Leading the News
Maryland Sues EPA Over Power Plant Pollution From Other States.
The AP (9/27, Brian Witte) reports Maryland is suing the EPA “for failing to act on a petition requiring power plants in five upwind states to reduce pollution, the state’s attorney general and an official in Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration said Wednesday.” The Hogan administration contends that “70 percent of Maryland’s ozone problem originates in upwind states.” The state “petitioned the EPA in November for a finding that 36 power plant units in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are emitting air pollution affecting Maryland in violation of the Clean Air Act’s ‘good neighbor provision.’” The EPA in January “issued a six-month extension to the act, setting a July 15 deadline that Maryland officials say expired without action being taken.” The Washington Post (9/27, Hicks) reports that in a statement, Hogan said, “Maryland has made significant progress in improving our air quality in recent years, and that progress is in jeopardy due to a lack of action by the EPA.” The Washington Times (9/27, Wolfgang) reports Hogan also said, “We strongly urge the EPA to approve the petition and enforce the air pollution controls, already in place in Maryland, at upwind out-of-state facilities that threaten the health of Maryland citizens and our economy.” The Hill (9/27, Cama) reports also provides coverage.
Study: Florida Voucher Program Improves Likelihood Of College Attendance.
The AP (9/27) reports that according to a new study from the Urban Institute, “low-income students in Florida who attended private schools using a credit scholarship program were more likely to go to college than their peers in public schools.” The AP says these findings “stood in contrast with some of the recent studies of similar private school choice programs that produced mixed results” and are “likely to energize the Trump administration in its effort to expand school choice across the nation, but also to irk critics who believe that such programs are ineffective and may discriminate against students.”
U.S. News & World Report (9/27) reports that the research found that the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, the largest such program in the country, “significantly improves the likelihood that students enroll in college,” providing “positive news for private school choice proponents who have recently endured an onslaught of research showing negative results for students enrolled in similar programs.” The piece explains that the program “provides tax credits as an incentive for corporations to donate to nonprofit organizations that can then provide scholarships for students in families with limited financial resources, allowing them to pay for tuition and fees at an eligible private school or transportation to a public school outside his or her district.”
Noting that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has praised the program, Politico Morning Education (9/27) reports that authors of the report “estimate participation increases college enrollment rates by 15 percent. Most of the effect is in community colleges, as opposed to four-year universities.”
Student Loan Default Rate Rises.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (9/27) reports that ED announced Wednesday that the overall three-year cohort default rate for federal student loans rose from 11.3% to 11.5% for the first time since 2013. The article says that the data show that “10 institutions with high cohort default rates are at risk of losing their access to federal student aid.”
Diverse Education (9/27) reports that the increase is “setting off fears that student loan borrowers may be faring worse in the years to come given the department’s efforts to roll back various protections.” The article quotes Institute for College Access & Success Executive Vice President Pauline Abernathy saying, “Now is the time to be improving student loan policies and increasing oversight and accountability, but the department is doing the opposite. The Department’s rollback of critical protections and enforcement will only lead to more student loan defaults, higher debt burdens, and wasted taxpayer dollars.”
West Virginia University Launching Land-Grant School Academic Center.
Politico Morning Education (9/27) reports that West Virginia University in Morgantown is launching the Center for the Future of Land-Grant Education, a “new academic center Thursday focused on the nation’s land-grant colleges and universities.” the Center “will be a hub for researchers aimed at providing accessible public higher education.”
Study: Nearly All Students In Dual Enrollment Programs Go On To College.
The Seventy Four (9/27) reports that according to a new study from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University Teachers College, “an overwhelming majority of high school students who complete dual enrollment courses at local community colleges go on to pursue higher education.” However, there is wide state-to-state variation in “where they enroll after graduation — and how well they perform.” The piece reports that dual enrollment programs have grown in popularity in recent years, but says that “most educators and state leaders have not closely monitored which students participate, where they enroll in college after high school, and how many of those students earn a college degree.”
Research and Development
New Gravitational Waves Detected.
CNET News (9/27, Kooser) reports that on Wednesday “teams from the LIGO Scientific Collaboration in the US and the Virgo Gravitational-Wave Observatory in Italy announced the discovery of a new gravitational wave” which they had detected on Aug. 14. This is the first time three detectors “have all observed a gravitational-wave signal.” Gravitational waves are “ripples in the fabric of space-time” proposed by Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity and confirmed by the Advanced LIGO detector in 2015. The Advanced Virgo detector recently “went into operation after a six-year upgrade project,” enabling scientists to better pinpoint the source of gravitational waves. Northwestern University Astronomer Shane Larson said, “Gravitational wave astronomy isn’t like telescope astronomy. We’ve always known that our ability to map sources on the sky will get better as more detectors join the network, and Virgo has shown us what a difference it makes with a bang!”
New Blood Test May Detect, Distinguish Between Dengue And Zika Virus, Study Suggests.
Reuters (9/27, Hares) reports a new “dipstick” blood serum test can “quickly and cheaply determine whether a person is infected” with dengue or Zika virus, according to a study published in Science Translational Medicine. The paper strips can distinguish between four types of dengue and Zika. Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, associate professor of engineering at the University of Massachusetts Boston, “said it resembles a pregnancy test.”
National Science Foundation Gives Kansas State $4.7 Million For Ceramic Fibers Research.
The Manhattan (KS) Mercury (9/27) reports the National Science Foundation has given Kansas State a $4.7 million grant “to research ceramic fiber materials and increase international collaboration in science.” The grant comes through the NSF Partnerships for International Research and Education program and will “support research and training of undergraduate and graduate students in the United States.”
NSF Gives University Of Washington Grant To Develop Novel Materials.
The Seattle Times (9/27) reports that the National Science Foundation has given the University of Washington a $15.6 million grant “to expand the work it does creating novel materials with unique properties that could be a boon to future technologies.” The research could lead to “turning skyscrapers into giant solar panels” and “making computers faster and data encryption more powerful.” The university plans to launch “a new, interdisciplinary center, called the Molecular Engineering Materials Center, to expand its research on new materials.”
National Science Foundation Awards $20 Million To Collaborative Research Project At Alabama Universities.
The Birmingham (AL) Business Journal (9/27, Patchen, Subscription Publication) reports the National Science Foundation recently awarded a five-year, $20 million grant to numerous universities in Alabama, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The universities will work together on a project developed through NSF’s Program to Stimulate Competitive Research to “improve the understanding of plasma processes and interactions, which will translate into the development of new technologies with potential for commercialization for aerospace, medicine, manufacturing and food safety.” Educational institutions in Kansas, South Carolina, Rhode Island, and Wyoming also have received funding through the program. NSF Director France Córdova said the grants “promise to yield fundamental understanding in research areas of regional and national importance while catalyzing new educational and training opportunities for students and researchers.”
Rutgers Researcher Develops Unique Aerial-Underwater Drone.
The Daily Targum (NJ) (9/27, Israel) reports Rutgers Professor Francisco Javier Diez’s Naviator submersible drone is “the first unmanned aerial-underwater vehicle of its kind” and is able to “transition from water to air seamlessly.” His device is the product of five years’ research, which has received funding from the Office of Naval Research. Diez’s drone “represents a technological leap forward in the area of exploratory vehicles as it can be rapidly deployed in the air, travel to a destination and transition underwater.”
University Of Buffalo Researchers Develop Data Authentication Tool By Scanning Heart Shape.
MSN (9/27) reports in an online video that University of Buffalo researchers have developed a new system to protect sensitive data such as passwords for digital information by scanning the user’s heart shape. According to study authors, each person has a unique heart shape that can be used to confirm user identity through low-powered Doppler radar. Researchers predict the technology could be expanded for use in areas such as airports, and could confirm someone’s identity from as far as 100 feet away.
University Of Buffalo Researchers Developing Watch To Predict, Detect Lung Cancer.
WHEC-TV Rochester, NY (9/26, Lewke) reports on its website that a team of researchers at the University of Buffalo say they are developing a watch “that in addition to telling you how many calories you burn, how many steps you walk,…can also tell you whether you’re going to develop a cancer or not.” The device’s sensor implanted subcutaneously on the wrist “detects lung cancer bio-markers in the blood” by using “tiny light-emitting devices to read the implant then” send the data via bluetooth to a smart device or computer. Researchers say the device allows them to “get the blood test result anytime” and “record this data in the database so the doctor can go back to the database to extract some information they want to see.”
NASA Used Aluminum Foil To Save Voyager Probes.
USA Today (9/27, King) reports that NASA “saved” the Voyager probes after it was discovered just months before the probes’ launch in 1977 that Jupiter appeared to have stronger magnetic fields than expected. Without modifications, the planet’s “high voltage pulses would travel along the spacecraft’s exterior cables and end the mission.” With no time to go through normal design reviews, NASA engineers wrapped the probes in ordinary aluminum foil which allowed the craft to safely pass Jupiter in 1979.
University Of Illinois At Chicago Receives Grant For Researching 2D Material Batteries.
Nanowerk (9/27) reports a $1.44 million National Science Foundation grant ha been awarded to the University of Illinois at Chicago to fund research into 2D materials that could improve batteries and make them cheaper. Two-dimensional materials, such as graphene, are reportedly “extremely strong, lightweight, flexible, and excellent conductors of heat and electricity.” Amin Salehi-Khojin, one of the researchers and an assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, is cited saying, “We want to find new catalyst materials that can increase a battery’s efficiency significantly, not incrementally. … We believe that the new materials can increase its performance for electrochemical reactions by about 1,000 times, compared to existing materials. This will be revolutionary.”
Lyft, Ford Team Up To Develop, Deploy Autonomous Vehicles.
Bloomberg News (9/27, Newcomer) reports that “Ford Motor Co. and Lyft Inc. have agreed to team up on developing and deploying autonomous vehicles, sealing the latest alliance intended to popularize self-driving cars.” The two companies announced that they will “share data to develop the systems and technology needed to design affordable driverless automobiles, and eventually get them onto Lyft’s network.” The arrangement holds benefits for both sides, Bloomberg writes, as “Ford intends to take advantage of its new partner’s customer base and traffic-flow data generated by a million daily rides, while Lyft benefits from the automaker’s production heft and ongoing research.” The article quotes a statement by Ford Vice President of Autonomous Vehicles Sherif Marakby saying, “When ready, we’ll have self-driving cars operating alongside Lyft’s current community of drivers to help accommodate times of significant consumer demand.” In addition to its work with Ford, Lyft “is opening a self-driving vehicle development facility in Palo Alto, California, called ‘Level 5,’ a nod to the designation of fully autonomous vehicles that don’t require human supervision,” and the company says “about 10 percent of its software engineers are working on the technology.” USA Today (9/27, Cava) quotes Lyft Spokeswoman Sheila Bryson saying the company “plans to be the first ride-hailing company to deploy self-driving cars built by a major automaker,” and that it “expects to deploy pilot programs in the coming years and be fully operational by 2021.”
Engineering Hiring Platform Aims To Match Qualified Candidates.
Forbes (9/27, O’Connor) reports that MIT computer science and neuroscience graduate Aline Lerner has launched a new platform aimed at “helping candidates with real-world coding experience land jobs at tech companies that often seem to prize pedigree above all. Lerner’s recruitment startup, interviewing.io, this week announced a $3 million seed round led by Susa Ventures, with participation from Social Capital, Ulu Ventures, Kapor Capital, TenOneTen Ventures, Manifest Investment Partners, and others.”
Navistar, Volkswagen Partner On Electric Truck, Connectivity.
Zacks Investment Research (9/27) reports Navistar International Corporation and Volkswagen AG “collaborated on the introduction of an electric medium-duty truck in North America by late 2019.” Volkswagen last year “inked a deal to acquire a 16.6% stake in the Illinois-based manufacturer and marketer of International brand commercial and military trucks.” The partnership also has “planned to develop a common technology platform to integrate” 650,000 trucks with the Internet, “and set up a common marketplace for app developers.” Starting earlier this year, the two companies began partnering and started working together on diesel powertrains.
Engineering and Public Policy
Senate Democrats Urge Trump To Send More Resources To Restore Power In Puerto Rico.
The Washington Examiner (9/27) reports senior Senate Democrats are urging President Trump to take eight specific actions “to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands recover from Hurricane Maria.’” One of those action is to, “Use all federal resources to restore power, including sending Department of Energy experts, 500 utility employees, 100 fuel trucks and 200 generators.” E&E Publishing (9/27, Subscription Publication) reports Sens. Cory Gardner and Kamala Harris have “issued a bipartisan plea to Energy Secretary Rick Perry to work ‘expeditiously’ to rebuild Puerto Rico’s grid.”
Reuters (9/27, DiSavino) reports Puerto Rico is facing “a lengthy and complicated power restoration process after Hurricane Maria last week left the island’s 3.4 million residents without electricity, according to a group of top U.S. electric company executives.” The Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council on Tuesday said in a release “that damage assessments must be completed to determine what human and equipment resources will be needed to restore power.” The council “is coordinating the restoration efforts between the U.S. government and the electric power sector.” E&E Daily (9/27, Subscription Publication) reports Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the military was working to provide clean drinking water, as well as generators to restore power to key parts of the U.S. territory’s grid.”
E&E Daily (9/27, Subscription Publication) reports President Trump’s nominee to head the Energy Department’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability “downplayed the role of human-caused climate change” and “said Puerto Rico could be a “test bed” for grid resilience.” During his confirmation hearing, Bruce Walker told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee “as devastating as Hurricanes Irma and Maria were to the island, rebuilding may offer an opportunity to design a resilient grid ‘that could be duplicated around the United States.’” Walker said, “We do have the opportunity to utilize resources within the Department of Energy … to bring to bear much of the research and development.”
Lawyers Say DOE Has Limited Power Over State Energy Decisions.
Utility Dive (9/27, Bade) reports that Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry called for the country to rethink state and federal jurisdiction when speaking at a National Clean Energy Week event Wednesday. Secretary Perry said, “… if we have another Polar Vortex … should a state have the right to say, ‘No, we don’t want you to cross our land and build a power plant here to serve your people?’” However, “energy lawyers say DOE has little authority to address state energy decisions on its own, particularly on pipelines.” Harvey Reiter, partner at the law firm Stinson Leonard Street, said that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has authority to overrule states, but the DOE does not. Reiter said, “there are certain environmental reviews that have to be conducted to determine whether there’s an environmental impact and that may require signoff from states.” Reiter also said that “… states can’t use a pretext — they can’t cite a provision of law that’s tied to environmental impact and use it because they don’t like gas pipelines.”
New York Introduces Bill Targeted $1.5B In Fossil Fuel Tax Subsidies.
Bloomberg BNA (9/26, Silverman) reports that a new bill introduced in New York’s legislature seeks to impose “a three-year sunset on all existing fossil-fuel-related tax expenditures and require that the governor submit an annual analysis with a recommendation on whether the subsidies should be continued, amended, or repealed.” If approved, the fossil fuel industry could lose up to $1.5 billion in New York state tax subsidies. “Not surprising, this bill reflects the ideologically-driven approach of a few downstate elitists trying to demonize fossil fuels which are the life-blood of our economy,” Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council, wrote, adding, “This is part of a narrow activist agenda that ignores the critical role that natural gas has played in reducing carbon emissions, which are near 25-year lows from energy use.” According to Moreau, the bill has very little chance of passing in both houses of the Legislature.
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Tech Firms Pledge $300 Million To Administration’s STEM Initiative.
• ED Report Details Risks To First-Generation College Students.
• Colorado School Of Mines Students Construct Net-Zero Tiny House.
• Chip Design Assembler Arm To Open Seattle Area Engineering Center.
• Climate Change, Electric Cars Could Worsen Massachusetts’ Transportation Finance Problems.
• South Carolina Researchers To Examine How To Better Prepare Students For Calculus.