Leading the News
DOE Research Programs Spared In Congressional Budget Deal.
Bloomberg News (5/1, Dlouhy) reports that in the “government funding deal” unveiled yesterday, “environmental programs marked for death or deep cuts by President Donald Trump got a reprieve” by lawmakers in Congress, “at least for now.” The EPA, “targeted for $247 million in cuts for this year’s funding, instead escaped with a budget trimmed by $81 million – or 1 percent – and no staff reductions.” Energy Department “research divisions” were granted “increases despite calls by Trump to slash or eliminate them.”
The Washington Post (5/1, Achenbach, Guarino, Kaplan, Fears) reports the budget deal “is welcome news for the research community, which had been shocked and dismayed by Trump’s March 16 budget blueprint for fiscal 2018.” The Department of Energy’s Office of Science will receive “a $42 million funding increase instead of the $900 million cut Trump called for in his budget blueprint.” Meanwhile, “the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would get a modest increase, to $306 million, for 2017, which is good news for an agency marked for elimination by Trump and his budget team.”
The Washington Examiner (5/1, Siciliano) reports Sen. Lamar Alexander said of the energy spending portion of the omnibus legislation, “This bill demonstrates our commitment to building and maintaining our nation’s water infrastructure, to driving forward basic energy research in the Office of Science and high-impact research at ARPA-E, and to strengthening our national security by maintaining our nuclear weapons stockpile.”
MOX Project Loses Some Funding. The Augusta (GA) Chronicle (5/1, Gardiner) reports the “consolidated appropriations bill” also “allots money for Savannah River Site operations, including the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility through the end of this fiscal year, September 30.” Funding “for construction, environmental management, and other operational missions at SRS saw an overall growth of about 2 percent.” But “the amount allocated for MOX indicates that the program lost funding.”
Funding For Yucca Repository Not Included. The Las Vegas Review-Journal (5/1, Martin) reports the spending bill doesn’t “include money for licensing the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository, Nevada lawmakers said Monday.” In a statement Rep. Dina Titus said, “I worked to keep funds for this failed project out of the omnibus and will continue to fight any attempt to revive it.” Greenwire (5/1, Subscription Publication) reports that last week, House appropriator Mike Simpson signaled “that the bill would likely include $208 million for Yucca Mountain licensing and other planning.”
Purdue University Names Distinguished Researchers As Incoming Engineering Dean.
Inside INdiana Business (5/1) reports Purdue University named Mung Chiang, the 2013 recipient of “the prestigious National Science Foundation Alan T. Waterman Award, among the highest honors given to young U.S. scientists and engineers,” as its incoming John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering. Chiang will be the only Purdue University researcher to hold the distinction. Chiang, the Princeton University Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical Engineering, has also been awarded “a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Kiyo Tomiyasu Award, the American Society for Engineering Education Frederick E. Terman Award, a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and the Distinguished Teaching Award from Princeton School of Engineering.” In 2009, Chiang founded the Princeton EDGE Lab, “which bridges the theory-practice gap in edge networking research,” and he has co-founded various mobile networking, Internet of Things, and big-data start-ups.
Chiang, a Chinese immigrant, has been awarded about 20 patents, and his core research areas include information sciences and systems, and computing and networking, Purdue (IN) Exponent Online (5/1) reports. In a press release, Purdue president Mitch Daniels said the university “has recruited one of the genuine superstars of American engineering and higher education.”
Purdue To Purchase Kaplan University.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (4/28, Blumenstyk) reports on Purdue University’s “surprise deal to acquire the for-profit Kaplan University,” by which it has now “leapfrogged into the thick of the competitive online-education market.” Kaplan will become part of Purdue as “a free-standing arm that will cater to working adults and other nontraditional students.” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said that the university had been “a spectator” with respect to online education. Daniels said that he had begun a conversation with Donald Graham, chairman of Graham Holdings, after they “had been connected by a mutual friend who was aware of the company’s interest in a new plan for Kaplan and of Purdue’s months of campus discussions over how to pursue online education.” The acquisition must be approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Higher Learning Commission.
Wyden, Brown Introduce Bill To Prevent Social Security Garnishments For Student Loan Payments.
MarketWatch (5/1) reports that last week, Sens. Ron Wyden, and Sherrod Brown introduced a bill “that would prohibit the government from garnishing borrowers’ Social Security disability and retirement checks to pay for defaulted student loans.” Between 2002 and 2015, 540 percent more borrowers over the age of 65 are paying back their student loans through garnished Social Security checks, according to the Government Accountability Office in a report released last year. In 2015, senators introduced a similar bill to prevent the Federal government from garnishing Social Security disability and retirement checks for defaulted student loan payments, but it was never enacted.
Congressional Budget Agreement Includes Pell Grant Expansion, Program Funding Increases.
The Washington Post (5/1, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that on Sunday, lawmakers reached a budget agreement that would fund the Federal government through the end of September and protect “higher-education programs that are under threat from the 2018 White House budget proposal.” Congress will vote on the bipartisan bill early this week. The congressional budget agreement would reduce Federal education spending by $60 million, but expand the Pell Grant program and increase funding for the TRIO and GEAR UP college preparation programs. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “has thrown support behind an expansion” of the Pell program, and lawmakers are “directing the Education Department to increase the number of new TRIO grants awarded this year and give applicants who were disqualified due to formatting errors a reprieve.” Institute for College Access and Success president Lauren Asher lamented that the “deal gives with one hand and takes with the other,” and sends “a mixed message about the importance of college affordability.”
Research and Development
Mexican Engineering Student Wins Global Entrepreneur Awards For Cancer-Detecting Bra.
Fox News (5/1) reports on its website that 18-year-old engineering student Julian Rios Cantu of Mexico won the $20,000 Global Student Entrepreneur Awards this weekend for his invention, EVA. EVA is “an intelligent bra” fitted with about 200 biosensors that can “map the surface of the breast and monitor its temperature, shape and weight” and “help in the early detection of breast cancer.” Cantu said his mother’s struggles with the disease inspired him to create EVA.
University Of Iowa Students Create Adaptive Device To Help Boy Ride A Bicycle.
The AP (5/1) reports Alicia Truka, Kylie Hershberger, Mitchell Miller, and Nathaniel Witt, four University of Iowa senior biomedical engineering students, created an adaptive device to help eight-year-old Jonny Cole learn how to ride a bicycle. Cole “was born without most of his right arm,” so he could not stay balanced long enough to ride a bicycle. Cole’s father, linguistics Ph.D. candidate Douglas Cole, reached out to the University of Iowa’s machine shop last summer, and as part of their yearlong project, the four students helped design and 3-D print the adaptive device.
University Of Michigan Students Identify 1,632 Apps That Leave Smartphones Vulnerable.
Wired (4/28) reports that in a paper presented at the IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy, University of Michigan researchers identified 1,632 smartphone applications available in the Google Play app store that leave devices vulnerable to open port attacks. The identified apps help users directly connect their smartphones to other devices, but in doing so, the apps leave an insecure connection. More than half of the identified apps were downloaded more than 500,000 times. The researchers identified 410 apps as potentially having weak or no protection, and 57 that left ports open to other users on the same local Wi-Fi network, on connected devices, or to malicious scripts that run in browsers. The researchers identified Wifi File Transfer and AirDroid, two apps “with an eight-digit number of downloads,” as two “particularly dangerous” apps.
Coast Guard To Test Maritime Object Tracking Technology.
The Westerly (RI) Sun (5/1) reports, “The U.S. Coast Guard will take a firsthand look at some of its latest equipment Tuesday as the agency prepares to test a maritime object tracking technology prototype along the Gold Star Bridge.” Service spokesperson Lt. Joseph DiRenzo “said in a press release that a Research & Development Center team with the Coast Guard will use the bridge to test-drop and locate features of the new maritime object tracking technology, also known as MOTT.”
Lockheed Martin Continues Effort To Incorporate Blockchain Technology.
CryptoCoinsNews (5/1) reports that “while details remain scarce,” Lockheed Martin is continuing its push to integrate blockchain into development processes after becoming the first US defense contractor to begin exploring use of the technology in 2015. The company contracted blockchain collective Guardtime for the effort, and said that it will use blockchain in “system engineering processes, supply chain risk management and software development efforts,” promising increased efficiency across those areas. Guardtime last year was awarded a $1.8 million contract by DARPA, and the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year called blockchain “an innovative leap forward.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Senate Democrats Blast DOE Grid Study As Biased Toward Coal, Nuclear.
The Hill (5/1, Cama) reports Senate Democrats on Monday “slammed” the Energy Department’s “ongoing electric grid reliability study as biased toward power sources such as coal and nuclear.” The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Democrats “said the study Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered last month appears from the outset to be designed to boost coal and nuclear energy at the expense of renewable sources like wind and solar energy.” The group wrote in a letter to Perry, “The study, as you have framed it, appears to be intended to blame wind and solar power for the financial difficulties facing coal and nuclear electric generators and to suggest that renewable energy resources threaten the reliability of the grid.” The letter continued, “The notion that a 60 day review conducted by ideologues associated with a Koch brothers-affiliated think tank should supplant research and analysis conducted by the world’s foremost scientists and engineers would be a grave disservice to American taxpayers.” The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (5/1) reported the letter urges “Secretary Rick Perry to adequately consider other factors, like low natural gas prices and existing analyses showing positive impacts of renewable sources on grid reliability, when conducting the review.” Axios (5/1) also mentions the letter by the Senate Democrats as well as a letter from three renewable energy groups that also raises some concerns.
DOE Grid Study May Be Coming At Right Time For FirstEnergy. E&E Publishing (5/1, Subscription Publication) reports the grid study “couldn’t have come soon enough for executives at FirstEnergy Corp” as the company’s “competitive generation unit, FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), is on the brink of a Chapter 11 filing as executives seek a fast exit from the business, where its coal and nuclear plants are getting crushed by cheap shale gas and slack demand.” FirstEnergy officials are “developing its own ideas to pitch to the Department of Energy if the study concludes — as Perry telegraphed — that baseload power sources are endangered by policies and market designs that promote cleaner energy sources.”
Marston: Coal Is A “Priority” For Perry. Jim Marston, vice president of Clean Energy at the Environmental Defense Fund, writes in the Houston Chronicle (5/1, Marston) that with the study “DOE is going to cook the books to suggest the federal government is hurting Perry’s beloved coal industry.” Marston continues, “Perry has a long, sordid history with coal. He can’t get enough of it.” Perry, when he was governor of Texas, “attempted to fast-track TXU Corp.’s permits for dirty coal plants following campaign contributions from TXU associates. That plan crumbled under its own weight – a court blocked Perry’s order – and the low price of natural gas and renewable energy resources have since made new coal plants unattractive to investors.” Marston concludes that Perry’s “priority has always been coal. Now that he has been appointed by a president who has pledged to save the dying coal industry at all costs, Perry has stopped pretending he ever loved anything else.”
Michigan Students On Four-Team Robotics Alliance Win FIRST Championship.
The Detroit Free Press (5/1) reports an alliance of teams from Michigan, California, and New Jersey, “won the world FIRST Championship in St. Louis this past weekend.” Last year, the Lightning Robotics team from Plymouth-Canton Community Schools district “didn’t make it to the state or world finals.” Another Michigan team, Stryke Force, was the youngest to team to win the world championship. The alliance’s world championship status “provides strong momentum for 2018, when the state will host the world competition for the first time.” The state has “for years” been recognized as “a robotics powerhouse, winning more trophies at the world competition than any other state.” The Free Press notes “FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – brought together 15,000 students and about 400 teams from across the U.S. and more than 30 other countries.”
San Francisco Unified Assesses Progress Of “CS4all” Initiative.
Education Week (5/1) examines how the nationwide “CS4all” initiative, aimed at implementing computer science education into classrooms, unfolded in the San Francisco Unified school system since it was introduced in 2015. On Monday, the district’s computer science program administer, Bryan Twarek, presented a status report at the American Educational Research Association annual conference. Twarek told Education Week that about 40 percent of the district’s middle school students and 14 percent of its elementary students are involved in the CS4all program, and 11 of the district’s 17 high schools offer computer science courses. Twarek also outlined some of the lessons learned during the first two years. He explained that the biggest challenge to the CS4all initiative’s success is teacher preparation. He added that while students have been relatively enthusiastic about the program, participation at the high school level reflected the lack of diversity present in the tech-industry workforce.
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Demonstrators Participate In Climate Marches To Protest Trump’s Environmental Policies.
• Grad Student Succeeds In Campaign To Install Statue Honoring Female Engineers At University Of Illinois Campus.
• Researchers Could Use Drones To Explore Ocean Floor.
• Nevada Lawmakers To Oppose Trump On Yucca Mountain.
• Startup Offers STEM Education For Young Kids.