Leading the News
SCE, GE Launch World’s First Hybrid Battery, Gas Turbine Systems.
The AP (4/17, Weber) reports Southern California Edison and General Electric announced Monday that they have launched the world’s first “hybrid battery and gas turbine systems to produce and store electricity for use during hot summer months when power demand soars.” Bloomberg News (4/17, Chediak) reports Southern California Edison President Ron Nichols said in an email that, “The new system will help SCE better utilize the resources on the grid, provide enhanced reliability, reduce environmental impact, and reduce cost for our operations and for our customers.” The article mentions that “the installation comes after a months-long leak crippled the state’s largest natural gas storage field near Los Angeles, raising concerns about potential energy shortages” and amid mandates that California utilities “get half of their power from renewable sources by 2030.” Engineering360 (4/17, Wagman) mentions that “batteries have been viewed as helping accommodate more green energy by helping utilities manage the intermittent output from wind and solar farms.”
Electric Light & Power (4/17, Walton) reports the system, known as the LM6000 Hybrid Electric Gas Turbine, “is the first of two units GE is delivering for SCE this year.” The first unit “will be located in Norwalk, California” and “integrates a 10-megawatt/4.3-megawatt-hours battery energy storage system with GE’s 50-megawatt LM6000 aeroderivative gas turbine.”
Prominent Attorney Contributes More Than $500 Million To University Of West Florida.
The University of West Florida announced on Monday that attorney Fred Levin contributed $550,000 toward its Reubin O’D. Askew Institute for Multidisciplinary Studies, a new institute that “will contribute to its efforts in science, technology, engineering, art and math initiatives,” reports the Pensacola (FL) News Journal (4/17). UWF officials said they anticipate the forthcoming institute to address community problems by integrating humanities studies with social sciences disciplines. The institute will seek out “partnerships with area schools and businesses, internships and research opportunities.” Levin said he chose the name in honor of Askew, a former Florida governor who “grew up in a single-parent household with a mother who worked as a maid, always prioritized assisting the poor, the underprivileged and the disabled.” Levin also contributed $1 million to the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, and in 1999, $10 million to the University of Florida to rename its law school the Frederic G. Levin College of Law.
Rollback Of Obama Student Loan Protections Differs From Trump Campaign Rhetoric.
Politico Morning Education (4/17, Stratford) reports that while President Trump “took a somewhat populist approach to student loans” on the campaign trail, calling “student loan debt an ‘albatross’ around the necks of borrowers.” While Trump “proposed a repayment plan that was in some ways more generous to borrowers than Barack Obama’s,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “has rolled back Obama-era policies aimed at protecting student loan borrowers.” The article quotes Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, saying, “It paints an incredibly troubling narrative about what’s important to this administration. Common-sense borrower protections are being withdrawn without anything to go in their place.”
New Mexico Governor Vetoes Higher Education Funding.
Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post (4/17) “Answer Sheet” blog that New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez “has vetoed higher education funding. All of it — and the legislature cannot override her veto.” Strauss writes that the move was intended “to protest legislative tax increases and spending.” Strauss writes that barring an “unlikely” fix in the near future, “college students could face significant tuition increases at public universities, and institutions of higher education can’t prepare budgets for a school year that starts in several months.”
Study: Admissions Officers Lack Basic Information On Low-Income Applicants.
MarketWatch (4/17) reports that according to a new study conducted by Michael Bastedo, a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Education and Nicholas Bowman, a professor at University of Iowa’s College of Education, one reason why few low-income students don’t get admitted to top universities is that “admissions officers don’t have enough information about them.” The study found that “admissions officers were 26% more likely to recommend low-income students when provided detailed information about them and their high schools.” The study indicated that low-income students’ applications “may not come with enough context to accurately portray the magnitude of the student’s success.”
Research and Development
March For Science To Be Held In 500 Cities Saturday.
The New York Times (4/17, Fleur, Subscription Publication) reports that in more than 500 cities around the world on Saturday, scientists and science advocates “are expected to fill the streets…in support of scientific research, which they feel has increasingly come under attack, especially during the Trump administration.” While attention will focus primarily on Washington, “where the main march will occur,” rallies will also be held “in medical hubs like Boston, technology centers like San Francisco and even in the heart of oil and gas country, Oklahoma City.” In a separate story, the New York Times (4/17, D5, Roston, Subscription Publication) that the planned march “has required many people who work in a variety of scientific fields – as well as Americans who are passionate about science – to grapple with the proper role of science in our civic life.” The New York Times received many comments on the March for Science and summarizes some of the common themes.
Autonomous Vehicle Developers Using Video Games As Training Software.
TechCrunch (4/17, Etherington) reports companies that are developing autonomous vehicles, delivery drones, and robots are turning “to rich, detailed virtual worlds to provided simulated training environments that mimic the real world.” Because of recent advances through simulation, “startups like NIO (formerly NextEV) can now keep pace with larger tech concerns with ample funding in developing self-driving software, using simulations of real-world environments including those derived from games like Grand Theft Auto V.” Bloomberg News (4/17, Hull) reports the strategy is becoming increasingly utilized by researchers and engineers of companies like Ford and Toyota, who are seeking to supplement real-world driving experience. According to the piece, automakers will have to hurry to make their deadline as “the test cars tricked out with lasers, sensors and cameras being put through the paces on tracks and public roads can’t do it on their own.” Davide Bacchet, who leads the simulation effort for Nio assures “Just relying on data from the roads is not practical…With simulation, you can run the same scenario over and over again for infinite times, then test it again.” The video games are capable of producing “data that’s very close to what artificial-intelligence agents can glean on the road.”
Technology Author Discusses Advancements Toward Reading Minds.
Salon (4/17) publishes its interview with Adam Piore, who last month published “The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human.” Salon describes the book as “a fascinating dive into what’s happening right now in bioengineering research – from brain-computer interfaces to bionic limbs – that will redefine human-machine interactions in the years to come.” Piore discussed “just how close we are to being able to read one another’s thoughts through electrodes and the processing power of modern computers.” Piore also profiled Northwestern University’s Konrad Kording, who claimed scientists cannot yet “record even part of a mouse brain.” He also described a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, project called Neural Engineering System Design, which has invested about $60 million to develop “a device that can record from at least 100,000 neurons and also stimulate them.”
Colorado School Of Mines Team Selected As SpaceX Hyperloop Finalist.
The Denver Post (4/14) reported the Colorado School of Mines’ 14-member Team Diggerloop was named on Friday as one of the 23 finalists in the SpaceX Hyperloop student pod competition. The students must now “raise $70,000 to turn their computer calculations into a working pod and get it to the SpaceX headquarters for a Hyperloop speed test in August.” The Post notes the Colorado Department of Transportation is one of the only state agencies that has actively pursued Hyperloop as a possible solution for regional traffic congestion, and “was part of Team Rocky Mountain, which proposed a route connecting Cheyenne to Pueblo.” Agency spokesperson Amy Ford said her state “has the potential of being a pioneer in transformative transportation.”
Boeing Commercial Airplanes To Lay Off “Hundreds” Of Engineers.
USA Today (4/17, Jansen) reports that The Boeing Company announced Monday that it plans to issue layoff notices to hundreds of engineers in its commercial airplanes division amid slowing aircraft sales. The company is expected to deliver 60-day notices Friday for reductions planned to go into effect June 23. Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said that “employees will impacted in Washington state and other locations across the enterprise.” The new layoffs fall under Boeing’s plan for workforce reductions first announced in December, and follow cuts of 1,332 engineering and technical jobs since January across the company’s Washington operations.
Engineering and Public Policy
Trump To Sign “Buy American, Hire American” Order During Wisconsin Visit.
The AP (4/17, Lucey, Bauer) reports that President Trump plans to sign an executive order making changes to the H-1B visa program during a visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday. The “Buy American, Hire American” order “would direct the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Labor and State to propose new rules to prevent immigration fraud and abuse. Those departments would also be asked to offer changes so that H-1B visas are awarded to the ‘most-skilled or highest-paid applicants.’” The Washington Times (4/17, Dinan, Miller) reports that the President “won’t cancel the H-1B visa program he complained about during the presidential campaign.” The Wall Street Journal (4/17, Stokols, Subscription Publication) says the President’s Wisconsin speech is expected to focus on his campaign vow to strengthen manufacturing.
USA Today (4/17, Korte) calls it “a double-barreled executive order” that will “clamp down on guest worker visas and require agencies to buy more goods and services from US companies and workers.” Politico (4/17, Cassella) reports that an Administration source said Commerce Secretary Ross “will coordinate an effort across all government agencies to root out weak monitoring, enforcement and compliance efforts relating to procurement practices.” Ross “will then advise Trump on how to close any existing loopholes in a report due 220 days from now – Thanksgiving Day – though the official noted recommendations could also come sooner.”
Reuters (4/17) reports the order will call for the “strict enforcement of all laws governing entry into the United States of labor from abroad for the stated purpose of creating higher wages and higher employment rates for workers in the United States,” according to one senior Administration official who brief reporters. The Washington Post (4/17, Jan, Ehrenfreund) reports the White House “says [the order] will make it harder for tech companies to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor, and will strengthen rules barring foreign contractors from bidding on government projects, according to senior administration officials.”
H1-B Visa Applications Drop After Rising For Years. The Wall Street Journal (4/17, Meckler, Subscription Publication) reports the number of H1-B visa applications dropped this year after rising for several previous years. The total number of applicants was 199,000, down from 236,000 in 2016. Bloomberg News (4/17, Brustein) reports that “this was the first time in the past five years that the total number of requests decreased.” The federal government has made “some incremental changes” to the H1-B program this year, which “were intended to cut back on aggressive use of the visas by outsourcing companies.” CNN Money (4/17, O’Brien) reports applications for the 85,000 visas “opened on April 3, and it was the fifth consecutive year that the cap was met within five days.” CNN Money adds “The H-1B is the most common visa for high-skilled foreign workers.” The San Francisco Chronicle (4/17, Thadani) reports the “H-1B visa allows foreign workers with specialized skills to spend up to six years working at a sponsor company in the United States,” and the visa is polar with tech companies that “have come to rely on these coveted work visas to fill engineering positions.”
Midwest Regulators Examine New Technologies, Policies To Modernize Grid.
E&E Publishing (4/17, Tomich, Subscription Publication) reports that “regulators across the Midwest are increasingly taking a closer look at the evolution of power grids” and examining how new policies can “reshape how electricity is generated, delivered and used.” For example, in 2015 the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission “became the first to decide to take a comprehensive look at grid modernization through an initiative focused on distribution planning.” Meanwhile in the Northeast, “grid resilience has taken on added significance,” while in California, “distributed energy resource integration is key.”
Wind Power Tax Credit Ended In Oklahoma.
The Hill (4/17, Cama) reports Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed legislation “to end the state’s tax credit for wind power this year.” Wind farms that begin “producing energy after July 1 this year will not be able to claim the credit under the new law.” Initially, the credit was “set to expire in 2021.” In a statement Fallin said, “The zero emissions tax credit was key to the growth of wind energy in Oklahoma, and I’m grateful to the industry for their ambitious successes, as well as their willingness to work with the state to address our challenging budgetary circumstances. … It is time to ensure that Oklahoma has a bright future, and continues its position as a prominent energy state.” The AP (4/17) reports it “is one of several revenue proposals” that legislators in Oklahoma “are considering as they struggle to close an estimated $868 million budget shortfall.”
INL Awards STEM Grants.
The Idaho Falls (ID) Post Register (4/17) reports Idaho National Laboratory has “awarded thousands of dollars in science, technology, engineering and math-related grants” to schools in eastern Idaho. Teachers and principals across the state “apply each year for the grants, which are awarded based on the educator’s plan and classroom need, according to an INL news release.” INL’s Amy Lientz said, “Too often, educators and administrators are not aware of the funding opportunities available in their own backyard. … This type of funding allows for furthering student interest in STEM careers and helps to grow our talent pipeline, enabling a sustainable future workforce.”
Michigan Bomb Squad Officer, High School Students Introduce Elementary Students To Robotics.
The Mt. Pleasant (MI) Morning Sun (4/17) reports Sgt. David Buck, an officer with the Michigan State Police’s First District Bomb Squad, and students with the Fulton Middle/High School Robotics Club met with Fulton Elementary School students on Monday. Buck showcased a robot that he uses on the bomb squad and discussed his work to both generate interest in robotics and encourage the elementary students to join the Robotics Club when they enter high school. “We encourage them to understand that the math and science they’re learning has an application,” said Buck. Fulton Robotics Club volunteer David Winsor called it “a (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) project” that “the state and schools are trying to push now.” The Fulton Robotics Club won the 2017 Highest Rookie Seed Award in the FIRST in Michigan competition.
California High School Girls To Present Solar-Panel Homeless Shelter At MIT.
The Huffington Post (4/17, McCombs) reports the Massachusetts Institute of Technology awarded a grant to a team of 12 San Fernando High School junior and senior girls to showcase their solar-powered homeless shelter prototype. The California students were tasked with developing an invention aimed at solving a real-world problem. Since the students “have seen the problem of homelessness first-hand” in their low-income community, they settled on a project that was specifically catered to helping the immigrant, refugee, and homeless populations. In an effort to raise enough money so that all 12 of the girls can attend the presentation at MIT in June, the girls launched a Gofundme campaign. The Post notes that the students “applied for the grant in conjunction with DIY Girls, a nonprofit that provides STEAM experiences to girls.”
Connecticut Educator Publishes Coloring Book Featuring Female Scientists.
The AP (4/17, Day) reports Sara MacSorley, a Connecticut educator and the director of Wesleyan University’s Green Street Teaching and Learning Center, published a new coloring book, titled “Super Cool Scientists,” in January. Her coloring book “features stories and black-and-white drawings of 22 living women who work in science and technology careers.” MacSorley said she began brainstorming a new project about a year ago because she felt disconnected from her science background. She discovered that no other coloring books featured female scientists, launched a Kickstarter campaign, and surpassed her $6,000 goal by gathering $8,053 in pledges from 207 backers.
NSF Fellowship Awards $1.4 Million To University Of North Florida Teacher Residency Program.
The Florida Times-Union (4/17) reports the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Fellowship awarded $1.4 million to the University of North Florida to fund the College of Education and Human Services’ Jacksonville Teacher Residency program. The program “puts graduates of science, technology, engineering and math disciplines into Duval schools to become math or science teachers.” Fifteen teacher residents were named as Noyce fellows; each “will receive a living stipend during their apprentice year and a $10,000 salary supplement during their ‘induction’ as new teachers.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• California Issues Permit To Apple For Driverless Car Testing On Public Roads.
• South Dakota Governor Attends Official Opening Of Renovated School Of Mines Building.
• SpaceX Invites New Teams To Second Round Of Hyperloop Pod Competition.
• Lucid Motors Poised To Take On Tesla.
• Tech Start-Ups Urge Pai Not To Alter FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules.
• UWF Receives $1.3M NSF Grant For STEM Teachers.