Leading the News
Four Conservation Groups Sue To Stop Fracking In Wayne National Forest.
Reuters (5/2, Kenning) reports four conservation groups filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Columbus against the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in an attempt to halt hydraulic fracturing in parts of the Wayne National Forest. The groups argue that the federal agencies failed to adequately consider the risks to watersheds, public health, climate and endangered species before auctioning off 670 acres in December. The groups are seeking an injunction to halt oil and gas leasing and development until a new assessment is made. E&E Publishing (5/2, Subscription Publication) reports the four groups filing the lawsuit were the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, the Ohio Environmental Council and Heartwood. Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “We’re suing to stop this dangerous fracking plan because drinking water safety and public lands should come before corporate profits. … The Ohio and Little Muskingum rivers provide precious water to millions of people in Ohio and downstream states. Pollution from fracking would be disastrous for the people who depend on this water.”
The AP (5/2) also provided coverage.
Ohio Budget Approval Could Pave Way For Fracking In State Parks. The Columbus (OH) Dispatch (5/2, Rowland) reports that for more than five years, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has effectively enforced a moratorium on fracking and other drilling in Ohio’s state parks, but that could change because state House Republicans added a provision into the state budget that gives the legislature the right to pick members of the oil and gas commission. In 2011, Kasich signed a provision that allowed fracking in state parks and created the commission, but Kasich has not appointed a single member since it was created. Brad Miller, a spokesman for the Republicans, said, “This amendment is an effort to grant more legislative authority for filling the commission, with the goal of spearheading public discussion on these issues.”
Georgetown Study: Share Of Students Receiving Pell Grant Less Than 20%.
MarketWatch (5/2, Berman) reports a new study released Tuesday by Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce shows that, at 346 colleges across the country, the share of students receiving a Pell grant “is less than 20%.” MarketWatch adds, “If all of these schools committed to enrolling a student body where 20% of the students are low-income, about 72,000 more Pell grant recipients would be able to attend these colleges. Those 346 colleges account for just 6% of colleges overall, the Georgetown study found.” However, “more than half of those schools are among the nation’s 500 most selective colleges.”
Government Outage “Putting Millions Of Student Loan Borrowers At Risk.”
MarketWatch (5/2, Berman) reports an outage of a government tool, which is expected to last six months, will make it more difficult for “some of the nation’s most vulnerable student loan borrowers” to manage their debts, according to federal consumer watchdogs and borrower advocates. The groups’ warning “comes as lawmakers are set to review the decision to take down the tool, known as the IRS data retrieval tool, as part of a hearing hosted Wednesday by the House of Representatives committee on oversight and government reform.” Much of the attention and outrage surrounding the tool’s outage “has focused on students applying for college, who use it streamline the process of applying for financial aid.”
Research and Development
University Of Nevada Researchers, Proterra Partner In Autonomous Bus Project.
The San Francisco Chronicle (5/2) reports San Francisco-area electric bus company Proterra partnered with University of Nevada-Reno Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center engineers and researchers “to develop and test autonomous buses in the heart of Reno’s downtown.” Proterra chief executive Ryan Popple said the idea of having autonomous shuttle buses has appeal, but those buses still need “a human being there to take care of the people.” He explained, “Personally, I’m not comfortable yet with the idea that an ADA passenger could get on an autonomous vehicle, and that we could code for every possible disability.” He continued, “You need to be able to move everyone, whether they’re physically or mentally disabled, or they’re really young, or they’re a senior.”
NSF Awards Five-Year Grant To Cybersecurity And IT College Program.
The Celina (TX) Record (5/2) reports the National Science Foundation awarded a nearly $4 million five-year grant to Collin College in Texas to fund its Convergence Technology Center, or CTC. The CTC was founded at Collin College in 2004 in collaboration with the University of North Texas and El Centro College. It has since partnered with Florida State College Jacksonville, Fox Valley Technical College, Georgia State University, Lansing Community College, Lone Star College, and Sinclair Community College. The partners will use the grant to “develop curriculum to address a shift in IT due to the emergence of cloud computing, internet of things, and software-defined networks,” and establish seven “strong regional hubs with business and industry leadership teams.” Collin College’s Dr. Ann Beheler stressed the “critical national shortage of workers in IT and cybersecurity as evidenced by extremely low national unemployment in these field.”
Microsoft Research Executive To Lead Columbia University’s Data Science Institute.
GeekWire (5/2) reports Columbia University president Lee Bollinger announced on Tuesday that beginning in early July, Microsoft Research corporate vice president Jeannette Wing will lead the university’s Data Science Institute. “Jeannette Wing is a pioneering figure in the world of computer science research and education, and her addition to the University’s academic leadership team reflects the continuing expansion of our work in this field,” Bollinger stated. From 2007 to 2010, Wing led the National Science Foundation’s academic computer research funding department, and she has twice led Carnegie Mellon’s computer science department.
University Of Arizona Students Showcase Inventions At Engineering Design Day.
Tucson News Now (AZ) (5/2) reports more than 500 student inventors showcased their projects at the University of Arizona’s Engineering Design Day on Monday. The university’s “annual showcase can lead to job offers or their products can go on to be used around the world.” Student projects ranged from creations “aimed at improving health, safety and national security.” Raytheon presented its $2,500 “Best Overall Design” award to a Phantom One drone that can pollinate twelve Medjool date palms at a time. The team said their system revolutionizes the farming industry by reducing safety risks and cutting the average farming workforce in half.
Clemson University’s “GreenMD” Program Seeks To Reduce Infections Spread By Medical Devices.
The Greenville (SC) News (5/2) reports that between 2010 and 2015, the FDA recorded 319 medical device reports related to duodenoscopes, which are resistant to certain cleaning techniques and can leave patients vulnerable to potentially deadly infections. Melinda Harman, an associate bioengineering professor at Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Campus, or CUBEInC, is teaching bioengineering students how “to focus on developing medical instruments that can be reused safely” through her GreenMD program. Harman explained GreenMD is catered “for engineers to understand how their design of instruments can help or hinder the transmission of infections,” because often if a duodenoscope is designed “differently, it wouldn’t have had that particular problem.” Harman added that reprocessing specialists are ranked third on the FDA’s top 10 priorities list.
Binghamton University Students Explore Methods To 3D-Bioprint Artificial Pancreas.
Digital Trends (5/2, Dormehl) reports Binghamton University biomedical engineering students Thomas Hays, Kyle Reeser, and Sebastian Freeman are developing a process to “3D bioprint an artificial pancreas using stem cells, in a project which has the potential to greatly improve life for people suffering from type 1 diabetes.” Hayes suggested that 3D-bioprinted organs for transplant will not likely be available for at least another decade because of the need for R&D and clinical testing phases. The New York students’ research, however, is “yet another example of some of the pioneering work that’s being done in this area” that may one day “be a major boon for those suffering from diabetes, which is sometimes treated using pancreas transplants.”
NASA: Cassini Encountered Less Dust Than Expected In Gap Between Saturn, Rings.
The Los Angeles Times (5/2, Netburn) reports that NASA scientists said that Cassini flew through less dust than they had expected in the region between Saturn and its rings. The finding “is great news for the mission’s engineers, who worried that even a small piece of dust the size of a grain of sand could damage one of the spacecraft’s instruments as it made its first dive through the region last week.” William Kurth, a physicist at the University of Iowa and the team leader on Cassini’s Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument, “said it is still possible that there is some dust in this region, but it would have to be smaller than what his instrument can pick up.” Scientists will be able to gather more detailed data Tuesday by using the spacecraft’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer – which was shielded during the first dive for protection – during the second dive scheduled for Tuesday.
DOE To Tap INL Used Fuel To Keep University Research Reactor Operating.
Physics Today (5/2, Kramer) reports that the US Department of Energy, faced with a “lack of fresh fuel for nuclear research reactors,” has “dug into its inventory of used fuel to keep the University of Maryland’s reactor operating at top efficiency.” The fuel, which was previously stored at DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, “was delivered to the university in March.” The article adds that the fuel shortage is “due to the temporary shutdown of TRIGA International in France, which is the sole manufacturer of fuel for reactors of the type installed at Maryland.” Without “fresh fuel, the Maryland reactor’s core has been producing about 20% less power than its 250 KW capacity, says Timothy Koeth, director of the university’s radiation facilities.”
India-Based Outsourcing Company To Hire 10,000 US Workers.
The New York Times (5/2, Mozur, Subscription Publication) reports that with President Trump threatening to move against companies seen as hurting American workers, India-based outsourcing company Infosys, “one of the largest beneficiaries of the H-1B program,” became “the latest Asian technology company to portray itself as a jobs creator” with a plan to hire 10,000 workers in the United States in the next two years. The company “was light on details.” Trump’s economic nationalism “is reminiscent of the politics of business in” many Asian companies’ home countries. USA Today (5/2, Weise) reports Infosys plans to open a tech center in Indianapolis and an additional three hubs elsewhere in the United States. In measures “particularly focused on ‘H-1B dependent’ companies,” the Department of Homeland Security previously announced efforts to “deter and detect” fraud and abuse, and the Department of Justice warned employers not to discriminate against Americans.
House Finance Committee Holds Hearing On Measures To Discourage Boeing Layoffs.
The AP (5/2, Corte) reports the House Finance Committee held a hearing on Tuesday in which lawmakers heard public testimony on two bills “that would tie Boeing’s eligibility for tax breaks to the amount of people they employ in Washington.” The two bills are adjusted versions of previous attempts “that never gained traction” but have since “received renewed interest after another round of Boeing layoffs were announced last month.” Rep. Noel Frame sponsored one bill that “would require Boeing to meet an annual employment baseline of 70,000 jobs in Washington state in order to qualify for its preferential business and occupation tax rate.” Rep. Richard DeBolt sponsored a second bill that would allow Boeing’s preferential tax rate to expire in mid-2024 if it “did not maintain a seven-year average of 75,000 positions.”
UPS To Deploy Fuel Cell Electric Delivery Vehicle.
Reuters (5/2) reports UPS unveiled a prototype of an extended range fuel cell electric delivery vehicle. Truckinginfo (5/2, Sutarik) reports UPS will begin testing the prototype “to determine whether the zero-emission fueling technology could be more widely adopted across the fleet.” UPS Senior Vice President of Global Engineering and Sustainability Mark Wallace said, “The challenge we face with fuel cell technology is to ensure the design can meet the unique operational demands of our delivery vehicles on a commercial scale.” Wallace added, “This project is an essential step to test the zero tailpipe emissions technology and vehicle on the road for UPS and the transportation industry.” According to the article, UPS developed the vehicle in partnership with Unique Electric Systems, the US Department of Energy’s Center for Transportation and the Environment, and the University of Texas’ Center for Electromechanics.
Fleet Owner (5/2) reports the first prototype will be deployed in Sacramento, “where UPS will validate its design and core performance requirements by testing it on the street starting the third quarter of 2017.” The current plan calls for additional UPS trucks to be validated with at least 5,000 hours of in-service operational performance. The article mentions that all of the trucks will be deployed in California because of the state’s “ongoing investment in zero tailpipe emissions transportation and installment of hydrogen fueling stations around the state.”
UPS (5/2) also issued a press release on the story.
Engineering and Public Policy
Sources: White House Leaning Towards Leaving Paris Climate Agreement.
The Washington Post (5/2, Eilperin) reports Paris climate pact opponents “have gained the upper hand in the ongoing White House debate” about whether the United States should remain in the agreement, “according to participants in the discussions and those briefed on the deliberations, although President Trump has yet to make a final decision.” Since Thursday, top officials in the administration officials “have met twice” to discuss the future of the US’s participation the deal. Presidential aides “remain divided over the international and domestic legal implications of remaining party to the agreement, which has provided a critical political opening for those pushing for an exit.”
The New York Times (5/2, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) reports Trump’s “decision could hinge on the interpretation of a single phrase in a single provision of a document that took years to write.” The phrase says that a country “may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition.” But there is a question about whether a nation can “weaken its commitment without violating the terms of the complex deal.” The Times mentions that Energy Secretary Rick Perry “has called for the administration to ‘renegotiate’ the climate pact without withdrawing from it.”
The Hill (5/2, Cama) also reports that officials at the White House “are leaning towards taking the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.” The Trump Administration is concerned “that staying in the accord would give environmentalists a legal argument to prevent Trump from repealing climate regulations like the Clean Power Plan.” The Huffington Post (5/2, Kaufman) reports the decision to leave the deal may comes “as early as next week.”
Coal Industry Sees “Sharp Divide” On Staying In Deal. The Daily Caller (5/2, Bastasch) reports there is a “sharp divide” in the coal industry on the subject of the US staying in the agreement, with “U.S.-based, privately-held coal companies opposed Paris, while multinational hardrock mining corporations supported staying in the deal.”
AWEA Wind Power Growth Accelerating.
UPI (5/2, Graeber) reports an “annual report” by the American Wind Energy Association found the wind industry “in the midst of extraordinary growth and Texas is leading the way.” The report “found first quarter U.S. installations reached 2,000 megawatts, quadruple the capacity from one year ago, for one of the strongest quarters on record.” With a new administration “moving in favor of legacy energy resources like oil and coal, the AWEA joined two other renewable energy trade groups last week in defending their role on the nation’s grid.” Last month, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry “called for an investigation into the resilience and reliability of the nation’s energy grid.” With renewable energy resources “deemed variable because of the nature of their power origins,” Perry “said the issue was a critical one given regulatory burdens enacted by previous administrations that could impact legacy resources like coal-fired power generation.”
US Wind Industry Installed Most New Capacity In Q1 Since 2009.
Reuters (5/2) reports that the U.S. wind industry installed more wind energy capacity in this first quarter of 2017 than it has in any period since 2009. Nearly 2,000 megawatts of capacity was installed last quarter as “developers race to capture a lucrative federal tax credit that is gradually being faced out.” Although the credit’s value will decrease by 20 percent “each year for projects that start construction from 2017 through 2019,” there are still 9,025MW of new wind projects slated for construction.
California Renews Calls For ED To Allow Science Testing Switch.
The Los Angeles Times (5/2) reports on the impasse between California education officials and ED under the Obama administration over the state’s plan to switch to a science test aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. Though federal law requires the state to “continue to administer the old science test until the new one is up and running,” State Superintendent Tom Torlakson “asked the Obama administration to let California out of this double-testing requirement.” ED refused, but now Torlakson and State Board of Education President Mike Kirst are making the same request of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Florida Robotics Team Advances To FIRST Championship Semifinals.
The Tampa Bay (FL) Times (5/2) reports the 21-student River Ridge High School Royal Robotics team from Florida advanced to the semifinals at the 2017 FIRST, or “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” Championship in April. The team qualified to compete at the FIRST Championship last year as well. To help the Royal Robotics pay for competition-related expenses, Pasco Education Foundation matched contributions from AT&T, DeVry Education Group, and other organizations and businesses. Team captain Allysa Allen told the Times she will study biological engineering this fall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Zack Babcock said he will study mechanical engineering at the University of West Florida. Two other graduating seniors, Kevin Hudak and Tim Rimos, will “study computer science and mechanical engineering, respectively, both at Pasco-Hernando State College and then at the University of South Florida.”
South Carolina State Superintendent Visits Nationally-Recognized STEM-Focused Middle School.
The Charleston (SC) Post and Courier (5/2) reports South Carolina’s state education superintendent, Molly Spearman, visited Laing Middle School. The Future of Education Technology Conference recently recognized Laing as “the top middle school in the country for teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).” At Laing, the teaching staff includes nationally-recognized “integrative” STEM education leaders, its $39 million campus was specifically designed for STEM education, “and its fabrication laboratory comes stocked with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of 3-D printers and other equipment, purchased through parent philanthropy, grants and a corporate donation from BP.” Spearman visited the school for ideas on how to expand STEM curriculum across the state. “We have a hard time getting girls involved in engineering jobs and mathematics, but these middle school girls outnumbered the boys, really, in the projects that I saw,” Spearman commented.
Science Center To Open In Underserved San Diego Neighborhood.
KPBS-TV San Diego (5/2) reports on its website that the nonprofit Ocean Discovery Institute partnered with the San Diego Unified School District to construct a $15 million tuition-free Living Lab. The learning and research center will be located in the City Heights neighborhood, and is slated to open in September. The neighborhood is “one of San Diego’s underserved communities,” and its students are enrolled at the “low-performing” Hoover High School. Ocean Discovery Institute “is hoping a researcher from NOAA, one of its partners, will be the first to fill the live-in role.”
Also in the News
Pennsylvania Museum Preserves History Of Computers.
The AP (5/2) reports on the grand re-opening of the Large Scale Systems Museum in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, noting that the facility is “filled wall to wall with the dinosaurs of computing” ranging “from number-crunching supercomputers, mainframes used to run entire banking and business systems and so-called minicomputers the size of a desk.”
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• DOE Research Programs Spared In Congressional Budget Deal.
• Purdue University Names Distinguished Researchers As Incoming Engineering Dean.
• Mexican Engineering Student Wins Global Entrepreneur Awards For Cancer-Detecting Bra.
• Lockheed Martin Continues Effort To Incorporate Blockchain Technology.
• Senate Democrats Blast DOE Grid Study As Biased Toward Coal, Nuclear.
• Michigan Students On Four-Team Robotics Alliance Win FIRST Championship.