Leading the News
White House Unveils $100 Million Worker Training Grant Program Modeled On Tennessee Promise.
The Memphis (TN) Commercial Appeal (4/25, Collins) reports the White House on Monday unveiled “a new $100 million grant program to expand worker training as the administration works to make good on President Barack Obama’s offer of two years of tuition-free community college.” According to the Commercial Appeal, America’s College Promise “was patterned after Gov. Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise scholarship program and is projected to cost $60 billion over the next 10 years.” The program’s “goal is to make sure that workers are equipped with the skills they will need to pursue careers in high-demand jobs such as technology, manufacturing and health care.”
The Washington Post (4/25, Douglas-Gabriel) reports the initiative was announced Monday by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, who have “advocated for the model, visiting schools and hosting roundtable discussions with elected officials as well as college and business leaders.” The Labor Department will administer the grants, given to “partnerships between employers, training programs, and community and technical colleges aimed at readying students for skilled occupations.”
Catherine Gewertz writes at the Education Week (4/25) “High School and Beyond” blog that the program will kick off this summer, and will be funded by Labor’s H-1B visa program. The Bidens made the announcement at the Community College of Philadelphia, “which created a free community college program last year, in response to Obama’s push to make community college free.” EdSource (4/25) also covers this story.
$600 Million Cash Infusion May Be Too Late For Illinois Colleges.
The Washington Post (4/25, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the Illinois legislature has agreed to “funnel $600 million into the state’s public colleges and universities to keep them afloat through the summer,” but reports that “it may be too late to reverse some of the damage” wrought by 10 months of state funding drought brought on by a budget impasse between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state legislature. The resulting shutoff of state money caused “layoffs and credit downgrades, and threatened to shutter at least one school.”
The Chicago Tribune (4/25, Geiger) reports that lawmakers hope their funding bill “will keep campuses open through the summer while the broader budget battle continues,” noting that some stakeholders see the deal as “a funding cut for higher education while others tried unsuccessfully to add money for struggling social service programs.”
Texas Community College Engineering Program Sees Sharp Growth.
The Houston Chronicle (4/25, Rose) reports that the engineering program at San Jacinto College, a two-year college in Houston, has grown from 29 students to nearly 300 over the past two years, “demonstrating the surge of interest in the career field and the need for a strong community college option.” The program started off with a focus on mechanical engineering, but has expanded “to accommodate other areas of engineering, such as chemical, industrial, civil, petroleum and biomedical.”
University Of Pennsylvania Engineering Student Wins Cards Against Humanity Award.
Philadelphia Inquirer (4/25, McGuire) reports that University of Pennsylvania materials science and engineering student Sona Dadhania “is the first recipient of the Science Ambassador Scholarship, which is funded by Cards Against Humanity.” Dadhania was selected from a pool of over 1,000 applicants who “submitted videos explaining topics in science that they are passionate about.” Dadhania’s topic was nanotechnology.
San Marcos Senior Earns Edison Scholarship.
Spanish-language KTAS-TV (4/25) reports on San Marcos High senior Alexis Villa-Tavera recently becoming a 2016 Edison Scholar and earning a $40,000 college scholarship. Villa-Tavera is shown in class receiving applause from her classmates as the announcement is made by SCE’s Tammy Tumbling. Villa-Tavera plans to study environmental engineering this fall at UC Santa Cruz. She is one of 30 students in SCE’s service area awarded Edison scholarships. One of those other students, Melissa Torres, a senior at James A. Garfield High School, is also shown in the report.
DOE Announces Nuclear Science Scholarships.
Atomic City Underground (4/25, Munger) reports that the Department of Energy announced more than $5 million in awards to undergrads and graduate students who are pursuing nuclear engineering and related degrees. The undergrad scholarships are for $7,500 each and fellowship winners will receive up to $50,000 annually for the next three years to pay for graduate studies and research. According to DOE, the University of Tennessee had 14 scholarship winners.
ED To Create Unified Web Portal For Student Loan Borrowers.
US News & World Report (4/25, Powell) reports on ED’s recent announcement of “its plan to create a single Web portal for federal student loan borrowers – a move to make payments easier.” ED says that the portal “isn’t expected to be rolled out anytime soon,” but when it is, “borrowers will be redirected to a single portal to pay their student debt.” The piece quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying in a blog post, “Our goal is to build a new state-of-the-art loan servicing system – one that creates incentives and guidelines that support a more user-friendly single online loan management platform.”
ED Pushes Accreditors To Focus On Student Outcomes, Troubled Colleges.
Inside Higher Ed (4/25) reports that on Friday ED issued guidance calling on accreditors “to focus more on enforcing standards that measure student achievement and to consider additional scrutiny for colleges with significant problems.” The article calls the guidance part of the Administration’s efforts “to encourage accreditors to tighten up in their role as gatekeepers for federal financial aid.” The piece quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying, “Today, the department clarified that accreditors have not only the flexibility but the responsibility to focus their resources on the institutions that present the greatest risk. The department’s guidance states the basis for this flexibility and identifies the statutory and regulatory criteria the department believes contribute significantly to effective monitoring.”
Research and Development
DARPA Program Seeks Research Proposals To Prevent Terror Attacks.
Stars and Stripes (4/25, Burke) reports DARPA’s Improv program, announced in March, is “soliciting research proposals…for prototypes and systems that could ‘threaten current military operations, equipment or personnel; made from commercially available technology such as cellphones.” Stars and Stripes says that full proposals are due by May 25, and DARPA “hopes to award funding to multiple projects and to have the program completed by year’s end.” Stars and Stripes also reports on DOD’s “hack the Pentagon” project, which invites hackers who have gone through a background check to test DOD’s network vulnerability.
Research: Loss Of Manufacturing Jobs Contributed To U.S. Political Divide.
The New York Times (4/25, Schwartz, Bui, Subscription Publication) reports research being released this week by David Autor, “an influential scholar of labor economics and trade” at MIT, David Dorn of the University of Zurich, Gordon Hanson, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and Kaveh Majlesi of Lund University in Sweden, “suggests that the damage to manufacturing jobs from a sharp acceleration in globalization since the turn of the century has contributed heavily to the nation’s bitter political divide.” The researchers “cross-referenc[ed] congressional voting records and district-by-district patterns of job losses and other economic trends between 2002 and 2010,” and found that “areas hardest hit by trade shocks were much more likely to move to the far right or the far left politically.”
Tunisian Startup Develops Bladeless Wind Energy Technology.
Reuters (4/25, Pollock, Haddad) reports that a Tunis-based Saphon Energy has developed a bladeless, non-rotating wind energy converter that is more efficient, cheaper to produce, and quieter than traditional turbines, according to the developers. The technology is inspired by the sailing boats of Ancient Carthage and a test project of 50 Saphonian devices is planned in India.
Ford, Others Explore New Manufacturing Roles For 3D Printers.
The Wall Street Journal (4/25, Chao, Subscription Publication) reports that automakers, including Ford, are testing a new 3D printing technology that “could solve a structural flaw that has kept the technology from widespread use in manufacturing.” Carbon3D Inc., which is backed by Google Ventures, has developed printers that “project light continuously through a pool of resin, gradually solidifying it onto an overhead platform that slowly lifts the object up until it is fully formed,” forming parts more closely resembling “those created using conventional auto-part molds.” The auto industry is looking for ways 3D printing could save tooling expenses but it remains too time consuming to print parts, negating any cost reductions. A MHI and Deloitte survey found that 14% use 3D printing technology currently “but 48% expect to adopt the technology within the next decade,” while research firm Gartner predicts “world-wide sales of 3-D printers will reach almost $4 billion next year, up from $406 million in 2012.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Senate Making “Good Progress” On Energy Funding Bill.
The Hill (4/25, Carney) reports Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “is moving the Senate toward wrapping up its first appropriations bill of the year.” On Monday, McConnell filed cloture “on the energy funding bill and a key substitute amendment. The move sets up an initial procedural vote for Wednesday, unless lawmakers can get a deal to speed up their work.” Senate leadership hopes “to clear the energy and water appropriations bill through the upper chamber this week.” Sen. Lamar Alexander said yesterday that “good progress” is being made on the legislation.
In its the “Week Ahead” The Hill (4/25, Henry) reports “the fiscal 2017 bill would increase funding $355 million over 2016 levels, with a $1.163 billion increase for the Department of Energy’s defense-related programs and an $808 million decrease for the nondefense portions of the bill, including other DOE programs and the Army Corps of Engineers.”
The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (4/25, Debenedetti) reported yesterday morning that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy hadn’t, “as of Friday, scheduled any floor time for the House’s version.”
Senate To Consider Amendment To Fund Wind Energy. E&E News PM (4/25, Subscription Publication) reports that the Senate this week is looking to capitalize on bipartisan efforts to pass the $37.5 billion fiscal 2017 energy and water development spending bill. The Senate will vote on an amendment by Sens. Jeff Merkley and Chuck Grassley to add $95 million for wind energy. Last week senators approved an amendment offered by Sens. Al Franken and Heidi Heitkamp that would boost funds for tribal loan guarantees by $9 million. “It’s unclear how many additional amendments will see votes, but [Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander] and subcommittee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) last week said they expected to be finished with the bill early in the week.”
House, Senate Split On ITER, Fusion Funding. Science Magazine (4/25, Cho) compares the House and Senate DOE budgets. This week the full Senate is expected to approve a $5.4 billion budget for DOE’s Office of Science that would eliminate support for ITER in France and trim domestic fusion research. A House panel has proposed continuing to fund ITER and fusion but cutting biological and environmental research. Observers have been warning that the U.S. commitment to ITER “has been squeezing other DOE basic research programs.” Michael Lubell, a lobbyist with the American Physical Society thinks that it’s unlikely the US will pull out of ITER and “expects the final numbers for individual programs to be closer to the House’s version.”
Proposed Underwater Transmission Line Would Link Upstate Nuclear, Wind To New York City.
The Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard (4/25) reports that Toronto-based OneGrid Corp. will begin seeking approval for a $1.5 billion “260-mile underwater transmission line along the Erie Canal and Hudson River to carry electricity from Upstate nuclear plants, wind farms and other generators to New York City.” The Empire State Connector “could improve the financial outlook for Upstate nuclear plants and wind farms, which are expected to be important for the success of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030.”
Sierra Club Challenges Permit For APS Power Plant Overhaul Citing Excessive Emissions.
The Arizona Republic (4/25, Randazzo) reports that the Sierra Club “filed an appeal to the air-quality permit for the natural-gas plant overhaul in Tempe that Arizona Public Service Co. is undertaking.” APS wants to close part of the Ocotillo Power Plant and replace it with more powerful and efficient generators, but the Sierra Club “is opposed to how APS would operate the new generators at the plant, which could result in carbon-dioxide emissions akin to a coal-fired power plant, the group said.”
Pentagon Aims To Reduce Energy Costs, Fuel Vulnerabilities.
The Hill (4/25, Kheel) reports on the Pentagon’s wide-ranging energy initiatives which include reducing the weight of equipment batteries soldiers carry, replacing light bulbs in stateside buildings, and putting solar panels on forward operating bases. Amanda Simpson, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for operational energy, said, “We are contributing less greenhouse gases per operation, but they are not the driving effort,” pointing to the vulnerability of fuel convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan. All new acquisition programs have to take energy into account, Simpson said.
Court Rejects Religious Challenge To Next Generation Science Standards.
Education Week (4/25, Walsh) reports in its “Curriculum Matters” blog a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE), which objects to science standards developed by the National Research Council and the Next Generation Science Standards and adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education, which the group says establishes a non-religious worldview, did not have standing to bring the suit. The court said that, as school districts could ignore the state standards or develop curricula teaching alternatives to origin theories, any legal theories were speculative. Also, without ruling on the merits of COPE’s claim, the court noted that US Supreme Court struck down a law requiring “creation science” be taught beside evolution
Robotics Teams Going To FIRST World Championship.
The Boston Globe (4/25, Bagni) reports the Stormgears 5422 team and their robot are headed for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition World Championship. While their 29th-place in the district tournament wouldn’t alone allow them to advance, the team “won the Engineering Inspiration Award for their community outreach efforts getting more kids involved in robotics, engineering, and other STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) activities.”
The Waterloo-Cedar Falls (IA) Courier (4/26, Wind) reports Denver High School’s FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team will participate in the FIRST World Championship after winning “the first place Inspire Award at its league qualifier, the Iowa championships and at the 13-state north super regional.” Despite note being “part of the winning alliance in any of its robotics competitions, the award recognizes students’ work on their robot, and efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
Jefferson City, Missouri Public Schools Enhancing Career-Oriented Learning.
The Jefferson City (MO) News Tribune (4/25, Rowe) reports Jefferson City, Missouri Public Schools “evolved its teaching approach so the curriculum is relevant to careers and current events” by adding real-world applications that cater “to more students’ interests and gets them ready for the working world.” JCPS staff called career-oriented learning “the education style of the future,” in the words of the News Tribune, and the schools “added more career-integrated options by adopting Project Lead the Way curriculum and adding the academies” and already offered the Nichols Career Center. The students have the chance to work with local businesses and learn skills and problem solving that will help them in their careers.
Also in the News
DHS Using “White Hat” Hackers To Test Agency Cybersecurity.
Federal News Radio (4/25, Miller) reports DHS is using “white hat” hackers to test the networks of three unnamed government agencies “to improve their network security.” NCCIC director John Felker said the “white hat” hackers “owned those agencies from top to bottom and side-to-side” in a matter of days. SANS Institute director of research Alan Paller “said DHS moving to conduct penetration testing from just vulnerability testing is a big change,” and “said the key to any red team exercise is to ensure the organization continues to analyze and review its security controls every hour, every day.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Aerial Fire Robots Tested At Homestead National Monument.