Leading the News
NASA Releases Images From Cassini’s First Successful Close Approach.
Space News (4/27, Subscription Publication) reports that NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its first close approach to Saturn on Wednesday night, reestablishing radio contact with ground controllers early Thursday morning. CNET News (4/27, Kooser) reports that NASA released unprocessed images of the flight, providing “our closest-ever view of Saturn’s atmosphere.” Cassini came within 1,900 miles of Saturn’s clouds. Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize said that the spacecraft completed the maneuver “in excellent shape” amid some uncertainty over the prospects for success. He explained, “No spacecraft has ever been this close to Saturn before. … We could only rely on predictions.” The next of the 22 total scheduled close flybys is slated for May 2.
Forbes (4/27) reports that Cassini “has already started beaming back science and engineering data gathered during the dive to NASA’s Deep Space Network Goldstone Complex in the Mojave Desert.” NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green said, “In the grandest tradition of exploration, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has once again blazed a trail, showing us new wonders and demonstrating where our curiosity can take us if we dare.” Recounting some of Cassini’s past images, ABC News (4/27) reports, “Cassini’s finale plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere is a truly spectacular end for one of the most scientifically rich voyages yet undertaken in our solar system, according to NASA.”
Purdue University Acquiring For-Profit Kaplan Pending ED Approval.
USA Today (4/27, Toppo) reports that in a “surprise announcement” Thursday, Purdue University said “it will buy for-profit Kaplan University for $1, with plans to turn it into a new, nonprofit Indiana public university for ‘nontraditional adult learners.’” According to an SEC filing, some 32,000 “Kaplan students will transfer to the new, as-yet-unnamed university,” which will continue to be run by Kaplan. The article notes that ED must approve the deal, adding that the “Obama administration rejected similar deals, but the Trump administration has signaled it would roll back regulations on the industry.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education (4/27) reports that Purdue’s Board of Trustees voted on the acquisition Thursday morning, and that the SEC filing was made the same morning. This piece reports that the filing indicates that “Kaplan will essentially run the new university, providing the administrative backbone, and will be entitled to a fee equal to 12.5 percent of the new institution’s revenue (as long as the new institution has enough money to cover its operating costs, and meets a slew of other conditions detailed in the filing) during each of the first five years of its existence.”
U.S. News & World Report (4/27, Camera) reports the new school will be “aimed at enrolling non-traditional degree seekers and people looking to beef up their work credentials.” Purdue “will absorb Kaplan’s 15 campuses and learning centers, 32,000 students, and 3,000 employees. All currently enrolled students and employed faculty will transition to the new university, which will use the Purdue name in some fashion not yet identified.” Purdue President Mitch Daniels “framed the acquisition as a way to broaden its land-grant mission and expand access to higher education to a different population than it currently serves.”
Calling the announcement a “first-of-its-kind move,” the Lafayette (IN) Journal and Courier (4/27) reports the Purdue board “on Thursday morning unanimously approved a plan to acquire Kaplan University, a largely online institution that has 15 campuses across the country, including a site in Indianapolis.” This article quotes Daniels saying, “A public university coming together with an established online university I think is by any definition a national first.” The new school, temporarily dubbed “NewU,” “will maintain all of Kaplan’s current programs and employees, but will be part of the Purdue system and will include its name.” Daniels says the arrangement “allows Purdue to fully break into the growing online education sector, which the university wasn’t prepared to do on its own, and to serve more nontraditional students who are unlikely to attend a residential campus.”
Other news outlets covering this story include the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (4/27), the Lewiston (ME) Sun Journal (4/27), the Hagerstown (MD) Herald-Mail Media (4/27), the South Florida Business Journal (4/27, Subscription Publication), the Lincoln (NE) Journal Star (4/27), and WRTV-TV Indianapolis (4/27).
Senators Urge DeVos To Preserve Dual Enrollment Pell Pilot Program.
Politico Morning Education (4/27) reports a bipartisan group of Senators has written to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urging her “to keep an Obama-era pilot program that makes Pell Grants available to high school students who are simultaneously taking college courses.” The piece notes that DeVos has spoken in favor of dual enrollment programs, but “hasn’t said whether her agency will keep the dual enrollment pilot program” which “is operating under the Education Department’s ‘experimental sites’ authority.”
Stakeholders Debate Higher Education Accreditation Reform.
Diverse Education (4/27) reports that according to Thomas Edison State University President Dr. George A. Pruitt, “as Congress seeks to reform the accreditation system for institutions of higher education, it should avoid a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that fails to take into account the varied missions of different colleges and universities that serve diverse student populations.” Pruitt was speaking “Thursday during a two-hour hearing on accreditation conducted by the Republican-controlled House Committee on Education and the Workforce.” The piece reports that “questions linger over the direction the federal government will take with respect to its role in accreditation as it seeks to hold colleges and universities — particularly those within the for-profit sector — accountable for the student outcomes they achieve with the billions of taxpayer dollars they receive each year in the form of federal student aid.”
Research and Development
Ohio Research Institute Helps NASA With Mars Mission Planning.
The Dayton (OH) Daily News (4/26) reports that Ohio’s University of Dayton Research Institute has been working on the planning of NASA’s next mars mission. A UDRI research team is working on “a prototype power generator that the university says bodes well for NASA’s plans to visit Mars with a new rover mission in three years.” Researchers recently performed a test in which they “heated the unit to a temperature that’s about 100 degrees hotter than the maximum temperature experienced by a current rover Curiosity.”
US Army Plans To Develop Next-Gen UAV In Process Mirroring FVL.
Defense News (4/27) reports that the US Army plans to develop a next-generation tactical UAV to replace its Shadow and Gray Eagle fleets using lessons learned from the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. Aviation Development Directorate Chief Engineer Layne Merritt said that the Army plans to hold a science and technology-level demonstration for the Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS) mirroring the approach taken for the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program being used to test demonstrator helicopters and set requirements for FVL, which is scheduled to begin in 2019. The Army has budgeted $2 million to begin studies for the FTUAS effort this year, and the Vertical Lift Consortium will play a significant role in the process.
Despite Excitement, Major Hurdles Stand Before Flying Cars.
Fortune (4/27) reports that while “the media is in the midst of a flying car frenzy,” with firms such as AeroMobil and Kitty Hawk announcing plans to put such vehicles on the market, there are “three chief concerns that could hold back the widespread adoption of airborne vehicles.” Experts say the industry faces challenges related to air traffic control, high costs, and safety.
Square Reportedly Acquires Yik Yak’s Engineering Team For Less Than $3 Million.
Bloomberg News (4/24, Wang) reported that Square acquired the engineering team of Yik Yak, according to person familiar with the matter, who said that Square paid less than $3 million for between five and 10 of Yik Yak’s engineers. Yik Yak’s CEO Tyler Droll will not join Square, the person said. Also reporting the story were 9 to 5 Mac (4/24) and The Street (4/24).
Grohmann Leaves Tesla After Spat With Musk Over Engineering Firm’s Legacy Clients.
Reuters (4/27, Taylor) reports Klaus Grohmann, the Tesla executive who founded Grohmann Engineering before it was acquired by Tesla in November 2016, “was ousted last month after a clash with Chief Executive Elon Musk over the strategy of Grohmann’s firm” and its “automation and engineering expertise” considered essential to Tesla’s ultimate goal of producing hundreds of thousands of cars a year by next year. Grohmann and Musk were allegedly at odds over the treatment of Grohmann Engineering’s clients from before the buyout, which included Daimler AG and BMW, with Musk preferring for Grohmann to focus on Tesla.
The Verge (4/27, Hawkins) reports with coverage based off the Reuters report, noting that “Musk wanted the German manufacturing facility to focus solely on building Tesla vehicles.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Halstead: Yucca Would Likely Not Be Ready To Receive Waste For 20 Years.
KSNV-TV Las Vegas (4/27, Gillan) reported on its website that according to Bob Halstead of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, even if everything happened exactly the way supporters of Yucca Mountain wanted, the soonest the site would be ready to begin receiving spent nuclear fuel is “a couple decades” from now. To “understand the timing, first understand that the proposed nuclear waste…is all but abandoned, effectively killed-off by the previous Democratic administration.” Halstead, who heads the agency that has spearheaded the fight against Yucca for years, said, “Nothing will happen quickly.” Licensing the project Halstead says, would take “a minimum of two years but more likely three to four years.” He added, “They might be able to construct a railroad and the surface facilities and begin receiving waste 10 years after that, but it’s more likely that they won’t be ready to receive waste for 20 years, in the best case.”
DOE Contractor Preparing For Work To Restart On Yucca Mountain Project. Greenwire (4/27, Northey, Mintz, Subscription Publication) reports that as Congress begins debate over legislation aimed at jump-starting “the long-stalled Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project, the nuclear industry is getting ready for licensing” the Nevada repository. An “internal newsletter obtained by E&E News” indicates that “Department of Energy contractor, Areva Federal Services (AFS), told employees the company anticipates the licensing process for the repository will be restarted ‘in the next few weeks.’” The company, based in Aiken, South Carolina, “also said it plans to provide about 350 engineers for the effort.” The newsletter makes clear that the AFS is preparing for “site reconnaissance and infrastructure upgrades ahead of the potential licensing restart.”
KRXI-TV Reno, NV (4/27, 10:05 a.m. EDT) broadcast, “In Washington, Yucca Mountain is taking center stage.” Over the “last 15 years, Nevada has spend money fighting nuclear waste dumping in the silver state. The governor has budgeted another $7 million more to keep the fight going.”
Trump Will Move To Expand Arctic, Atlantic Drilling.
The New York Times (4/27, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports that according to Interior Secretary Zinke, President Trump “is scheduled on Friday to sign an executive order aimed at rolling back the Obama administration’s attempts to ban oil drilling off the southeastern Atlantic and Alaskan coasts.” Trump’s order “would also erase or narrow the boundaries of some federally-protected marine sanctuaries, opening them up to commercial fishing and oil drilling” and “direct the Interior Department to ‘reconsider’ several recent regulations on offshore drilling to ease more oil exploration.”
The Washington Post (4/27, Eilperin, Dennis) describes the move as a “major step” toward expanding oil and gas drilling off US shores, but adds that “local political considerations and the global energy market are likely to influence future exploration far more than an executive order in Washington.” While industry officials expect oil and gas firms to “bid on areas the administration plans to open to drilling, including those off the East Coast,” the “targeted Arctic areas are much less attractive to investors right now, and even potential drilling in the Atlantic could be complicated by long-standing resistance from coastal communities.”
Nevada Middle School Launches Maker’s Club.
The Nevada Appeal (4/27) reports that students at Carson Middle School in Carson City, Nevada are “wrapping up their first successful season as a Maker’s Club — with more to look forward to next year.” The club formed last October and “consists of 22 students from 6th-8th grades” who “meet on a weekly basis to design high-tech and industrial products with 3-D printers, laser and plasma cutters, and bandsaws.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Trump Directs DeVos To Review Federal Role In Education.
• Upward Bound Applications Denied Over Formatting Errors.
• Honda To Invest $124 Million For Wind Tunnel At Transportation Research Center In Ohio.
• Engineering Firm Exec: EPA’s UAS Policy Leaves Environmental Industry At A Standstill.
• Tech CEO Argues H-1B Program Needed To Fill Positions At Rural Company.
• Technology-based Curricula Helps Colorado Students Succeed.
• Education Startup EverFi Raises $190 Million.