Leading the News
US To Crack Down On Visa Abuse As H-1B Application Process Opens.
On Monday, USCIS began accepting applications for the H-1B visa program, which coverage noted was taking place with little reform by President Trump. There was wide coverage in the print and online dailies, with reporting focused on the Administration’s crackdown on visa abuses by companies, with the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security noting such abuses would not be tolerated. Additionally, coverage more heavily centered on USCIS’ re-issued guidance on Friday, indicating that H-1B visas would be awarded in a more targeted fashion and that oversight through the use of inspectors making site visits would increase.
The Wall Street Journal (4/3, Meckler, Subscription Publication) reports that on Monday the federal government began accepting H-1B visa applications, without any of the changes that President Trump promised while on the campaign trail.
The New York Times (4/3, A1, Jordan, Subscription Publication) says the government has been “overwhelmed” by applications for the last few years, and with the program’s “unclear” future “the rush has escalated to an all-out scramble” this year. The 85,000 available slots are “expected to fill in a matter of days,” and “nearly three-quarters of the visas are expected to go to Indian workers, as they have in recent years,” the Washington Post (4/3, Jan) says. India is “the biggest beneficiary of the system, by far.”
However, the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security warned executives of the companies applying for the visa “to look for Americans to fill those jobs first and promis[ed] more investigations and prosecutions of businesses that abuse the system,” the Washington Times (4/3, Dinan) reports. USCIS “released rules on Friday that could curtail the number of computer programmers who get H-1B visas.”
Bloomberg News (4/3, Cao, Brustein) says the Administration “began to deliver” on Trump’s campaign promise as it “rolled out a trio of policy shifts.” In addition to DOJ’s warning, on Friday, USCIS “made it harder for companies to bring overseas tech workers to the U.S. using the H-1B work visa,” and on Monday it “issued a memo laying out new measures to combat what it called ‘fraud and abuse’ in the program.” Reuters (4/3, Ainsley) says, however, that the steps “appeared to fall short of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to overhaul the program.”
Oklahoma University Features Female Racing Team At Women In Engineering Week.
On its website, KOTV-TV Tulsa, OK (3/31) publishes KWTV-TV ’s Oklahoma City (3/31) online report on the Oklahoma University’s FSAE Sooner Racing Team. Oklahoma University’s Engineering Department featured the team at its annual Women in Engineering week, which showcases “women in a field traditionally dominated by men.” Sarah Ciccaglione, a sophomore mechanical engineering student, said she has “definitely” noticed more female engineering students “in the grades behind me.” Aerospace engineering senior Christine Greve displayed a remote-controlled aircraft that weighed only one-and-a-half pounds. She explained that she decided to make the wings and tail out of fabric and joked, “I’ve been sewing my whole life. I know how to do this with fabric.” About one-fourth of the students enrolled in Oklahoma University’s undergraduate engineering program are female.
The Grainger Foundation To Match Contributions To University Of Illinois’ College Of Engineering.
The Urbana/Champaign (IL) News-Gazette (4/1) reports University of Illinois College of Engineering dean Andreas Cangellaris announced that the Grainger Foundation, a longtime supporter of the college, is participating in a challenge grant. Grainger pledged to match all contributions of up to $25 million made to the Engineering Visionary Scholarship Initiative by the end of 2019. The Grainger Foundation helped the college launch its Engineering Visionary Scholarship in 2013 with a $30 million contribution. The grant was part of The Grainger Foundation’s $100 million Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative. The UI College of Engineering has since raised another $22 million for its scholarship initiative, and hopes to reach its target $100 million by 2019. Since the scholarship program’s inception, UI reported that the number of females and underrepresented minorities in the engineering program’s freshman class have nearly doubled.
New York Fed President: Student Debt Burden Weighing On Rates.
Bloomberg News (4/3, Boesler, Nasiripour) reports the “rising burden of student debt is weighing on interest rates in the U.S., and it would be a ‘reasonable conversation’ for policy makers to explore making college tuition free,” according to New York Fed President William Dudley. He explained on Monday during a press briefing in New York that the growing amount of student debt is “obviously one headwind to economic activity” that “probably pushes in that direction of lower equilibrium real rates” because it dents households’ spending power. Bloomberg says officials at the central bank have “been trying to estimate the so-called equilibrium level of interest rates that keeps economic growth on a steady and sustainable pace.”
Reuters (4/3, Reuters) reports Dudley “added that fiscal policies that make colleges and universities more affordable would benefit lower-income students’ ability to increase their earnings potential.”
CNBC (4/3) reports Dudley explained that the increasing student loan debt “could ultimately hurt overall home ownership and consumer spending and erode colleges’ and universities’ ability to elevate lower-income students.”
The Wall Street Journal (4/3, Derby, Subscription Publication) highlights, however, how Dudley said the overall household finances have improved markedly in the United States. “The household sector’s financial condition today is in unusually good shape for this point in the economic cycle,” Dudley said in his remarks. “In relative terms, household indebtedness is low, and—thanks in part to low interest rates—debt-service burdens relative to household income have fallen to levels not seen since at least the early 1980s,” he added.
Sanders Renews Push For Tuition-Free College.
Politico Morning Education (4/3) reports Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is introducing a “new version of his legislation to make public colleges and universities tuition-free.” The bill “largely reflects the consensus proposals that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Sanders supporters hammered out in the Democratic Party’s platform last summer. The legislation would eliminate tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000, and it would make community college free for students of all income.”
George Mason University Streamlines Transfer Process For Prospective Engineering Students.
The Washington Post (4/3, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that two years ago, George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College partnered together to establish a seamless transition for NOVA students to transfer to GMU’s mechanical engineering bachelor’s program. Under the schools’ agreement, students interested in mechanical engineering are granted dual enrollment at both GMU and NOVA. Engineering faculty at both universities collaborated to establish a curriculum, and academic advisers assisted students in their pursuit of a mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree. The initiative began “as a novel way for would-be engineers from NOVA to complete a degree at GMU,” but it has emerged as “a model that could revolutionize the transfer experience.”
University Of California’s International Student Applications Drop.
The AP (4/3) reports the University of California experienced a decrease in international student applications last fall for the first time in 12 years. According to admissions officers, potential international applicants expressed concerns about “negative rhetoric around the Muslim faith, and immigration changes – even before the (aborted) travel ban.” According to UC undergraduate admissions vice president Stephen Handel, “Of course, the national dialogue (about immigration) is out there,” but “other things,” such as increased tuition rates, may have impacted international applicant numbers as well.
University Of Missouri System Reports Drop In International Student Applications.
The AP (4/3) reports the University of Missouri system’s four campuses reported declines in international student undergraduate applications ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent, compared to the number of applications received last year. Spokesman Christian Basi credited the drop to President Trump’s executive orders restricting visa entries, anxiety about possible visa program changes, and prospective students’ belief “that they do not feel safe coming to the United States.” Basi said international graduate student applications were also down.
Research and Development
Samsung Display Expects Foldable Phones Won’t Be Commercialized Until 2019.
The Korea Herald (4/4, Shin) reports Samsung Display principal engineer Kim Tae-woong said on the sidelines of the Display TechSalon conference in Seoul Tuesday he expects foldable phone technology will “mature around 2019,” adding the current popularity of “the bezel-free display” means Samsung “still [has] enough time to develop foldable display.” HI Investment and Securities analyst Chung Won-seok confirmed Kim’s comments, saying, “Samsung Display is expected to commercialize foldable phones in 2019 because the company does not need to sell the new hardware because it is already enjoying 20 percent of operating profits with bezel-free display. When the demand for bezel-free handsets slows down, Samsung will unveil the foldable display as the next card.”
Companies Propose Solutions For Orbital Debris Threat.
Space News (4/3, Subscription Publication) reports that on Monday at the 33rd Space Symposium, companies provided updates on solutions designed to address the threat of orbital debris to US satellites. Ball Aerospace & Technologies has developed a simulation tool called Proximity Operations and Rendering (PROXOR), which Staff Consultant Susan Hagerty explained “enables the evaluation of performance of various architectures and algorithms” for Space Situational Awareness (SSA) functions. Launchspace Technologies proposed sending debris-collection units equipped with SSA sensors into low Earth orbit to help remove the millions of pieces of debris too small to be tracked with ground sensors. Also providing upgrades were Cosmic Advanced Engineering Solutions and Astra LLC.
Raytheon Research Ways To Develop Cyber Intrusion Detection System For Pilots.
IHS Jane’s 360 (4/3, Fein) reports Raytheon is spending money in research and development in order to come up with a way to develop an “Avionics Intrusion Detection System that could provide commercial and military pilots with a cyber-attack warning capability within the next year.”
Google Adviser Launches Nuclear Power Startup Apollo Fusion.
In a commentary for Bloomberg News (4/3), Brad Stone wrote that Mike Cassidy, “who was formerly vice president at Alphabet’s X research lab and headed Project Loon, its high-altitude balloon-based internet access initiative, is ready to try the nuclear option.” An adviser to Google, Cassidy has “quietly started a new company, Apollo Fusion.” On its website, the company says Apollo Fusion is “working on revolutionary hybrid reactor technology with fusion power to serve safe, clean, and affordable electricity to everyone.” The company adds, “Apollo Fusion power plants are designed for zero-consequence outcomes to loss of cooling or loss of control scenarios and they cannot melt down.” Apollo says its reactors will be inexpensive and “cost competitive with traditional means of generating electricity, and flexible enough to serve both small villages and large cities.”
Nuclear Industry Pushes To Advance Development Of DOE’s Accident Tolerant Nuclear Fuel.
DailyEnergyInsider (4/3) reports that in the wake of “innovations brought about the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Fuels Campaign,” the nuclear industry is “pushing to advance the program’s schedule and continue developing accident tolerant nuclear fuels.” Partnering with industry groups, National Labs and research universities, the DOE “plans to demonstrate prototype advanced technology fuel (ATF) in U.S. commercial light water reactors by 2022.” The nuclear industry wants to “integrate lead test rods or lead test assemblies made from these fuels in their reactors as early as next year in order to gain operational data.” Joe Grimes, chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute’s ATF working group, said, “We’re encouraged by the depth of support from the industry on the ATF initiative, and by its desire to move toward wider implementation.”
College Research Team Creates Materiel For Runways That Melts Ice And Snow.
Flyer Talk (4/3, Billock) reports that a team of researchers at Iowa State University created material made up of “electrically conducive concrete” that – when applied to runways and activated by an app – helps melt ice and snow on its own. Flyer Talk adds that the FAA is currently testing the material.
SAE International To Hold Annual Event In Detroit This Week.
The Detroit News (4/3) reports “SAE International will host its annual World Congress” in Detroit from Tuesday through Thursday this week. The event will focus on “topics such as self-driving car technology, connectivity and cybersecurity.”
Engineering and Public Policy
NASA Engineer Campaigns For Congress.
The Christian Science Monitor (4/3) reports NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory aerospace engineer Tracy Van Houten is one of 24 “candidates vying Tuesday in the primary for the seat vacated by new California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.” Van Houten’s campaign has centered around fighting climate change and advocating for data-driven approaches to infrastructure and public policy. She self-identified as “a rocket scientist” and data fiend. If she ultimately secures the 34th Congressional District seat, Van Houten will be the first female engineer elected to Congress. The Monitor notes the 314 Action political group is encouraging scientists and engineers to enter into politics. The group’s president, Shaughnessy Naughton, argued that teachers, scientists, and researchers are “less partisan, more collaborative,” and can emphasize “facts and what actually works.” She added, “We have had an outpouring of scientists and STEM professionals around the country reaching out and saying, ‘We want to do more.’”
Tesla Crash Raises Questions About Legal Liability.
USA Today (4/3, Cassidy) reports that a collision last week involving a Tesla Model X in Autopilot mode “opens the door to questions in the emerging and still-murky legal realm of automated and driver-assisted vehicles.” The article notes that according to the NHTSA and Society of Automotive Engineers, there are six levels of driving automation. According to University of South Carolina Law Professor Bryant Walker Smith, “Anything that’s below level three, it’s clearly a human that’s supposed to be doing part of the driving.” Arizona DOT Director for Policy Kevin Biesty “said more of the driving regulations … could shift from driver to car, and therefore from state to federal government.”
Supreme Court Will Not Pause Clean Water Rule Case.
The Hill (4/3, Cama) reports that the Supreme Court said on Monday that it “will not pause a case concerning the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule in a rebuke to the Trump administration.” The Hill notes that “the White House opposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers’ rule and asked the court to hold off on the case while the agencies formally consider repealing it.” The rule “asserted federal power over small waterways such as streams and wetlands to protect them from pollution,” and “it remains on hold after a federal appeals court in 2015 put a judicial stay on the measure while it is litigated.” The case, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, “does not concern the merits of the highly controversial regulation,” but “instead, the industry groups opposed to the rule want the high court to overturn the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit’s opinion that it has the primary jurisdiction over the case.”
FIRST Competition Introduces Kids to Robotics.
The Chambersburg (PA) Public Opinion (4/3) reports on the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition, an annual event in which teen robotics clubs from around the world “compete for recognition as well as experience in the technology field.” The local robotics team claimed their 2017 entry was their best performance yet in the competition, which pits teams against each other but also has finalists “form alliance that compete in the playoffs” of the competition.
Course Aims To Increase Participation In Computer Science.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (4/3) reports that an Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles class, designed by The College Board, has been started “to get more students who typically participate less in such classes” to take it, including “girls, rural students, African-Americans and Latinos.” Recently “educators have stepped up their efforts to engage more of these students in math, science and technology courses, worried about the performance gap in these courses,” the Journal-Constitution writes. The course “is designed to teach students about data analysis, how the Internet works and writing programs.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• IBM Develops System To Improve Human Interaction With Self-Driving Cars.
• Trump Budget Would Cut ‘Overhead’ Funding At Research Universities.
• Wisconsin Engineering School Hosts Fluid Power Seminar.
• Facebook, HP Press Outside Legal Teams To Become More Diverse.
• Automotive Engineers Hold Annual Gathering In Detroit.
• WPost: US Must Change Approach To Nuclear Energy.
• California Schools Implement Garden Programs Under New Science Curriculum.