Leading the News
Army Working On New Tank To Succeed Abrams.
Scout (5/9) reports “the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, is now immersed in the development of design concepts for various super high-tech tank platforms.” Scout says “unmanned ‘wing-man’ type drones could fortify attacking ground forces by firing weapons, testing enemy defenses, carrying suppliers or performing forward reconnaissance and reconnaissance missions while manned-crews remained back at safer distances.” Scout reports “Bassett, and developers with General Dynamics Land Systems, specifically said that this kind of autonomy was already being worked on for current and future tanks.” Meanwhile, the Army is currently fast-tracking an effort to explore a number of different active protection systems for the Abrams. In particular, “General Dynamics Land Systems is, as part of the effort, using its own innovation to engineer an APS system which is not a ‘bolt-on’ type of applique but something integrated more fully into the tank itself, company developers have told Scout Warrior.”
Air Force Research Laboratory Serves As Department Of Defense Lab Day Dress Rehearsal.
The Dayton (OH) Daily News (5/9) reports the Air Force Research Laboratory hosted its Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at Wright-Patterson on Tuesday. AFRL scientists and engineers showcased their projects as a practice run ahead of sending them “to the Pentagon on May 18, Department of Defense Lab Day.” AFRL chief technology officer Morley Stone called it “first and foremost as an education event in educating our senior leaders in terms of what is coming down the road, what are we researching, what’s the art of the possible.” Projects included the Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology, or LAACT, “would work in tandem with current aircraft such as F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters” to “spy on battlefield adversaries, carry weapons or jam communications.” Another project examined “gene editing technology” that may be able to boost soldiers’ endurance. Another project, dubbed Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation, or HiFIRE, involved rocket launches aimed at exploring hypersonic vehicles.
Improv Class At Johns Hopkins Help Science, Engineering Students Communicate.
WJZ-TV Baltimore (5/8) reports that science and engineering students at Johns Hopkins University are taking improve classes from Michael Hartwell, an adjunct professor at the university and education director for the Baltimore Improv Group. WJZ says “the students taking the class realize, no matter how smart they are, they will be judged by their conversational skills in the real world.” The report says “they participate in exercises to improve their listening skills, and practice accepting what someone else is saying and adding to it.” WJZ says students credit the class with helping them land internships and improving their interactions with non-technical people.
University Of Iowa Engineering Students Help Amputee Ride His Bike.
USA Today (5/9) has a video report on Jonny Cole, “an 8-year-old congenital amputee who was born missing most of his right arm.” The report details how “four University of Iowa students designed a bike that made it easy for him to ride.” The report explains that they created a one-jointed arm for his bike.
ED Expected To Follow Through On Plan To Create Student Loan Servicing Platform.
Politico Morning Education (5/9) reports that ED attorneys have filed a document with the Government Accountability Office saying the department “has signaled it will move ahead with an Obama-era plan to select a loan servicing company to build a new streamlined platform to collect all federal direct student loans to make it easier for students to make monthly payments.” The filing said “the Trump administration plans to move forward to hire new loan servicing companies—but based on ‘substantially’ different criteria than what had been proposed under Obama.”
Baldwin, Murray, Pocan Reintroduce College Campus Anti-Bullying Bill.
On its website, NBC News (5/9) reports Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Patty Murray and Rep. Mark Pocan recently reintroduced the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, which aims at reducing college campus bullying and harassment “by requiring colleges and universities to ‘establish policies to prohibit harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.’” The bill also calls for a competitive grant program to encourage universities to develop preventive training programs and counseling for student victims, and includes a provision on “cyberbullying.” Baldwin, Murray, and Pocan said in a statement, “Lawmakers are deeply concerned with the rise of hateful and intimidating incidents spreading throughout college campuses nationwide, including actions undertaken by President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to withdraw guidance pertaining to discrimination against transgender students under Title IX of the education amendments of 1972.”
Student Loan Debt Collectors Increasingly Use Liens Against Default Borrowers.
In an audio recording for NPR ’s (5/9) “Morning Edition,” WHYY host Bobby Allyn discussed “a new controversial strategy to collect on student loan debt is being ramped up in cities around the United States, including Philadelphia.” Allyn reported that within “the last two years, more than 3,300 student loan borrowers have been sued after defaulting, and that brought in $29 million.” In nearly all of the lawsuits, “the borrower loses and the government wins” a lien on the borrower’s assets, including the home. “The government has long been able to garnish wages, take income tax returns and divert Social Security and disability benefits,” Allyn explained, “but targeting a property is a way of applying even more pressure to get former students to pay up.” National Consumer Law Center attorney Joanna Darcus said these liens can seriously threaten borrowers, and the practice is expected to expand.
Research and Development
Commercially-Accessible SAR Imagery Start-Up Receives $12 Million In New Funding.
Bloomberg News (5/9, Vance) reports that on Tuesday, Capella Space announced $12 million in new funding. The company developed a smaller, cheaper version of the synthetic aperture radar, or SAR, that “can produce black-and-white images at 1-meter resolution,” equivalent to “the military models.” The SARs would allow “hedge funds, farmers, city planners, and others” to “buy the pictures to track changes in the world around them.” Capella’s goal is to deploy 36 SAR satellites “and have them monitor such things as ports, oil-storage centers, and cities.” Co-founder and chief executive officer Payam Banazadeh, a 26-year-old Iranian immigrant, “says it’s hard to say what a commercial market could look like, given that the image prices under the government satellite system are way higher,” but he “is certainly up for a challenge.” Banazadeh was “a curve killer at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a degree in aerospace engineering,” and he built “satellites at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.”
University Of Oxford Researchers Develop Artificial Retina.
Digital Trends (5/9, Furness) reports University of Oxford researchers “developed a synthetic, biocompatible, soft-tissue retina that is a step forward for bionic implants” that “may offer a safer way to bring vision back to visually impaired people.” Lead researcher and doctoral student Vanessa Restrepo-Schild said the artificial retina functions in a manner similar to a natural retina. “It is designed like a camera, the cells act as pixels, detecting and reacting to light to create a grey scale image,” Restrepo-Schild explained. She continued, “The synthetic material can generate electrical signals, which might stimulate the neurons at the back of our eye just like the original retina.” The journal Scientific Reports published a paper (4/18) detailing the researchers’ findings.
Canadian Technological Investments Showcased At MaRS Hub.
The Atlantic (5/9) calls Canada “an obvious choice” for “tech talent” in the US who are “anxious about losing their work visas.” Canada has not only vocally promoted its pro-immigration policies, but also “investing in a small, burgeoning tech scene that’s emerged in the last five years.” Venture capital investments in the nation’s businesses totaled about $1.7 billion last year, compared to $59 billion in the US, but some tech professionals “see that as a welcome change from larger hubs.” In Toronto specifically, an innovation hub dubbed MaRS “hopes it can successfully lure Silicon Valley types up north.” The hub is “a public-private partnership between Canadian tech companies and the Ontario government” that offers a campus with office space designed for start-up companies. MaRS has faced criticism, “but many think that the country is poised for tech growth,” particularly in the artificial intelligence and biotech fields.
NASA Scientists Discuss Possible Pluto Orbiter Mission.
SPACE (5/9, Wall) reports 35 scientists met in Houston last month to discuss “the possibility of launching an orbiter mission to Pluto.” The researchers were so intrigued by images of the dwarf planet that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft provided in 2015 that they “want to go back and spend a lot more time studying the icy world.” New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, who is based at the Southwest Research Institute, said any future orbiter would have to rely on nuclear power because it would operate too far away from the sun for energy. “Stern said a Pluto orbiter could get off the ground in the late 2020s or so,” but a launch in 2030 “would have ceremonial significance, coming on the 100th anniversary of Pluto’s discovery.” Stern and his fellow researchers hope to present their concept at the US National Research Council’s next Planetary Science Decadal Survey, which “sets exploration priorities for NASA every 10 years.”
ESA-Backed Research Recreates Particle Conditions Of Space Radiation.
UPI (5/9, Hays) reports on the European Space Agency-funded research into recreating “space radiation in the lab” to test “better” protection for future astronauts and space equipment. Commenting on the research, University of Strathclyde physics professor Bernhard Hidding says, “By using laser-plasma-accelerators, however, we were able to produce particle flux which more closely resembled conditions in space.” This same laser-plasma accelerator technology will also contribute to recreating the conditions in the radiation belts of Jupiter and Saturn, where “exploratory missions in these harsh radiation environments have a high scientific priority, such as investigating the possibility of water on the Jupiter moon Io,” Hidding says.
Bluebird CEO: Boston “Fabulous” For Biotech Ecosystem.
As part of its week-long visit to Boston to spotlight the city’s booming biotech hub, Bloomberg TV Bloomberg Technology (5/9, 5:25 p.m. EDT, Hyde) conducted a lengthy interview with bluebird bio CEO Nick Leslie (second part of the interview here). In an approximately eight-minute conversation, Leslie discussed several topics, including the Boston biotech ecosystem, the impact of venture capital funding on bluebird’s operations, and the company’s gene-therapy partnerships with Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline. On the topic of Boston as a biotech hub, Leslie said, “Boston is fabulous. It has developed into an ecosystem over the last decade where you have everything you need. It starts with academia and ideas with research and innovation that comes with it. That moves to the medical institution and the translational nature it brings, and the talent that comes along with it. Then you have investors who start to see it, and companies just like bluebird. Then you have public investors and others that can help carry it to the next stage. Then you have biofarma and pharmaceuticals.” He added, “The R&D centers are here. – so you kind of have everything you need, and all the talent.”
USC Center For Advanced Manufacturing Aims To Help Small Companies.
The Los Angeles Times (5/5, White) reported that a new USC Center for Advanced Manufacturing is “devoted to building better stuff and creating jobs.” The Times added that “the facility opened in February as part of a $253-million Defense Department-sponsored consortium of dozens of corporations, schools, nonprofits and local governments around the country,” and the initiative “aims to revitalize U.S. manufacturing by making robotics, 3-D printers and other advanced devices – plus a workforce trained to operate them – available to small and mid-sized businesses that have been slow to embrace such innovation.” The Center “is part of Manufacturing USA, the federal government’s -year-old effort to build a national manufacturing research infrastructure that will develop new products and markets and help reduce the shortage of technically trained manufacturing workers,” the Times wrote.
NYTimes Analysis: Trump Immigration Moves Boosting Canada’s Effort To Build AI Industry.
The New York Times (5/9, Lohr, Subscription Publication) reports on immigration to Canada, which “stands to benefit from the American political climate and the Trump administration’s efforts – stalled in court so far – to sharply restrict travel into the United States from six predominantly Muslim nations.” The Times focuses on immigration among experts in artificial intelligence, saying, “Canada has been at the forefront of innovation and is seeking to build a large A.I. industry.” The Times adds that in addition to “Canadian A.I. start-ups,” US firms “including Google, Microsoft and IBM, have also been adding to their A.I. research teams in Canada.”
Roush Opens New Engineering Center In Troy.
The Detroit Free Press (5/9, Snavely) reports Roush Industries opened a 44,000-square-foot engineering center in Troy as the “headquarters for a staff of engineers who build the company’s expertise software that will manage data that autonomous vehicles need to navigate.” According to the Free Press, with the new facility, Roush “is taking the plunge into the increasingly competitive arena of software and data analytics for autonomous vehicles.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Opinion: Increasing Truck Weight Limit Would Further Damage US Infrastructure.
In Inside Sources (5/9), County Engineer of Warren County, Ohio Neil Tunison wrote in opposition to a proposed bill that would increase the current truck weight limit. Tunison argues that the heavier trucks would “increase damage to the nation’s already-crumbling roadways.” Tunison urges lawmakers to “preserve our infrastructure by rejecting this dangerous experiment and keep heavier, more damaging trucks off the roads.” Tunison mentions that a 2016 study by the DOT “found billions of dollars in additional bridge costs if heavier trucks were approved, making clear the negative effects heavier trucks would have on the nation’s infrastructure and taxpayers alike.”
Administration Plan Would Revive Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository.
The Wall Street Journal (5/9, Maher, Subscription Publication) reports that President Trump’s budget proposal would provide $120 million to restart the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository and local officials across the country are backing the effort in the hope that they will be able to stop storing used fuel rods in closed facilities, which they say is costing millions in lost revenue, prevented the redevelopment of the sites, and created security and safety risks for local residents.
European Experts Say US Offshore Wind Industry Must Decide Between Jobs Or Cheap Power.
E&E Publishing (5/9, Subscription Publication) reports that a panel of European industry executives discussed the future of America’s offshore wind industry, saying that states may have to decide between “cheap, low-carbon power and the jobs that come with it.” According to Jonathan Cole, a managing director with renewables giant Iberdrola SA, the Netherlands prioritized “building the cheapest turbines, but that meant it had to import the units” rather than build them domestically. On the other hand, “Germany and the United Kingdom were less price-sensitive, but that drew more technological innovation to their shores.” States like Maryland, Massachusetts and New York “want zero-carbon electrons but also hope to jolt manufacturing,” and “they’d prefer not to be blamed for raising utility bills.”
US Shale Explorers Increasing Drilling Budgets While Supermajors Pull Back.
Bloomberg News (5/9, Carroll) reports that US shale explorers are increasing their drilling budgets 10 times as fast as other companies around the world. North American drillers, “plan to lift their 2017 outlays by 32 percent to $84 billion, compared with just 3 percent for international projects, according to analysts at Barclays,” with much of the spending set for the Permian Basin. However, supermajors “are pursuing a contrary path and cutting expenditures this year” after being hammered by high cost, high risk investments that soured during the oil price downturn. However, “shale drillers, unburdened by such large-scale projects, have been better able to quickly respond to price changes.” Chevron, Shell, Total, and BP are all either cutting or maintaining spending levels this year. The Financial Times (5/9, Crooks, Subscription Publication) reports shale drillers showed resilience and growth potential in their latest earnings, and because of cost reductions, many are covering their spending from operating cash flows.
Houston-Area Homeschool Students Recognized At VEX Robotics World Championship.
The Houston Chronicle (5/9, Zurawski) reports Houston-area students on the Technology and Engineering Club for Homeschoolers of Katy’s InVEXibles robotics team competed last month at the 2017 VEX Robotics World Championship in Kentucky. The students, who are between the ages of nine and 12, were recognized as VEX IQ Challenge Middle School World Champions. InVEXibles robotics team coach and computer software engineer John Pixton said the club was organized last fall to introduce students to robotics building and programming.
Editorial Praises Changes To Texas Science Curriculum.
In an editorial, the San Antonio Express-News (5/9) says “the State Board of Education’s softening of the creationism language in high school curriculum standards is welcome.” The Express-News explains that “Texas students will no longer be required to evaluate evolution and creation, and will only have to compare and contrast the two starting in fall 2018.” The editorial says “the action dismantles curriculum standards put in place by socially conservative members of the State Board of Education in 2009 that allowed for the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in evolution.” The editorial board concludes that “shortchanging research, denying science and undermining science education play well to a political base, but they do not serve the public good.”
Schools Shifting Focus Of Career And Technical Education Programs.
Education Week (5/10, Gewertz) reports that Warren County High School leaders “phased out their program in two- and four-cycle engines and introduced a course of study in mechatronics.” Education Week says “with only a high school diploma and an entry-level mechatronics certification, teenagers can earn more than $45,000 a year here in rural Tennessee” and with additional certifications and experience they can boost earnings to $60,000. Meanwhile, students “can earn associate degrees at local community colleges in mechanical pre-engineering or advanced integrated technology, or head to Middle Tennessee State University for bachelor’s degrees in engineering.” Education Week says “what’s happening here…reflects a growing focus nationally on building high-quality career and technical education programs.” The report says leaders in the field “are insisting on a new definition of ‘high quality’ programs – one that rests on the option of earning postsecondary credentials or degrees and on the availability of good-paying jobs in expanding industries.”
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Reports Predict “Echo Show” Could Launch Tuesday And May Feature Touchscreen, Video Calling.
• DeVos Bans Rejection Of Grant Applications Over Formatting Errors.
• Oklahoma State Researchers Using Drones To Predict Tornadoes.
• Ford Plans Expanded Silicon Valley Workforce.
• Asia Seeing Increase In Smallsat Activity.
• Facebook Job Openings Signal Preparations Continue For Venture Into TV.
• Conference Of Mayors Creates Infrastructure Task Force To Work On Trump’s $1 Trillion Plan.