Leading the News
Oklahoma Engineering Students Help Youth With Deformed Hand.
KWTV-TV Oklahoma City (2/23, Shaw) says a group of biomedical engineering students at the University of Oklahoma “are helping a 12-year-old Oklahoma City boy who was born with a deformed left hand.” One student explained: “We took some measurements on him and saw what problems he was having, specifically with his hand, and modified it to fit his needs.”
Private Banks Seek A Larger Piece Of The Student Loan Market.
The Wall Street Journal (3/7, Mitchell, Andriotis, Subscription Publication) reports that private lenders are seeking a larger piece of the $100 billion-a-year student-loan market. The Consumer Bankers Association is urging the government to place instate caps on how much graduate students and parents of undergraduates can borrow from the government to cover tuition. The result would be that many families will have to use private lenders to cover part of their bills.
Student Loan Servicers Collecting From Borrowers Awaiting Forgiveness.
The Washington Post (3/7, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that some students who have filed claims with ED seeking to have their student loans canceled and are awaiting a decision – or have been notified that their loans are to be discharged – have been notified by their student loan servicers that they are nevertheless to begin payments. The Post reports that people “who are awaiting action on student loan forgiveness are suddenly facing debt collection, even though the Education Department is supposed to postpone loan payments while considering their applications.”
ED Continuing Considering Changes To Gainful Employment Rule.
U.S. News & World Report (3/7) reports in its “Student Loan Ranger” blog on the current revisions being debated to ED’s gainful employment rule, describing the negotiated rulemaking process that is taking place. Under President Obama, ED “strengthened the gainful employment rule,” but now “the Department of Education is considering the removal of the bulk of penalties for-profit colleges and universities would face. When the Department published its most recent proposal in February, many higher education experts weren’t surprised by the call to defang the controversial Obama-era regulation.” The piece continues to define the rule and to explore how changes might impact student loan consumers.
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NEW Webinar on Professionalism, Ethics, & Department Climate
This webinar, led by David Mogk (Montana State) and inspired by the National Academies’ Impacts of Sexual Harassment in Academia, explores components of professionalism, introduce topics that contribute to workplace climate, and suggest actions to ensure everyone’s success in your department. The live webinar is March 14 from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM, ET. Register now!
NEW TUEE II Webinar Series — Preparing Tomorrow’s Engineers (March/April 2018)
This free, NSF-supported webinar series explores activities faculty can implement in the classroom to encourage professional skill development, focusing on leadership, ethics, and critical thinking. This series is inspired by the TUEE Phase II workshop, where students shared insights on education experiences. Read more and register: https://www.asee.org/webinars
Research and Development
NASA, DOE Researchers Working On Plan To Deflect Potential Earth-Bound Asteroids.
BuzzFeed (3/7) reports that researchers with the National Nuclear Security Administration, NASA, and DOE weapons labs have drafted “an official plan, just in case: They’ve designed a spacecraft to hit any large oncoming asteroids with a nuclear explosion. The Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response (HAMMER) spacecraft...would either steer its 8.8-ton bulk (called an ‘impactor’) into a small asteroid, or carry a nuclear device to deflect a big one.”
Uber Transports Freight Using Self-Driving Trucks In Arizona.
The Washington Post (3/7, Holley) reports that Uber is transporting freight using self-driving trucks on a highway in Arizona. The self-driving vehicles are Volvo trucks that have been retrofitted with Uber’s technology. The article mentions that the move towards self-driving vehicles, particularly trucks, is “being driven by a desire for greater safety, lower fuel costs and cleaner energy.” According to NHTSA data, over 4,000 people were killed and 116,000 were injured in accidents involving large trucks in 2015.
Mashable (3/7) and CNN Money (3/7) also report on the story.
Researchers Take Inspiration From Canine Nose To Develop Highly Sensitive Gas Detector.
Nanowerk (3/7) reports about new research where a team was “able to mimic a dog’s sniffer with graphene-based nanoscrolls.” Inspired by the lining of the canine nasal cavity, which is full of capillary networks that “cover such a large surface area, they can detect odors at extremely low concentrations,” the team “prepared graphene-based nanoscrolls with the addition of poly(sodium-p-stryrenesulfonate) using the freeze-drying method to create uniform, unaggregated structures.” These nanoscrolls were “wide, tubular...and almost all of the graphene was rolled up,” allowing them to be placed in “a gas sensor, which was highly selective and sensitive.” Unlike with past studies that used nanoscrolls for gas detection, this team’s work, published in ACS Nano under the title “Mimicking a Dog’s Nose: Scrolling Graphene Nanosheets ,” further demonstrated the economic scalability of their process.
Research From NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Includes New Details On Jupiter’s Cyclones, Gas Bands.
The Los Angeles Times (3/7, Khan) reports that NASA’s Juno spacecraft has “found a strange set of swirling cyclones at Jupiter’s northern and southern poles –- and found that the stormy bands ringing its surface may extend a whopping 3,000 kilometers deep.” The findings are detailed in a set of new studies published in the journal Nature. University of California at Santa Cruz scientist Jonathan Fortney believes that the new findings could “potentially revolutionize our understanding of the internal dynamics of such gas-giant planets.”
Huawei Steps Up Investment In 5G As International Competition To Lead In Next-Gen Wireless Heats Up.
The New York Times (3/7, Zhong, Subscription Publication) reports about Huawei’s investments and research into 5G by bringing in “experts from foreign rivals” and encouraging “them to lead international groups that are deciding the technical standards for tomorrow’s wireless gear.” Even as companies and states prepare for 5G, Huawei “has also been a top concern of Washington officials” after being “effectively shut out of the United States after a 2012 congressional report said Beijing could use Huawei’s equipment to spy on Americans.” The competition over 5G is also a big part of government scrutiny into Broadcom’s proposed takeover of Qualcomm, as US regulators are worried about strategic interests such as patents for 5G technology, 10 percent of which are owned by Chinese companies.
Engineering and Public Policy
Trump To Announce Tariffs With Possible Exemptions For Mexico, Canada.
President Trump’s plans to levy tariffs on steel and aluminum imports continued to generate extensive – and mainly unfavorable – media coverage, which highlights the concerns of GOP lawmakers and business leaders. The coverage also highlights that the President may have budged in his initial opposition to exempt certain countries from the tariffs. The CBS Evening News(3/7, story 7, 1:25, Glor) reported that “congressional Republicans are making a lasting-ditch attempt to change Trump’s mind,” and “it appears the White House is listening, because today for the first time...they said that countries like Mexico and Canada, US allies essentially, might be exempt.” The AP (3/7, Thomas) says the move “could soften the blow amid threats of retaliation by trading partners and dire economic warnings from lawmakers and business groups.” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters the exemptions “would be made on a ‘case by case’ and ‘country by country’ basis.”
The Washington Post (3/7, Lynch, Paletta) indicates, meanwhile, that “the announcement came after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a last-minute appeal for flexibility, saying that overly broad tariffs could damage relationships with US allies.” Breitbart (3/7, Carney) cites a “source” that “said that NAFTA trade negotiators think imposing the sanctions while the negotiations are ongoing would be ‘unhelpful,’” but “if the NAFTA negotiations fail, the exemption from the tariffs would be lifted.” This “is seen as giving Mexico and Canada greater incentives to cooperate with US demands.”
Bloomberg News (3/7, Talev, Olorunnipa) notes that earlier Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Ross had also “signaled that the administration is open to exempting countries besides Mexico and Canada, though he didn’t mention national security as a criteria that would be used.” Said Ross, “The president indicated that if we can work something out with Canada and Mexico, they will be exempted. It’s not inconceivable that others could be exempted on a similar basis.” The New York Times (3/7, Swanson, Subscription Publication) also points out Trump “and other administration officials have also indicated that Canada, Mexico or other close allies could be exempted through renegotiated trade deals or other measures.”
The New York Times (3/7, Swanson, Subscription Publication) reports the tariffs “would not go into effect immediately, however, with a two-week implementation period required under the statute that gives the president authority to impose the measures.” That” could give countries or companies a chance to submit input and try to sway the administration’s plan, according to the people familiar with the deliberations.”
Energy Execs Warn US Tariff Plan May Affect Costs Of Shale, LNG Projects.
Reuters (3/6, Hampton, Resnick-Ault) reports that in comments at the CERAWeek conference energy executives warned that the Trump Administration’s proposed aluminum and steel tariffs might increase the costs of shale and LNG projects, which in turn “could slow growth in production and exports of crude and natural gas from shale that has made the United States the world’s largest gas producer and second largest oil producer.” In an interview Freeport LNG CEO Michael Smith said that if the proposed tariffs had been in place when the company was constructing “its first three” LNG production lines, the costs would have increased by around $200 million, or 3.5% to 5%. Plains All American Pipeline CEO Greg Armstrong said that some pipeline projects might be hampered if developers are unable to purchase parts that are made from non-US sources. Additional coverage is provided by LNG Industry (UK) (3/7).
Interior Secretary Starts Backing Off Drilling Plan Amid GOP Resistance.
The McClatchy (3/7, Dumain) reports that “facing mounting pressure from fellow Republicans who see little constituent support for drilling off the Atlantic coast, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke could be backpedaling on the Trump administration’s initial plans to expand the program,” according to GOP lawmakers. The article says that “in a meeting with affected coastal GOP representatives last week, Zinke reaffirmed an exemption from the drilling for Florida, hinted to New Jersey officials their state was likely to be spared and left a Virginia congressman optimistic the policy would be overturned for his state, too.” Also, “Zinke said he’d travel to South Carolina to get a better sense of their concerns as well.”
EIA: US Coal Productivity Up Despite Mine Closings.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (3/7, Huba) reports that according to the US Energy Information Administration, US coal mining production “is trending upward despite the fact that mines are closing.” Factoring into “the increase in productivity are improvements in technology and processes, but a larger factor is the distribution of productivity across mines.” According to the EIA, “the mines that are first to close during market downturns are often the ones with higher production costs and lower productivity, while more-productive mines remain operating, increasing overall productivity.”
Analyst: Oklahoma Wind Farms Key To Sustainable Energy Future.
The Oklahoman (3/7) reports the US “is making economic and energy efficiency gains as renewable and sustainable energy projects continue to get built, and Oklahoma is doing its part and then some,” according to Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance head of US research Ethan Zindler. He “discussed Oklahoma’s role in bringing the technology to the forefront with legislators and state-based reporters Tuesday.” Zindler stated, “We are very optimistic about these technologies, especially ones most plentiful here in Oklahoma, including natural gas and wind. ... In our view, these technologies will continue to change the world going forward over the next 20 years, and they present a major economic opportunity for your state.”
Wednesday's Lead Stories