Leading the News
Florida Cities Explore Bike, Pedestrian Options; Cite “Dangerous By Design” Report.
The Fort Myers (FL) News-Press (2/11, Ruane) reported communities in Southwest Florida are “uniting” behind the idea of “major, named regional trail networks,” such as that imagined almost 25 years ago for the state’s Gulf Coast Trail. Today, the News-Press stated, the trail still has “numerous gaps to fill,” but additional interest and state funding arrived after the passage of the Shared-Use Non-motorized (SUN) Trail program. However, transportation planners, experts, and enthusiasts are taking matters into their own hands to fundraise through the Gulf Coast Trail Alliance. Area organizers called the January release of the National Complete Street Coalitions’ “Dangerous by Design” report a “gift,” as it catalyzes residents to “take time to educate ourselves and work for change.”
Florida Today (2/10, Drooby) cited new research from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles finding that Brevard County, Florida experienced a 27-percent increase in vehicle crashes resulting in injury or death for pedestrians over the last five years. The information was presented to the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization last week, comparing the county’s “dismal safety ranking as the nation’s second-most dangerous metro area for pedestrians” according to the “Dangerous by Design” report. City officials identified the need for a “change in culture,” acknowledging roads as spaces for bicycles, cars, and pedestrians.
Yale To Rename College Honoring John C. Calhoun For Grace Murray Hopper.
The New York Times (2/11, Remnick, Subscription Publication) reports Yale President Peter Salovey announced Saturday that the university was changing the name of its residential college honoring John C. Calhoun, “the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina.” The Times says the university will be renaming the college after “trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received both a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale,” Grace Murray Hopper. In a conference call with reporters, Salovey said, “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”
Salovey’s decision reverses the stance he took last spring when he “said he did not want to erase history, but confront it and learn from it,” the Washington Post (2/11, Wang) reports. Salovey on Saturday said “he still believes in the importance of confronting history rather than erasing it,” but that a “committee led by a historian crafted a set of four principles for considering renaming.” Salovey noted, “I think we can make this change without effacing history. We’re not removing evidence of John C. Calhoun from our campus.”
The Wall Street Journal (2/11, Korn, Subscription Publication) says the university’s trustees, the Yale Corporation, also voted in Friday in favor of renaming the college. The change will become effective in the 2017-2018 academic year.
WSJournal: Walker’s Tuition Reduction Shows University Hypocrisy.
The Wall Street Journal (2/10, Subscription Publication) editorializes in favor of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s in-state tuition freeze for the University of Wisconsin in 2013 and proposed 5 percent cuts for the 2018-19 school year, although it notes Republican lawmakers in the state are opposed to the spending increase. However, the Journal highlights that Walker’s action has exposed the hypocrisy of UW leaders, who want more taxpayer funding and higher student costs.
NYTimes Laments Rising Student Debt Burden Among Seniors.
In an editorial, the New York Times (2/13, Subscription Publication) says the “experience of being crushed by student debt is no longer limited to the young.” The Times cites new federal data that shows “Americans age 60 and older are the fastest-growing age group of student loan debtors.” It argues that the government “should do more for older borrowers,” including “automatically enroll[ing] them in income-based repayment when their accounts become delinquent — but before they default,” and Congress “should exempt Social Security income from garnishment.”
Wisconsin Governor Proposes Performance-Based Funding Distribution For Higher Education System.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (2/11, Herzog) reports Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s two-year budget proposal, delivered on Feb. 8, allocated $42.5 million in new funding to the University of Wisconsin System. Walker’s proposal calls for a performance-based distribution of 30 percent of the new funding based on campus “affordability and attainability,” 45 percent on “work readiness,” and 25 percent on efficiency, services, and undetermined criteria. The campuses would be assessed on each measure and their scores published so students and parents can evaluate the value of each institution.
Research and Development
Minnesota Researchers Develop Nerve Stimulation Device.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (2/12) reports Acuta Technologies co-founders Daniel Romo and Daniel Gulick are developing a noninvasive nerve stimulation device that targets the vagus nerve. They developed an ultrasound-based appetite suppression device that targeted the vagus nerve, which connects a number of organs, and discovered “it reduced the level of glucose in the blood.” They shifted the focus of their research “to the prospect of a creating a noninvasive device for diabetes therapy and inflammation control,” and after pitching a proposed variation to be used as a nerve-targeting anesthesia to investors, “the two were surprised at how seriously they took the technology and business plan.” Acuta has since raised funds from Minneapolis-based Metropolitan Economic Development Association, a California-based “angel investor,” and the University of Minnesota’s Economic Development Fellows Consulting Program.
Ford To Invest $1B In Autonomous Vehicle Technology Start-Up Argo AI.
CIO Magazine (2/10, Mearian) reported that Ford has announced it is investing $1 billion over the course of five years in an artificial intelligence start-up to help with the development of autonomous vehicle technology. After the investment, Ford will be the majority stakeholder in the start-up Argo AI, which expects to manufacture a fully autonomous vehicle by 2021. Booz Allen Hamilton Director for US Commercial Business Jon Allen said that “not only are the companies opening up R&D facilities, they’re also recruiting rock star security and system engineers from the mecca of computer development,” Silicon Valley.
Autonomous Ships Could Be Operational In Just Three Years.
The Daily Mirror (UK) (2/12, Cockerton) reports Rolls-Royce says it’s working with “Government-backed groups” to develop autonomous ships, including the Norwegian Forum for Autonomous Ships and DIMECC, and “embarking on major research projects in Britain and Singapore.” Rolls-Royce Vice President of Innovation said “told the Press Association that teams are working to develop regulation that will cover the first iteration of commercial ships like ferries and tugboats,” which he said “will give the vessel permission to operate before we have international regulations in place.” From there, the company will work on “cargo vessels that will sail across international waters.” According to the Daily Mirror, “Ships without crews could be sailing the seas in just three years time.”
NASA Begins Testing Flight Deck Interval Management Software.
The International Business Times (2/10) reported that on Thursday, NASA and Honeywell Aerospace began testing a system designed to better manage aircraft traffic and reduce flight delays. NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s flight deck interval management software “would maximize efficiency in the US’ increasingly busy airspace by allowing planes to read data from nearby aircraft,” providing better accuracy than the current technology reliant on air traffic controllers. In a press release, NASA explained that it used a business jet equipped with the technology to lead a 757 and 737, which automatically calculated speeds and distances based on the information broadcast from the test aircraft.
Samsung, Sungkyunkwan University Create Amorphous Graphene Synthesis Tech.
The Korea Herald (2/12, Song) reports a research team of Samsung Electronics and Sungkyunkwan University in Korea has created “an original technology to create a new material by synthesizing amorphous graphene for the first time in the world.” Graphene in “crystalline form is considered an ideal material for use in flexible and transparent display panels and wearable devices.” Now, the team has developed “the world’s first technology to synthesize amorphous graphene, a material with sharply different properties to its crystalline cousin.” The new substance “has low conductivity, which expands the use of graphene from the electronics industry to others, including desalination.”
Raytheon, Utilidata Partner For Power Grid Cybersecurity Service.
Power Technology (2/10) reported that Raytheon and electrical engineering firm Utilidata have formed a “strategic alliance” for utility grid cybersecurity. The partnership “will combine Utilidata’s experience in the use of real-time data collected from the electrical grid” for cyber-attack defense, and Raytheon’s experience “in preventing cyber threat hunting, automation and managed security services.” Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services Business President Dave Wajsgras explained, “With this alliance, Raytheon will expand our presence in the critical infrastructure market by delivering next-generation, defence-grade cybersecurity capabilities to power utilities.” RT (2/12) also reported.
Engineering and Public Policy
WSJournal Analysis: Administration In Conflict With Silicon Valley Over Policy.
The Wall Street Journal (2/12, McKinnon, Subscription Publication) reports the Trump Administration is adopting a number of policy positions in opposition to “Silicon Valley” mentioning immigration, net-neutrality, privacy rules, national security, and says the tech industry is worried the Administration may change policy with respect to visa’s for highly-skilled immigrants. Meanwhile the Administration has focused on its goal of strengthening the economy and employment. Some in the tech industry are also said to concerned about Attorney General Sessions who in the past has expressed concerns about tech companies preventing investigators from gaining access to data from their customers.
Infrastructure Projects Frequently Delayed By Lawsuits, Environmental Regulations.
The Wall Street Journal (2/12, Harrison, Subscription Publication) reports on likely problems facing President Trump’s plans for improved infrastructure, citing a case in Los Angeles County where a freeway project was planned nearly sixty years ago and still is under review. The article describes conflicts between infrastructure projects and environmental laws and regulations. They are credited with having caused significant delays to President Obama’s stimulus projects. While President Trump has issued an executive order to speed review of high priority projects, that is not expected to have very much effect given the experience of Presidents Obama and George W. Bush. The article goes on to describe lawsuits and environmental reviews causing projects to be delayed for many years.
Loveless: “Greener” Energy Supplanting Coal.
Bill Loveless writes in USA Today (2/12), that while President Trump wants to help the coal industry, “greener forms” are growing as a report from the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) shows. Loveless cites the report as finding natural gas has surpassed goal for electricity production, while 7 gigawatts of coal-powered electrical production was taken offline, and 12 gigawatts more is scheduled to go offline over five years. In addition, US greenhouse gas emissions are at “a 25-year low.” Meanwhile, the cost of energy fell to 4 percent of consumer spending. The study found that “sustainable energy” is a growing part of electricity production and overall, people are not paying more for energy.
NuScale Small Modular Reactor Design Takes Step Toward NRC Approval.
IEEE Spectrum (2/10, Wagman) reports that the NRC is expected to “decide by mid-March whether to accept an application with no fewer than 12,000 pages of technical details that support a design for a small modular nuclear reactor design from NuScale Power.” Accepting the application would allow the agency to move forward in its license certification review process for the proposed reactor, which might take “up to another 40 months to complete.” NuScale is the “first small modular reactor (SMR) to have made it this far in the U.S. regulatory process,” though it has had “some help.” The reactor concept “dates back to 2000, with origins as a project involving Oregon State University (OSU), the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, and Nexant.” That concept, “designated as the Multi-Application Small Light-Water Reactor, was refined by OSU and became the basis for the current design.”
Shaheen, Portman To Renew Push For Energy Efficiency Legislation.
E&E Daily (2/10, Subscription Publication) reports Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Rob Portman plan to introduce major energy efficiency legislation. The pair “have been pushing for an efficiency overhaul for more than five years” and earlier versions of the bill stalled in an energy reform package last year. The original bill “would mandate policies covering buildings, appliances and manufacturers,” and called for a model energy code a DOE program to highlight products that use highly efficient supply chains.
Planned Solar Project Would Be Largest In Montana.
The AP (2/12) reports solar farm plans in Billings, Montana “are heating up just as renewable energy politics cool at the Montana Legislature.” The MT Sun solar farm would generate “80 megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power 14,400 homes.” The farm would be the biggest solar project in the state. The farm “would cost $90 million to $110 million to build.” Last September, “the state signed a lease with MT Sun last” and it “expects to begin the environmental work on the project in the coming months.” But, “Montana solar projects are facing dark times” as “the Legislature is considering weakening state laws that support solar and other renewable energy development.”
Groups Fight Renewable Energy Efforts In New Hampshire.
The AP (2/12, Casey) reports New Hampshire is already behind the majority “of its neighbors in expanding its use of renewable energy” but that has not “stopped several groups from using this legislative session to attack those nascent efforts.” Americans for Prosperity is among the groups supporting legislation “that would pull New Hampshire out of the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.” While another “bill calls for repealing the state’s Electric Renewable Energy Portfolio, which requires utilities to get a percentage of their power from renewable sources.” Bill supporters contend “they would help bring down energy prices, which are blamed for driving away business from the state.”
Automakers Ask Trump To Reinstate EPA Review Of CAFE Standards.
Bloomberg Politics (2/11, Beene) reports on a letter sent to President Trump by top executives from 18 automakers, including GM CEO Mary Barra, Ford CEO Mark Fields, and FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne, who asked the President “to reinstate a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review of fuel efficiency regulations through 2025 that they say was unfairly cut short during the final days of the Obama administration.” The story says NHTSA is still reviewing its “portion” of the rules, but the agency has to “issue fresh rules by 2020 setting fuel economy standards from 2022 through 2025.”
The Christian Science Monitor (2/10, Voelcker) reports the letter sent by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers could result in CAFE standards being “revisited, delayed, modified, or eliminated” even, but the EPA has mostly finalized its portion of the rules, meaning “changing that decision is not simple,” even for the President.
Elementary School Offers Indiana Students A Rare Science Program.
The Kendallville (IN) News Sun (2/11, Minier) reports many Indiana school districts, especially in rural areas, do not have the funding for dedicated science instructors or programs. Science-related material is delegated to non-science teachers, who are typically expected to introduce students to the topic through reading assignments or worksheets. Smith-Green Community Schools’ Churubusco Elementary School, however, launched a science program 20 years ago with the help of an $18,000 Parent Teacher Organization sponsorship. The school’s science teacher, Liz Schemm, stretched that contribution to cover three years’ expenses, and the program is currently financed through book fees. Schemm said the community is avidly supportive of the program, and entering students from other districts are surprised to see a class dedicated to science.
WPost Profiles Science Talent Search Competition Finalists.
The Washington Post (2/12, Balingit) profiles several of the 40 Regeneron Science Talent Search teenage finalists. All finalists will receive a $25,000 scholarship, and the grand prize winner, to be selected in March, will receive a $250,000 scholarship. Their “projects could translate into important developments in science and medicine.” The featured student researchers submitted projects that examined and proposed solutions to cancer, explored dark energy, and could accelerate drug research. Finalist David Rekhtman’s cancer cell heating technique is even “being tested in clinical trials at NIH, where researchers will test its effectiveness in real patients.”
Indiana All-Girl’s School Focuses On STEM Curriculum.
The Merrillville (IN) Post-Tribune (2/7, Colias) reports the Frankie Woods McCullough Academy for Girls in Indiana is “encouraging girls to defy gender stereotypes and embrace science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields at an earlier age.” Principal Pearl Price said girls’ test scores in STEM fields are historically lower than boys’ scores, and the school is focused on changing that trend. McCullough is one of only a few schools in the Gary Community School Corp. district “that has consistently received an A rating in recent years.” The district as a whole received Indiana’s only F-rating last year, partially because of ISTEP test scores.
Friday’s Lead Stories
• New Online Tool Facilitates Tracking Of Political Issues At State Level.
• International Students At Massachusetts Colleges Concerned About Trump.
• Next Gen Ingestible Device Powered By Stomach Acid.
• Software Firm Official Argues That Tech Will Drive Job Creation.
• Tanner: Defense Firms Still Have “The Most Innovative Engineering Force.”
• Dakota Access Pipeline Construction Begins Again.
• Roanoke Convention Trains Teachers In STEM Lessons.