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                                October 13, 2018



A strategy document acknowledges the need for a strong federal role in maintaining U.S. competitiveness. It notes that "private investments in manufacturing-based technologies have dramatically shrunk in recent years as investors focused on the rapid return on investments possible through software-based start-ups." Public investment in basic and early-stage applied research, together with public-private R&D partnerships, can help drive private-sector investment, it says. While U.S. production and employment have fallen sharply in communications and computer manufacturing, the nation still leads in testing, measuring and control instruments, aircraft and spacecraft, and pharmaceuticals. 

The document lays out three goals: Develop and transition new manufacturing technologies; educate, train, and connect the manufacturing workforce; and expand the capabilities of the domestic manufacturing supplychain. It says the Trump administration "has underscored the importance of STEM education to the development of the future American workforce."

See Businesses spent $375 billion on R&D performance in US in 2016a 2017 Deloitte assessment of the Manufacturing USA institutes, and a 2017 National Academies report on Manufacturing USA..

PHENOTYPIC REENGINEERING AND SOFT ROBOTS: The National Science Foundation's Engineering Directorate has picked two topics for funding under the $30 million Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) program for 2019: Chromatin and Epigenetic Engineering (CEE), and Continuum, Compliant, and Configurable Soft Robotics Engineering (C3 SoRo). CEE seeks "new strategies for reversible regulation or engineering of the systems of gene expression to modulate the phenotype and function of a living organism." C3 Soro asserts that soft robots "promise substantial advantages over traditional rigid robots in accomplishing open-ended tasks in an unstructured environment and in physical interfaces with biological organisms, including humans. Robots with a mix of mobility, strength, and configurability matching or exceeding what is found in the natural world would allow unprecedented extension of human perception and action to inaccessible and hostile environments." Learn more.

'NETWORKS OF NETWORKS': NSF's Accelerating Research through International Network-to-Network Collaborations (AccelNet) builds on "investments in research networks, international network connectivity, large-scale science and engineering facilities, and research centers located both inside and outside the U.S." It fosters "networks of networks, creating links between multiple networks that cross international boundaries, rather than creating a single new network."

DARPA SEEKS MORE SWARM 'SPRINTERS': Having awarded contracts to eight institutions and companies as part of its second swarm sprint, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is soliciting proposals for a third. This one "will focus on the topics of human-swarm teaming and swarm tactics." Second-round winners include researchers at Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Michigan Tech, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. See the new solicitation. See also: Teaching Machines Common Sense Reasoning, another step toward human-level AI. 


A 'BIG FIGHT' AFTER THE MIDTERMS: That's the prediction of Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, CQ reports. The cause? Republicans' intent to fund President Trump's border wall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) plans to seek $5 billion, according to the Washington Examiner. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), left photo, who hopes to succeed Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as speaker, has introduced legislation calling for $16.6 billion for wall construction and $6.8 billion for infrastructure and technology improvements for the Border Patrol, according to CQ. His bill, HR 7059, "does not include a provision to legalize so-called Dreamers . . . or to help reunite migrant parents who remain separated from their children because of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border security policy."

$20 MILLION FOR NEW WATER TECHNOLOGIES: A water resources bill awaiting President Trump's signature authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to provide competitive grants totalling $10 million in FY 2019 and $10 million in FY 2020 to accelerate "development  and  deployment  of  innovative  water  technologies  that address pressing drinking water supply, quality, treatment, or security  challenges  of  public  water  systems,  areas  served  by  private wells, or source waters." The grants would require a local match of 35 percent. The bill also authorizes $2 million over two years for grants "to assist the development and utilization of innovative activities relating to workforce development and career opportunities in the water utility sector; and to  expand  public  awareness  about  water  utilities and  connect  individuals  to  careers  in  the  water  utility sector."


Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Global Warming of 1.5 °C, "an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty." See the press release.

Source: Deloitte, 2017, "Manufacturing USA: A Third-Party Evaluation of Program Design and Progress"

Deloitte says: *Value-Add is an economic measure expressing tthe “value” (in terms of labor and capital input into a manufactured good) in each country. If a country begins to conduct more highly complex activities to manufacture goods, the “value-added” of that country will be higher. It typically requires increased productivity and more highly-skilled (and thus highly paid) workers, and can lead to increased internal consumption and exports.


"A VITAL NEW FIELD': This is how academic institutions ought to view data science, a new National Academies report argues. Not only should all undergraduates gain a basic understanding of the topic, but a faculty cadre needs to be developed to provide majors and minors with "specifically tailored instruction." Over time, "academic programs will be compelled to develop new skill clusters, and a body of distinctive courses and instructional materials will emerge." Read the report.


ABSTRACT SUBMISSIONS ARE OPEN . . . for ASEE's 126th Annual Conference & Exposition at the Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, Fla., June 15 - 19, 2019. See the Call for Papers (you may need to log on to the website as a member).

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.

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