Leading the News
Engineer Named New SUNY Chancellor.
The New York Times (4/24, Taylor, Subscription Publication) reports that the State University of New York system is appointing Kristina M. Johnson, “an engineer who developed technology critical to 3-D movies and served as under secretary in the United States Energy Department before founding a hydroelectric company,” as its new chancellor. Johnson “will arrive at a time when state funding as a percentage of operating costs is down from a decade ago.” Johnson was dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University from 1999 to 2007.
The AP (4/24) reports Johnson is “an entrepreneur and engineer who has worked in government and is in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.” The system’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved Johnson’s appointment Monday.
State AGs Call On DeVos To Reinstate Obama Student Loan Consumer Protections.
The Washington Post (4/24, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the attorneys general from 20 states and the District of Columbia “are blasting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for revoking federal guidance issued by the Obama administration to increase consumer protections in student loan servicing.” In a letter to DeVos, the AGs say her “decision to ‘roll back essential protections imperils millions of student loan borrowers and families’ and urged her to reconsider immediately.” The Post reports DeVos “rescinded three memos” which “called for the creation of financial incentives for targeted outreach to people at great risk of defaulting on their loans, a baseline level of service for all borrowers and a contract flexible enough to penalize servicers for poor service.”
Noting that all 21 of the AGs are Democrats, Reuters (4/24, Lambert) reports they wrote to “DeVos decrying her decision to end the Education Department’s work on reforming loan servicing, steps intended to ensure that borrowers understand their outstanding debt and repayment options.” Reuters quotes New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman saying in a statement, “We should be looking for ways to ease the burden of student debt, not enabling the student loan servicing industry to manipulate and exploit students.”
The AP (4/24) reports that the letter says the protections in the Obama guidance “is helping protect student loan borrowers” and “called on DeVos to restore the memos instituted by the federal Education Department last year under President Barack Obama.” The state officials “said the guidance is designed to help borrowers get accurate information about their loans and repayment options — ensuring the consistency of service provided by student loan servicers and increasing accountability.”
The Hill (4/24, Beavers) reports DeVos announced in April “that she was ending the reform efforts because of ‘moving deadlines, changing requirements and a lack of consistent objectives.’” This piece says the “decision echoes the Republican policy view that the federal government should not be involved in the student loan business.”
King Pans Rollback Of Protections. Diverse Education (4/24) reports former Education Secretary John King “said it is ‘distressing’ to see the administration of President Donald J. Trump roll back policy initiatives put in place under President Barack Obama to protect college students from shady loan service providers and for-profit colleges with poor outcomes.” King, who is now president of The Education Trust, “told Diverse that the Trump administration’s efforts to pare down the Education Department and cut various federal education initiatives — such as professional development for teachers, summer and after-school programs, and student aid for college — are an ‘assault on the American dream.’”
National Science Foundation Grant Helps Michigan Tech University Promote Robotics Education.
On its website, WJMN-TV Marquette, MI (4/24) reports the National Science Foundation awarded Michigan Tech University a proposal grant two years ago to promote robotics education. The university partnered with Bay Community College and robotics industry leaders also working towards the same goal of promoting robotics. MTU Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology Program associate professor Alex Sergeyev commented, “As part of this initiative, there will be strong cooperation between multiple institutions, community colleges and universities to build this regional center for training of industry displaced workers as well as four-year degree and two-year degree students.”
Research and Development
Oklahoma State Startup Team Wins Pitch Competition.
The Oklahoman (4/12) reports, “Oklahoma State University student startup team MITO Material Solutions placed second at the Rice Business Plan Competition, an annual collegiate pitch competition hosted by Rice University.” The team developed “an adhesive epoxy additive which allow manufacturers to double the durability or significantly decreases the weight of composite materials utilized in the aerospace, recreation and automotive industries.”
Vanderbilt University Students Produce Vitals-Monitoring Smart Vest.
The Tennessean (4/24) reports Vanderbilt University engineering students presented the Health Evaluation and Real-time Monitoring-based Emergency Signaling, or HERMES, smart ballistics vest at the institution’s Design Day Monday. HERMES monitors the wearer’s heartbeat and breathing, can determine when those vitals are too fast or too slow, and call for backup if it senses the wearer is in trouble. Jim Shepherd, a former New York Police Department officer, said the concept came to him after he helped pull fellow officers from the airplane wreckage of the terror attack on September 11. He discovered vests among the few remaining items that were still intact that were later used to identify officers killed in action. “I thought about how can we get that vest to do something more?” Shepherd said. He then praised the engineering students for “a tremendous job” on HERMES.
George Mason Students Create Prosthetic Arm For Fifth-Grade Violinist.
The Washington Post (4/24, Andrews) reports five George Mason University bioengineering seniors created a prosthetic bow arm for 10-year-old Virginia fifth-grader Isabella Nicola, who was born without a left hand and without a part of her forearm. The students used 3-D printing technology to create the prosthetic, dubbed the VioArm because of Nicola’s long-held desire to play the violin. Nicola was fitted with her VioArm on Thursday.
Navy Repurposes World War II-Era Test Tunnel Into Laser Lethality And System Testing Lab.
Military News (4/24) reports the US Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division announced on Friday that it transformed a tunnel that was crucial to World War II-era gun range operations “into a vital new capability for testing laser technologies.” For years, civilian scientists believed “the long dormant 100-meter tunnel” had “potential for laser lethality and system testing.” The tunnel is now “integral to the Navy’s state-of-the-art laser lethality and development laboratory.” NSWCDD Directed Energy and Pulsed Power Division head Frank Dixon similarly said that the upgraded facility “along with its suite of analysis tools are essential for designing, developing, and integrating laser technology into existing and future fighting forces and platforms.” The laboratory also supports programs that the Office of Naval Research, Joint Directed Energy Transition Office, and Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems supports.
Cornell Team Developing Fingerprint Tech For IARPA Challenge.
MeriTalk (4/24, Lamb) reports Cornell University electrical and computer engineering professor Amit Lal and a group of Cornell students have developed a device that can scan the surfaces of all 10 fingers in five minutes as part of IARPA’s Nail to Nail Fingerprint challenge. Chris Boehnen, senior program manager at IARPA, said the current “gold standard for fingerprinting today is when skilled operators roll fingers over a surface,” but he reportedly added that this method “requires skilled manpower that many organizations don’t have the time or money to afford.” That is why IARPA seeks a device that can perform the task “without a human in the loop,” Boehnen said. Groups participating in the challenge will submit videos in July, and in the final stage IARPA will host a live test, with the winner receiving $100,000.
Researcher Developing Miniature Bio-Inspired Robot That Can Crawl Through Intestinal Tract.
Newsweek (4/24, Firger) reports that “David Zarrouk, a professor of mechanical engineering…is developing a miniature bio-inspired robot that will have the ability to crawl through the intestinal tract.” This “single actuator wave – or SAW – robot” moves in a “wave-like crawl that’s likely to be an effective way to move through the digestive system.” According to Newsweek, “This could make both a colonoscopy and an endoscopy less invasive,” and also “eliminate the need for anesthesia.”
Report Suggests Russia Lacks STEM Field Gender Gap.
The Washington Post (4/24, Marks) reports a number of studies have suggested a “pipeline problem” in the US that has resulted in a shortage of women in the American computing workforce. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization released a report that found in Russia, 41 percent of scientific researchers are female, and three times more female inventors are in Russia than in the West. A researcher explained that in other nations, girls have “a slightly playful approach to STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math], whereas in Russia, even the very youngest were extremely focused on the fact that their future employment opportunities were more likely to be rooted in STEM subjects.” Russian girls are also introduced to technology at an earlier age than in other nations. “As a result,” the Post writes, “young Russian girls view STEM more positively and this has resulted in a more lasting interest.”
Apple Hires Former NASA Employees As Part Of Autonomous Vehicles Plans.
The Wall Street Journal (4/24, Mickle, Higgins, Subscription Publication) reports Apple’s plan for more autonomous vehicles has identified six employees, some roboticists who worked for NASA, who will lead road testing of the company’s self-driving vehicles in California. The tests are critical for Apple as it attempts to catch up with companies like Waymo, which has been testing autonomous vehicles on roads since 2009. AppleInsider (4/24, Wuerthele) reports that though names of all of the staff listed in the obtained permit were redacted, some of the backgrounds were explained and included “one engineer serving as a test operator is noted as also having worked on automotive supplier Bosch’s early efforts to develop a self-driving car, and on making autonomous wheelchairs drive more smoothly.”
Engineering and Public Policy
White House Planning Active “Hunt And Destroy” Cyber Strategy.
E&E Publishing (4/24, Behr, Subscription Publication) reports that according to sources familiar with the matter, the White House will issue an executive order on cybersecurity advocating active “hunt and destroy” strategies for pursuing and eliminating malware that threatens critical US infrastructure and federal agencies. Such a proactive stance “would align the administration’s focus with the beginnings of a similar shift among electric utilities,” with North American Electric Reliability CEO Gerry Cauley recently endorsing active defense. The Department of Energy is currently running a “high-priority” research project designed to identify vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, called Consequence-Driven Cyber-Informed Engineering. Idaho National Laboratory senior cyber and energy security strategist Andrew Bochman told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee earlier this year that utilities would then need to implement solutions for eliminating attack malware while their systems are able to keep operating.
House Panel To Hold Hearing On Bill That Would Revive Yucca Mountain Project.
The Hill (4/24, Henry) reports the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment panel on Wednesday will conduct a hearing “to consider a bill that would revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.” The legislation “would give federal agencies more power over the Yucca site, sidestepping Nevada’s ability to withhold permits for the project.” Last week committee leaders “hailed it as a proposal to get the Yucca project back on track.” The Hill says that “the plan has an ally in the White House.” President Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 provides “$120 million to restart the licensing process for Yucca, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited the site in March.” Roll Call (4/24, Dillon) reports but bipartisan “local opposition to the project remains as fervent as ever. Nevada Sens. Dean Heller, a Republican, and Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, recently reiterated their opposition to any authorizing or spending bill that advances the project.” The Las Vegas Review-Journal (4/24) reports Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, ahead of the hearing, “sent a letter to the committee noting the state’s opposition based on ‘scientific, technical and legal merits.’” Sandoval wrote, “Furthermore, as a reminder to your committee members, as set forth in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, only the governor is empowered to consult on matters related to the siting of a nuclear waste repository.”
E&E Daily (4/24, Mintz, Subscription Publication) reports “the draft legislation would also advance the possibility of interim storage facilities; two private companies in Texas and New Mexico have proposed such facilities.” KRXI-TV Reno, NV (4/24) reported on its website Democratic Reps. Ruben Kihuen, Jacky Rosen and Dina Titus are slated to testify at the hearing.
Solar Deals Impacted By Uncertainty Of Tax Reform.
Bloomberg News (4/24, Eckhouse) reports that President Trump’s campaign pledges, while not yet turned into U.S. policies, are already causing “disruptive effects on finance,” according to Solar Energy Industries Association president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper. Clean-energy proponents are “worried that the prospect of tax reform would slow wind and solar finance” and could push investors to “wait out the uncertainty.”
Apple Announces Renewable Energy Purchase Agreement To Power Prineville Data Centers.
The Oregonian (4/24) reports Apple has agreed to purchase “hundreds of megawatts of wind and solar power to help run its growing complex of data centers in Prineville.” The company’s “annual environmental progress report” revealed “that it has a deal to buy 200 megawatts of power for the Montague Wind Power Project in Gilliam County.” The company “says this is the first wind project the company created itself.” It is “due to begin generating energy late next year.” Apple also “said it has a deal to buy power from a 56-megawatt project called Solar Star Oregon II, under construction a few miles from the Prineville complex.”
Johns Hopkins Engineering School Partners With Baltimore School For STEM Program.
Cool Progeny (4/21) runs an article about the STEM program at Barclay Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, where “hands-on-science is part of the ‘every day’ experience.” The school is “coming to the end of their first year of a 10 year innovative partnership with Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering.” The goal of the program is to make the school a leader in integrating STEM subjects across all subjects. Students at the school “build robots with Lego Mindstorms, engage in activities through JHU’s Aquaponics and Food Laboratory, design cityscapes with 3D printers, create their own species, and code after school.”
Rural Missouri High School Emerges As “Capital Of Youth Robotics.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (4/24) reports the rural town of Camdenton, Missouri has a population of about 3,600 people, but its school “district has arguably become a Missouri capital of youth robotics.” Despite lacking “many of the advantages of affluent suburban schools, many of which enjoy high-dollar support from nearby corporations,” Camdenton High School’s LASER 3284 robotics team will compete on Wednesday in the annual FIRST robotics championship. The school employs more robotics coaches than football coaches, elementary schools hold lotteries for positions on the teams, and one in 14 of the district’s students are “somehow involved with the after-school robotics program.” Robotics coach Mitch Comer, who founded Camdenton’s robotics program, said the school is trying to change a culture that “just doesn’t celebrate the great minds.” Staff and students’ “careful investment” in the robotics program has “produced an impressive track record,” with about 92 percent of graduates studying STEM in college or directly working in a STEM field.
Georgia Team Becomes First In State To Reach FIRST Robotics World Championships Finals.
The Columbus (GA) Ledger-Enquirer (4/24) reports the Columbus High School robotics team will compete as the first Georgia team to reach the FIRST Robotics World Championships finals. The team represents the Columbus Space Program through Columbus Robotics. Program director Luther Richardson stated, “Two back-to-back technical glitches that we had not seen before kept us from being World Champions at Houston.” The team has qualified for the FIRST Robotics world championships for three consecutive years. The competition is widely considered the largest “testing high schools students in the STEM skills of science, technology, engineering and math – as well as their ability to collaborate and cooperate.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• March For Science Events Held Across US And Around The World.
• Education Experts Examine Lack Of College Readiness Among Nevada Students.
• Detroit To Host Final Year Of Shell Eco-Marathon.
• Boeing Issues 429 New Layoff Notices In Washington State.
• Obtained Government Filing Reveals Details About Apple Self-Driving Car Testing.
• Judge Levies $2.8 Billion In Criminal Fines Against Volkswagen For Emissions Fraud.
• Indiana Robotics Team Attends World Tournament Despite Funding Challenges, Racial Slurs.