Leading the News
Clemson Researchers Developing Powerful Lasers For Military Use.
The Anderson (SC) Independent-Mail (5/30) reports the Department of Defense recently gave Clemson University engineering professors John Ballato and Lin Zhu grants worth $3.2 million “for their work on lasers with possible military applications.” Along with a team of over a dozen Clemson researchers, the professors are refining laser components, including Zhu’s work on semiconductors and Ballato’s work on advanced fiber optic cable, in an effort to “move light with less resistance and more accurately.” The researchers say there technology has the potential to “zap missiles midair.”
The New York Post (5/31) reports that the intention is to build a “Star Wars” style laser. This article says the Clemson researchers “have been handed taxpayer dollars to improve the way light is channeled through an optic fiber and to engineer a highly powerful light beam that goes in just one direction – a tricky task.” Ballato “is working on an optical fiber that channels a high energy light which is powerful enough to melt through drones and rockets” while Zhu “is working on diodes that convert electricity into light.”
The Daily Mail (5/30, Prigg) reports the research is intended to explore “underlying issues” that prevent current battlefield laser technologies from being “more widespread.” This piece reports that the two Clemson researchers “are grappling with the odd things that happen to light at extremely high intensity and are among the challenges that must be overcome before more lasers join the fight.” WHNS-TV Greenville, SC (5/30), The Sun (UK) (5/31), WSPA-TV Greenville, SC (5/30), GSA Business (5/30), and the Greenville (SC) Journal (5/31) also cover this story.
University Of Houston Communications Professor Creates Drone Storytelling Class.
The Houston Chronicle (5/31) reports that University of Houston professor Temple Northup, who is the director of the school’s Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, has launched a “three-week class focused on using drones for visual story-telling. The university, using grant money and donors, purchased six drones that 10 students take turns operating.” The piece quotes Northup saying, “We need to be teaching students those skills that are emerging. So we need to be on top of emerging technologies and understand how they’re being used.”
Impact Of Moving Student Loan Office To Treasury Explored.
An analysis in the Chronicle of Higher Education (5/31) explores the possible effects of moving the Federal Student Aid office from ED to the Treasury Department, an idea which has been “rehashed several times over the last few decades.” According to American Council on Education Assistant Vice President for Government Relations Daniel T. Madzelan, moving the entire office to the Treasury probably would not yield “significant immediate differences” and “would most likely be too complex a task to be beneficial. It would be more plausible to keep the majority of the operation in the Education Department and move the billions of dollars in the federal student-loan portfolio over to the Treasury.”
Analysis: Trump Budget Would Negatively Impact Low-Income Students, HBCUs.
ABC News (5/31) reports that a number of analyses of President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal indicate that it would “cut financial aid funding for thousands of low-income college students, particularly those attending a historically black university.” The United Negro College fund says the plan “would drastically reduce funding for federal work-study, Pell Grant reserves and student loan subsidies.” ABC News quotes UNCF President and CEO Michael Lomax saying, “College leaders are deeply concerned that this budget will not only keep things flat but also reduce resources for their students. The proposed budget by the Trump administration really removes a number of the places where a low-income student would go to earn a degree.”
As Several Indiana High Schools Create Mock College Experiences, Recruiters Might Not Care.
The Indianapolis Star (5/31) reports that at least six high schools in and around Indianapolis, Indiana are creating “mock college” experiences for students, “which could include everything from an internship with a local business, to a flexible schedule for seniors taking a college-level courseload, to a café in an open concept study area.” The piece reports that schools say “the idea is to prepare students not only academically, but with other skills that drive success: problem-solving, time management and independence.” However, admissions officers at area schools “essentially said it can help but won’t make or break an application.” An accompanying article in the Indianapolis Star (5/31) describes the “mock college” efforts that are underway at Fishers High School in Fishers, Indiana.
Dual Enrollment Programs May Artificially Boost Community College Enrollment Numbers.
Inside Higher Ed (5/31) reports that as community colleges see declining enrollment with the improving economy, many “are turning to a popular source in an effort to boost those overall enrollment numbers or, at the least, keep them stable – high school students.” Increased use of dual enrollment programs and community colleges has given them “an additional source of students – and sometimes tuition dollars.” However, some experts are concerned about the long-term stability of such efforts.
Research and Development
NASA Announces Parker Solar Probe Mission To Visit Sun.
U.S. News & World Report (5/31, Klotz) reports that NASA announced Wednesday that it will send a spacecraft to the sun in order to study “how the star works and what can be done to better predict space weather events on Earth.” The agency also announced that the Solar Probe Plus mission had been renamed the Parker Solar Probe, in honor of the University of Chicago astrophysicist Eugene Parker who “correctly predicted the existence of the solar wind” in 1958. University of Chicago’s Eric Isaacs said, “It was a fundamental insight that forever changed the way in which we understood the sun, the heliosphere and in general interplanetary space.”
SPACE (5/31, Wall) reports the mission is scheduled to launch “atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 31, 2018.” The AFP (5/31)TIME (5/31, Chan), Bloomberg News (5/31, Roston), the Los Angeles Times (5/31, Kaplan) and the Chicago Sun-Times (5/31, Esposito) also provide coverage.
Virginia Tech Engineers Using New Simulator To Test Autonomous Cars.
WDBJ-TV Roanoke, VA (5/30) reports researchers at Virginia Tech are using a new simulator “to help them understand the real relationship between machine and man” as they study autonomous cars. The simulator consists of a car “tilts for a virtual reality where driver’s’ actions and reactions are measured.” The piece quotes Azim Eskandarian, the head of the school’s mechanical engineering department, saying, “we are capable of evaluating the scenarios in a safe environment and introduce different stimuli, efferent hazardous situations the driver and evaluate the performance and then come up with safer systems in vehicle systems in the future.” The piece explains that Virginia Tech’s Autonomous Systems and Intelligence Machines lab has “a smart car and a 180 degree projection screen where two drivers can interact in the same virtual world.”
Audi Is First Automaker Approved For Autonomous Car Testing In New York.
The New York Post (5/31, Conley) reports New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that Audi would conduct “the first driverless car demonstration in New York State…in a couple of weeks.” Cuomo said, “This technology has the potential to decrease accidents and save lives on our roadways.” Digital Trends (5/31, Oswald) reports Audi said that New York “approved its application to test autonomous vehicles.” Digital Trends says the state license is for vehicles “capable of automated driving at highway speeds.” The car will have “two trained engineers” inside, with one in the “driver’s seat.”
IBM Focusing On Reducing Or Eliminating Barriers To Technology.
Forbes (5/31) contributor Robert Szczerba writes an article analyzing the IBM Accessibility Research group’s effort to create solutions that will “help individuals with disabilities (both physical and cognitive), the growing aging population, novice technology users, and people with language, learning and literacy challenges” achieve better access to technology. Szczerba writes that when these “barriers to technology are reduced or eliminated for all individuals, the differences between us becomes less important and brings the world a little bit closer together.”
IBM Opens New Nanotechnology Research Lab In Brazil.
Reuters (5/31) reports IBM announced Wednesday that it has opened a new experimental laboratory for nanotechnology research in Brazil. According to Reuters, IBM said that the lab is “part of a $4 million investment within IBM Research.”
Engineering and Public Policy
EPA Issues Stay On Methane Emission Standards.
Reuters (5/31) reports the EPA is halting methane emission standards for oil and gas companies amid reports that the U.S. plans to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement. The agency issued a 90-day stay on the New Source Performance Standards, which requires companies to capture emissions, get engineer certifications and install leak detection devices. The EPA said is expects to prepare a new proposed rule and launch a public comment period after the stay. Environmentalists announced plans to block the move in court. The Hill (5/31, Henry) reports that producers opposed the rule, calling it costly and duplicative. Several states sued over the standards, including Oklahoma under then Attorney General Scott Pruitt. The Washington Examiner (5/31, Siciliano) reports the agency said, “Sources do not need to comply with these requirements while the 90-day stay is in effect.” The review is part of President Trump’s executive order directing the EPA to review oil and gas rules.
Minnesota Further Restricts PUC Oversight Of Electric Co-ops.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (5/31, Hughlett) reports the “omnibus jobs and energy legislation” signed on Tuesday by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton “will remove utility regulators’ authority to settle customer disputes with electric co-ops – a measure the governor earlier vetoed as a single-issue bill.” The new legislation “will diminish the Minnesota Public Utility Commission’s oversight of the state’s 45 electric co-ops, which are mostly in rural areas.” But it allows “the PUC to finish an inquiry into fees that the co-ops have been charging to customers with solar arrays.” The commission “is looking at whether the methodology behind the fees complies with state law.”
Analysis: Renewables Don’t Threaten Grid.
ClimateWire (5/31, Subscription Publication) reports an analysis by free-market public policy think tank the R Street Institute found that “recent criticism that a surge in renewable and distributed energy threatens U.S. baseload power and grid performance is shortsighted and fails to account for the dynamics of modern energy markets.” R Street Institute electricity policy manager Devin Hartman wrote, “Concern over baseload retirements often masks an underlying preference for certain fuel types, namely coal and nuclear.” He added, “Utilities and competitive electricity markets should value the attributes of reliability, not how resources are classified, to ensure reliability is met at the lowest cost.”’
New England’s Last Coal-Powered Plant Shutting Down.
The AP (5/31, O’Brien, McDermott) reports the largest coal-fired power plant in New England, Brayton Point Power Station, is closing permanently. Dynegy said that the facility will end operations Wednesday. The company “says it’s worked to help 170 workers find other jobs. A smaller crew is staying on for the decommissioning process.”
Offshore Wind Projects Could Offer New Life For Shuttered Massachusetts Ports.
The Boston Herald (6/1) reports the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center highlighted said that planned Massachusetts offshore wind projects “could breathe new life into more than a dozen shuttered ports,” which could host the assembly of turbines and mechanical operations. A new report indicated 18 port sites “that may be of interest for the three offshore wind companies that hold leases for federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and are vying to be the first out of the gate when power contracts go out to bid later this month.”
Plan For Solar Farm In New York On Coal-Fired Plant Site Announced.
The Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard (5/31, Knauss) reports Riesling Power, the owner of a Tompkins County coal-fired power plant, “plans to build Upstate New York’s largest solar farm by covering roughly 75 acres next to the coal plant with photovoltaic panels.” Riesling Power, owner of the 300-megawatt Cayuga coal plant in the town of Lansing, today has announced “plans to build a $25 million solar power facility” on the site of its Cayuga coal plant. The solar project “would produce up to 18 megawatts, enough power for about 3,100 households, company officials said.”
Summer Camp Will Teach Students About Road, Transportation Infrastructure.
The Brookings (SD) Register (5/31) reports the National Summer Transportation Institute will be hosting a free summer camp at South Dakota State University from July 30 to August 5 to work with students “interested in an engineering, science or technology-related career.” SDSU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering assistant professor Rouzbeh Ghabchi said, “There is no cost to participating students, thanks to a grant from the South Dakota Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.”
North Carolina BOE Set To Revise Common Core Math Standards.
The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer (5/31) reports the North Carolina Board of Education is expected Thursday to approve changes in K-8 math standards, calling the move “the last step in retooling Common Core standards for math and English.” The piece says the new standards “were written so they are easier for teachers and parents to understand, although learning concepts rather than simply memorizing formulas would remain the focus for students.”
Several California Programs Intended To Promote STEM Teacher Recruitment.
EdSource (5/30) reports the California Department of Education, California State University, the University of California, and a number of nonprofits “have all created programs to entice college students and mid-career professionals – especially those in the math and science fields – to become teachers.” For example, the nonprofit 100Kin10 has launched a website titled “Blow Mines: Teach STEM” which “connects undergraduates with teacher preparation programs in the so-called STEM subjects.” Moreover, NASA “has given California State University $2.5 million in grants over the past six years to link teachers with NASA field research, as a way to encourage young scientists to pursue teaching.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Apple Aiming To Expand Chip Development, “Poaches” Qualcomm Engineer.
• NSF Awards Sinclair Community College Grant To Develop Self-Driving Car Curriculum.
• University Researchers Pursue Artificial Leaf Technology As Potential Tool Against Climate Change.
• Alabama Professors Lament Trump Budget’s “Anemic” Investment In Research.
• Washington Students Compete In Remote-Operated Vehicle And Underwater Robot Event.