Leading the News
Senate Considers Infrastructure Funding As Trump Holds Meeting With Chao, Musk.
The Hill (3/8, Zanona) reports panelists and lawmakers at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday began exploring ways to fund President Trump’s infrastructure package, with the general consensus being that “a wide variety of funding tools” will be needed to make the plan a reality. However, specific details on the President’s plan and how it would be funded “have yet to be sketched out.” The article adds that the hearing came on the same day that an infrastructure meeting was held at the White House, with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and “business leaders such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk” in attendance.
Reuters (3/8, Shepardson) reports the President’s meeting comes as the Administration considers private-sector partnerships “to boost infrastructure spending.” In addition to Chao, Perry, and Musk, attendees included Vice President Pence, EPA chief Scott Pruitt, General Atlantic CEO Bill Ford, McKinsey & Co partner Tyler Duvall, and Nature Conservancy Managing Director Lynn Scarlett.
Additional coverage is provided by CNN Money (3/8, Merica), another Reuters (3/8) article, the Daily Caller (3/8, White), the International Business Times (3/8, Moreno), Politico (3/8, Schor), and a Yahoo! Finance (3/8) brief.
Several cable broadcasts also mentioned Chao’s attendance at the White House meeting, including Bloomberg TV’s Bloomberg Markets (3/8, 1:01 p.m. EST), Fox Business Cavuto: Coast to Coast (3/8, 12:53 p.m. EST), Fox Business’ Countdown to the Closing Bell (3/8, 3:30 p.m. EST), and CNBC’s Squawk On The Street (3/8, 9:40 a.m. EST).
States Facing Immediate Funding Issues While Awaiting Infrastructure Plan Details. Engineering News-Record (3/8, Ichniowski) reports state transportation departments across the US received roughly $900 million less in Federal highway aid than anticipated for this year because “a stopgap spending measure failed to include a 2017 hike authorized by” the FAST Act. State DOTs are coping with these “more-immediate funding issues” even as top state transportation officials await details on President Trump’s infrastructure plan. The article notes that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao spoke with AASHTO officials on March 1 about funding for the package.
Analysis: 177 Private Colleges Fail ED Financial Stress Test.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (3/8) reports that according to its analysis of new ED data, “177 private colleges that grant degrees failed a U.S. Education Department test for financial responsibility in the 2014-15 academic year.” ED “considers an institution’s debt and assets, among other factors, in giving it a score ranging from -1 to 3. Scores lower than 1.5 are considered failing.”
Manhattan Institute Fellow: Return To Year-Round Pell Grants.
In commentary for The Hill (3/8) “Pundits Blog,” Beth Akers, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes about the prospect that ED could “return to year-round Pell Grants” given House Speaker Paul Ryan’s provisional support and the “overtures to HBCU leaders” from President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Akers says that allowing year-round Pell grants would allow students to complete their degrees “more quickly than the traditional two-semester per academic year schedule.”
Getting Into College Easier Than Many Applicants Think.
The Hechinger Report (3/8, Daugherty) reports that despite “tales of teary-eyed applicants who didn’t make the cut is the reality that…getting into a good college today is easier – not harder – than many students realize. And it is likely to get easier still.” Marcia Monma, a college search consultant, “said that while the most selective universities and colleges – those that accept less than 20 percent of applicants – have gotten even more competitive in recent years, the opposite is true for the much larger number that take between 20 percent and 40 percent.” According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “while Stanford might admit fewer than 5 percent of applicants and Harvard slightly more than 5 percent, four out of five private, nonprofit colleges and nearly nine out of 10 public ones accept at least 50 percent.” Meanwhile, “the number of high school graduates peaked in 2013…and is projected to remain below that level until at least 2023.”
WSJournal: Indiana’s “Workforce Ready” Program A Promising Use Of Tax Dollars.
The Wall Street Journal (3/8, Subscription Publication) editorializes that Indiana’s proposed “Workforce Ready” program is a promising proposal to help Hoosiers gain new skills that employers value and a better use of tax dollars than funding for traditional programs. A bill that recently passed the state House would create the program that would pay tuition for certificate programs that teach skills in high demand, which the higher education commission could designate based on wage and employment data. The program would mitigate the problem of applicants being unqualified for available positions. While the government has had difficulty predicting which industries will be in demand, the Journal suggests the commission could make adjustments periodically.
Research and Development
University Of Delaware Professor Discovered Star With Seven Earth-like Planets.
The Wilmington (DE) News Journal (3/8, Bies) reports a star discovered by John Gizis, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Delaware, in 1999 “is host to not one, but seven Earth-like planetary objects, NASA recently announced.” The News Journal says it’s only 40 light years away, “close enough that it could be captured by the Kepler Telescope – raw data from the new system is scheduled to be released later Wednesday.” The report says “the system is being called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope in Chile.” The News Journal explains that “the star itself was discovered as part of the Two Micron All-Sky Survey (2MASS), funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, which Gizis participated in as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.”
Engineers Advancing Technology For 3-D Printed Homes.
NBC News (3/8) reports Berikos Khoshnevis, an engineer at the University of Southern California, “is one of a handful of pioneers creating machines that can custom-print buildings.” A company started by Khoshnevis called Contour Crafting has build a prototype that “was able to build a 2,500 square foot house in just 20 hours (compared with seven months on average for a conventional home from start to finish).” NBC adds, “Contour Crafting isn’t alone: San Francisco-based Apis Cor printed a small house in just 24 hours. And a Chinese company called Winsun recently announced they used 3-D Printing to create ten homes in a single day.” The piece highlights the technology’s ability to reduce injuries and benefit the environment.
Didi Opens Up California AI Lab For Self-Driving Research.
Re/code (3/8, Bhuiyan) reports Didi, the largest ride-hailing company in China, announced it is “opening an artificial intelligence lab” in Mountain View, California, the “backyard of many of its self-driving competitors.” Re/code notes that it is “a smart, almost necessary move for Didi,” as the area is quickly developing into the most important hub for the “self-driving industry, mostly because that’s where the talent is.” Re/code notes Didi has hired Charles Miller away from Uber’s self-driving department, as well as hiring engineers away from Google’s Waymo.
The Verge (3/8, Hawkins) reports Didi also said that it would team up with Udacity, an online learning website with college-level courses, “to launch a self-drviing car challenge with the possibility of winning a grand price of $100,000.”
IBM Announces Breakthrough In Computer Storage Technology.
CNET News (3/8, Shankland) reports IBM Research announced Wednesday that it was able to figure out a way to store data on a single atom which is something that could “radically change” computing devices. IBM researcher Chris Lutz said, according to CNet News, that despite the progress made on atomic-level storage, they’re still decades away from commercialization. Lutz explained that the “work is not product development, but rather it is basic research intended to develop tools and understanding of what happens as we miniaturize devices down toward the ultimate limit of individual atom.”
Nanophotonics Team Develops Color Changing Electrochromic Glass.
Nanowerk (3/8) reports nanophotonics researchers from the laboratory of Rice plasmonics pioneer Naomi Halas say that they can create glass with the ability to turn two different colors at low voltages by “using a readily available, inexpensive hydrocarbon molecule called perylene.” The research may “expand the color palette for companies in the fast-growing market for glass windows that change color at the flick of an electric switch.” According to Halas, “When we put charges on the molecules or remove charges from them, they go from clear to a vivid color…We sandwiched these molecules between glass, and we’re able to make something that looks like a window, but the window changes to different types of color depending on how we apply a very low voltage.” There is a growing demand for the light and heat blocking properties of “electrochromic” glass, with the projected annual market for the glass in 2020 estimated at more than $2.5 billion.
GE Expands Its Recently Acquired German 3D Metal Printing Company.
MarketWatch (3/8, Linnane) reports General Electric Wednesday said it plans on “aggressively expanding German [3D] metal printing company Concept Laser GmbH, in which it purchased a 75% stake in mid-December.” The company has already boosted the number of employees at Concept Laser GmbH from 200 to 244 and is hoping to reach between 350 and 400 by 2018. The strategy is part of GE’s push into 3D printing as a way of building aircraft components and other parts. However, “much of the promise of the market is the extra design possibilities for engineers.”
Engineering and Public Policy
“The Pit” Being Recognized By The U.S. Green Building Council.
The San Antonio Express-News (3/8, Bryan) reports that “The Pit” University of New Mexico’s basketball arena is being recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council. Since the 2010 renovations The Pit has seen 50 percent water savings and more than 20 percent energy savings. The Green Building Council estimates that certified buildings under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program (LEED), could save over $2 billion in combined savings over the next three years.
Wind Energy Becomes A Major Player In Texas Oil Country.
NPR (3/8, Shapiro) reports that despite being in the heart of oil country, Texas is “by far” the biggest producer of wind energy in the country producing more energy than the following three states combined. Texas Mayor Dale Ross says former governor Rick Perry deserves the credit calling him a visionary. However, debate surrounding renewable energy vs fossil fuels pits many circles against each other with Liberals suppose to support solar wind and conservatives suppose to support oil and gas but in Texas the attitude appears to be “all of the above.”
Philadelphia Unveils Plan For Safer Streets.
Philly (PA) (3/7, Laughlin) reported Philadelphia’s Vision Zero Draft Three-Year Action Plan, a three-year plan to make streets safer, includes recommendations including “expanding existing initiatives such as a network of protected bike lanes; adding more red light cameras; and addressing old complaints, such as enforcement against illegal sidewalk closures and blocking bike lanes.” it also recommends that the city change how it manages its roads, including a proposal to allow the city traffic engineer “to change road signs and lanes to make them safer.” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney “aims to eliminate traffic-related deaths by 2030.” Philly cites 2015 NHTSA data indicating “Philadelphia had six fatalities per 100,000 people,” or “more than New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.”
Lawmakers Debate Outer Space Regulations.
According to USA Today (3/8, King), Republicans on the House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee advocated for a free enterprise model of space regulations in a committee hearing Wednesday, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said government bureaucratic regulation is the best way to turn “pure energy into solid waste.” Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter countered that “some level” of regulation “between the Wild West and the police state” would be optimal. USA Today says future congressional rule-making will be tied to the 50-year-old Outer Space Treaty, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Doug Loverro said waiting too long would allow “other nations develop rules that we then become forced to follow.”
Louisiana BOE Votes To Phase In New Science Standards.
The AP (3/8) reports that the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Wednesday gave final approval for replacing the state’s science standards for the first time in two decades. The new standards will take full effect by the 2018-19 school year, when there will be “teacher training and field testing in the new science standards.” The standards apply to “what students from kindergarten through 12th grade should know in basic science, physical science, physics, biology, chemistry and earth science by the end of each grade.”
CODella Aims To Teach Latina Girls How To Code.
NBC News (3/8) reports CODella, an eight week coding immersion program, is aimed at teaching Latina girls between 8 and 12 coding skills and helping them see a future in technological fields. CODella co-founder Josie Goytisolo said that “learning to code ascertains our girls are fluent in one of the most widely used languages of today’s world. It’s a foundational literacy that’s a necessity.”
Also in the News
March For Science Organizers Say Event Is Nonpartisan, Aimed At Communication.
Inside Higher Ed (3/8) reports on the announcement last month that scientific research society Sigma Xi and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are partners in the March For Science scheduled for April 22. Noting that the organizers of the event stress its nonpartisan nature, the piece reports that AAAS CEO and President Rush Holt “said scientists have an obligation to communicate their work to the public.” The piece quotes him saying, “That’s part of science, the process of science … communication. What we see right now is a remarkable opportunity that I don’t think we’ve seen in a long, long time to communicate with the public about the value of science.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Auto Industry Execs Believe Further Consolidation Will Happen Following PSA-Opel Deal.
• Virginia Tech Students To Compete In International Robotics Challenge.
• University Of Michigan Announces Satellite Time Capsule Project.
• Former Tesla Employee Looks To Build A Battery Factory In Europe.
• Cameras Are Top Draw Factor For Smartphone Consumers, Manufacturers Deliver.
• Senate Votes To Revoke Obama Land Management Rule.
• Locust Valley Middle School Team Headed To National Science Bowl Finals.