Leading the News
Energy Department Releases Funding For Small Business Innovation Research Grants.
E&E Daily (5/25, Subscription Publication) reports the Energy Department “is awarding $72 million in small-business research grants after coming under fire from members of Congress.” The money “would cover 73 grants to 68 companies and come through DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, which support commercializing and developing promising technologies.” In a letter to Secretary of Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon, “Sens. Maria Cantwell and Jeanne Shaheen said they were concerned that holding up small business funds might be unlawful and a threat to jobs.” The awards announced on Wednesday “support projects across the energy sector, including development of new CO2-capturing material and new technology to desalinate seawater.” In a statement Shaheen said, “This is good news for innovative small businesses developing innovative energy technologies, and I appreciate Secretary Perry and Administrator McMahon heeding our call and expediting the release of a portion of these critical R&D grants to waiting small businesses.”
Students Watch Launch Of Rocket Containing Their Mars Rover Concepts.
MLive (MI) (5/25, Raven) reports that students from Virginia Tech and Central Florida universities watched NASA launch a rocket containing the Mars rover concepts that they designed and built, and for which they 3D printed models. NASA research engineer Jamshid Samareh, who assisted the students, said, “Very few students get the opportunity to design something, put it on a NASA rocket and fly it.” The article mentions that for their work, the students also were recognized by the AIAA for “having the best student paper in the region’s undergraduate category.”
Liberty University Finalizes Purchase Of Advanced Engineering Center.
The Lynchburg (VA) News & Advance (5/23) reports Liberty University officials announced this week that the school has “finalized the purchase of the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research…after months of negotiations.” The facility represents “an opportunity to build a new research campus on the surrounding 28-acre lot at the New London Business and Technology Center park” and “will serve as the new home for the Liberty School of Engineering and Computational Science.” The AP (5/25) also covers this story.
New York University Program Encourages Students To Take Extra Courses To Graduate Early.
Marketplace (5/25) reports that while colleges across the country are working to reduce tuition costs, New York University has announced “a program that helps students graduate a semester early by taking extra courses throughout the year and during winter and summer breaks.” The piece notes that other colleges around the country have similar programs and profiles an NYU student who is on course to graduate with a bachelor’s degree after only three years of study.
Congress Considering Bill Allowing Low-Interest Student Debt Consolidations.
MarketWatch (5/25) reports Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) has introduced legislation to “allow federal student loan borrowers to receive a lower interest rate on their loans without having to turn to a private company.” The bill would allow student borrowers whose loans have high interest rates to “consolidate their loans into a new federal student loan with a rate of 4%.”
Research and Development
Researchers Develop Process For Combining PE, PP Plastics.
Engineering360 (5/25, Ordman) reports that researchers at Cornell University and University of Minnesota have “developed a new polymer that can turn polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) into a tough new polymer,” which “could increase the percentage of plastic packaging recycled from the current 2 percent.” According to Engineering360, “the strength of the new materials is the characteristic that sets this material apart from previous experiments with combining PE and PP.” Cornell’s Geoffrey Coates, the lead researcher, is quoted saying: “People have done things like this before, but they’ll typically put 10 percent of a soft material, so you don’t get the nice plastic properties, you get something that’s not quite as good as the original material.”
Cyber Researchers Lament Treatment Of Researcher Who Helped Stop WannaCry.
The Wall Street Journal (5/25, Janofsky, Subscription Publication) reports that cybersecurity researchers are critical of the lackluster government response to and media treatment of MalwareTech, the British researcher who discovered WannaCry’s “kill switch,” thereby thwarting its impact. F-Secure Corp. chief research officer Mikko Hypponen is quoted saying, “I’m dead serious when I say that guy deserves a medal.” Kaspersky Lab senior researcher Juan Andrés Guerrero-Saade is quoted saying the same issues are likely to re-occur in the next major incident because “governments are entirely dependent on vigilantes and the private sector. … There are not many positive incentives for saving the world.”
Chinese Companies Partner To Begin 3D Printing Cars.
China Daily (5/26) reports Shanghai International Automobile City in China’s Jiading district has reached an agreement with Xi’an-based National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center to cooperate on establishing an “auto 3D printing public service platform which will be dedicated to auto structure design research, prototype vehicle rapid manufacturing technology research, compound material mold making technology, and equipment research.” The pair will launch “an automobile research institute” to develop innovative auto manufacturing technologies, which China Daily says indicates “that 3D printed cars will become a reality in Jiading.” The article adds that, while “traditional auto manufacturing comprises 20,000 parts, a 3D printed automobile only has about 40.”
Cleaner Electricity Production Leads To Rise In Demand For Electric Cars.
Salon (5/25) reports demand for electric cars is growing as prices become more affordable and as their climate benefits increase with the increased use of nuclear and natural gas power as opposed to coal. The piece describes adoption patterns from state to state, explaining that electric cars are “only as clean as the electricity they’re charged with.”
EVs Predicted To Be Cheaper Than Gasoline Vehicles As Soon As 2025.
Bloomberg News (5/26, Shankleman) reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance research “indicates that falling battery costs will mean electric vehicles will also be cheaper to buy in the U.S. and Europe as soon as 2025.” The cost of batteries, which account for about half the current cost of EVs, is predicted by the researcher to “fall by about 77 percent between 2016 and 2030.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Commentary: Hope Remains For STEM Gender Equity Under Trump.
In a piece for Forbes (5/25), Nada Marie Anid, dean of New York Institute of Technology School of Engineering and Computing Sciences, writes that despite perceptions that President Trump is antagonistic toward both woman and “certain areas of scientific inquiry,” he has signed “two laws designed to help encourage young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.” She writes that “Trump’s support for the issue has less to do with his personal views than with an undeniable reality: closing the nation’s persistent gender gap in STEM will be essential to achieving many of the new administration’s economic and national security goals.” She writes that therefore advocates for “gender equality in STEM needn’t give up on making real progress simply because Trump is in the White House.”
Increasing Interest Among Coal Companies In Converting Old Mines To Pumped Storage.
The Wall Street Journal (5/25, Turner, Subscription Publication) reports that the expansion of renewable energy is increasing the need to store such energy for when the weather prevents generation, and coal-mine companies are looking to fill the need by converting old mines into pumped storage, in which excess energy is used to pump water to a higher altitude so it can be used to generate energy when needed. However, all power-storage systems require wide spreads in the cost of wholesale power to make money, buying when prices are low and selling when they are high. In the US, natural gas from the shale boom has kept the price of wholesale electricity consistently down.
Trump Administration Moves Forward Three Obama-era Energy Efficiency Rules.
The Hill (5/25, Devaney) reports the Energy Department is going ahead “with three Obama-era efficiency rules.” Near the end of Obama Administration, the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy “issued new energy conservation standards for various refrigeration products, dedicated-purpose pool pumps and residential central air conditioners and heat pumps.” After “a regulatory review by the Trump administration,” the DOE “said Thursday it will enforce these efficiency rules.” The Hill adds “the energy industry will have until October 2019 to comply with the refrigeration rules, July 2021 to comply with the pool pump rules and January 2023 to comply with the rules for air conditioners and heat pumps.”
Deepwater, US Wind Accept Maryland Terms For Offshore Wind Farms.
The Baltimore Sun (5/25, Dance) reports that “the developers of two wind farms planned off the coast of Ocean City are moving forward with their projects, accepting terms Maryland regulators laid out earlier this month in allowing them to collect subsidies from the state’s electricity customers.” The Sun adds, “Deepwater Wind and U.S. Wind have both notified the Public Service Commission that they have agreed to invest a collective $115 million in manufacturing facilities and port upgrades around Sparrows Point in southeastern Baltimore County, and to contribute $6 million to a state offshore wind business development fund.” The article also states that “the decisions mean Maryland is one step closer to being home to what would be the nation’s second – and by far its largest – array of offshore wind turbines.”
Solar Group Disputes Nevada Utility’s Analysis Of Net Metering Bill.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal (5/25, Whaley) reports the Solar Energy Industries Association “questioned figures from NV Energy that suggest a bill seeking to restart net metering in Nevada would cost ratepayers as much as $48 million a year.” NV Energy estimated costs of $63 million a year, but the Solar Energy Industries Association says that, assuming the utility’s data is correct, “the cost to the utility’s 1.3 million customers would be about $4 a month per customer if rooftop solar production reached 10 percent of peak load in 10 years.” While “NV Energy says the costs come from having to pay more in credits that the excess electricity is worth at market value,” the solar group argues that “NV Energy is paying more than market value now for many of its large solar projects” and that the analysis does not include the benefits “to the utility for rooftop solar generation, from helping reduce peak demand to environmental advantages such as no carbon dioxide production.”
Former Congressman Urges Conservative Support For Solar Power.
Former Rep. Gresham Barrett (R), founder of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition, in an op-ed in The Hill (5/25, Barrett, Contributor) “Pundits Blog,” calls for other conservatives to join him in supporting solar power. He calls for people to stop “romanticizing about the bygone days” and use innovation to produce “resource security and economic prosperity.” Barrett argues the solar energy industry produces “good-quality, local jobs that cannot be outsourced.” In the conflict over rooftop solar, utility monopolies “are opposed to the freedom and savings rooftop solar panels provide homeowners” in a discussion “about innovation and the new versus the old way of doing business.” Barrett argues that conservatives should be “dedicated to removing barriers to businesses by applying free-market principles that support a growing solar industry” and by doing so can “immediately grow our base and attract new, young voters, while continuing to embrace the conservative principles that have guided us all along.”
UC Davis Hosts Stem Event For Local Students.
The Davis (CA) Enterprise (5/18) reports UC Davis was scheduled to host its seventh annual C-STEM Day and RoboPlay Competition last Saturday, explaining that local elementary and secondary students “who have been taking classes developed by the UCD Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education over the past year” were expected to “gather to show off their skills in robotics, programming and math.” The event “caps a year of working with computing, robotics and math curricula developed by the UCD C-STEM Center. Over the past school year, the students have used small robots and the center’s software to learn programming, algebra and math in a fun and accessible way.” The Napa Valley (CA) Register (5/24) also reports on the events, at which “high school and middle school students from Northern California spend an entire day competing in programming small modular robots.”
Panelists: Trump Budget Would Reduce Funding For STEM Initiatives.
U.S. News & World Report (5/25, Camera) reports that despite some signs from the Trump administration that that it will promote STEM education, “federal programs that support STEM initiatives are on the chopping block under the president’s recent budget proposal for fiscal year 2018.” This was the consensus among attendees at the 2017 U.S. News STEM Solutions conference session titled ‘A Look at the Future of Federal STEM Policy.’ Several paragraphs down, to demonstrate signs that the administration is focused on STEM education, the piece reports that earlier this spring Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “appeared at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington along with the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, to tout the movie ‘Hidden Figures’ and highlight the importance of women in the STEM fields.”
States Vary In Preparedness For Next Generation Science Testing.
Liana Loewus writes at the Education Week (5/25) “Curriculum Matters” blog about “where states that have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards stand with their summative tests.” She writes that while 18 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, only DC, Illinois, Kansas, and Nevada have started to administer Next Generation-aligned assessments. Most other states are teaching the new standards, but are adhering to federal laws requiring that they use tests aligned with previous standards. The piece notes that California is an outlier, describing the state’s impasse with ED over its refusal to double-test students by using both Next Generation tests and old tests.
College Officials Concerned About Dearth Of Low Income STEM Students.
U.S. News & World Report (5/25, Camera) reports that while there are widespread concerns about the low numbers of women and students of color studying STEM fields, Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, says he and his colleagues are “terrified” about “the dearth of low-income students” studying STEM subjects. Moore recently spoke at the US News STEM Solutions conference in San Diego about STEM-related workforce needs. The piece quotes Moore saying, “If you look at where we admit students who are going to have the most amazing careers you can imagine, you can pretty much map that against a map of the suburbs of regions of the United States which are rich enough to have strong math and computer science programs.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Trump Budget Seeks To Reverse Obama Administration Energy Policies.
• Airbnb Creates Data University To Increase Date Literacy In Workforce.
• NSF Partners With Colleges To Deploy Alaska Seismometers.
• Microsoft’s “One Engineering System” Looking To Sync Code Repositories For Windows Programming.
• Infrastructure Investment Drives “Bullish Design Market” In California.
• Apple Offers Free App Development Curriculum To Schools, Community Colleges.