Leading the News
Analysis: Future Of Clean Energy Under Trump Administration Unclear.
The Washington Post (12/19, Mooney) reports the Energy Department during the Obama Administration oversaw an clean energy “revolution” in the United States and invested in clean energy research. DOE acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy David Friedman said, “The Department of Energy has really changed the world when it comes to energy, and that’s part of a global competition that’s underway.” He added, “Electric vehicles, we can take very I think direct credit for the lithium ion battery of today. … That core chemistry…was developed and improved at Argonne National Labs through DOE funding.” But “in a month, a new administration will take over, guided by a president who” has talked “about reviving the glory days of fossil fuels.” Former Texas governor Rick Perry will head the agency under Trump, and although wind energy boomed in his state “on his watch,” fears exist “that his nomination suggests a realignment of department priorities towards fossil fuels and away from renewables.”
Bloomberg Politics (12/19, Dennis) reports Senate Democrats “know they probably can’t block Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks, but they plan to force lengthy debate on nominees they consider radical – potentially stretching well beyond Inauguration Day.” While presidents are typically given “significant leeway to choose their own team, many of Trump’s picks have liberal groups howling in protest.” According to Bloomberg, Perry “may face contentions hearings” because he is set to head the department “he once sought to eliminate but couldn’t remember its name on a debate stage.”
Offshore Wind Supporters Optimistic About Trump Administration. The New Bedford (MA) Standard-Times (12/17) reports that “as President-elect Donald Trump continues to roll out cabinet selections with strong ties to fossil fuels and little love for environmental initiatives, supporters of offshore wind power are remaining confident, saying the renewable industry’s potential for jobs and manufacturing will outweigh debates about climate change or clean air regulations.” According to the article, “local, state and federal backers of the offshore wind industry” are “finding reasons for optimism despite the daily vitriol and broad uncertainty, policy-wise, of Trump’s first steps into the White House.” The article notes that “the private sector reflected that confidence last week, when regional utility giant Eversource Energy bought a 50-percent ownership interest in Bay State Wind, a potential wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard that’s being developed by Danish company DONG Energy.”
ED Cuts Off Charlotte School Of Law From Federal Aid.
The Washington Post (12/19, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ED has cut off Charlotte School of Law from “federal loans and grants for misleading students about their chances of passing the bar and its shaky accreditation with the American Bar Association.” The Post quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying in a statement, “The ABA repeatedly found that the Charlotte School of Law does not prepare students for participation in the legal profession. Yet CSL continuously misrepresented itself to current and prospective students as hitting the mark. CSL’s actions were misleading and dishonest. We can no longer allow them continued access to federal student aid.”
The Charlotte (NC) Observer (12/19) reports that the “embattled” school had been “scrambling to get off of probation,” but says the move “staggered” the schools and could cost it “tens of millions of dollars.” The decision is, the Observer reports, “a devastating loss to a school that has branded itself as a gateway to the legal profession for nontraditional law students.”
Diverse Education (12/19) reports the American Bar Association put the school on a two-year probation term after “finding that the school was not in compliance with association rules requiring schools to admit applicants who appear likely to succeed in academic programs and pass the bar.”
Incoming California Community College Chancellor Eyeing Trump’s Higher Education Policies.
Southern California Public Radio (12/19) reports that incoming California Community College Chancellor Eloy Oakley, who started on the job Monday leading the 113-college system, said that he had expected Hillary Clinton to win the presidency, “like many,” and is now “keeping a close eye on the tone Donald Trump sets once in office to gauge the particular challenges California’s community colleges will face.” The piece quotes Oakley saying, “Certainly his picks in the Department of Education and certainly the direction the White House goes with regard to community colleges will impact us.”
McCain Urges Trump To Ease Up On For-Profit Colleges.
Politico Morning Education (12/19) reports that Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) “late last week urged the Trump administration to prioritize reversing the Obama administration’s crackdown on for-profits.” The piece quotes McCain saying in a statement, “Undoing the Obama Administration’s eight-year war on for-profit colleges through onerous rulemaking and regulatory actions should be a priority of the next administration and Congress.”
Report Points To Declining College Enrollment.
Politico Morning Education (12/19) reports that enrollment in US colleges fell by over 270,000 students this fall, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Center Executive Director Doug Shapiro is quoted saying, “The trends of a declining adult student enrollment and the shrinking for-profit sector are now joined by stagnating numbers of new high school graduates. These forces show no sign of slowing and will continue to challenge institutions in their planning.”
Research and Development
NASA’s Robots Find Signs Of Water On Mars.
The Washington Post (12/19, Kaplan) “Speaking of Science” blog reports that last week at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union, NASA scientists announced that the rover Curiosity found a “patch of ground with veins of calcium sulfate” on Mars, and that “hiding within those veins was the element boron, which usually appears only in once-flooded sites where the water has evaporated away.” The Post cites unnamed Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists as indicating “the discovery in Mars’s Gale Crater suggests that there was once liquid water on the Red Planet – and that the water was habitable.” The article lists other NASA robots’ indications that water once existed on Mars.
Spaceflight Now (12/18, Clark) quotes LANL Postdoctoral Research Associate Patrick Gasda as saying, “The presence of boron can tell us about the chemistry of the lake water, or it can tell us about the later ground water that produced these calcium sulfate veins.” However, Gasda added, “The only problem from the meteorite is you don’t have all the context of Gale Crater. That’s that benefit of having the measurement in Gale Crater, is that we know a lot about the crater, and there was a lake, so we have this context that we can bring to the table and leverage that to understand what the boron is doing in the ground water, for example.”
University Of Texas Southwestern Researchers Developing Cancer Imaging Technology.
The Dallas Morning News (12/19, Rice) reports that researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas are developing technology they hope will “seek out cancerous areas in the body and [cause] them to light up,” making it easier to extract them through surgery. The technology is called a pH Nanosensor.
Harvard Researchers Create Extremely Small Radio.
The NPR (12/19) “The Two-Way” blog reports that Harvard physicists have “built a radio receiver out of building blocks the size of two atoms,” saying it is “almost certainly, the tiniest radio receiver in the world.” The piece reports that “Electrical engineering professor Marko Loncar and graduate student Linbo Shao applied basic radio engineering principles to a very small-scale machine.”
University Of North Florida Engineers Create High-Tech Toys For Disabled Children.
The AP (12/19, Dearen) reports that a pair of professors at the University of North Florida came up with the idea to “mix engineering and physical therapy students in a lab with the goal of converting toys from store shelves into custom-made fun for disabled children.” The notion has developed into the three-year-old Adaptive Toy Project, which “has drawn a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.”
Engineers At Massachusetts College Working On App To Detect Intoxication.
The Boston Globe (12/20, Bray) reports that engineers at Massachusetts’ Worcester Polytechnic Institute are working on a smartphone app that detects irregular walking and notifies users with a text message to inform them that they’ve “had enough to drink.”
Colorado School Of Mines Receives University Transportation Center Grant.
The Higher Education Tribune (12/16) reported that “the Colorado School of Mines is the recipient of a $7.5 million, five-year grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which will go toward the construction of a University Transportation Center…dedicated to the improvement of underground transportation durability and lifespan.” University Construction and Tunneling Chair Mike Mooney said, “This is the first U.S. DOT funded center at Mines and the first-ever U.S. DOT center focused on underground infrastructure. This effort will build upon the strong foundation of UC&T at Mines and cements UC&T and Mines as the number one place in the world for underground construction and tunneling research and education.” The Tribune explains that “Marte Gutierrez, James R. Paden distinguished professor who works for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will be leading the project.”
UAVs Are Being Used To Supplement Autonomous Vehicle Data And Mapping.
Business Insider (12/19) reports that Ford engineers are exploring whether UAVs can help autonomous vehicles in off-road settings by quickly mapping areas the car’s technology cannot safely navigate. UAVs could also be used to share data with a fleet of autonomous vehicles, providing warnings for blind spots or hazards, in essence “filling the gaps that self-driving cars’ sensors and cameras cannot fully detect.”
Scientists Measure Light From Antimatter for First Time.
NPR (12/19) reported on its “All Things Considered” program and on its “Two-Way” blog that at CERN, “for the first time, researchers were able to zap antimatter atoms with a laser, then precisely measure the light let off.” By comparing the light from anti-atoms and regular atoms, scientists aim to understand why antimatter lost out to regular matter in the early universe. Fermilab’s Chris Quigg said that many more measurements of antimatter remain to be done and could open new areas of research.
BlackBerry Announces Autonomous Vehicle Software Development Plan.
The Wall Street Journal (12/19, Vieira, George-Cosh, Subscription Publication) reports BlackBerry announced it will develop software for autonomous vehicles in Ottawa. The Journal notes Blackberry plans to spend about 100 million Canadian dollars developing its QNX platform for self-driving cars, with CEO John Chen saying “every car manufacturer is a potential customer of ours. So this could have a lot of operating space.”
Bloomberg News (12/19, De Vynck) reports the announcement was made jointly with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Bloomberg notes that BlackBerry’s QNX unit is developing an algorithm meant to focus “on the underlying operating system that other companies could build applications on top of,” rather than one that could drive a car. Bloomberg adds that while the program has yet to receive any government funding, Canadian governments have invested heavily in traditional automakers, so “this deal could open the door for similar arrangements focused on technology and software,” according to QNX chief John Wall.
CNBC (12/19) reports BlackBerry plans to create more than 650 jobs with the investment. CNBC adds that BlackBerry has been providing software to the automotive industry for over a decade, and it’s plans include “a concept vehicle” using its software, “in partnership with the University of Waterloo, PolySync and Renesas Electronics.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Environmentalists Urge LIPA To Advance Offshore Wind Development.
Newsday (NY) (12/19, Harrington) reports in the five months sine LIPA declared it would initiate the nation’s largest offshore wind farm and the state moved to delay a LIPA board vote on the project, “all has been quiet.” On Tuesday, local groups will gather to urge LIPA and New York the move forward. A vote on the wind project isn’t scheduled for Tuesday. A senior LIPA official said the authority “continues to negotiate with Deepwater” and has made “substantial progress,” but there are still “a few open issues” that require additional work. Newsday reports that if the contract is finalized next year, “Deepwater would see a 20 percent reduction in a federal production tax credit for the project.”
Small Refiners Ask EPA For More Time To Comment.
The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (12/19) reported the EPA has been asked by “a coalition of small retailers” for “more time to comment on the agency’s proposed denial of several petitions seeking a new definition of point of obligation under the renewable fuel standard.” In a letter by the retailers, an attorney wrote, “We have heard from many members that they would like to contribute comments and data to the docket, but will not be able to do so by the current deadline.”
Baltimore County Weighs Solar Farm Restrictions.
The Baltimore Sun (12/19, Wood) reports Baltimore County officials “are weighing how to regulate solar installations in rural areas as farmers become increasingly interested in switching from crops to solar panels.” County Councilman Wade Kach plans to introduce a bill that could limit solar arrays in rural areas to the lesser of either 20 acres or 50 percent of a property, whichever is less. “Solar farms would not be allowed on properties that are enrolled in agricultural preservation programs, located in historic districts or that have preservation easements that limit development.”
Texas Lawmaker Aims To Ban Wind Turbines Near Military Bases.
EnergyWire (12/19, Subscription Publication) reports Texas state Sen. Donna Campbell “has proposed barring wind farms near some military installations for fears that the turbines can hinder military readiness.” Campbell’s Mission Preparedness Protection Act “proposes to cut subsidies for wind farms that are within 30 nautical miles of the boundaries of Texas military aviation facilities.” Critical of the move, Jeff Clark, executive director of the Austin-based Wind Coalition said, “Rather than applying arbitrary distances, what matters is a technical assessment by the military if a project is compatible or incompatible.”
Five Companies Add STEM Internships For Massachusetts Students.
The New Bedford (MA) Standard-Times (12/19, Barnes) reports that “five SouthCoast companies will offer new high school internships in science, technology, engineering, and math as part of a state initiative to boost career preparation in those areas.” The paper says that “the Executive Office of Education announced the new internships Monday as Education Secretary Jim Peyser toured one of the businesses, Five Star Companies in New Bedford.” Meanwhile, “Southcoast Health System, Siemens, Lockheed Martin, and HTP will also welcome local interns, according to a press release.” The Standard-Times explains that the companies “are participating in an initiative called MA STEM@Work, which aims to increase the number of internship opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math offered through the state’s existing Connecting Activities internship system.”
Students Compete In FIRST LEGO Competition In Michigan.
The Petoskey (MI) News-Review (12/19, Foley) reports that “it was a successful weekend for a pair of Charlevoix-based For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) LEGO League seven-team competition at Lake Superior State University earlier this month.” The report says, “overseen by Charlevoix Middle/High School science and honors chemistry teacher Tom Schultz, the Maroon Platoon and Raydernators teams consisted of 14 students who researched a real-world problem.” The report says “students on each team…helped in designing, building and programming a robot using LEGO Mindstorms, and were challenged to develop a solution to a problem animals might face.”
New Hampshire Pushes Computer Science Education With Advocacy Campaign.
The Concord (NH) Monitor (12/18, Duffort) reported that CS4NH is a statewide advocacy campaign in partnership with the University of New Hampshire designed to help districts like Concord grow their computer science “programs – and later adopters get theirs off the ground.” According to Department of Education STEM education director David Benedetto, “the New Hampshire Department of Education is cognizant of the finite resources school districts have, where computer science initiatives have to compete with things like personnel costs, infrastructure upkeep, or expanding to full-day kindergarten.” He says “the state will try to help those districts that do want to teach computer science – and increasingly many do – build capacity.” Specifically, “the department is working on rolling out an online professional development course” and will connect “districts with existing resources, like the UNH’s STEM Discovery Lab, which offers professional development opportunities for teachers looking to incorporate computer science into their curricula.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Uber Defies California DMV And San Francisco By Continuing Self-Driving Car Tests.
• Harvard Business Professor Urges Trump To Overhaul Education For Workforce.
• Michigan State Plans Building To Bolster STEM-related Work.
• Indonesia FAcing Shortage Of Engineers.
• Volkswagen Agrees To $200 Million Settlement To Offset Emissions.
• WPost: Efforts To Streamline Infrastructure Must Mind Environmental, Other Concerns.
• Southern California Schools Aim To Improve Computer Science Education.