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February 27, 2015




The heads of Pentagon S&T agencies sound confident they'll have working directed-energy weapons in the near future. "You know, we've long had a conversation about directed energy being just five years off and it's always just been five years off," Rear Adm. Mat Winter, chief of Naval Research, told the House Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee. "I think we're now today at a different place, a place where those systems are now rapidly moving towards realization." The Air Force plans to put a defensive medium-powered laser on a fighter aircraft. The Army's Mary Miller, deputy assistant secretary for Research and Technology, said "I believe we're very close. . . [W]hat we need to do is build trust with our operators so they understand what lasers can do."

LESS OF MOORE: Stephen Welby, assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, says the approaching end of Moore's Law predictability in computing power "is going to create new opportunities." He didn't specify how. Other R&D topics he's enthused about: Drones, including the Navy's work on undersea vehicles and DARPA's unmanned ocean-crossing surface vessel; swarming air vehicles; biological technology - "an area for which the department is not as strong as we could be"; and manufacturing of advanced systems. All these areas, he noted, "have commercial implications."

YOUNG AND RESTLESS: Welby told the subcommittee the government can't hope to match the average 7.5 percent engineering salary increase last year reported by the National Engineering Salary Survey. "[E]very year, we kind of fall behind in terms of that offer we're able to make people." Whereas new hires in the past willingly traded higher pay for stability, "the current generation doesn't want stability. What they want is opportunity."

A 'VIGOROUS' R&D APPROACH is called for in a new Army regulation entitled Software Reprogramming for Cyber Electromagnetic Activities. The document was brought to light by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. It says "timely mission software" needs to be provided to the field "to counter anticipated threats."

ROBOTIC FIELD HANDS: Ellen Williams, director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, sees potential in TERRA, in which robots wander around fields inspecting biofuel crops. These 'bots, combined with remote sensing data analytics, computation, and genetic modeling, will "allow us to greatly accelerate how fast we can develop more sustainable new crops." An early DARPA project by Stanford engineers - radiative cooling - has the potential to scale up and make a commerical impact, Williams tells E&E TV. According to the university, its "ultrathin multilayered material can cool buildings without air conditioning by radiating warmth from inside the buildings into space while also reflecting sunlight to reduce incoming heat." 

'NEW ERA FOR CITIES': The President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology sees "discrete and distinct districts and sub-centers" supplementing historic downtown centers, creating "the perfect living laboratory . . . large enough for new technology implementations to have an impact, but also manageable." The beginnings of a City Web platform already exist that "can help cities build on each other’s work" and open solutions to smaller cities. Read more

NIST OPENS MANUFACTURING INSTITUTE CONTEST: This will be the first "open topic" solicitation as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. One institute will be funded with 2016 money and one or more from 2017 funds. Nine institutes are already under way. Learn more.

See also the Annual Report of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.  

STAR FACULTY (Cont'd.): Five engineers were left off last week's list of Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. They are, from left, Dino Di Carlo, Jonathan Hopkins, and Benjamin Williams of UCLA; Kristen Wendell, University of Massachusetts Boston; and Adam Abate, University of California, San Francisco.  




STICKING TO A HARD LINE: In a document giving its "views and estimates," the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee spells out the policies it expects appropriators to follow in funding the leading science agencies, including the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy's Office of Science. For NSF, it specifies directorate-level spending and the requirement that each grant meet "national interest" criteria, a goal of chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), left. Any further NNMI funding would need to come out of DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program. NASA earth sciences would be cut, and no space agency resources could be used for the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The panel plans to turn its attention to Federal Aviation Administration research and development; "science reform" at the Environmental Protection Agency, and reorganization of the Science and Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security.

BUDGET PROSPECTS DARKEN: Republicans' internal negotiations "have barely moved the needle," CQ reports. A compromise is needed "between leadership and members who believe the budget needs to adhere to spending levels agreed to in last year’s budget deal, $1.07 trillion, and those who want to stick to the sequestration spending level, $1.04 trillion — a difference of $30 billion in discretionary spending."


OUT OF BALANCE: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation identifies a generally overlooked area in which minorites are underrepresented: "These groups constitute 32 percent of the total U.S.-born population" yet make up "just 8 percent of U.S.-born innovators...Despite comprising 13 percent of the native-born population of the United States, African Americans comprise just half a percent of U.S.-born innovators." Other findings:

"Four-fifths of innovators possess at least one advanced degree, and 55 percent have attained a Ph.D. in a STEM subject. Half of innovators majored in some form of engineering as an undergraduate, and more than 90 percent majored in a STEM subject as an undergraduate. STEM graduates from private undergraduate colleges and universities are more likely to become innovators. However, innovators are more likely to hold graduate degrees from public universities than private ones."

Percentage of Females Among Innovators Born in the United States and Among Innovators Born Abroad

Source: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation,  The Demographics of Innovation in the United States


REDESIGNED ETHICS WEBSITE: The National Academy of Engineering has relaunched its Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science (OEC). "Previously focused primarily on ethics issues in engineering and research, the redesigned website has expanded" to address "ethically significant issues that arise in scientific and engineering practice and from developments in science and engineering."

BEST PRIVACY PRACTICES: A new National Academies report summarizes workshop discussions - among academic and private sector experts and representatives of the intelligence community - on "the privacy implications of emerging technologies, public and individual preferences and attitudes toward privacy, and ethical approaches to data collection and use."


ERC REGISTRATION AND HOUSING: The Engineering Research Council's annual conference will be held March 7-9 at the Sheraton Hotel in Silver Spring, Md. Click here to reserve your hotel room. Find more information, including a preliminary program, here.

ABET CRITERIA VIRTUAL CONFERENCE: A Preliminary Conversation on Proposed Changes to ABET Criteria 3 & 5 will run from Sunday, March 6th, 9 am EST to Tuesday, March 8th, 9 pm EST. The conference is intended to gather preliminary thoughts prior to the 2016 Interdivisional Town Hall Meeting at our annual meeting in New Orleans. Click here to participate.

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.