ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Trump Budget Would Sharply Cut Funding For Scientific Research.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Achenbach) reports that the budget proposal released by the Trump administration on Thursday “calls for a seismic disruption in government-funded medical and scientific research,” with cuts that are both “deep and broad.” The Post notes that scientific research has depended “to a large degree on competitive grants distributed by federal agencies that face dramatic budget cuts,” noting that while “investment in research and development has been seen since World War II as critical to national prosperity and security,” Trump plan expresses the view that “government-funded science, like government more broadly, has become too sprawling.” The Post says the plan “seems likely to energize scientists and students who have been rattled by Trump’s rhetoric and political appointments and are preparing to participate in the ‘March for Science’ demonstration scheduled for April 22 in Washington.” Moreover, though the plan “does not mention the National Science Foundation,” it “may fall under the category of ‘other agencies,’ which are not detailed but which the blueprint puts down for a 9.8 percent cut.”

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Fountain, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) reports that Trump unveiled his proposed budget on Thursday to the shock of “scientists, researchers and program administrators,” who were alarmed by an 18 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health, and a nearly 20 percent from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Climate science programs throughout the federal government were also targeted for elimination. During a White House briefing, Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, further clarified, “As to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward: We’re not spending money on that anymore.” The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Boyer) reports that the budget proposal offers $100 million in savings in fiscal 2018 “by discontinuing funding for climate-change research, international climate-change programs and the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.” The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Paletta) reports that if implemented, the budget cuts would “represent the widest swath of reductions in federal programs since the drawdown after World War II,” a state goal of the new administration. Meanwhile, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Daly) says the budget cuts to science and environmental programs “reflect the Republican’s rejection of mainstream science.”

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16) reports the budget “would make deep cuts to some student aid programs and science agencies on which colleges, their students and their researchers depend.” Funding for Pell grants and HBCUs would remain level, though “the Trump administration has pledged to provide help for historically black colleges, and some leaders of HBCUs have been hoping for increases.” PBS NewsHour Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16) runs a piece with a set of thumbnails detailing how the cuts would impact various categorites of research.

Scientific Community Warns Of Dire Consequences Of Cuts. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Achenbach) reports that “leaders of the scientific and medical establishment woke up to [the] startling news Thursday morning and quickly fired off statements of protest and alarm,” saying the plan “threatens America’s pre-eminence in science and technology.” The piece quotes American Association for the Advancement of Science CEO Rush Holt saying, “This is not a budget that’s designed to make America first.”

McClatchy Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Koh) reports that the “harsh cuts to federal funding for scientific research” prompted “American scientists across the country to condemn what they feared might cripple the nation’s scientific advancement.” Some went so far as to tell “younger scientists and researchers to consider giving up on the United States and moving to China, Germany or other countries instead to pursue their careers.”

Budget Would Defund NASA Education Office. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Kaplan) reports that the NAAS Office of Education “is one of several science programs on the chopping block” in the proposal, saying that “to scientists who have benefited from the Office of Education, which represents just half a percent of NASA’s overall budget, its elimination is hard to swallow.”

Higher Education

NSF Grant Provides 3-D Printers For Virginia Tech Student Teachers.

The Augusta (VA) Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/15) reports that a group of 56 students in the master of education program at Virginia Tech are receiving 3-D printers “as part of a three-year, $449,421 National Science Foundation Research Experience for Teachers grant.” The grant program was “headed by associate professors Christopher Williams, of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, and Brenda Brand, of science education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences’ School of Education.” The teaching students “will graduate this spring and take up positions primarily with middle and high schools, armed with research-based science training and now, a 3-D printer that will help them develop engaging curriculum for their students.”

Doggett: IRS Shut Down FAFSA Link Due To “Criminal Activity.”

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Belkin, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that Rep. Lloyd Doggett (R-TX) says IRS Commissioner John Koskinenon told him Thursday that the IRS shut down the part of ED’s FAFSA website which allows students to import their parents’ tax info because of “criminal activity.” Doggett said Koskinenon “assured me that IRS is working to get it back online for student use this month, and promised prompt updates on the timeline.”

Outside Monitor Questions Zenith’s Progress On Improving Former Corinthian Colleges.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that according to a new report from an independent monitor, Zenith Education Group, which “set out two years ago to turn dozens of campuses formerly owned by for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges into premier nonprofit schools,” is failing to live up to its promises. The review found “69 instances of ‘unfair’ or ‘misleading’ language in the admissions documents,” and while “none of those claims violate the law,” the report “suggests the school is not being completely transparent with students.”

Chicago Teams Up With Local Universities To Create Entrepreneur Program.

The Chicago Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Lazare) reports that the City of Chicago is joining with five local universities to create a new Global Entrepreneur in Residence program (Global EIR) to “provide a pathway for an H-1B visa for highly skilled immigrant entrepreneurs” Chicago Mayr Rahm Emanuel announced. Northwestern University president Morton Shapiro said “We are excited to participate in this new effort, which will bring entrepreneurs with a wealth of knowledge and experience and connect them with our students and faculty.”

Survey: 40% Of US Colleges See Decline In International Applicants.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Saul, Subscription Publication) reports almost 40 percent of US colleges and universities have reported overall drops in applications from international students, according to a survey of 250 schools that the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers released this week. The survey saw the most significant decline in applications from the Middle East. Almost 50 percent of graduate schools reported decreases. Many officials say prospective students are worried by President Trump’s rhetoric and executive orders, but the Times says trends in applications to overseas colleges are dependent on fluctuations in the economic realm, in addition to the political domain. Uncertainty about the future of the H-1B visa program may also be deterring potential international students.

Prism Podcast
One faculty member has a method for dealing with engineering education’s “dirty” words.

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Research and Development

Purdue Researcher Working On Robot Language Acquisition.

The Lafayette (IN) Journal and Courier Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16) profiles Jeffery Siskind, a professor in Purdue University’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who “has worked for decades to ground natural language in computer and robotics systems.” The piece explains that the research “focuses on facilitating language acquisition in computers and robots.” Siskind’s team has used a NSF grant to develop “the process and technology to teach a robotic car how to drive and navigate based on verbally issued instructions.”

Study: Earth’s Inner Van Allen Belt Weaker Than Previously Thought.

The International Business Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Pandey) reports that in a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists found that Earth’s inner Van Allen belt contains less radiation than previously believed. Using NASA’s Van Allen Probes, the scientists discovered that the inner belts “very rarely contain superfast – or relativistic – electrons,” and only do contain them when strong geomagnetic storms push the particles down from the upper belt. The scientists said that the discovery “may enable scientists and engineers to design lighter and cheaper satellites tailored to withstand the less intense radiation levels they’ll encounter.”

MIT Students Unveil AI-Power Robot.

The Economic Times (IND) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Sangani) reports that Maharashtra Institute of Technology students unveiled its new AI-powered robot called Chintu. According to the Times, the final year computer engineering students got the robot from SoftBank Robotics and equipped it with APIs from IBM’s Watson and an IBM Bluemix Cloud platform. The Times adds that the “robot is the result of IBM’s global Shared University Research grant [program], under which the team at MIT received a grant of Rs 10 lakh to work on this project.”

Canadian Researches Develop A Flexible Touchscreen Sensor.

TechRadar Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Geere) reports engineers from the University of British Columbia have developed a new inexpensive sensor that could be useful in bendable phones. The engineers created a sensor that can detect “different kinds of touch even when stretched, folded or bent,” that is made from “a conductive gel sandwiched between two layers of silicone.” Mirza Saquib Sarwar, a PhD student in electrical and computer engineering at UBC said that it is currently “possible to make a room-sized version of this sensor for just dollars per square metre.” The team also sees the technology being implanted into robots as a way to make interactions with humans safer, as a robot that “could detect our presence and be ‘soft’ enough that they don’t damage us during an interaction,” is a possibility.

Industry News

Cars May Become More Efficient, Even Without Efficiency Rules.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Stock) reports that while Trump has said he will roll back efficiency rules for automakers, cars may still become more efficient. The article highlights that over the last nine years, “the federal measurement of efficiency in the U.S. fleet has increased 25 percent, to 31.3 miles per gallon, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.” The article explains “many of the engineering improvements are driven by performance as much as environmental concerns.”

Engineering and Public Policy

House Panel Eyes Hydro Power Permit Reforms.

E&E Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Subscription Publication) reports House members on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy expressed interest in streamlining the permitting process for expanding the use of hydropower, a process witnesses “said has been hamstrung by duplicative and unnecessary regulations.” Chairman Fred Upton “noted the increasingly difficult regulatory environment facing hydropower,” while ranking member on the full committee Rep. Frank Pallone touted hydropower as a “virtually carbon-free baseload” energy source. E&E reports Chuck Hookham of the American Society of Civil Engineers said the largest obstacles to revamping hydropower “are low natural gas prices, permitting uncertainty, increasingly cheaper wind and solar power, long lead times and reviews for new projects, and other market conditions.” Hookham called on Congress to fully fund dam inspection programs and research at DOE to study the privatization of “select federally owned dams” where the local community can operate the facilities.

California Utilities Lose Business To Community Choice Aggregators.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/15, Eckhouse, Martin) reports California utilities are losing business to community choice aggregators, with Pacific Gas & Electric expecting “to lose about 7.3 percent of its electric load this year, and potentially 21 percent by 2020.” The article reports “the shift may eventually account for 40 percent of the total load at San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison.” The article mentions that SCE said it is “neutral” on community aggregators, while PG&E said it “supports customer choice and control of their energy.”

Broadcast coverage was provided by KNEW-AM San Francisco (3/16, 2:42 p.m. EDT).

Minnesota Senate Passes Legislation Targeting PUC Oversight.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Hughlett) reports the Minnesota Senate approved legislation “perceived as weakening the authority of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission” over electricity co-ops. The PUC had opened a review of grid connection fees ranging from $7 to $83 that the co-ops had begun charging for new residential solar arrays. Gov. Mark Dayton last month indicated he could veto the Senate bill. A similar House bill passed last originally would have ended the PUC’s solar fee investigation, but it was amended after Dayton said he “would not accept any bill that limits or weakens the (PUC’s) authority.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Ghanaian And DC High School Students Team Up For STEM.

The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/16, Times) reports that Ghanaian and DC high school students have teamed up to compete in the inaugural World Smarts STEM Challenge. The challenge puts student and teachers together to develop STEM solutions for community environmental problems. The contest is organized by IREX and funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corp.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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