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April 29, 2016



While Senate and House appropriators continue grinding out FY 2017 spending bills, the difficulty of enacting all 12 during an election year became obvious this week. Democrats blocked a Senate vote on the Energy-Water appropriation after Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) proposed an amendment they said would undermine the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal and prompt President Obama to veto the whole measure. (For more on that, see below.)

HOUSE PANEL SLASHES EERE: In their version of the Energy-Water bill, House appropriators took aim anew at the Obama administration's renewable-energy drive. A report accompanying the legislation complains that the White House continues to focus on energy sources "that provide only a fraction of the energy produced in this country." The panel knocked $1 billion off the administration's requested $2.9 billion for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs at the Department of Energy, providing $1.8 billion - $248 million below current spending.

WARY OF MORE CENTERS: The appropriations panel remarks that centers and institutes constitute "a growing portion of [DOE's] budget" as well as "a significant out-year investment" and says the agency should "take a critical look." It refused to fund a proposed Water Desalination Hub.

FOOD, ENERGY, WASTE: House appropriators want DOE and the Department of Agriculture to address, together, "the energy and water challenges inherent in four-season production systems." Research projects at various DOE labs and the Agricultural research Service should develop "affordable, deployable, energy- and water-efficient food production platforms, beginning in food-insecure communities across the country." Members also encourage research on how biosolids from wastewater treatment plants can be used to extract fuels and precursors, as well as "to reduce the volume of waste materials . . . produce byproducts to meet chemical supply shortages, such as phosphorous, and . . . enhance the subsequent development of technologies to deliver important chemical feedstocks, including hydrogen."

ADVANCED MANUFACTURING TRIMMED: The House appropriations panel provides $214 million advanced manufacturing, $14.5 million below current spending and $47 million below Obama's budget request. Nevertheless, it's willing to fund Critical Materials Energy Innovation Hub, the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, the Carbon Fiber Test Facility, and six Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation (CEMI) Institutes.

SUPPORT FOR ITER: House appropriators would contribute $125 million to build the ITER project, putting them at odds with their Senate counterparts, who want to end U.S. support. However, they say "cost increases and major schedule delays have brought uncertainty as to whether the project may still be completed within a reasonable baseline."

QUITE A MOUTHFUL: Timothy Wei, right, engineering dean at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, will introduce a Capitol Hill panel discussion May 10 entitled: "Exploring the Nexus of Food and Advanced Manufacturing for American Competitiveness, Food Safety, and Global Security." 

'SWORDS-TO-PLOUGHSHARES PAYOFF': That’s how Science describes an $8.6 million deal between the U.S. Department of Energy and Iran that's now holding up the FY 2017 Energy-Water appropriation bill. The sum will pay for the purchase of heavy water, which Iran is required to get rid of under the nuclear agreement with the West. “DOE will resell a portion to industry for uses such as nuclear MRI and protecting optical fibers and semiconductors against deterioration by blasting them with deuterium gas,” writes Richard Stone. “DOE will also send six tons to Oak Ridge [National Laboratory]” to upgrade an accelerator that generates powerful beams of neutrons for research.


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock. Click here for a larger interactive version.  


DISPATCHABLE DISTRIBUTED ENERGY RESOURCES, or D-DERs, owned by small and midsized manufacturing enterprises, are attracting interest from utilities and regulators. "Past assessments of D-DERs concluded that these resources could increase electric system reliability, reduce peak power requirements, provide ancillary services . . . , improve power quality, reduce land use for transmission line rights-of-way, and increase grid resilience to adverse events (including terrorism and extreme weather)," says a Department of Energy workshop report. "Discussion focused on key technical barriers that need to be addressed for D-DERs to play a larger role in providing services to the grid and the R&D pathways that have the greatest potential to overcome the barriers. Topic areas explored included advances needed in generation systems, forecasting and optimization tools, power conditioning systems, telemetry and network systems, sensors, controls, and data processing technologies." 

PREVENTING ANOTHER FLINT: The President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology "will recommend to the president actions the federal government can take, in concert with cities and states, to promote application of the best available science and technology to drinking-water safety, now and in the future, says a White House announcement. "PCAST will look at how contaminants in water are detected and monitored from source to tap, how the associated risks are assessed and remediated, and how information about contaminant concentrations, risks, and remedies is communicated to officials and the public." 

FUTURE ENGINEERS? A White House update on the federal STEM strategy notes: "[T]he most recent survey from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ Civil Rights Data Collection shows that 50 percent of U.S. high schools do not offer calculus and 27 percent do not offer physics. Between 10 and 25 percent of high schools lack more than one of the core courses in the typical sequence of high school mathematics and science education, such as algebra I and II, geometry, biology, or chemistry. Twenty-five percent of high schools with the highest proportion of African-American and Latino students do not offer algebra II, and 33 percent of these schools do not offer chemistry."

NANO EXCITEMENT: Explaining its budget for nanotechnology research facities and infrastructure, a White House report says: "Over its lifetime, the NNI has successfully fostered the transition of nanotechnology discoveries from lab to market and has enabled the growth of new industries that have exploited the unique properties of the nanoscale to make products that have enhanced our way of life."

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR NETWORKING, IT R&D: According to a White House budget supplement, these include: robotics and intelligent systems to advance physical and computational agents that complement, augment, enhance, or emulate human physical capabilities or human intelligence; large-scale data management and analysis to develop the ability to analyze and extract knowledge and insight from large, diverse, and disparate sources of data, including structures for data capture, curation, management, and access; high-capability computing systems (HCS) and associated application software, communications, storage, data management, and HCS infrastructure to meet agency mission needs; research and development to enable advancements in high-capability computing systems, spanning the hardware, software, architecture, system performance, computational algorithms, data analytics, development tools, and software methods for extreme data- and compute-intensive workloads, and developing fundamentally new approaches to high-capability computing systems." 


SUSPENDED: Linda Katehi, chancellor at the University of California–Davis and an electrical and computer engineer, has been placed on a 90-day administrative leave. During that time, an investigation will be conducted to examine allegations of conflicts of interest in employing her direct relatives, as well as claims that she paid consulting companies to scrub evidence of 2011 campus police misconduct from the Internet. Read more.

PERFORMANCE ANXIETY: The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) issued a report on high performance computing (HPC) U.S. competitiveness. The report recommends changes that Congress and the administration should implement to stay ahead of the curve. Read the recommendations.

A STUDY IN CLASS: The Chronicle of Higher Education details a recently-published MIT report that explores the future of online learning. “The core of the report…is based on the premise that online education and online tools can enable advances in effective pedagogical approaches, including constructivism, active learning, flipped classrooms, problem-based learning, and student-centered education.” Read the report.

TIPPING POINT: A perfect storm of soaring tuition, dwindling state support, and stagnant wages has put higher education beyond the reach of most lower-income and even middle class Americans, a new report concludes. Analyzing national data on room, board, and other fees to calculate true costs, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt, and the Higher Education Policy Institute developed a state-by-state analysis of how much families could actually cover. Their diagnosis: “When it comes to paying for college, the deck is stacked against low- and middle-income Americans.” Even in the best-performing states, college—including two-year institutions—is less affordable now than before the 2008 recession.


GRAND CHALLENGES: “In 2008 a committee of distinguished engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and visionaries set out to identify the most important, tractable engineering system challenges that must be met in this century for human life as we know it to continue on this planet. Seven of the 18 committee members who formulated the Grand Challenges for Engineering in 2008 reflected on what has happened in the seven years since. Grand Challenges for Engineering: Imperatives, Prospects, and Priorities summarizes the discussions and presentations from this forum.” Read the report.

INFRASTRUCTURAL FORMULA: Future Directions for NSF Advanced Computing Infrastructure to Support U.S. Science and Engineering in 2017-2020 outlines recommendations for four broad goals: “1) Positioning the United States for continued leadership in science and engineering, 2) ensuring that resources meet community needs, 3) aiding the scientific community in keeping up with the revolution in computing, and 4) sustaining the infrastructure for advanced computing.”  Read the report.


The Minorities in Engineering Division is seeking ASEE members who support the mission and vision of the division to self-nominate or nominate someone they feel can fulfill the role of Program Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, or Member-at-Large (2 positions available).  Those interested should contact Darryl Williams at Darryl.Williams@tufts.edu.


APPLYING EVIDENCE-BASED TEACHING PRACTICES in Computing Education - A New Half-Day Online Training Workshop, June 1, 2016, 1 - 4 PM, ET. Cost: $50. Computers are now as important to research as telescopes and test tubes, but most researchers in STEM are still not taught the equivalent of basic lab skills for computing. In this interactive 3-hour online workshop, Software Carpentry co-founder Greg Wilson will introduce several evidence-based teaching practices and show how they can be used when teaching graduate and undergraduate STEM students. https://docs.asee.org/public/Webinars/2016ComputingWorkshopFlyer.pdf.

NETI WORKSHOP IN WASHINGTON: An Advanced National Effective Teaching Institute (NETI-2) workshop will be held June 1-2, 2016 at the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, D.C. Faculty familiar with NETI-1 and who have more teaching experience will benefit from this advanced teaching workshop led by Drs. Susan Lord, Matt Ohland, and Michael Prince. You may obtain additional information about the workshop by going to https://www.asee.org/conferences-and-events/conferences/neti. Participants in NETI-2 will include a maximum of 50 faculty members from all branches of engineering and engineering technology. The registration fee of $950 covers organization and presentation costs, participant notebooks, breakfasts, lunches, and breaks. Attendees' institutions are expected to cover the participants' expenses for transportation, lodging, and one meal per day.

PRESENTATIONS delivered at ASEE's Public Policy Colloquium and Engineering Research Council meeting are now online. Find them on the ASEE PEER archive.

'ENGINEERING-ENHANCED' LIBERAL EDUCATION: ASEE, with financial support from the Teagle Foundation and expert guidance by leading education consultant Sheila Tobias, has launched a website highlighting case studies that examine the benefits of greater integration between the liberal arts and engineering. Find out more.


'ARE ENGINEERS AUTHORITARIAN? A Dialogue on Engineering Education and a Terrorist Mindset' is the title of a panel discussion at the upcoming Annual Conference that "will explore questions relating to engineering mindsets" and "the finding that engineers are over-represented in extremist groups." That finding is the topic of a recent book, Engineers of Jihad. For other highlights, check out the conference website.

Engineering & Engineering Technology Chairs Conclave

Join us at the ASEE Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA on June 26, 2016 for the inaugural Chairs Conclave, an exclusive forum for Engineering and Engineering Technology Chairs to exchange ideas, share experiences, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. This full day event, designed by Chairs, for Chairs, includes presentations on relevant topics including financial development and managing external connections, and facilitated opportunities for group discussion and brainstorming.  Register today – space is limited! Learn more and view the full agenda.

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.

eGFI Summer Reading: Is your school hosting an engineering camp, bridge program, or professional development session for K-12 teachers this summer? Jump-start the learning with eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's award-winning magazine for middle and high school students. Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, eGFI aims to get teens fired up about 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.