Leading the News
EPA Chief Pledges Not To Pursue Ethanol Mandate Changes.
The Hill (10/20, Cama) reported that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged not to move forward with proposed changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard following “significant pushback from Midwestern GOP senators and a direct intervention from President Trump.” The EPA never publicly proposed lowering the biodiesel mandate and allowing ethanol exports to count toward the mandate, but rumored discussions to implement such changes have officially been quashed.
WSJournal: Administration Caves On Ethanol Mandate.In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal (10/22, Subscription Publication) writes that President Trump and EPA Administrator Pruitt caved under pressure from the ethanol lobby and Midwestern Republican senators when Pruitt announced Thursday that the EPA won’t reduce its proposed biofuels quota for 2018 and in fact may even increase it. The Journal argues that the decision represents a capitulation to one of Washington’s worst examples of corporate welfare and is a violation of one of Trump’s key campaign promises.
Axios: Trump Made Ethanol Decision To Keep Grassley Happy. Axios ’ (10/22) Jonathan Swan reported that a senior Administration official “joked” to him last week “that the real EPA Administrator comes from Iowa, and his name is Chuck Grassley.” Swan adds that the joke came “after Trump called EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt last week and told him to keep Grassley happy on the Renewable Fuel Standard.” Swan writes of Grassley, “Perhaps no senator wields more power over Trump. … When Grassley wants one of his people appointed at an agency, it happens. … The fact that Grassley chairs the Judiciary Committee, which confirms federal judges, is just one more source of leverage.”
Colleges Incorporating Climate Change, Sea Level Rise In Multiple Disciplines.
The AP (10/22) reports that higher education institutions are incorporating climate change and sea level rise into curriculum, “and not just for students enrolled in subjects such as geology or meteorology. Architects, civil engineers, city planners and other professions are likely to be affected in ways they have not experienced before.” Higher education “must not only familiarize itself with the subject matter on a variety of levels but prepare students for a range of career opportunities that will require new skills yet to be fully defined, fine-tuned and taught.”
Texas Tech Regents Approve Angelo State Mechanical Engineering Program.
The San Angelo (TX) Standard-Times (10/21) reports that the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents has approved Angelo State University’s plans for a new mechanical engineering program. The piece explains that ED have the school a $2.75 million grant to implement the program last month, saying, “students will be able to earn a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree through the program after final approval is given by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.”
State Department Program Encourages Women To Pursue Science, Math.
Andrea Mitchell of NBC Nightly News (10/21, story 10, 2:05, Diaz-Balart) said after the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures” was released last year, “80 US embassies around the world” were “flooded by requests for screenings.” Meanwhile, the State Department has brought about 50 women to the US through a program designed to “encourage women with hidden talents in science and math.” Mitchell noted, “According to the World Economic Forum, women earn only one-third of undergraduate STEM degrees, despite accounting for 60 percent of college graduates.” NASA scientist Florence Tan, a Malaysian native who came to the US to attend college, told Mitchell, “By 2024, there will be almost a million engineering and computer science jobs. We don’t have enough people to do this work.” She continued, “We need women. This is just for the national good.”
American Council On Education Calls On Congress To Protect Dreamers.
Diverse Education (10/22) reports that American Council on Education President Ted Mitchell has written to Congress calling for “a ‘long-time legislative fix to protect Dreamers,” saying “the letter may be just one of several messages that various stakeholders sent recently urging Congress to take action on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy since it was rescinded earlier this year by President Donald Trump.” Mitchell, the piece reports, said it was “important for Congress to hear directly from the higher education community.”
WPost Examines Apprenticeships In White-Collar Jobs.
The Washington Post (10/20, McGregor) reports, in depth, on the move to apprenticeships in white-collar jobs, noting, “Accenture is launching a program that’s long been associated in the U.S. with skilled trades or manufacturing rather than white-collar careers. Aon, JPMorgan Chase, Amazon and the Hartford are also among the businesses that have begun apprenticeships, combining instruction time with paid on-the-job experience for workers who aren’t quite yet qualified for the job.” While the programs are “technology-oriented,” the Post notes that some are “also training human resources analysts, insurance customer support agents, account managers and more.” Companies sponsoring apprenticeships in white-collar jobs “say they’re doing so because of their potential for retaining workers and to help close the persistent skills gap, particularly in high-tech jobs.”
Washington State College Program Supports STEM For Underrepresented Groups.
The Auburn (WA) Reporter (10/22) reports that a new program at Washington State’s Green River College, titled MESA for Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement, “will focus on helping students of color and women transfer to universities for STEM-related degrees and careers.” The program “serves students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, including African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Pacific Islanders and women.” Most of the students in the program are non-legacy college students, “are low-income and have not been exposed to STEM curricula and career choices.”
Colleges Launch Programs To Help Students Manage Their Finances.
The Wall Street Journal (10/22, Berman, Subscription Publication) reports that schools like Indiana University have launched information campaigns to help students manage their finances in school and after graduation. According to Indiana University, since the school began sending a letter to students every spring with details about their student loans back in 2012, there has been about a 17 percent decrease in total student borrowing. The Journal says that the University of Minnesota also sends students a debt letter, while the University of Missouri prohibits students from using campus IDs as credit cards on expenses not related to education. The Journal adds that the University of Ohio waives late fees on bills in exchange for students agreeing to attend financial coaching sessions.
Research and Development
Vanderbilt Hosts Hackathon Challenge.
The Tennessean (10/22) reports that over the weekend, “nearly 450 college students from across the country crashed inside Vanderbilt’s Engineering & Science Building for a 36-hour hackathon challenge” dubbed VandyHacks Students “created apps and software programs both practical and preposterous,” spending “a weekend away from classroom assignments that rarely turn into anything real.”
UConn Using 3-D Printing To Train Brain Surgeons.
The AP (10/21, Eaton-Robb) reports that University of Connecticut surgeons “are using 3-D printing technology to help them practice some delicate brain surgery.” The piece explains that surgeons use “a procedure to treat strokes called a mechanical thrombectomy, guiding a catheter through a patient’s arteries and vessels into the brain to remove blood clots. Medical physicist David Brotmann came up with the idea of creating an exact model of those blood vessels by converting medical scans into an image that could recognized by a 3-D printer.”
Arkansas High School Engineering Student Creates Prosthetic Hand For Kindergartner.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (10/22) reports that Gracie Kimbrell, a junior at Bryant High School in Bryant, Arkansas, “has conducted several projects through the engineering program at Bryant High School, the latest being a prosthetic hand she designed and printed on a 3-D printer for Springhill Elementary School kindergartner Emma Kincaid.” Engineering teacher John Williams said “one of his goals is to connect students with projects that will interest them.”
NSF Gives Texas A&M $1.2 Million To Analyze Hurricane’s Impact.
The Bryan College Station (TX) Eagle (10/22) reports the National Science Foundation has given Texas A&M University $1.2 Million “for projects that aim to better understand the effects of Hurricane Harvey and potentially mitigate the impacts of future natural disasters.” Earlier this month, NSF authorized “59 new grants totaling $5.3 million for hurricane-related research.”
Illinois Governor Touts New Research Center As Economic Boon For Chicago.
The Chicago Sun-Times (10/18) reports that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is heralding a new “sprawling innovation and research center — helmed by the University of Illinois” as “an economic boon to Chicago.” The center, planned for “a historically vacant patch of 62 acres of riverfront land just east of the Chicago River and south of Roosevelt Road,” is meant to be a “mix of residential, commercial and entertainment features that will make it ‘the city’s 78th neighborhood.’”
NASA Tests Manned Exploration Mission-2 RS-25 Flight Engine.
The Orlando (FL) Sentinel (10/20) reported that NASA engineers at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi “completed a hot-fire test of RS-25 rocket engine E2063, a flight engine for NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket” on October 19. The E2063 engine is intended to “help power SLS on its Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2), the first flight of the new rocket to carry humans.”
Researchers: New Botnet Could Cause “Next Cyber Hurricane.”
Newsweek (10/20, Cuthbertson) reports, “Hackers have compromised the security of more than a million internet-connected devices and transformed them into a massive botnet that could take down the internet, researchers have warned.” Check Point researchers “published details of the new botnet, warning that it continues to recruit devices at a ‘far greater pace’ than the dangerous Mirai botnet that was used in devastating cyberattacks last year.” A Check Point blog post is quoted saying, “Our research suggests we are now experiencing the calm before an even more powerful storm. The next cyber hurricane is about to come.”
Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries For Scarce AI Talent.
The New York (NY) Times (10/22, Metz, Subscription Publication) reports tech companies are reaching a point at which AI technology has spread to so many applications – with “huge bets” on face-scanning smartphones and smart speakers to self driving cars – that the demand for AI experts has become completely unbalanced with the supply. Citing Element AI, an independent lab in Montreal, the article says “in the entire world, fewer than 10,000 people have the skills necessary to tackle serious artificial intelligence research.” This has reportedly pushed compensation to the point that a common joke is the need for an NFL-style salary cap. One of Microsoft’s hiring managers is cited saying, “That would make things easier. … A lot easier.” One example is seen in the compensation for Anthony Levandowski, former leader of Google’s self-driving car division, who “took home over $120 million in incentives” before leaving the company.
Engineering and Public Policy
Government Warns Of Cyber Attacks On Energy, Industrial Firms.
Reuters (10/21, Finkle) reports that the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI “issued a rare public warning” in a report emailed late Friday “that sophisticated hackers are targeting energy and industrial firms, the latest sign that cyber attacks present an increasing threat to the power industry and other public infrastructure.” According to the report, the aim of the attackers is to compromise organizational networks with unsafe websites and malicious emails to receive credentials necessary to access computer networks of their targets.
Administration Plan For Coal, Nuclear Power Draws Criticism From Environmental, Oil Groups.
The Wall Street Journal (10/22, Puko, Subscription Publication) reports that an Energy Department proposal asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to implement market reforms designed to shore up nuclear and coal-fired power plants is drawing opposition from an array of environmental and oil groups, including oil and gas companies, some public utilities, wind and solar power producers, electricity consumers, and environmentalists. The plan submitted last month, which in effect would ensure profits for certain nuclear and coal-fired power plants, has placed coal miners and a small group of power companies against nearly the entire rest of the energy industry, much of which views the proposal as a bailout for struggling power plants.
NDSU Professor Says Additional Regulations Aren’t Needed For AI.
In an op-ed for The Conversation (US) (10/22), North Dakota State University professor Jeremy Straub writes that he doesn’t believe that additional regulations for artificial intelligence are currently needed since there “are already laws on the books of nations, states and towns governing civil and criminal liabilities for harmful actions.” Straub writes that the same could be said for UAVs, which the FAA already regulates, and self-driving cars, which must obey regular traffic laws to operate on public roads.
California High-Speed Rail Faces Major Engineering Challenges For Proposed Tunnel Under Diablo Range.
The Los Angeles Times (10/21, Vartabedian) reported “the massive scope and complexity of” a proposed 13.5-mile tunnel going under the Pacheco Pass, which would be “the nation’s longest and most advanced transportation tunnel,” is raising “new concerns about the viability” of California’s high-speed rail project. According to the Times’ own analysis of the tunnel construction costs, the project “could exhaust the $5.5-billion budget for the entire 54-mile segment from Gilroy to Chowchilla,” with an estimated cost of “anywhere from $5.6 billion to $14.4 billion, reflecting the high cost of boring through tricky geology and seismically active areas.” This doesn’t even count the “1.5-mile tunnel just east of Gilroy, itself a major infrastructure project,” that would also be part of the Gilroy-to-Chowchilla portion of track.
NYTimes Examines Growing Movement To Decommission Highways In Favor Of People-Friendly Streets.
The New York Times (10/21, Kurutz, Subscription Publication) reports highways like the Scajaquada Corridor in Buffalo, New York are becoming points of focus “for a growing movement being championed by progressives in the urban-planning community” who “want to tear down some highways in cities and replace all that elevated-and-barricaded pavement with lower-speed streets that favor pedestrians and bicyclists and foster greater connectivity among neighborhoods and residents.” According to the story, NYSDOT Deputy Chief Engineer Angelo Trichilo says that studies of the impact on traffic of removing the highway in Buffalo have found that there would be no way to accommodate the traffic that would result, a conclusion with which the Federal Highway Administration agrees, the story adds.
Pry: Risk Of Electromangetic Pulse Attack On U.S.
Grid Poses Real Threat. Writing in the Washington Times, (10/22, Pry) Peter Vincent Pry, chief of staff of the congressional EMP Commission, discusses the threat to the U.S. electric grid from an electromagnetic pulse attack (EMP) caused by North Korea. He is critical of “organizations such as the Electric Power Research Institute and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation,” which he says are aware of the threat but “are not asking them for help.” He also quotes an anonymous senior DHS official who said EMP is a “theoretical” threat and of a lower priority than “real threats,” like a cyberattack and sabotage. Meanwhile, Pry argues that “the empirical basis for the EMP threat to electric grids and civilization is far deeper and broader than for cyber-attacks or sabotage.”
FAA Drafting Guidance For 3D-Printed Aerospace Parts.
Space News (10/20, Werner, Subscription Publication) reported that the FAA is drafting a “comprehensive plan for grappling with the aerospace industry’s rapid adoption of additive manufacturing.” FAA Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Fatigue and Damage Tolerance Michael Gorelik said at the Additive Aerospace conference on October 19 that although “safety-critical” parts cannot yet be 3D-printed, “based on the leading indicators I see it’s coming and it’s coming fairly fast.” The guidance will recommend steps for the next seven to eight years to “address additive manufacturing from a regulatory standpoint, including certification policies, manufacturing policies and maintenance policies. The plan also addresses the need for additional research and development as well as workforce education and training.” The FAA is working with other government agencies including NASA, the US Air Force, and the US Army.
Graco Hosts Minneapolis High School Students, Recruiting Future Workers.
In a column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (10/18), Neal St. Anthony writes that earlier this month, Minneapolis manufacturer Graco “played host to about 150 Minneapolis high school students at its Northeast flagship facilities that employ about 750,” noting that the firm “starts high school graduates at $15 an hour for assembly jobs, including training-and-advancement opportunities such as tuition reimbursement for those wishing to pursue two-year degrees at local colleges.”
Wyoming State Lawmakers, Education Officials Recommend Greater Focus On Computer Science.
The Wyoming Tribune Eagle (10/22) reports that the Wyoming state “Legislature’s Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration is recommending a change in state law to allow high school students to take computer science in place of one of the three science classes currently required for graduation.” The committee’s position stems from recommendations from a state Department of Education the Wyoming Career Readiness Council, which is “made up of representatives from K-12 education, post-secondary education, workforce service and business.” The state Department of Education supports the move, as only six Wyoming students sat for the AP computer science exam in the 2015-16 year. The agency also found “that in the 2016-17 school year, 16 districts had staff members that were certified to teach computer science,” but only six offered such courses. The Tribune Eagle notes that in June, ED developed “a Computer Science Education Task Force at the behest of the Legislature’s Joint Education Interim Committee.”
Louisiana District Introduces High School Cyber Literacy Curriculum.
The AP (10/21) reported Monroe City Schools in Louisiana is collaborating with CenturyLink and the Cyber Innovation Center to offer Cyber Literacy classes for the first time this semester through its job readiness program. The two organizations will say in regular contact with the district’s three high schools to ensure they “have the most up-to-date STEM curriculum information.” CenturyLink will also ensure the schools have the resources needed to implement the curriculum, and help provide “a location for teacher training” and “employee volunteers who can work with students to enhance the STEM learning experience.” MCS curriculum supervisor Serena White “said this program will offer a college track and Jump Start options.” She will also work with the Cyber Innovation Center to determine “what certifications the students will work toward, such as A+ or Microsoft certification, so they can be employed immediately after graduation,” or pursue college “degrees in computer science, cyber, pure mathematics or engineering.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Boeing Invests In UAV Tech Developer Near Earth Autonomy.
• University Of Houston Launching New Data Science Center.
• Formal Complaint Filed Over Westinghouse’s Use Of Unlicensed Engineers.
• Uber Uses Fake City To Train Autonomous Vehicles, Safety Operators.
• Vestas And Tesla Partner In $160 Million Australian Project.
• Ford To Have 600 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations In Its Facilities In Next 2 Years
• FERC Puts Forward New Proposals For Energy Grid Cybersecurity.