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March 12, 2015




The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency observes that the transportation, construction, agricultural and other commercial sectors now use "highly sophisticated components" that adversaries could turn into "novel and unanticipated security threats." So DARPA wants experts from multiple disciplines to look "with an inventor’s eye" at off-the-shelf electronics, components created through rapid prototyping, and open-source code and imagine how they can become sophisticated military capabilities. “DARPA’s mission is to create strategic surprise," says program manager John Main in an agency press release. The new effort, dubbed Improv, "is being launched in recognition that strategic surprise can also come from more familiar technologies, adapted and applied in novel ways,” he says. Webinars are set for late March. 


National Academy of Engineering President C. Daniel Mote will lead a search committee seeking a successor to Pramod Khargonekar, who has been assistant director for engineering at the National Science Foundation since March, 2013. A Dear Colleague letter from NSF Director France Córdova says recommendations of individuals "from  any sector — academic, industry, or government — are welcome." These can be sent to engsrch@nsf.gov.

ROAR OF THE CROWD: Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing have contributed to post-disaster damage assessment and emergency response, development of new systems to monitor polluted bodies of water, and large-scale elicitation of preferences for informing product design. But  "concerns have been raised about the reliability, validity and trustworthiness of the data and results they produce," NSF says -- particularly when data bear upon the well-being of communities, including those exposed to risks from hazards. The agency invites proposals that address these concerns.

9,000 MORE COMPUTER SCIENCE TEACHERS: That's the aim of a $120 million, five-year NSF effort, part of the Obama administration's Computer Education for All initiative. In FY 2016, the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) and Education and Human Resources (EHR) directorates seek proposals on the "development or adaptation, piloting or full implementation, and testing of: Models of preservice preparation for teachers who will teach CS and CT; scalable and sustainable models of professional development and ongoing support for teachers; tools and models for teaching and learning aimed at supporting student success and inclusion in computing within and across diverse populations, particularly those populations that have been traditionally underrepresented in CS and STEM fields; instructional materials and high-quality learning opportunities for teaching CS and, especially at the elementary and middle school levels, for integrating CT into STEM teaching and learning; and collaborations and partnerships that support integration of computing and CT within K-12 STEM curricula and instruction." 

EAGER TO STUDY BUGS: NSF's biological sciences directorate and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are teaming up to offer Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) grants for "innovative approaches for phenotyping and microbiome characterizations, as well as for elucidating the role of microbiomes in plants and animals." Projects could include: "Technologies that increase the accuracy and throughput of existing phenotypic and microbiome data acquisition; extending the diversity of phenotypes that can be measured; automation or mechanization, including robotics and sensors, for phenotyping; standardization of ontologies, interoperability of platforms and systems, and integration of datasets; technologies that would identify the metabolic activities specific to particular microbes within a microbiome as well as facilitating elucidation of biochemical communication between microbes, and between microbes and their hosts"; and "novel modeling approaches that address problems in phenotyping or microbiome structure and function."

I-Corps L WEBINAR: NSF's Innovation Corps Teams Program encourages submission of proposals that utilize recent discoveries and promising practices from STEM education research and development and promote opportunities for their widespread adoption, adaptation, and utilization. I-Corps for Learning (I-Corps L) Teams will receive support - in the form of mentoring and funding - to accelerate innovation in learning that can be successfully scaled, in a sustainable manner (read full DCL). One-page applications should be emailed directly to Program Director, Karen Crosby (kcrosby@nsf.gov) by April 1st, 2016. For more information, attend the Prospective PI Webinar, on Friday, March 18, 2016, at 4:00pm ET.

$25 MILLION FOR EFFICIENT ELECTRIC MOTORS: Electric motors now use some 70 percent of the electricity consumed by U.S. manufacturers and nearly a quarter of all electricity consumed nationally, says the Department of Energy. So the office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Advanced Manufacturing Office "plans to select eight to twelve projects through the Next Generation of Electric Machines: Enabling Technologies funding opportunity. Specifically, this funding targets the development of key technologies that will enable further efficiency enhancements and weight reductions in a cost effective way, while addressing the limitations of traditional conductive metals and silicon-infused "electrical" steels used in motor components." Find out more.

WEEK OF MAKING: The 2016 National Week of Making will be June 17-23 and the National Maker Faire will be June 18-19, the White House says. Read more on the Office of Science and Technology blog.

GENDER DISPARITIES IN GRANT AWARDS: The Government Accountability Office found that at the Office of Naval Research, men "had a success rate that was 6 percentage points higher compared to women," according to a December report mentioned at this week's Engineering Research Council meeting. At the Department of Energy's Office of Science, "women had a 34 percent success rate, on average, over 5 years, while men had a 41 percent success rate over the same time period, a difference of 7 percentage points." However, at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, GAO "found success rates for women were higher than for men." At NASA, data limitations prevented analysis of success rates. 



Source: National Science Board, 2016 Science and Engineering Indicators


CORE RESEARCH VS. NEW EXPERIMENTS: "Your challenge is to ensure that new facilities don’t come at the expense of your research mission," Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) told  an appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Department of Energy's science account. It was the first appearance before the spending panel.by Office of Science Director Cherry Murray, left, former Harvard engineering dean. She testified alongside Franklin Orr, undersecretary for science and energy. The American Institute of Physics FYI newsletter reports that the hearing "was largely devoid of sharp statements" that characterize budget fights these days. Rather, "members of both parties largely focused on longer-term efforts, expressing keen interest in the Department of Energy’s plans for upgrading user facilities, developing exascale computing capabilities, and improving technology transfer." See a video. In the Senate, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) who chairs the energy and water appropriations panel, repeated his call for an eventual doubling of basic energy research, but rejected President Obama's proposal to fund some increases with new revenue streams. Alexander proposes instead to end subsidies for oil, gas, and wind, which he calls "mature technologies." 

GOP WORKS TO RESOLVE INTERNAL BUDGET RIFT: CQ reports that Republicans on the House Budget Committee expressed optimism they would come up with a budget next week that the full House could consider the week of March 21. But "that is not certain," CQ says. Meanwhile, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce chairmen are working on separate legislation to cut nondiscretionary spending on social programs, including Medicaid for prisoners and children's health insurance. Conservatives want to remove $30 billion in spending added to the FY 2017 budget as part of last year's bipartisan agreement. In the Senate, "the appropriations process is moving into gear," according to CQ, with subcommittees expecting to get their 302 (b) allocations - which tell them how much they can spend - around mid-April.  



Graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math from U.S. institutions may remain for optional practical training (OPT) for a total of 36 months under a new federal rule due to go into effect May 10. The new rule adds 7 months to the maximum OPT period. A Department of Homeland Security announcement in the Federal Register says the new rule "also improves and increases oversight over STEM OPT extensions by, among other things, requiring the implementation of formal training plans by employers, adding wage and other protections for STEM OPT students and U.S. workers, and allowing extensions only to students with degrees from accredited schools."

LICENSURE AND STATE FUNDING: With states increasingly linking public funding of colleges and universities to student outcomes, a RAND study looks at ways of measuring performance. Fundamentals of Engineering, Professional Engineer and Structural Engineer exams for engineering majors, the study says, "provide a useful and systematic source of data on the knowledge and skills of graduates in specific fields that require licensure. Because all graduates in fields that require licensure must pass these assessments in order to obtain relevant jobs within their fields, institutions place great emphasis on aligning curricula with the content covered in the assessments." The study was one of five papers released by the Lumina Foundation.


YES, WE CAN: The influence of climate change on heat waves, drought, and heavy precipitation can now be estimated, thanks to improvements in the understanding of climate and weather mechanisms and the analytical methods used to study specific events, according to a new National Academies study. "More research is required to increase its reliability, ensure that results are presented clearly, and better understand smaller scale and shorter duration weather extremes such as hurricanes and thunderstorms." 

$25,000 VIDEO PRIZE: The National Academy of Engineering has announced the 3rd annual Engineering for You Video Contest (E4U3). This year's topic is Mega Engineering - projects that "typically address important needs of large populations and/or societies, require teams working across countries and cultures on a solution, and involve at least three disciplines, including engineering." Examples are human travel to Mars; new large-scale energy sources like fusion; engineering better medicines and access to medical care; economically sweeping the oceans of plastic waste; creating remarkable tools of scientific discovery like the Large Hadron Collider; and building sustainable cities. NAE is looking for 1-2 minute videos that (i) introduce a particular mega-engineering project, (ii) highlight its importance/contribution to people and society, and (iii) suggest contributions to its development. The Grand Prize of $25,000 will go to the most inspiring video. Visit www.e4uvideocontest.org to learn more!



ASEE Board Elections are underway.
The postmark deadline for paper ballots has been extended to March 31, 2016. Members are encouraged to vote electronically at http://www.asee.org/public
(Note: You must be logged in to vote electronically.)

NORTHEAST SECTION CONFERENCE: The section, with members from  Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as well as Eastern Canada, will hold its annual conference at the University of Rhode Island from Thursday, April 28th, 2016 to Saturday April 30, 2016. The theme will be “Revolutionizing Engineering Education.” See the conference website. The student poster abstract deadline is March 1. Please encourage your undergraduate students to submit their capstone design projects, independent research projects, or other projects in a poster format. Graduate students can submit their project, thesis, or dissertation work as well in a poster format. Abstracts must be less than 1200 words.


New Navigation Section - Papers Management:
The new section contains upcoming deadlines, guidelines, call for papers, and kits for authors, program chairs, reviewers, and moderators.

Author's Kits are Available:
• The 2016 Annual Conference Author's Kit -- available on the website -- contains extremely important information regarding the submission process as well as all relevant deadline dates.

THE ST. LAWRENCE SECTION CONFERENCE will be held at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.,  April 8-9, 2016. This year the conference will include several workshops. The calls for papers, presentations, posters and workshops as well as  information about the Conference Program, Registration, and Hotel information is available on http://stl.asee.org/conference_2016.html.

eGFI IS HERE: Help inspire the next generation of innovators with the all-new 6th edition of ASEE's prize-winning magazine for middle and high school students: eGFI (Engineering, Go For It). Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about learning - and doing - engineering. To purchase copies, go to http://store.asee.org/  For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.