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September 18, 2016



A provision in the House defense authorization bill that would keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list has stalled House-Senate negotiations over the FY 2017 defense authorization bill. The conference report won't reach the floor of both chambers until the post-election lame duck session, CQ reports. The language was demanded by House Armed Services Committee member Bob Bishop (R-Utah) who says giving the bird protected status would interfere with military training in the west. The defense bill's progress was already complicated by the prospect of a White House veto, which likely would force lame duck lawmakers to rewrite certain sections and pass it a second time. 

STOPGAP SPENDING BILL DELAYED UNTIL NEXT WEEK: No one wants a government shutdown when the new fiscal year starts October 1, but efforts to avoid it are starting to get tricky. A stopgap continuing resolution that would fund the government through December 9 is stymied by election-year fights over Zika funding and Planned Parenthood. Other add-ons may cause more back and forth. 

KEEPING ROBOTICS IN AMERICA: Sridhar Kota,Herrick Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan, told a congressional panel this week it's an "open question" whether promising robotics and artificial intelligence products will be manufactured in the United States. We've gone from a trade surplus in advanced technology products "to a deficit of approximately $90 billion in 2015," he says. "What I believe we need right now is a whole-of-government approach that leverages the strengths and missions  of  different federal science  and  technology  agencies" to translate discoveries and inventions into products. Also needed: firsthand experience for K-12 students: "While high schools commonly require students to dissect a frog, few require students to disassemble a power tool—let alone a robot." See the rest of the hearing.

THE NEW HOUSE VOICE ON HIGHER ED: Rep. Virginia Fox, R-N.C., "appears poised to get the Republican Steering Committee’s nod" to chair the House Education and Workforce Committee, CQ reports. "A defender of for-profit schools," Foxx says the so-called gainful employment rule "and other actions by the Education Department have been unfair in their treatment of the industry." Of Corinthian Colleges, which closed last year, she says: "“Whether there was something wrong I don’t think has played itself out yet.” 

'NOVEL IDEAS' FROM INDUSTRY: Across all areas of nuclear reactor technology, industry is investing in novel concepts, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz tells Congress. "This level of activity in industry on novel ideas is a new development with potentially significant implications," he says. Rapid innovation is occurring in small modular reactors. "Several factors, however, pose challenges to the path to deployment for SMRs, including the current low price of electricity and low electricity demand growth." 


Trends in First-Time Graduate Enrollment by Broad Field of Study, Fall 2005 to Fall 2015

Council of Graduate Schools, Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2005 to 2015. Note: Trends were developed based upon institutions that provided data for all years 2005 to 2015.


Trends in First-Time Graduate Enrollment for Temporary  Residents in Engineering and Mathematics and Computer Sciences,  Fall 2010 to Fall 2015

Council of Graduate Schools, Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2005 to 2015. See item below.


U.S. RESEARCH KEEPS UP WITH GDP - JUST: Total U.S. R&D grew an average of 1.2 percent between 2008 and 2014, "matching the average pace of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP)," according to new date from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Estimates for 2015 put R&D near the half-trillion mark. The business sector is by far the largest performer of U.S. R&D, accounting for $340.7 billion, or 71 percent of the total in 2014. The federal government conducted $52.3 billion, or 11 percent, of U.S. R&D in 2014, of which $34.4 billion was performed by agencies in their own facilities, with the remainder performed at federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs).

WHITHER BROADBAND RESEARCH? The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the National Science Foundation are seeking public input in broadband technology; access and adoption; socioeconomic impacts; and opportunities for federal leadership. This will "help to improve data collection, analysis and research for the benefit of broadband policy development, program implementation and program evaluation." Learn more. In another collaboration, NSF and NASA will "support human health research in polar environments" and "research beneficial to human space flight."

WOMEN IN SMALL BUSINESS: MIT's Media Lab will host a Women SBIR Networking and Awareness Day Oct 5 to supplement  the 2016 New England Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Conference. Attendees will hear from panelists who have moved technology out of the lab and into the market. Learn more

EMPHASIS SHIFTS IN NANO PROGRAM: The new Scalable Nanomanufacturing (SNM) solicitation now seeks "investigation in scalable nanomanufacturing and integration of multi-component nano-enabled integrated systems. The research will focus on overcoming the key scientific and engineering barriers that prevent the translation of laboratory-scale discoveries in nano-enabled integrated systems to an industrially relevant scale, reliably, affordably and within sustainability and environmental, health and safety (EHS) guidelines."  

TRUMP ECHOES HOUSE GOP: The presidential contender's responses to ScienceDebate.org seem "to have drawn liberally from . . .  arguments" advanced by Republicans who lead the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, writes Jeff Mervis of Science. These lawmakers "have emphasized that science must serve a broader national interest, that federal regulations are stifling economic growth and personal freedoms, and that the Obama administration has twisted research findings to serve its own ideological ends." Democrat Hillary Clinton says: “Strong STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] programming in every public school is critical to our nation’s success and to reducing economic and social inequality. … Beyond high school, we need to do more support the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other Minority-Serving Institutions that train a large share of scientists and engineers of color.”

DOMESTIC GRADUATE ENROLLMENT IS UP: "The 3.8% increase in first-time graduate enrollment among U.S. citizens and permanent residents is sizable compared to the changes between Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 (1.3%), the Council of Graduate Schools reports. At the same time, "first-time graduate enrollment of international students rose by 5.7%, a rate considerably lower than in recent years. This change in growth also occurred within the broad fields of study, particularly in engineering and mathematics and computer sciences. Of note, "URM (underrepresented minority) women are better represented vis-à-vis their male peers in biological & agricultural sciences (58.7%), physical & earth sciences (41.7%), mathematics & computer sciences (34.6%), and engineering (27.0%)," indicating "encouraging trends for participation of URM women in STEM fields [while] the continued overall underrepresentation of Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native students in STEM, especially URM males, is highly problematic." Also: URM graduate students are still underrepresented at research universities with very high research activity.

A NUMERICAL TRIBUTE: This week marks the 30th anniversary of the death of engineering giant Joseph M. Pettit, a past ASEE president who was born 100 years ago this year. Pettit was dean of the Stanford University School of Engineering (1958 to 1972) and president of Georgia Tech (1972 to 1986). Under his leadership, the value of research contracts and grants received by Georgia Tech increased more than eightfold and Tech’s research budget surpassed $100 million for the first time. In a fun commemoration, Aziz S. Inan, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Portland, has composed a series of dizzying brain teasers that Pettit might have enjoyed. You can find them among publications on Inan's website


PROCEEDINGS of ASEE's 2016 Annual Conference and International Forum are available online.

ALL MAY ATTEND: The Zone II Conference (Engineering Everywhere for Everyone) takes place March 2-5, 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, All ASEE members are invited. It promises to be an amazing experience! Submit abstracts by September 16. Visit http://zone2.asee.org to begin the submission process and see what has been planned so far.

Prize-winning eGFI:  Jump-start the semester with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's magazine for middle and high school students. Winner of the APEX Grand Award for Publication Excellence, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about engineering with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about engineering. Click here to purchase copies, For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.