Leading the News
Intellectual Property Law Expert Speaks At Women In Engineering Seminar.
La Porte County (IN) Life (12/1) reports Purdue West Lafayette hosted its Women in Engineering Seminar last month. Domenica Hartman of Hartman Global Intellectual Property Law spoke at the seminar, as “she has done for the last twenty years.” During her address, Hartman championed the mission of the Society of Women Engineers, and at the heart of her speech “was the message that ‘Engineering is Awesome.’” The article says female participation in engineering “has been lacking,” with just under 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering awarded to women. Thus, the article says, “encouragement and enticement are so vital to seeing the field level out on a more equal footing.”
Graduate Students Arrested During Protest Against Tax Reform Bill.
The Washington Post (12/5, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that outside House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office on Tuesday, eight graduate students were arrested during a protest against a provision in the Republican tax reform bill to treat higher education tuition benefits as income, which “students fear will make their education less affordable.” One arrested protester, Washington University in St. Louis doctoral candidate in astrophysics Benjamin Groebe, argued he and other research assistants will see their taxable income surge “to more than $71,000, despite only taking home a fraction of that amount.” According to ED data from the 2011-12 academic year, nearly 55 percent of graduate students’ adjusted gross income was below $20,000. Also on Tuesday, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities president Peter McPherson said in a letter to House and Senate leaders that the tuition exemption “is critical for developing the science and technology workforce pipeline that employers need to propel our nation’s economy forward.”
Student Loan Whistleblower Profiled.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (12/5) profiles Jon H. Oberg, a former ED researcher who “noticed something odd” in 2003. “Through a careful maneuver, Mr. Oberg realized, banks using federal money to issue loans to college students had devised a clever way to keep a lot more of that money than they were supposed to.” After “Congress voted to shut off that subsidy,” a number of banks “devised a system to essentially pass new loan money through old loan portfolios...thereby making hundreds of millions of dollars in excess profits.” After ED officials told Oberg “to find something else to work on,” he “he became a whistle-blower. He has spent the last 10 years helping government lawyers prove the scheme in court, as they tried to hold nine loan companies responsible.”
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Research and Development
Research Shows Impact Of Climate Change In American West.
Water Deeply (12/4) reports on the effects that climate change is having on “water and ecosystems in the West.” The piece cites research indicating rising global temperatures, adding that “scientists have calculated future scenarios for the coming decades that include sea-level rise, more severe rainfall and an increase in the frequency of heatwaves. ... Impacts from a warming climate are already being felt across the American West, with changes to ecosystems and water supply.”
AFRL Gives University Of Dayton Research Institute Grant To Develop Plane-Launched Drones.
The Dayton (OH) Daily News (12/6) reports that the Air Force Research Lab has given the University of Dayton Research Institute a $15 million contract “to develop aircraft-launch drones.” Researchers “will build sensors to communicate between aircraft and drones and develop mission tactics, according to UDRI.”
AFRL Gives University Of Dayton Research Institute $10 Million For Hypersonic Materials Research.
The Dayton (OH) Daily News (12/6) reports, “The Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded a $9.8 million contract to the University of Dayton Research Institute to develop materials able to withstand the extremes of hypersonic flight.” Advanced composite materials generated by the research could yield “a high-flying unmanned reusable reconnaissance air vehicle by the 2030s, according to Robert Mercier, chief engineer for AFRL’s high speed systems division in the Aerospace Systems Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”
Researchers Looking To Turn Atmospheric Carbon Into Consumer Products.
In a Wall Street Journal (12/4, Subscription Publication) video, reporter Jason Bellini examines how researchers are working to develop technology that can extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into materials that can be sold for a profit.
Draper Labs Engineers File Patent For Spacesuit With Self-Return System.
SPACE (12/5, David) reports that engineers at Charles Stark Draper Laboratory have filed a patent “for a spacesuit self-return system to ensure spacewalking astronauts are safe, even if none of their crewmates can rescue them.” Draper Space Systems Engineer and lead inventor Kevin Duda “explained [the suit] had to be capable of determining a precise location in a harsh space environment where GPS is unavailable.” Draper Director of Space Systems Séamus Tuohy “said the return-home technology is an advance in spacesuits that is long overdue.” Patent documents show that the spacesuit can track the movement, acceleration, and position of an astronaut relative to a fixed object such as the ISS.
Researchers Use Thermal Gradients To Enhance Spin Transport In Graphene.
Nanowerk (12/5) reports scientists of the ICN2 Physics and Engineering of Nanodevices Group have used thermal gradients “to independently control spin and heat currents in graphene.” The findings were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology this week. According to Nanowerk, the results “represent unprecedented advances in our understanding of spin caloritronics, holding promise for technological advances in the form of devices able to control and sustain spin currents over useful distances through the application of a heat current.”
Focus Of Railgun Program Switches To Projectiles.
RT (12/6) continues coverage of the Congressional Research Service’s report that the US Navy may end its electromagnetic railgun program, instead focusing on “a less expensive alternative” that uses the projectiles originally developed for the weapon as the ammunition for powder artillery weapons. BAE Systems has been one of the developers on the railgun program, which has conducted $500 million worth of tests to date. SCO spokesman Chris Sherwood “said his division has not abandoned the EMRG program,” but has changed its focus to the development of the high velocity projectile.
Apple Hires Staff Away From Dialog.
Business Insider (12/5, Ghosh) reports that Apple is hiring designers and engineers away from its supplier Dialog Semiconductor, “which is currently fighting to persuade investors that its agreement with Apple is safe.” According to an analysis of LinkedIn profiles, Business Insider says “around 28 Dialog engineers and designers have moved to Apple between March 2016 and now,” which analysts have called a “brain drain.” A source close to Dialog “said the attrition rate was better than usual, and that Apple hired designers and engineers for its Munich design centre from several firms, including Dialog.”
Engineering and Public Policy
AP Compares Educations Of Trump and Obama Science and Environment Nominees.
In a feature analysis, the AP (12/5, Borenstein) reviews many of the Trump Administration’s appointments for science-related positions and reports that “of 43 Trump Administration nominees in science-related positions – including two for Health and Human Services secretary – almost 60 percent did not have a master’s degree or a doctorate in a science or health field.” During the Obama Administration, the AP reports that the numbers were reversed, “more than 60 percent had advanced science degrees.” Former EPA chief and Republican governor Christie Todd Whitman said, “This is just reflective of the disdain that the administration has shown for science.”
Paper Warns Against Administration Energy Moves.
In an editorial, the Denver Post (12/5) warns the Trump Administration against energy moves that “will undermine working markets and dabble in crony capitalism that has already drawn fire from both the left and the right.” The Post opposes imposing tariffs on imported solar cells “it will undermine working markets and dabble in crony capitalism that has already drawn fire from both the left and the right,” as well as increasing the cost of solar panels, raise electric rates, and cause job losses, “all to the benefit of a handful of corporations.” It also criticizes Energy Secretary Rick Perry for “pushing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to take action by Dec. 11 on a proposal to give financially struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants subsidies for having a 90-day supply of fuel,” when data show that such hasn’t been needed and most of the money would go to 10 operators. While the Post believes “the nation’s power grid needs to be revamped and coal-fired and nuclear plants can’t be allowed to collapse en masse,” it opposes “shovel[ing] money to a coterie of big utility companies.”
Groups Sue EPA Seeking Action On Overdue Ozone Standard.
Greenwire (12/5, Reilly, Subscription Publication) reports that a coalition of “public health and environmental groups has sued U.S. EPA over its two-months-overdue attainment designations for the 2015 ground-level ozone standard.” The lawsuit asks the US District Court for the Northern District of California to issue an order giving “EPA chief Scott Pruitt six months to sign off on the remaining designations, starting the clock for out-of-compliance areas to write cleanup plans for meeting the 70-parts-per-billion standard.” Though Pruitt “last month declared about 85 percent of the country effectively in compliance with the 70 ppb threshold, he has yet to make decisions on Houston, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and other areas that are home to more than 100 million people, according to the suit.” The plaintiffs include: the American Public Health Association, American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund and West Harlem Environmental Action Inc.
In Wake Of Hurricanes, Puerto Rico Builders Considering Back-Up Power, Sustainable Buildings.
The Wall Street Journal (12/5, Nonko, Subscription Publication) reports that poor enforcement of Puerto Rico’s building codes resulted in about 250,000 housing units being damaged in the latest hurricane season, according to Puerto Rico Builders Association President Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency says the rebuilt power system will be improved, it isn’t clear whether code enforcement will be better. Meanwhile, in response to the latest hurricane season, developers are considering including in new construction backup sources of electricity such as solar power and some local architects are pushing for sustainable buildings.
Indiana University Students Host Booths At Elementary School STEM Night.
The AP (12/5) reports Clear Creek Elementary School held its first STEM Night, organized to introduce families to “some of the science, technology, engineering and math principles students are learning in class.” Indiana University students hosted some of the “seven or eight stations,” each of which “unpacked a STEM-related educational standard to explore.” The volunteer IU students “are working toward a Computer Education License, which would certify them to teach computer science classes in the state of Indiana.” IU Instructional Systems Technology development instructor Candace Buggs and “Clear Creek principal Susan Petty arranged for the students to create kid-friendly booths as part of their final project for the class.” Petty said she hoped the event would not only pique her students’ interest in STEM, but also show parents the possibilities that STEM offers.
Schools Around The Country Participate In “Hour Of Code” During Computer Science Education Week.
The Albany (OR) Democrat-Herald (12/5, Moody) reports about the “Hour of Code” event in schools in the Oregon counties of Linn and Benton as part of Computer Science Education Week. HP supports the coding activities, the story says, and this year used Star Wars to get children excited about code.
The Lonsdale (MN) News Review (12/5, Schwab) reports on the “Hour of Coding” event at TCU Lonsdale Elementary School in Minnesota, where technology teacher Joey Wollenburg taught “kindergarten through fourth-grade students...how to program materials new to their school’s curriculum,” a six-week course on how to use “critical thinking and problem-solving skills with basic forms of coding.”
Ohio Bill Would Expand Computer Science Programs.
The Columbus (OH) Dispatch (12/5, Siegel) reports on the legislation in Ohio that would encourage computer science education in the state with new course standards and options for learning. Ahead of the state Senate vote on the bill, which passed unanimously Tuesday, state Sen. Peggy Lehner said, “Anyone concerned by the achievement gap, or those who think today’s learners should utilize technological resources, or those who want Ohio to remain competitive in future job markets, they should support increase access to computer science in schools.” According to the story, aside from requiring the Board of Education to set new standards on computer science courses, the bill “would let a school substitute advanced computer science for either algebra II or a science course that does not include life science or biology.”
Once-Failing Washington, DC High School Now Boasts Several Programs In Engineering, Construction.
The Washington Post (12/5, Kelly) reports about the transformation at Phelps ACE High School in Washington, DC, the “top-secret District government research and development facility” that reopened in 2008 after having been shut down in 1991. The Post profiles some of Phelps’ “modern technical classrooms where students get hands-on experience in distinct areas: carpentry, engineering, architecture, electrical, sheet metal and welding, HVAC and refrigeration, and Cisco networking.” The schools’ robotics team is even receiving assistance from two adult volunteers from the US Department of Transportation, the story mentions, just one of several such partnerships that “allow Phelps students to gain real-world experience outside the classroom.”