Leading the News
Administration Expected To Roll Back CAFE Standards In Coming Week.
The New York Times (3/3, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports Transportation Secretary Chao and EPA Administrator Pruitt are expected “as soon as Tuesday” to announce that the Administration “will immediate start to undo one of former President Barack Obama’s most significant environmental legacies,” the corporate average fuel economy standards. The Times says the White House could couple the announcement with a directive to Pruitt’s agency to start the work of undoing the Clean Power Plan. Aside from lifting the restrictions on carbon emissions from vehicles, changes to the CAFE standards “will also have a major effect on the United States auto industry,” which has told Trump’s Administration it finds the “technical requirements” of emissions reduction “too burdensome.”
The Washington Post (3/3, Eilperin, Dennis) reports the rumors of an imminent announcement on the matter is “the latest signal by the Trump administration that it is charting a new course on climate change.” The story reports that when EPA and NHTSA first wrote the rules five years ago, they “agreed to review the 2022-2025 standards,” but last December EPA found that no review was needed and “finalized the standards a week before Trump took office.” Bloomberg News (3/3, Beene) reports 18 executives from the auto industry wrote Trump “last month, asking him to reinstate the review of fuel economy regulations.”
Average Fuel Economy For US Vehicles Went From 14 MPG In 1923 To 17.9 MPG In 2015. The Christian Science Monitor (3/3, Read) reports that a study of average fuel economy data from 1923 to 2015 by University of Michigan researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle resulted in findings that “are a little depressing.” The survey indicates that “in 1923, America’s fleet of cars, trucks, buses, and vans earned an average of 14 miles to the gallon” before dipping and “bottoming out at 11.9 miles per gallon in 1973.” That year brought the Oil Crisis, which forced up fuel economy to the point that “within 20 years, average fuel economy had regained a fair bit of ground, hitting 16.9 miles per gallon in 1991.” The survey finds, however, that since 1991, “improvement efforts have stalled,” with “the average fuel economy of vehicles registered in America [rising] just one mile per gallon – yes, one – hitting 17.9 in 2015.”
Carnegie Mellon To Propose $23 Million Mixed-Use Building In Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (3/4) reported that in late spring, Carnegie Mellon University is hoping to start construction on a $23 million mixed use building in Pittsburgh. Some of the four-story building space is designated for Tata Consultancy Services’ staff, who will “work with university faculty, staff and students,” and some of the proposed building space is also expected to include a restaurant, university stores, and academic and administrative offices. On Tuesday, the university will brief the City Planning Commission on its proposal. Tata granted Carnegie Mellon a $35 million gift in 2015, and the university intends to use the contribution for an “innovation corridor.” Carnegie Mellon will also use the contribution “to help endow Presidential Fellowships and Scholarships, part of an ongoing effort by TCS to encourage instruction nationally in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.”
Students Protest Meeting Of HBCU Leaders With Trump.
The New York Times (3/4, Hartocollis, Weiland, Subscription Publication) reports that students at Howard University on Thursday “disrupted a university convocation to protest what they saw” as the university’s “catering to the Trump administration.” The Times says the backlash follows a gathering on Monday with Trump Administration officials, which included Howard University president Wayne Frederick and “more than 60 other leaders of historically black colleges and universities.” Morgan State University president David Wilson said, “I was not there to make any statement about legitimizing him or not. I was there to make sure that the genre of institutions that has been so critical to building the middle class in this country and that will be critical to maintaining the middle class going forward receive the appropriate amount of federal aid.”
Morehouse President Expresses Disappointment After Trump Meeting. The Huffington Post (3/3) reports that in a statement to the campus community on Thursday, Morehouse College President John Wilson Jr. “said he initially had ‘high hopes,’ mainly regarding funding, about meeting with” President Trump and administration officials. However, Wilson expressed disappointment that the administration did not allocate any funding for HBCUs. Moreover, “Wilson also noted his disappointment with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calling HBCUs an example of ‘school choice.’”
The Hill (3/3, Greenwood) reports that Wilson “called a series of meetings with Trump administration officials this week ‘troubling’ and said they ultimately failed to live up to expectations.” The piece quotes Wilson saying in his statement, “In general, the meetings were a troubling beginning to what must be a productive relationship.” Wilson wrote that instead of providing more funding or tax incentives, “the key change is a symbolic shift of the White House HBCU Initiative from the Department of Education to the White House.”
Harvard Conference Confronts Academia’s Ties To Slavery.
According to the New York Times (3/5, Schuessler, Subscription Publication), Harvard University hosted the “Universities and Slavery: Bound by History” conference to come to terms with history in order to “free ourselves to create a more just world,” said President Drew Faust. Where universities once worried the studies showing universities’ historical dependence on slavery “would somehow tarnish our gates,” said MIT professor Craig Wilder, “In fact, they opened them,” since a 2001 Yale graduate student study brought the connections to the fore. Echoing the sentiments of some of the 500 attendance, one scholar was reportedly overheard saying that “something we’ve been talking about for 200 years has suddenly become urgent.”
Study Finds “Most States” Provide Less Aid To Low-Income College Students Than Pell Program.
The Washington Post (3/3, Douglas-Gabriel) reports researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have released a new study that “documents major differences among states in how much they aid students in financial need.” According to the Post, the findings revealed “California, Wyoming and New Jersey provide more aid to low-income college students than” the Pell grant program, “the largest federal grant program,” but “most states give far less.”
DC Student Sues After Being Denied Financial Aid Because Of Mother’s Immigration Status.
The Washington Post (3/5, Ross) reports that Natalia Villalobos, a US citizen born in Washington, DC was recently denied assistance from a DC tuition assistance grant because her mother “is not a US citizen or a legal permanent resident.” Villalobos, with the help of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, “filed a federal lawsuit in the District last week, alleging that the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) program unfairly discriminates against U.S. citizens with immigrant parents, including those living in the United States legally.”
Research and Development
Iowa State University Scientists Develop Way To Clean Water With Algae.
The AP (3/4, Eller) reported Iowa State University scientists Martin Gross and Zhiyou Wen “developed a system that uses algae to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from wastewater, cleaning water before it’s released into the state’s rivers and streams.” Their approach could help about 275 small Iowa towns save a total $1 billion on wastewater treatment upgrade costs needed to meet tighter permit requirements and heightened clean water standards passed in 2006. The technology is currently being tested at large and small utilities. Gross-Wen Technologies was awarded a $100,000 Federal grant and a $25,000 Iowa Innovation grant, for the technology to be tested. Additionally, the Iowa Economic Development Authority also provided $25,000 for commercialization, Ag Startup Engine contributed $25,000, and Midwest Project Partners founder Dave Furbish, an angel investor, provided $225,000.
Lithium-Ion Battery Inventor Develops Purported Better, Safer Improvement.
The Christian Science Monitor (3/4) reported University of Texas engineering professor and co-inventor of the lithium-ion cell battery, John Goodenough, “recently led a team that developed what is purported to be a better alternative” to his previous innovation. In a paper published by the journal Energy & Environmental Science, Goodenough explained the new batter is noncombustible because of its solid-state design, compared to “the flammable liquid electrolyte used in current lithium-ion battery cells with a solid material.” He also explained the new battery can charge and discharge faster, is three times more dense, and will have a longer lifeline than lithium-ion batteries.
University Of Michigan Researchers Develop Artificial Tooth Enamel.
Gizmodo (3/2) reported scientists are attempting to replicate tooth enamel “to potentially improve the strength and safety of airplanes.” University of Michigan College of Engineering professor Nicholas Kotov and post-doctoral researcher Bongjun Yeom created an artificial version of tooth enamel “that exhibits the same resilient properties,” but instead of the ceramic crystals and proteins found in nature, the researchers’ enamel incorporated zinc oxide nanowires encased in a soft polymer material. This week, the journal Nature will publish the researchers’ paper on the study.
Artificial Intelligence Workshop Addresses Possible “Worst-Case Scenarios.”
Last weekend, Arizona State University hosted a workshop titled “Envisioning and Addressing Adverse AI Outcomes,” Bloomberg News (3/2, Bass) reported. Tesla co-founder Elon Musk and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn helped fund the workshop. Veteran artificial intelligence scientist Eric Horvitz, “Doomsday Clock guru” Lawrence Krauss, and about 40 scientists, policymakers, and cyber-security experts gathered at the workshop “to discuss the worst that could possibly happen” in an AI-dependent world “and how to stop it.” The participants divided into red and blue teams and conducted “AI-gone-very-wrong scenarios, ranging from stock-market manipulation to global warfare.” Horvitz was optimistic, but the “more dystopian-minded backers of the project seemed to find his outlook too positive when plans for this event started about two years ago.” Tufts University computer science department chairwoman Kathleen Fisher and DARPA director John Launchbury led a session on possible intelligent, automated cyber attacks, and University of Michigan computer science professor Michael Wellman “dreamed up” a stock market manipulation scenario.
University Of Texas At Arlington Student Team Recognized For Now-Patented “Smart Bandage.”
Scienmag (3/1) reported that five years ago, two University of Texas at Arlington faculty advisers and engineering professors, Panos Shiakolas and Pranesh Aswath, supervised a student team tasked with designing and creating a “smart bandage” that would facilitate more efficient wound healing and deliver multiple drugs on a schedule. The design team was recently granted a patent on their invention, dubbed the Controlled Release Nanoparticulate Matter Delivery System. The prestigious American Society for Materials International Undergraduate Design Competition also recognized the invention with an award, the only one it granted in 2011. Additionally, the team presented its findings at an AMSE conference in 2012.
Nanotechnology Researchers Developed 3D Manufacturing Method.
Nanowerk (3/3, Hilding) reports Washington State University nanotechnology researchers have created a 3D “manufacturing method that for the first time rapidly creates and precisely controls a material’s architecture from the nanoscale to centimeters,” the results of which imitate “the intricate architecture of natural materials like wood and bone.” The method is significant because of its multiple high-tech engineering applications. Rahul Panat, associate professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, said, “This is a groundbreaking advance in the 3-D architecturing of materials at nano-to-macroscales with applications in batteries, lightweight ultrastrong materials, catalytic converters, supercapacitors and biological scaffolds.” Additionally, because it employs 3D printing, the “method is highly efficient, creates minimal waste and allows for fast and large-scale manufacturing.”
China Builds Largest Deepwater Drilling Rig.
The Global Times (CHN) (3/5) reports China Central Television said that the country has broken a world record by building the largest ultra-deepwater drilling platform, which will be able to drill to the deepest depths of the sea. The platform, named Blue Whale 1, was manufactured by Yantai CIMC Raffles Offshore Limited, and cost $700 million. The platform has a maximum operating depth of 3,658 meters and a maximum drilling depth of 15,240 meters. The platform will be jointly operated by Blue Whale and CNPC Offshore Engineering Co. Ltd for ocean energy exploration.
Ford Developing New 3D Printer For Manufacturing.
CNET News (3/4, Paukert) reports Ford’s Research and Innovation Center is developing a 3D printer called the Stratasys Infinite, still in beta, which works sideways, meaning “it can produce much larger objects, theoretically infinite in size.” Because of this, the entire printing process is different, partially as “it has to layer in support structures for the object it’s creating first.” Ford’s engineers are still manipulating the prototype to achieve the most efficient results, having “already learned that the orientation in which they print objects has a major impact on things like surface quality” and that “they can change the printed product by tweaking bead width, air gap and print speed to achieve the desired finish.” Although the project still has a long way to go, Ford’s technical leader for Additive Manufacturing Research, Ellen Lee said, “I think there’s a lot of flexibility in what we can do, it can apply to manufacturing, prototyping, eventually to production, and touch pretty much every part of the vehicle.”
Engineering and Public Policy
California Utilities Develop Technology To Manage Solar Energy Production.
The Wall Street Journal (3/4, Sweet, Subscription Publication) reports California utilities are testing new solar power networking technologies to keep up with the state’s increased renewable production. Utilities are also using Tesla-supplied batteries for storage to balance intermittent supply. Combined, the storage and networking tech creates “virtual power plants,” a part of the state’s efforts to meet its goal of producing 50% of its energy from renewables by 2030.
H-1B Visa Program Under Fire By Trump Administration.
CNN (3/4, Sanchez, O’Brien) explained what the H-1B visa is and why the Trump Administration’s “temporary suspension of the expedited processing of H-1B visas” effective April 3 is so controversial. The H-1B visa has been “embraced by the tech community,” as “many talented engineers vie for one of the 85,000 visas each year.” Companies submitting applications for H-1B visas can pay an additional $1,225 for expedited processing, which “ensures a response from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in 15 days or the fee is refunded.” Critics of H-1Bs say it paves “the way for cheap foreign labor despite safeguards that should theoretically prevent that from happening.”
Stanford Energy Expert: Western US Should Integrate Power Grid.
In a Sacramento (CA) Bee (3/3, Sweeney) op-ed, Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center director James L. Sweeney calls for integrating the western power grid as an alternative to excess generation capacity to protect against “shortages and blackouts.” He argues that the current system “leads to severe challenges in coordinating real-time operation and scheduling,” which “raises costs, degrades reliability and increasingly impedes the spread of inexpensive renewable energy resources.” Integration would allow “for more development of wind and solar power plants,” he claims, and calls on “California Legislature to approve our participation in an integrated western grid.”
Forthcoming Technology-Focused San Antonio High School Reaches Out To Female Students.
The San Antonio Express-News (3/5) reports the San Antonio Independent School District, area colleges and businesses, and grocer H-E-B partnered in the establishment of the CAST Tech High School, “the first in a network of career-themed high schools that H-E-B is establishing throughout San Antonio.” The school curriculum will focus on technology and entrepreneurship and is slated to open this fall with an estimated enrollment of 150 freshman students. CAST Tech school leader Kelly Flieger said only a third of the applications have been submitted by females. Fewer than one-third of the female college-educated workforce “work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” and minority women “make up just 5 percent of the computer science workforce,” according to the National Science Foundation. Several local-area women employed in the technology sector participated last week at a Girls Inc. event to recruit female students for CAST Tech.
Maryland High School Students Compete In Statewide Robotics Competition.
The Baltimore Sun (3/4) reports 60 high school teams gathered on Saturday at the VEX Robotics Competition in Maryland. The statewide competition “aims to expose students to engineering design while teaching them other skills, such as communication, team building and strategic development.” Participating students designed, built, and programmed robots in the weeks preceding the event. On Saturday, the student teams pitted their robots against opponents in games that required the creations to pick up objects and deposit the items in competitors’ territory. The 15 winning teams will advance to the VEX Robotics World Championship.
Nebraska High School Students Participate In 3-D Printing Medical Device Competition.
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (3/4) reports five Omaha-area high school teams competed on Friday in the University of Nebraska Medical Center Makers Club’s second annual 3-D printing Invent-a-thon. Last week, the student teams designed and created 3-D printed solutions to real-world medical problems, and on Friday they presented their projects to a judging panel. Some students implemented iEXCEL, which is augmented reality technology featured at UNMC’s medical simulation training facility. The goal for this year’s Invent-a-thon “was to design a more mobile prosthetic elbow joint that can lock in place but that the wearer can easily unlock and move around using his intact arm.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Amazon To Fund Year-Long Alexa Fellowship.
• Maine Bill Aims To Tackle “Shortage Of Engineers.”
• New Cyber Crime Lab Opens In California.
• South African 3D-Printing Program In Talks With Airbus, Boeing.
• Study Of Surface Mining Impact On Health Set To Begin..
• AIAA’s Magnus Tells Students To Pursue Their Dreams.