other Management Changes.
NASDAQ (3/13) reported a Boeing announcement that Chief Technology Officer John Tracy will retire in July after 35 years with the company, and will “begin transitioning his portfolio” of Engineering, Operations, and Technology duties to “a team of corporate leaders” that will report directly to Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Mullenburg. Boeing also announced other management changes, effective next month: CIO Ted Colbert will become Senior VP, Information & Analytics, Scott Francher will become Senior VP for Program Management, Integration & Development Programs, and Greg Hyslop will become Senior VP for Engineering, Test & Technology.
Engineering and Public Policy
WSJournal Analysis: Nation’s Drinking Water Supplies Not Free From Contaminants.
A Wall Street Journal (3/11, McGinty, Subscription Publication) analysis reports that despite the Safe Drinking Act, tap water is not necessarily free of contaminants. The Journal says the EPA decides which contaminants public utilities must remove from drinking water, while states can choose to go beyond those standards and ban additional substances. The Journal says, in either case, the list of regulated substances represents a small percentage of potential contaminants, because it is not possible to regulate all of them.
Facebook’s WhatsApp Emerges As New Front In DOJ Encryption Dispute.
In a nearly 1,300-word article, the New York Times (3/12, Apuzzo, Subscription Publication) explains that while the Justice Department is engaged in “a public fight with Apple over access to a locked iPhone, government officials are privately debating how to resolve a prolonged standoff with” Facebook “over access to its popular instant messaging application [WhatsApp], officials and others involved in the case said.” According to the Times, “A court fight with WhatsApp, the world’s largest mobile messaging service, would open a new front in the Obama administration’s dispute with Silicon Valley over encryption, security and privacy.” The Times reports “some investigators view the WhatsApp issue as even more significant than the one over locked phones because it goes to the heart of the future of wiretapping.”
NYTimes: Obama Administration Must Do More To Increase Bus Safety.
The New York Times (3/14, Subscription Publication) editorializes that buses are “the only affordable way many Americans can travel between cities,” which is why it is important that the Administration does more to ensure the safety of bus passengers. The Times mentions that according to a 2011 study by the NTSB, intercity bus services “have higher fatal accident rates and more driver violations than more traditional bus operators.” The Times also highlights that the NTSB issued recommendations for bus safety after a fatal 2014 bus accident in Orland, California. The Times argues that although the DOT says it has made bus safety a priority, its “response lacks urgency.”
Consumer Watchdog Alleges PG&E Conflict Of Interest By Governor’s Top Aide.
The San Diego Union-Tribune (3/11, McDonald, McGreevy) reported that a consumer advocacy group filed a complaint with California’s ethics department on Friday, asking for an investigation into whether Governor Jerry Brown’s top aide, Nancy McFadden, “influenced appointments to the state Public Utilities Commission.” The article said the complaint stems from “emails between a regulator and utility company lobbyist discussing McFadden,” but the emails aren’t from McFadden herself. According to the Union-Tribune, Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court said on Friday that, “The public deserves a straight answer” about whether McFadden “acted to help her former employer, PG&E, gain control of the Public Utilities Commission” while holding over $100,000 in company stocks. But a Governor’s spokesman disputed the accusations, saying McFadden did not participate in these decisions while she maintained P&GE holdings.
PSEG To Develop Loan Program For Rooftop Solar.
Newsday (NY) (3/13, Harrington) reports that electricity service provider PSEG Long Island will spearhead and develop a “popular financing program” for rooftop solar panels that allows customers to pay down loans through their electric bills. Part of Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision plan, PSEG can earn more, while customers can generally “get solar with no money down,” and own the systems at the end of the loan with “greatly reduced or zero energy bills.” Newsday writes that, according to Long Island Solar Energy Industry Association Chairman Joe Milillo, this loan program has “brought solar to the masses, no doubt about it.” The article also says that the program may eventually expand beyond rooftop solar to other “green energy initiatives.”
Vermont Passes Renewable Projects Bill After Yearlong Debate.
The AP (3/11, Gram) reported that on Friday, a Vermont Senate committee approved a bill designed to give local planning commissions more control of solar and wind project locations, following a “yearlong fight over where to build renewable energy projects.” According to the AP, Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee Chairman, Sen. Christopher Bray said the bill “integrates our electrical system with land-use planning,” adding, “there was no real linkage before.” But critics said that developers are ruining farm fields and mountaintops with solar panels and wind turbines, and that the bill’s purpose is to give the impression of addressing Vermonter’s concerns without actually doing so.
Wyoming Committee Seeks Public Input In Drafting New Science Standards.
The AP (3/12) reports that the “Wyoming Department of Education is distributing draft recommendations and seeking public comment on new” STEM focused science standards that were created by a committee tasked with reviewing and updating the standards.
Students Prepare For Robotics Competition.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal (3/13, Lyle) reports that at a robotics program at Cimarron-Memorial High School, students prepared for the FIRST Robotics Competition, and says schools nationwide are adding robotics programs “to attract students.” The article touts the usefulness of such programs to prepare students for STEM industry and work-life.
North Dakota Initiative Prepares Students For Manufacturing Careers.
The Washington Times (3/13, Holdman) reports on an effort in North Dakota called the “Manufacturing Institute’s Dream it. Do it,” which is a joint effort between the Southwest Area Manufacturing group, and the Greater North Dakota Chamber to encourage students to consider a “career and manufacturing.” The event features presentations from people in their field, and has young “ambassadors,” peers.
Increased Female Participation Boosts Robotics Growth In Michigan.
The AP (3/13, Higgins) reports that organizers of robotics events n Michigan are seeing a growth in participation, and that much of this growth is fueled by girls who are “joining teams” and “taking on leadership roles” “at all levels – on coed” and all-girls teams. The AP reports that this growth comes “amid widespread efforts to get more girls to consider science careers” and lists various programs that are aimed at engaging girls of various ages. The article than discusses various robotics events and reviews the female participants on some of the teams committed to attending.
Rhode Island Governor Invests In Computer Science Education.
An editorial in the Providence (RI) Journal (3/11) reports on Governor Gina Raimondo’s efforts in Rhode Island to boost the local economy by investing in education, and computer science education through a program she put together, “Computer Science for RI” (CS4RI). CS4R aims to get “computer science into every public school from k through 12. The article reports “the effort will rely primarily on volunteers and is funded by “private philanthropies and area businesses” and seeks to teach children computer skills that will prepare students for adult-life and career.
Teen Scientists Compete For $1 Million In Scholarships.
The Washington Post (3/11, Brown) reports on the teen scientists participating in the Intel Science Talent Search. According to the Washington Post, there are 40 teen participants in the competition for “$1 million in scholarship awards.” The article then closely spotlights four of the teenage contestants, one is working on making plastic decompose quickly, another on bio-engineering a kidney, a third developed an app to “diagnose and monitor chronic lung diseases,” and one who found a way to make stronger cement seals for undersea oil wells. The Washington Post announces that the scientific progress towards these young people achieving their projects “gives faith for the future.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• DOJ: Apple’s Arguments In Encryption Dispute Are A “Diversion.”