Leading the News
DOE Says Majority Of Puerto Rico Still Without Power.
CNN (9/28, Stapleton, Grise, Hanna) reports over a week after Hurricane Maria hit “Puerto Rico as a category 4 storm, the island is dealing with a humanitarian crisis as millions remain without electricity, water or gas.” Gov. Ricardo Rossello said yesterday that at least 16 people have died because of the storm. The majority “of the island is without power, with the exception of people and facilities using generators, the US Energy Department says. Rosselló said Thursday that power restoration would be slow because with hits from Maria – and Hurricane Irma earlier in the month – ‘this infrastructure has honestly collapsed.’” Reuters (9/28) reports that “shipments of gasoline and diesel into Puerto Rico have resumed after Hurricane Maria, with ports restarting operations, though there were still long fuel lines around the island on Thursday, according to traders and Thomson Reuters tracking data.” Puerto Rico “still faces logistical hurdles to distribute food, fuel and water. Critics called for more resources and a single authority to oversee relief efforts.”
The Washington Post (9/28, Mooney) reports “ongoing electricity disaster in Puerto Rico” is “driving new interest in ways of shifting island power grids toward greater reliance on wind, solar and even, someday, large batteries.” According to some energy experts “adding more renewables, and moving away from centralized power grids to more so-called ‘microgrids,’ could lower costs and increase resilience in the face of storms, several energy experts said.” The Post adds “members states of CARICOM, a consortium of Caribbean nations, already have a goal of reaching 47 percent renewable energy by 2027.” The recent hurricanes “now only give greater impetus.” The Los Angeles Times (9/28, Vives, Hennessy-Fiske) reports Puerto Rico’s “faltering electrical grid” was already “struggling to keep the lights on after a history of poor maintenance, poorly trained staff, allegations of corruption and crushing debt.” Early last year, Puerto Ricans “were suffering power outages at rates four to five times higher than average U.S. customers, said the report from the Massachusetts-based Synapse Energy Associates.”
E&E Daily (9/28, Subscription Publication) reports that following the recent severe hurricanes, “lawmakers from both parties are pushing legislation aiming to make the grid more resilient to natural disasters and boost energy storage.” Sen. Ron Wyden has “introduced three measures to fund technology development and deploy projects that can help keep power on after storms.” In the House of Representatives, Rep. Darren Soto has “introduced H.R. 3829 to help protect the grid from natural disasters by providing grants to states, local governments and utilities to take measures such as burying power lines and replacing wooden electric poles with stronger materials.” The different “bills highlight a focus among many lawmakers on grid resilience after a recent DOE report and destruction from recent hurricanes.”
Keck Foundation Gives Chapman University $20M For New Science Center.
The Orange County (CA) Register (9/28, Winslow) reports that the “W.M. Keck Foundation is giving Chapman University a $20 million gift, which will name the school’s upcoming 140,000-square-foot science center ‘The Keck Center for Science and Engineering.’” The gift, announced Thursday, “completes funding for the $130 million center, set to open in fall of 2018.” When completed, the center will incorporate “40 labs, 47 faculty offices, a bevy of high-tech equipment, research suites and more across two connected halls: the Hall of Science and the Hall of Engineering.” In addition, the center “will also be home to the upcoming Fowler School of Engineering, set to open in 2020.”
NSF Gives South Carolina Schools Grant To Study Math Instruction’s Impact On Engineering Degrees.
The Greenville (SC) Journal (9/28) reports the National Science Foundation has given researchers from Clemson University and other schools in South Carolina a $300,000 grant “to study the link between math education and engineering degrees.” The research “will focus on better preparing students for calculus, a basic requirement for an engineering degree, according to Eliza Gallagher, an assistant professor of engineering and science education at Clemson University.”
ED: Percentage Of Student Loan Defaults Rising.
The Washington Post (9/28, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ED announced this week that “the share of people not making payments on their federal student loans within three years of leaving college has risen, reversing five years of reported declines in new defaults.” the number of defaulting borrowers rose from 11.3% to 11.5% over the previous cohort. The statistic “is one of the most closely watched metrics in higher education because it is used to determine whether colleges are eligible to receive federal student aid.”
ED Audit Of Western Governors Hinges On Whether Mentors Are Professors.
NPR (9/28) reports on the recent ED audit of Western Governors University which said the mostly online school “cuts too many corners” and is “more like a correspondence school of yore.” The audit “calls on WGU to return $713 million of federal student aid,” which “would likely put the university out of business, and cast a shadow over at least 80 other institutions that have adopted similar models.” The piece explains that students are assigned “program mentors” to help them with their studies, and the audit determined that such mentors “are not really faculty, but more like counselors or advisers.”
King, Levy Call On Congress To Support Pell Grants.
In a The Washington Post (9/28, Levy) op-ed, Harold O. Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, and former Education Secretary John King write on the importance of Pell grants to low-income students, noting that “two-thirds of African American students and half of Latino students are Pell recipients.” They write that while the trump administration is “taking aim at affirmative action, it is vital we ensure the barriers to a college education remain as low as possible for students from low-income families.” The writers lament that “the buying power of Pell Grants is decreasing, and with it, the program’s ability to aid students who can benefit most from the opportunities that a college education can make possible.” They call on Congress to support year-round funding for Pell grants and to increase Pell funding.
Research and Development
Hawaii Authorities Okay Controversial Massive Telescope.
The Huffington Post (9/28) reports that the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources has voted to “grant a construction permit for a massive telescope on a mountain many Native Hawaiians believe to be sacred. The $1.4 billion Thirty-Meter Telescope has been a source of controversy, with supporters arguing its scientific benefits and opponents protesting its planned construction on Mauna Kea, a mountain considered sacred in Native Hawaiian culture.”
Engineers Develop World’s “Most Functional Flexible Transistor.”
Nanowerk (9/28) reports that engineers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison ha developed “the most functional flexible transistor in the world,” fabricated on a single-crystal silicon nanomembrane on a single bendable piece of plastic. The process that the team has developed for production of the industry standard-meeting transistors is reportedly “fast, simple and inexpensive” and “scalable to the commercial level.” The product itself presents the ability to add “smart” connectivity wirelessly in applications “like wearable sensors and computers for people and animals,” or anything that requires bending, flexing, and other movement abilities.
MIT PhD Student Creates Flexible Robot To Detect Water Leaks.
Quartz (3/27, Hao) reports that MIT mechanical engineering PhD candidate You Wu has created the Robot Daisy “flexible intelligent device” to help identify leaks in water pipes. The device can float through plastic or metal pipes and contains sensors that can detect water pressure changes and create a digital map of the leaks for technicians to later access. Cambridge Water Department Director of Engineering and Distribution Mark Gallager said Robot Daisy “could equate to preventing the loss of millions of gallons of water annually.” Robot Daisy has received funding from several competitions including the Booz Allen Hamilton Data Analytics Award.
Continuous Monitoring An “Attainable Goal” For Cybersecurity, But Can Create “Illusion Of Success.”
In an opinion piece for SIGNAL Magazine (9/28, Russo) Mark Russo, Leidos lead information security engineer for the Tomahawk missile system, writes that among all “potential cyber solutions, continuous monitoring (CM)—the so-called holy grail—is the most misunderstood,” and presents “too many shortcuts” that risk “creating an illusion of success.” He says that CM is “not just the passive visibility piece of an active network,” but encompasses active measures, too. To be most valuable, Russo said that agencies must meet the requirements laid out in “National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST’s) Special Publication (SP) 800-137” and “align endpoint visibility with security monitoring tools,” including identifying existing hardware and software on the network. Russo says that optimized CM will require “much greater integration and availability of crosscutting intelligence tools than CM can now provide,” and that using multiple security monitoring platforms to provide “defense in depth might be a better protective strategy.”
Use Of Drones For Research Has Increased In Recent Years.
The AP (9/28) reports that Oregon State University forestry professor Michael Wing said a lot of research opportunities are made possible by drones equipped with cameras, infrared sensors and LIDAR systems to do survey work. Wing said when he began using unmanned aircraft for his research in 2012, the FAA “required a two- to five-month process for approval of such research flights.” He said the process was streamlined in August 2016. Wing added the 2012 flight “was the first FAA sanctioned research flight in Oregon, but there are now 15 to 20 other researchers at OSU alone using unmanned aerial vehicles for research.”
Pearson Study Downplays Future Job Market Automation.
U.S. News & World Report (9/28) reports that according to new research from Pearson, “the future of the labor market may not be as automated and job-crushing as previous research has suggested.” The new report “suggests the jobs of tomorrow are likely to be more technically demanding than they are today but won’t disappear entirely.” Researchers “weighed ongoing employment, demographic, inequality and environmental trends in projecting out how the labor markets in the U.S. and the United Kingdom are likely to evolve over the next several years.”
IBM Has More Employees In India Than In US.
The New York Times (9/28, Goel, Subscription Publication) reports that in the past decade, IBM has shifted “its center of gravity” from the US to India where it employees 130,000 people, or one-third of its work force. The article says that the work in India has been critical for keeping their costs down as it “has posted 21 consecutive quarters of revenue declines as it has struggled to refashion its main business of supplying tech services to corporations and governments.” The article reports that according to Glassdoor, employees in India are paid between one-fifth and one-half of their US counterparts. India now has more IBM employees than the 100,000 jobs at home in the US, which according to Ronal Hira, an associate professor of public policy at Howard University, should be a “wake-up call” that “offshoring threatens even the best-paying American tech jobs.”
Apple Faces Growing Difficulties In China, Its Largest Market.
Clay Chandler wrote in Fortune (9/23) that while Apple products have become ubiquitous in the US, in China, “Apple is just one species in a far more diverse gadget ecosystem that includes brands like Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi.” But “it was not always thus. As recently as 2015, Apple was – by far – the hottest brand in China. But this week, when Apple rolled out its new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus in China, Middle Kingdom consumers stayed home in droves. The Chinese consider eight a lucky number. But host of reports confirm that, for Apple, it is proving anything but auspicious.” Apple’s difficulties in China “are just one example of how it’s getting tougher and tougher for foreign firms to complete in China’s vast and still rapidly growing market. In many cases, foreign firms are stymied in China because of unfair government rules that tilt the playing field in favor of local challengers.”
Apple’s Mahe Hopes To Deliver A Turnaround For The Company’s Sales In China. Fortune (9/25, Zillman) profiled Ge Mahe, an Apple executive whom Steve Jobs recruited from Palm Inc. in 2008. Mahe is now taking on a critical new role at Apple. In July, CEO Tim Cook named her the first-ever Vice President and Managing Director for Apple in what it calls Greater China. Apple’s other sales regions do not have lead executives, but Apple is now looking to seriously change its strategy in China. Mahe emigrated from China when she was 16, and is a fluent Mandarin speaker. Mo Jia, a Shanghai-based analyst for tech research firm Canalys, said the top-of-the-line iPhone X will deliver to Chinese consumers “the best experience on the current smartphone market,” but, in his estimation, its high price will stop the mass public from buying it. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, meanwhile, are more aimed at mainstream users, but they’ll face challenges from new handsets from Huawei and Xiaomi.
China’s Electric Car Boom Is Resulting In A Battery Dilemma.
Quartz (9/28, Huang) reports that as China grows as the biggest electric vehicle market in the world and ramps up battery production to drive these vehicles, it’s approaching a growing pile of lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) batteries past their roughly five-year life expectancy. Citing what it was told by a Shenzhen-based electric car industry research firm, Quartz explains, “In 2020, nearly 250,000 metric tons (276,000 tons) of batteries, or 35 gigawatt-hours of batteries, are set to be retired – nearly 20 times those depleted in 2016.” With a “relatively small and scattered” battery recycling industry that has high costs associated with it, the fact that a 2015 policy makes EV manufacturers responsible for their own battery recycling is discouraging some from entering the market. Furthermore, soil and water contamination can result from incorrectly recycling or otherwise disposing of these batteries.
Public Figures Urge Apple To Activate FM Radio Chips In iPhones To Help Hurricane Relief Efforts.
Bloomberg News (9/28, Flatley) reports even though iPhones have an FM radio chip embedded in them, “Apple Inc. has chosen not to activate the feature” in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which left most of Puerto Rico without power and devastated the Gulf Coast, along with Hurricane Harvey. FCC Chair Ajit Pai issued a call on Thursday for Apple to activate its FM radio chips for “the safety of the American people,” joining Apple critics who say the tech company is hindering recovery efforts. Dennis Wharton of the National Association of Broadcasters says “Broadcasters are providing information on how to evacuate quickly, where flood waters are raging, how to get out of harm’s way if there’s a tornado or a hurricane,” so “the notion that Apple or anyone else would block this type of information is something that we find fairly troubling.”
Reuters (9/28, Shepardson) reports Pai stated, “I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.” For its part, Apple released a statement saying the iPhone 7 and 8 models do not have the FM capabilities. USA Today (9/28, Snider) reports Apple stated it “cares deeply about the safety of our users, especially during times of crisis and that’s why we have engineered modern safety solutions into our products. Users can dial emergency services and access Medical ID card information directly from the Lock Screen, and we enable government emergency notifications, ranging from Weather Advisories to AMBER alerts.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Trump Administration Requires Measuring Of Greenhouse Gases From Cars, Trucks.
The Washington Post (9/28, Laris) reports that on Thursday, the Trump Administration “reversed course and instituted new regulations requiring that greenhouse gases from cars and trucks be measured and compared over time.” The decision comes as California, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon. and Vermont filed a lawsuit last week that “alleged … that the administration had intentionally, and unlawfully, failed to give people the required opportunity to comment on the indefinite delay.” The article adds that environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Air Carolina, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group also filed a lawsuit against Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao over the issue in July. The article adds that in its notice published on Thursday, the Administration said the FHWA “has initiated additional rulemaking procedures proposing to repeal the [greenhouse gas] measure.” The notice also “said a formal notice outlining that effort would be published this year, with a goal of putting it into place by spring 2018 – before the first compliance deadline.”
Rocky Mountain Power Seeking Solar Power Projects.
The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (9/28) reports Rocky Mountain Power is seeking “proposals for solar projects in Utah and other states to quell accusations that it showed bias in its recent choices on new power-generation investments.” David Eskelsen, a spokesman for the company, “said Thursday the state’s largest provider of electricity will issue its call for new solar proposals in the next 4-6 weeks, while it considers bids to construct the more than 1,100 megawatts of wind generation the company hopes to develop, primarily in Wyoming.” The company had been urged by state regulators “to gather additional proposals after clean energy advocates argued the utility used outdated data to make the $3.5 billion Wyoming wind project appear less expensive and more desirable than other options, such as Utah-based solar array farms.”
Energy Industry Could Be Impacted By GOP Tax Plan.
E&E Daily (9/28, Subscription Publication) reports the tax plan released by Republican leaders “could jeopardize a range of tax credits and breaks important to the energy industry and environmentalists.” The plan “would allow immediate expensing of capital investments for ‘at least five years,’ which Republicans say would provide broad economic benefits, including to renewable companies and other energy sectors.” But “the push to lower the corporate rate to 20 percent will depend on ‘eliminating special interest deductions and loopholes and exclusions,’ House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told reporters.”
New Mexico Public Regulation Commission Approves Solar Proposal.
The AP (9/28) reports that New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission unanimously approved a Sacred Wind Communications solar proposal Wednesday, which will also help bring internet and phone service to residents in the state. The company will tap into the New Mexico Universal Service Fund to pay half the costs of solar units to be placed on homes without any electricity. The units will also be able to “power a wireless subscriber antenna, a voice and broadband modem, a computer and at least one desk lamp.” Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy said more than 150 homes will benefit from the project.
NSF Gives South Dakota College Grant To Boost High School Computer Science Curriculum.
KEVN-TV Rapid City, SD (9/28) reports that the National Science Foundation has given South Dakota’s Black Hills State University a $785,000 grant “to assist South Dakota high schools with implementing computer science courses.” The move builds on a partnership between the school and local districts in which “10 high school teachers worked with BHSU to put in place a year-long computer science course. So far, 450 students from the Black Hills have taken the course with more continuing to enroll each year.”
Research: Pre-K Teachers Uncomfortable With Science, Rarely Teach It.
THE Journal (9/28) reports that according to researchers at Michigan State University, “preschool teachers in the United States are not as comfortable with science as they are literacy.” Researchers “found the preschool teachers they surveyed reported higher enjoyment and ability for literacy than for science or math. Nearly all — 99 percent — of those surveyed said they worked with students on literacy education three or four times a week, but only 75 percent said the same about math and a paltry 42 percent about science.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Maryland Sues EPA Over Power Plant Pollution From Other States.
• Study: Florida Voucher Program Improves Likelihood Of College Attendance.
• New Gravitational Waves Detected.
• Engineering Hiring Platform Aims To Match Qualified Candidates.
• Navistar, Volkswagen Partner On Electric Truck, Connectivity.
• Senate Democrats Urge Trump To Send More Resources To Restore Power In Puerto Rico.