Leading the News
Trump Budget Seeks To Reverse Obama Administration Energy Policies.
EnergyWire (5/24, Behr, Kuckro, Subscription Publication) reports that through his budget plan, President Trump is seeking to parlay “his close election victory into sweeping reversals of Obama administration energy policies” and reverse “years of collaboration with the private sector and academia in the development of technologies to support the advancement of clean energy transmission and reliability, smart grid research and development, cybersecurity for energy delivery systems, and energy storage.” Among the cuts are 17 percent to the Office of Science; 41 percent to the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, “with the biggest reduction in research on what the budget describes as ‘cutting edge cybersecurity solutions,’ threat-sharing efforts and cyberattack management for energy systems”; 41 percent from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; and a shut down of the Advanced Research Programs Agency-Energy. E&E Daily (5/24, Subscription Publication) reports key senators “expressed doubts that proposed cuts for popular programs would gain traction in Congress.”
Budget Plan Cuts Environmental Efforts, Research. ClimateWire (5/24, Subscription Publication) reports state officials said that under the proposed budget plan, “environmental efforts around the country will suffer, more people will get sick and die, and the offices charged with protecting them would face scores of lawsuits.” Cuts include zeroing out the Green Climate Fund and the Global Climate Change Initiative; eliminating most of the climate work at EPA; scotching “funding for the popular Energy Star and other voluntary climate programs”; reducing funding for nuclear nonproliferation and science and energy research; and delivering “sharp blows to basic research and development, the kind of programs that supporters say are needed to fund scientific studies and jump-start new technologies.”
Greenwire (5/24, Subscription Publication) reports, “The Trump administration is seeking to carve hundreds of millions of dollars out of U.S. EPA programs to reduce air pollution.” Seven of the 59 Clean Air Status and Trends Network – which tracks long-term trends on ozone and particulate pollution – monitoring sites would be closed, as well as seven of the 32 National Atmospheric Deposition Program sites, which tracks “pollution that returns to earth through precipitation.” The budget plan would also eliminate funding for the targeted airshed program, which is “designed to help areas with particularly severe ozone and particulate pollution.”
Bloomberg BNA (5/24, Childers) reports the budget plan includes a 85 percent cut to EPA “programs to track and voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions”. Bloomberg casts this as “a signal that the Trump EPA is not content just to undo the climate change regulations undertaken by the Obama administration, but will chip away at other initiatives as well.” Voluntary programs “have proven to be popular with industries” and historically are favored by Republican administrations as an alternative to regulation, according to David Doniger, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Air Program.
ClimateWire (5/24, Subscription Publication) reports that the EPA’s “programs to track greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, factories, power plants and other sources will continue to receive funding” under the White House’s budget plan. The data is used to produce the agency’s annual Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, which is mandated by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which the US ratified in 1992.
Budget Plan Would Increase Funding To Interior’s Oil, Gas Programs. EnergyWire (5/24, King, Subscription Publication) reports funding for Interior Department energy-related programs would increase to $791 million under the White House budget plan, including “a $1.1 million bump for Interior’s offshore program and a $16 million increase to improve the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas permitting process.” Additionally, oil and gas leasing would occur in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, while “renewable energy programs both on- and offshore” would be cut. Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma called increasing the onshore oil and gas program “an investment that pays off.” Howver, Joshua Mantell, deputy director of the Wilderness Society’s climate and energy campaign, said, “This is not so much of an all-of-the-above but a fossil-fuel-above-all strategy to public land management.”
Airbnb Creates Data University To Increase Date Literacy In Workforce.
TechCrunch (5/24) reports that Airbnb has created its own “university-style” program to fill their long-term technology needs. Data University is Airbnb’s strategy to “make its entire workforce more data literate,” and is designed around three levels of instruction for different employees. The 100-level classes focus on “data-informed decision making” and are designed to help all teams. Mid-level courses provide instruction on SQL and Superset, and “have enabled some non-technical employees to take on roles as project managers.” As the highest tier of instruction Airbnb offers instruction on Python and machines learning for engineers.
Airbnb Product Manager on the Analytics and Experimentation team Jeff Feng said that lessons learned from previous attempts at offering a data science education program ensured the success of the fourth attempt. TechCrunch says Feng hopes other companies will adopt similar practices.
Tech Portal (5/24) also covered the story
DeVos: ED Will Revisit Upward Bound Applications Rejected Over Formatting Errors.
The AP (5/24, Hanson) reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, speaking Wednesday during budget testimony on Capitol Hill, said that ED “will reconsider awarding grants to dozens of programs that help low-income students prepare for college after their initial applications were rejected due to formatting errors such as not being double-spaced.” DeVos said that the competition for Upward Bound grants was closed by the time ED learned of the issue, leaving no legal options for reviewing the applications. However, she said, ED “can now reconsider those applications, because Congress included an additional $50 million in funding for such programs in a spending bill that will keep the federal government operating through September.”
The Missoulian (MT) (5/24) quotes DeVos saying, “We are going to use those funds, the $50 million, to reconsider those applications that were not considered viable because of the formatting errors. So that is going to be our remedy.” The piece explains that the move “comes after mounting pressure from members of Congress.” The Bangor (ME) Daily News (5/24) also covers this story.
Budget Includes “Drastic” Cuts To Student Aid, University Research.
Inside Higher Ed (5/24) reports that President Trump’s budget proposal “delivered on expectations for drastic cuts to student aid programs and university-based research while substantially reshaping federal student loan programs.” Higher education groups and observers “said those cuts would make college less affordable and impede the production of new scientists and innovations in health and technology.” The piece reports that the plan would phase out subsidized federal student loans, Perkins Loans, and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
Amazon Employees Attend Nerd Nite Seattle.
GeekWire (5/24, Ballarte) reports on the monthly Nerd Nite Seattle gatherings, where “a large pool of attendees are in their early careers, typically working at tech firms such as Amazon and Boeing.” One such attendee is Michael Li, a software development engineer at Amazon, who “said he enjoys coming because it’s a refreshing break after a long day’s work.”
Report: Women Have More College Debt Than Men, Take Longer To Pay It Off.
International Business Times (5/24, O’Neal) reports that women in the US are carrying more student debt than men and also taking longer to pay it off. According to a report from the American Association of University Women, women hold “close to two-thirds of the $1.34 trillion in outstanding student debt,” despite accounting for just 57% of enrollees in fall 2016. International Business Times reports that the amount men also generally owed less than women for most degrees, with women owing between $400 to $2,000 more than men on average. The report also found that women’s annual student debt payoff rate was 10%, compared to men’s 13%. Skidmore College professor Sandy Baum said that to fix the problem, long term solutions should be sought, instead of quick fixes such as grants.
MarketWatch (5/24) reports that new data show that “many women…owe more than their male counterparts,” with “about two-thirds of the nation’s outstanding student debt…held by women.” The Huffington Post (5/24, Pearson) reports the “depressing new report” says “women hold nearly two-thirds of this country’s student debt ― or a whopping $833 billion in outstanding loans. (And that’s probably a low-ball estimate, because the report doesn’t capture women who enroll and take on a whole lot of debt but don’t graduate.)”
Research and Development
NSF Partners With Colleges To Deploy Alaska Seismometers.
The AP (5/24, Joling) reports that the National Science Foundation is “completing installation in Alaska of an array of seismometers as part of its quest to map the Earth’s upper crust beneath North America.” The sensors are being “deployed for the National Science Foundation by a consortium of U.S. universities that acquires and distributes seismological data.” The article describes the specific challenges related to engineering the devices for Alaska, noting that “solar panels mounted on fiberglass huts must gather energy throughout summer to charge lithium iron phosphate batteries – equivalent to two or three batteries in a Prius – that power equipment through the long winter.”
University Of Illinois At Chicago Researchers Win Grant For App To Track Bipolar Disorder.
WTTW-TV Chicago (5/23) reports that researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago “have developed an app that may be able to predict manic episodes and depressive moods in people with bipolar disorder, based on how they interact with their cellphones.” The piece quotes association professor of psychiatry Dr. Alex Leow, who helped develop the BiAffect app, saying, “We’re tracking how they’re navigating the keyboard, the actual pixels they’re touching. The overarching goal as I see it is to better understand the relationship between mood and cognition.” The app “is the winner in a contest using Apple’s Research Kit, an open source tool for creating apps, to study mood disorders. Researchers will receive a $200,000 grand prize to publicly launch their app.”
ESA Report: Poorly Understood Landing Conditions Led To Schiaparelli Probe’s Crash.
Reuters (5/24, Klotz) reports that a new report commissioned by the ESA concludes that its Schiaparelli probe crashed while descending to Mars’ surface last October due to engineers failing to account for how violent the spacecraft’s parachute descent could be, underestimating the planet’s atmospheric forces at supersonic speed. David Parker, ESA head of robotic exploration, said that “it should have been anticipated that the (spacecraft) rotation could reach the maximum. The software could have been more robust had it been more cleverly designed.” While Parker said that ESA took full responsibility for the crash, he added that a contributing factor was miscommunication between contractors Thales Alenia Space and Honeywell. The ESA report suggested “asking NASA, which has successfully landed spacecraft on Mars seven times, to validate the computer models being used to plan the ExoMars rover’s entry and descent to the planet’s surface in 2021.”
University Of Arizona Professor Gets Grant For Quantum Computing Research.
Phys (UK) (5/10, Goetz) reports on the tendency for silicon to overheat as more and more miniaturized computer parts are integrated into chips, noting that “engineers are in a race to perfect quantum computers, which store, transmit and process information in fundamentally different ways than their digital cousins and have exponentially greater computing capability.” The article reports that the W.M. Keck Foundation has given University of Arizona materials science and engineering professor Pierre Deymier a $900,000 grant “to build a type of quantum computing analogue that might perform as well as existing quantum computers and overcomes problems that plague current quantum computing prototypes.”
Microsoft’s “One Engineering System” Looking To Sync Code Repositories For Windows Programming.
Business Insider (5/24, Weinberger) reports on Wednesday, Microsoft announced it has 3,500 out of 4,000 Windows engineers working on “One Engineering System,” an initiative that combines 40 different code “repositories” by developing a new “standardized system for code collaboration.” BI says the idea behind the initiative “is to make it easier for programmers to work together — which is important when you have a newfound focus on shipping out new Windows updates twice a year, if not more often.” Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry told BI his team created the Git Virtual File System (GVFS), which “keeps track of who made what changes to the code, and when, making it much easier to work with large teams.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Infrastructure Investment Drives “Bullish Design Market” In California.
Engineering News-Record (5/23, Buckley) reports that in the three most recent surveys of top California design firms, “combined revenue in the state has grown by 33%.” The News-Record adds, “firms with practices in transportation and other infrastructure are particularly bullish on the market.” The article points out that “several significant tax measures have passed to provide funding for transportation projects in the region.” For example, the News-Record writes, “passage of Measure M in November will provide $120 billion to advance the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s long-range transit plan for the next four decades.”
NNSA Would Get $1 Billion Budget Increase Under Trump Plan.
ExchangeMonitor (5/24) reports the White House “has officially proposed $1 billion in additional funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration in fiscal 2018, almost all of it for the agency’s weapons activities account.” The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (5/24) reports Trump’s budget would increase federal spending on New Mexico’s nuclear weapons labs and military bases. The National Nuclear Security Administration, “which oversees work at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories in New Mexico, would get a $1 billion budget bump in 2018 under the $13.9 billion requested by the administration.” NNSA Administrator Frank G. Klotz “said the budget would ensure ‘that U.S. nuclear forces are modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies.’” Defense Daily (5/24) reports that “almost all” of the $1 billion is “for the agency’s weapons activities account.”
Apple Offers Free App Development Curriculum To Schools, Community Colleges.
USA Today (5/24, Toppo) reports Apple “is creating a new curriculum designed to teach mobile app development to high school and college students with little to no prior coding experience.” Apple is making the curriculum available for free on its iBooks store. So far, six community college systems have committed to teaching the material to an estimated half-million students this fall.
States Slowly Move Toward Testing Next Generation Science Standards.
Education Week (5/24, Loewus) reports states are struggling to implement “performance-heavy state science” tests in place as the nature of science instruction becomes more model- and solution-oriented, due to a combination of federal requirements and more localized “logistical, technical, and financial limitations.” Only three states of the 18 using the 2013 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have “completely” shifted to “three-dimensional” benchmarking tests, Education Week says, while others are moving more “slowly” for operational tests or those based on similar frameworks. States are still required to administer yearly tests in grades 3-6, 6-9, and 10-1, resulting in many states still testing to 2009 standards while attempting to test new assessments. The NGSS tests, which have more “bells and whistles” than previous testing experiences, seek to measure the integration of “knowing and doing in the classroom,” while previous assessment standards “tended to assess students on the facts and inquiry separately,” according to Education Week.
Students Program Robot At STEAM Assembly.
The Chicago Tribune (5/24, Brautigam) reports that “Goodings Grove students took turns programming a rover robot; building towers and bridges; and generating electricity with a stationary bicycle during an educational assembly on May 23.” The Tribune adds, “Mobile Ed Productions, Inc. brought its STEAM Museum to the school, enabling students to explore science, technology, engineering, art and math in one immersive experience.” The Tribune also writes that “Afterward, they were given an opportunity to explore 12 learning stations where they used numerical sequencing to make a rover robot move; creativity to program an Ozobot to glide across an iPad; and pedal power to transfer energy and generate power.”
Iowa’s STEM Council Announces School-Business Partnerships With Award.
The Centerville (IA) Daily Iowegian (5/24) reports the Iowa governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Council is inviting school-business partnerships to compete for fifteen “Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers” (BEST) awards, which encourage schools to cooperate with local businesses to “create work-based learning experiences linked to local business and industry applications.” Currently 18 similar partnerships across the state act as examples for other communities, which the STEM Council hopes will grow increase the state’s workforce capabilities by exposing students to locally available industry. Communities are invited to submit their proposals for STEM BEST models from May 24 to September 15, and the fifteen winners will receive $25,000 toward their initiative.
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Budget Would Cut $3.1 Billion From DOE Energy Research Programs.
• Advocates Say Budget Breaks Campaign Pledge To Help Improve College Affordability.
• Google’s Artificial Intelligence Program Defeats Master Go Player.
• Louisiana Planning For Infrastructure Needs Tied To Autonomous Vehicles.
• Chicago Public Schools Considers Adding Science, Financial Literacy To Graduation Requirements.