Leading the News
Legislators Introduce Bipartisan “Invent And Manufacture In America Act.”
The Washington Examiner (7/17, Weaver) reports that “Reps. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Ron Kind (D-WA), with Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) have introduced the Invent and Manufacture in America Act, a bill that would give a tax credit to companies that not only conduct research and development, but also manufacture products resulting from that R&D as well.” The article quotes Rep. Kelly saying, “I’m from the private sector. What we’ve found that works best: If you want to do something, you usually incentivize any good behavior.” Rep. Kelly emphasized the importance of tax reform to manufacturing, saying, “So, we’re looking at the loss of jobs we’ve had – manufacturing jobs, the number of manufacturing plants have closed, and when you ask them why is it that you’ve closed … why did you choose to actually assemble it someplace else, it’s usually because of a more favorable tax situation.”
NYTimes A1: Up To $5 Billion In Private Student Loan Debt Uncollectable Due To Shoddy Paperwork.
The New York Times (7/17, A1, Cowley, Silver-Greenberg, Subscription Publication) reports that at least $5 billion in private student loan debt for tens of thousands of people who have been unable to maintain on-time payments may be eliminated because documentation proving who owns the loans is missing. A review of court documents by the Times in cases in which the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts is “aggressively” pursuing student borrowers shows that many collection cases are “deeply flawed,” similar to previous cases judges have dismissed against former students, “essentially wiping out their debt.” National Consumer Law Center lawyer Robyn Smith said that the group’s situation is particularly acute, noting that they repeatedly drop lawsuits when borrowers contest them.
University Of Massachusetts System To Increase Tuition Cost By Three Percent.
The Boston Globe (7/17, Fernandes) reports the University of Massachusetts’ governing board approved on Monday a three percent tuition increase across its four campuses this fall amid “slow enrollment growth, limited state aid, and rising expenses.” Students “will see their tuition increase to an average of $14,253 this year, and thousands of undergraduates who live on campus will see their costs for room and board rise by hundreds of dollars.” The Globe says Massachusetts’ public higher education system “already has among the most expensive public university tuition costs in the country, and the 3 percent increase comes on the heels of a 5.8 percent increase this past year, and a 5 percent increase in 2015. The UMass system did not raise tuition in 2013 and 2014.” University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan called the tuition hike a necessary and “modest increase,” and noted tuition is still lower than what many neighboring public universities and private colleges offer.
California Community Colleges To Vote On Plan To Raise Graduation, Transfer Rates.
“There is a clear need for more workers to gain access to the skills and credentials,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said, and added that if the colleges “can’t organize ourselves in a way that catches up with that demand, then we are going to make ourselves irrelevant,” reports EdSource (7/16). Oakley’s challenge came shortly before the California Community Colleges Board of Governors’ vote Monday “on a new vision document detailing how the state’s largest educator of college students will both prepare and graduate the workers of tomorrow.” The state’s community colleges educate more than two million students; however, 52 percent of community college enrollees dropped out last year. EdSource says if the plan is approved and implemented, it could “lead to more Californians with two- or four-year degrees entering the workforce,” a much-needed shift because the state needs 1.1 million more “workers with bachelor’s degrees by 2030 to remain economically competitive.”
Research and Development
Jet Propulsion Laboratory Designing Robotic Landers.
BBC News (UK) (7/17, Hollingham) reports that the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA are working on missions to explore whether life exists beyond Earth. Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineers are designing robotic landers meant to take samples on the icy surfaces. NASA is planning a mission for the mid-2020s known as Europa Clipper, in which a robotic space probe will fly past Europa roughly 40 times to conduct a detailed surface study.
Researchers Develop New Optical Fiber That Retains Light Properties.
Nanowerk (7/17) reports the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) and the Kotelnikov Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics (IRE) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), and scientists from Finland “have developed a new type of optical fiber that has an extremely large core diameter and preserves the coherent properties of light.” The article says that the findings are “promising for constructing high-power pulsed fiber lasers and amplifiers, as well as polarization-sensitive sensors.” The paper was published in the journal Optics Express.
Virginia To Allow Testing Of Autonomous Cars On Express Lanes.
The AP (7/17) cites WTOP-FM in reporting the state of Virginia’s transportation board “is set to approve an agreement on Wednesday that would permit” the testing of autonomous vehicles “on express lanes of Interstates 95 and 495 in northern Virginia.” The AP adds “the deal involves the state Department of Transportation, the company operating express lanes, and the Federal Highway Administration’s Operations Research and Development office.”
Researchers Expect First ITER Operation In A Decade Or So.
Inside Science (7/17, Bardi) reports on the “huge experimental nuclear fusion reactor in the south of France” on which the U.S. and 34 other nations “is making a massive investment in time and money to help…build.” While critics attack the project’s large budget, “its ability to keep on schedule and other issues,” supporters say the ITER “has the potential to prove out the ability of fusion power plants to provide limitless, clean energy and secure the planet’s future.” The ITER is a “nuclear fusion experiment and engineering effort to bridge the valley toward sustainable, clean, limitless energy-producing fusion power plants of the future.” According to Dennis Whyte of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers “expect the very first operations of it in about a decade. And by the latest schedule, the first time it will actually try to get net energy is roughly 20 years away.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Pipeline Building Boom Fuels Climate, Landowner Concerns.
NPR (7/17, Lombardi, Hopkins) reports a boom in new and expanded natural gas pipeline infrastructure is fueling climate worries and concerning landowners, detailing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s review process for such projects. The article reports, “Pipeline companies, for their part, say the review process is exacting.” Dominion Energy Senior Policy Director Bruce McKay said of the FERC, “They’re not here to do our bidding,” mentioning that the companies behind the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline “have submitted 100,000 pages of documentation to FERC and made 300 route adjustments to avoid ecologically sensitive areas at the agency’s request.”
FBI Warns Parents About Dangers Posed By Toys Connected To The Internet.
Reuters (7/17, Moon) reports that on Monday, the FBI “warned parents of privacy and safety risks from children’s toys connected to the internet.” According to Reuters, “in an advisory posted on its website,” the FBI “said that such toys may contain parts or capabilities such as microphones, cameras, GPS, data storage and speech recognition that may disclose personal information.” Tod Beardsley, director of research at cyber security firm Rapid7, is quoted as saying: “I think this is the first time the FBI has issued such warning. … A lot of people tend to trust the FBI as a government organization, so it definitely raises awareness of the risk associated with internet-connected toys.”
Net Metering To Remain In Place In Michigan.
E&E Publishing (7/17, Subscription Publication) reports that in Michigan net metering “will remain in place for at least another year while regulators preside over what’s likely to be a contentious proceeding to decide how future rooftop solar owners are compensated for excess generation.” The state’s “energy laws, which took effect in April, required the commission to establish a distributed generation (DG) program within 90 days.” The Public Service Commission last week “ruled that the state’s existing net-metering program, which credits customers for excess generation put back on the grid at retail rates, should stay in place until new tariffs are approved after June 1, 2018.” And those “who connect distributed generation to the grid before the new tariffs are implemented will be grandfathered under the existing net-metering program for a decade.”
Editorial: States Should Support Net-Metering, But With More Careful Considerations.
An editorial in the Bloomberg View (7/17) assesses the net-metering debate, concluding that while the practice makes sense, state needs to calculate the net-metering subsidy more carefully to ensure that all customers are treated fairly and to reduce uncertainty about the program.
Utilities Ramp Up Direct Rebates For Electric Vehicles.
ClimateWire (7/17, Kaenel, Subscription Publication) reports utilities in California and Vermont are now offering direct rebates for electric vehicles, in a trend marking “an expansion of efforts by electric companies to boost the market.” The article reports Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric “offer credits between $200 and $500 to customers who drive an electric vehicle,” which “are paid for by the sale of California Air Resources Board credits aimed at lowering the carbon intensity of fuels.”
Afghan Teens Win First Round Of Robot Competition.
The CBS Evening News (7/17, story 10, 2:10, Mason) reported that some teams competing in the International Robotics Competition had more challenges than others, “but perhaps no group overcame more adversity than this team from Afghanistan, where girls are discouraged from pursuing education.” CBS (Reid) added, “To get to the US, they twice had to make the 500-mile journey from their home in western Afghanistan through Taliban-controlled territory to the capital Kabul to get visas. Both time they were denied until President Trump intervened and authorized special visas. But concerns about terrorism delayed their package of robot parts. They had only two weeks to build theirs. Other groups had much longer. But in their first round today, they won, working with the teams from Estonia and Gabon. Despite all the challenge, this group of future engineers and computer scientists made clear they will not be deterred from their dreams.”
NPR Profiles Gambian Robotics Team.
NPR ’s (7/17) “Goats And Soda” profiles members of Team Gambia, who along with Afghanistan’s team were initially denied US visas to compete at the First Global Challenge 2017. Khadijatou Gassama, one of the two girls on Gambia’s five-student team, said they all lacked robotics experience prior to the competition, and they “didn’t have anyone to help us with the design.” Gassama’s knowledge of physics prompted “her professor to recommend her for the robotics team,” and she now “hopes to study nanotechnology.” Gassama and the other female teammate, Fatoumata Ceesay, said they “would like to inspire more young women in their home country to get into robotics.” NPR notes 48.4 percent of Gambia’s population lives in poverty, and “along with many other countries, still has a STEM gender gap.” Gambian embassy charge d’affaires Hamba Manneh said the Gambian government is striving to include girls in all government-sponsored events. “If you neglect half of your population, you are likely to fail in any undertaking,” he stated.
Boeing Official Touts Early Start To STEM Curriculum In South Carolina.
The Florence (SC) Morning News (7/17) reports that Tommy Preston, director of Boeing’s national strategy and government operations, speaking Monday at a Rotary Club meeting in Florence, South Carolina, said that “implementing the STEM curriculum at an early age is the way to go for Boeing South Carolina. … In the nine years of Boeing South Carolina’s existence, it has 7,500 employees, and in five years half of the company’s engineers will be eligible to retire.” The piece quotes Preston saying, “We need to get aggressive with getting the next generation involved in advanced manufacturing.”
Kansas City Nonprofit To Convert Jumbo Jet Into STEM Education Lab.
The Kansas City (MO) Star (7/17) reports Kansas City nonprofit TriStar Experience is transforming a Lockheed L-1011 jumbo jet into a regional interactive lab aimed at sparking “children’s early interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and math.” TriStar educational program director Phil Liming remarked, “Imagine several busloads of kids show up, board the aircraft and the whole STEM program can take place on board.” The jet field trips will be tailored for Kansas and Missouri state education standards, said Liming, and the nonprofit is “applying for grants so we can use those funds to subsidize disadvantaged schools if they can’t afford that fee.” TriStar program development director Deborah Caywood “said only 18 percent of high school students graduate with an interest in STEM fields,” and a 2017 National Science Foundation Report found “race and gender gaps for students going into STEM careers are even more challenging to bridge.”
Connecticut Program Offers “Hands-On Aerospace Internship Experience.”
The AP (7/17, Conner Lambeck) profiles Milestone C, launched by former fighter pilot Cemocan “Gemo” Yesil and Sikorsky Aircraft systems engineer Dave Conelias in January “to give participants a hands-on aerospace internship experience.” Milestone C is currently offering a two-week Engineering & Aviation Summer Camp in Connecticut “to motivate and empower future leaders in science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM.” Yesil said all participating students “are interested,” and some “are actually passionate,” but “Yesil wants to build confidence by giving participants a little bit of knowledge, a little bit of foundational skills and a whole lot of hands-on experience.” Yesel stated, “There are a lot of STEM programs out there – robotics projects, electronic projects, but they are just snapshots,” unlike Milestone C, which “is comprehensive in nature. We simulate what a real world engineering development program would be like over the course of a 40-hour program.”
New York University Program Introduces Girls To Computer Science, Cyber Security.
THE Journal (7/17) reports 45 female high school students are attending New York University Tandon School of Engineering’s four-week Computer Science for Cyber Security program. The free program is one of NYU’s STEMNow camps, which recruit “from New York City public schools with an emphasis on those who come from families in which no one has attended college and within communities typically underrepresented in STEM.” At CS4CS, participants “are tackling programming, virtuous hacking and digital forensics this week,” and will culminate their education “with a cyber-mystery that involves, aptly, the theft of Wonder Woman’s iconic lasso.” THE Journal notes “Tandon’s population of female students for the coming academic year is 40 percent, compared to a national average of 20 percent among engineering undergraduate programs in 2015, according to the American Society for Engineering Education.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Draft Report: Renewable Energy Doesn’t Put Grid At Risk.
• Math Scholar Maryam Mirzakhani Dies At 40.
• Administration Finalizing Plans To Revamp Military Cyber Operations.
• WPost A1: Silicon Valley Uses Technology To Combat Growing Sexual Harassment Problem.
• Irish Energy Networks Targeted By Hackers.
• Some Texans Protest Proposed Use Of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes To Combat Zika.
• Rights Activists, Experts Criticize Trump’s Decision To Grant Visas To Afghan Robotics Students.