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                                   July 28, 2018



University representatives and congressional allies fended off a potentially chilling section of the National Defense Authorization Act. A House amendment would have prohibited Pentagon funding of researchers "who have in the past or are currently participating in a 'foreign talent or expert recruitment program' of China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea," universities said. House-Senate conferees replaced that provision. Instead, the final bill directs the Pentagon to launch "an initiative to support the protection of national security academic researchers from undue influence, including through foreign talent programs, and other security threats, by developing policies, training, and regulations and procedures with academic organizations." According to the conference report, they agreed this would "help support the protection of intellectual property, controlled information, key personnel, and information about critical technologies relevant to national security; protect academic freedom and global scientific collaboration; limit undue influences by countries seeking to exploit United States technology within the Department of Defense research; and support efforts toward the development of domestic talent in relevant scientific and engineering fields." Read an analysis of the final bill by Lewis-Burke Associates and an updated DoD spending chart prepared by the Coalition for National Security Research. 

A STRESS ON CYBERSECURITY, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Among provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act agreed to by House-Senate negotiators is one that directs the Pentagon "to improve awareness of cybersecurity threats among universities, in addition to small-and medium-sized manufacturers, in the defense industrial supply chain and to establish a broader cybersecurity activity for the defense industrial base as needed." Another section authorizes "a Cyber Institute at any college or university that hosts a Reserve Officers' Training Corps program, with special consideration for the Senior Military Colleges." Conferees also want to hear "how the Department of Defense can partner with and leverage universities and industry in cyber education and training." This would include the "ability to expand and leverage (current) partnerships to improve cyber education and training"; recommendations for changes to make existing curricula relevant to future threats; joint use of instructors and facilities, and "recommendations for legislative or administrative action to improve cyber education and training partnerships." (Photo: House Armed Services Committee)

AI FOR 'OPERATIONAL USE' is the aim of a NDAA provision calling for "a set of activities" that "apply  artificial  intelligence  and  machine  learning  solutions  to  operational  problems." Those responsible should "ensure  engagement  with  defense  and private industries, research universities, and unaffiliated, nonprofit research institutions." The bill authorizes $10 million for a National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence "to review advances in AI and associated technologies."

THREAT LEVEL: Lawmakers want the Pentagon to tell them how the United States compares with its adversaries on AI, hypersonics, quantum information science, and directed energy weapons. 

CONGRESSIONAL DYSFUNCTION? The defense authorization and the appropriations process remain seemingly immune to the Capitol's poisonous partisanship. The House adopted the fiscal 2019 NDAA conference report Thursday, voting 359-54. The Senate is expected to follow suit in coming days and send the legislation to the president for signature, CQ reports. It would mark the earliest passage of an NDAA since 1977.

DEFENSE, HHS SPENDING BILL LIKELY IN AUGUST: At least that's the "current plan" among Senate appropriators, CQ reports, quoting Missouri Republican Roy Blunt. The measure would fund the Pentagon, Labor and Education departments, and Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health.

CTE BILL AIMS TO SHRINK SKILLS GAP: Backed by Ivanka Trump and Fortune 500 leaders, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act has cleared Congress and awaits President Trump's signature. The act, last reauthorized in 2006, is the primary source of federal funding to states for career and technical education at the secondary and postsecondary level, Lewis-Burke Associates reports. While uses vary by state, the money generally goes to support professional development, programs of study, instructional materials and equipment, and other uses at high schools, “We have more than six million unfilled jobs in this country, due in large part to the skills gap," says Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), at left, chair of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. The $1.2 billion annual measure (as reported by the Society for Women Engineers) would address the gap with "innovative learning opportunities and strong community partnerships." Foxx says. Her Senate counterpart, Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander, is quoted by Politico as saying the measure limits the Education Department’s role in how the federal government doles out career education funding “so states don’t have to ask ‘Mother May I?' when they want to make changes to do what is best for their students.” Read more here.

A STRONG ENGINEERING FOCUS appears in a Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need funding opportunity. Lewis-Burke Associates explains here

CROWDED SKIES: Georgia Tech's John-Paul Clarke (far right photo) has a two-word answer to the question of whether flying cars are ready for takeoff: Not yet. First, there aren't enough trained people to operate the vehicles and air-traffic control and management. So both systems would have to operate autonomously, and there are "onerous" technological hurdles in the way. Then there's the proliferation of ports for the "vertical takeoff and landing" craft as well as noise, privacy, and safety concerns. Still, attendees at a House  Science, Space, and Techmology hearing could be forgiven a momentary thrill watching video of TF2, a "door-to-door three-part transportation solution" being developed by Terrafugia Inc. Anna Mracek Dietrich (near right photo), a founder of the Massachusetts firm, says TF2 could carry 1,000 pounds (presumably four to five passengers) on a 10-minute, 15-20-mile flight across town for $30 per person.


RESEARCH ON INTEGRATED PHOTONICS: The National Science Foundation is encouraging researchers to make use of the  American Institute of Manufacturing of Integrated Photonics, "an industry-led public-private-partnership that focuses the nation's premiere capabilities and expertise to capture and mature critical manufacturing domestic capability for integrated photonics. The Institute's goal is to emulate the dramatic successes experienced by the semiconductor industry over the past 40 years and transition key lessons, processes, and approaches to the photonic integrated circuit (PIC) industry." Learn more.

APPLICATION DEADLINES have been announced for the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program, managed by ASEE. "The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM or STEM education. NSF especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, persons with disabilities, veterans, and undergraduate seniors to apply." See the deadlines and learn more.

STILL WAITING: Congressional Democrats and the press continue to needle the White House about the absence of a presidential science adviser. Urging President Trump to appoint one, Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) noted in a letter that nine out of 10 key staff positions remain vacant at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which the adviser would direct. OSTP is currently run by nonscientist Michael Kratsios, 31, at right. Coons argues that "U.S. leadership in science and technological innovation did not happen by accident, but it is also not guaranteed." The Washington Post asserts that Trump has doubled the previous record for the length of time a president has gone without a science adviser. 


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock; source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. To see a larger, more readable version click here.


NEW DEAN AT DELAWARE: Levi T. Thompson, right, currently a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, has been named dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Engineering, effective Oct. 1. He succeeds Babatunde Ogunnaike, who will return to the faculty.

Rx FOR U.S. MANUFACTURING: Sustained strategic investments are needed for the United States to regain its manufacturing capabilities and ensure a return on federal R&D funding, says a report co-authored by University of Michigan mechanical engineer Sridhar Kota, founding executive director of MForesight: Alliance for Manufacturing Foresight. The country needs to invest in translational research and manufacturing innovation; encourage pilot production and scale-up for U.S. industry; empower small and medium-sized manufacturers; and  grow domestic engineering and technical talent. 


'UNIQUE FACILITY': A "glowing assessment" from the National Academies should help the Department of Energy justify building an electron ion collider at one of two national laboratories competing to host it, Science reports. Not only would the EIC advance understanding of the atomic nuclei that make up all visible matter in the universe, but it could offer far-reaching benefits to the nation's science- and technology-driven economy as well as to maintaining U.S. leadership in nuclear physics and in collider and accelerator technologies, the Academies report says.


CALL FOR PAPERS: A special issue of Advances in Engineering Education aims to curate proven practices and initiate larger conversations emerging from the work of engineering programs that engage students and faculty in the rigorous research, design, field-testing, and dissemination of technology-based solutions that address global development challenges. Read the Call for Papers here.


. . . And from 2018 CoNECD, the Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference. Find those presentations here.

SEND US AN ANECDOTE: Prism magazine is putting together a special edition in honor of ASEE's 125th anniversary—and we would love to hear from you! How has your membership influenced your career? For instance, did connections made at a conference help you land a job? Were you inspired to alter your teaching or perhaps create a robotics league? Please leave a few sentences to let us know, as well as your name and email address so that we can follow up. The best quotes will appear in the upcoming special issue! Click here to join the survey. 

The Journal of Engineering Education (JEE) editorial team is considering changes to our strategic plan, processes for publishing articles, and formats for articles. We would like to gather input from members of the engineering education community to help better inform these decisions. Please complete this survey to provide your feedback. The survey is short and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.

ASEE AT 125 VIDEO CONTEST: One of the activities planned to mark ASEE‘s 125th anniversary is EEin25, the first-ever ASEE video contest. Undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students may submit a 90-second video on where engineering education will be in 25 years at ASEE‘s 150th Anniversary in 2043. Click here to find out more. Click here to learn about other activities commemorating 125 Years at the Heart of Engineering Education.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE ACCELERATOR: ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students has a wide array of resources: scholarship and internship/co-op listings, student news and essays, podcasts, professional development resources (e.g., advice on how to get an internship and how to make the most of it), and academic advice - plus entertaining engineering videos. Tell your students! Click here to subscribe. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.

FIRE UP THE FUTURE WITH eGFI: Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, the latest edition of ASEE's award-winning Engineering, Go For It is sure to get your students excited about learning - and doing - engineering!

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