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May 7, 2016



Protecting Women in Combat: All soldiers have to lug around too much weight in the form of equipment, protective gear, and their own clothing. So the Army is currently working on a Soldier Protection System intended to reduce poundage and increase mobility, while optimizing protection. As it does so, House Armed Services Committee wants the military to make sure it takes account of "the specific and unique requirements" of female combat troops. The directive appears in a report accompanying the House version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Here are some other of the committee's interests:

Assuring Equity in Research Grants: A Government Accountability Office found "discrepancies in the number of grants awarded to women and men at the Department of Defense within certain components," according to the panel, but also a lack of data, which "limited their ability to gauge the success rates of men and women." The committee wants to know how the Pentagon plans to improve data collection "to provide complete and analyzable records for grant awards."

Pilot Safety: F/A-18 pilots seem to be experiencing a growing number of "physiological events" possibly caused by lack of oxygen or contaminated air, the panel says. "[T]he potential for aircraft mishap caused by a lack of oxygen or contamination of the onboard oxygen generation system (OBOGs) is real and should be addressed."

Metrology, "or the development of precise measurement tools, is an important aspect of materials research" and ought to be developed further, the committee says.

Hypersonic Flight: Development and testing is "critical to posturing the Department for the future warfighting environment," the committee believes. If the Pentagon intends to develop reusable hypersonic platforms, "there is a need to invest in the near term to do the characterization and materials research needed . . . ."

Hyperspectral Imaging Technologies: The committee encourages their development for the detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive constituent chemicals.

3-D Printing: The Pengagon ought to "stay actively involved in this community to understand and develop a better appreciation for both the opportunities it could provide, as well as the threats it could pose in the hands of a resourceful adversary," the panel argues. It should "leverage existing organizations, such as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, as well as expand that community to include other universities, non-profit research institutes, and other industry partners to expand the state of the art for the use of additive manufacturing technology."

Human Systems Integration: The panel wants to know how the Pentagon plans to improve its use in acquisition programs.

Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions: This could be a disruptive technology, producing ultra-clean, low-cost renewable energy and potentially revolutionizing energy production and storage, the committee suggests. If so, it would have "strong national security implications."

Directed Energy Weapons - lasers - have encountered new challenges, the House committee finds. Members want to see a roadmap for enabling technologies, including: beam directors and adaptive optics; thermal management needs and capabilities; integration challenges with fire control systems; power architectures and power electronics needs; and facilities and test range capabilities.

Minority-Serving Institutions: The Pentagon should continue to collaborate with these and with minority-owned businesses, the panel says. "Additionally, the committee urges the Department to increase opportunities for partnerships in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education programs, research and development efforts, and other areas across the Department's science and technology enterprise."

Third Offset Strategy: This concept, mentioned in a previous Capitol Shorts, is all well and good, as is Defense Secretary Ash Carter's Silicon Valley outreach through the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx). However, "the committee is concerned about any Third Offset efforts that distract from the primary focus on deterring Russia and China."

'COMPETES' IS BACK: David Munson, engineering dean at the University of Michigan, will be among witnesses at a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing May 11 titled “Leveraging the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise." The hearing grows out of the Innovation and Competitiveness Working Group, led by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), which the committee says is "preparing legislation directing science and technology policy last authorized by the America COMPETES Acts." Witnesses are asked to address "ways to improve the roles of the federal government, private sector, and academia in science and technology research and development, STEM education and workforce opportunities, and the application of research and development to commercial uses." Besides Munson, the lineup includes Kelvin Droegemeier, an atmospheric scientist and vice chair of the National Science Board; Jeannette Wing, a computer scientist - formerly at Carnegie Mellon and NSF - who's now corporate vice president for research at Microsoft; and Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.


Source for both graphics: National Science Board, "Higher Education as a Public and Private Good"

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A RUSH TO BE INCLUDED: The National Science Foundation received 600 proposals for its INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) initiative, Director France Córdova told the National Science Board. Following merit reviews by some 40 program officers, 100 researchers will be asked for further proposals. Of these, 40 will be picked for pilot projects. Other presentations featured an array of programs in the Computer & Information Science and Engineering directorate. It turns out that NSF funds 82 percent of federally funded computer science research.

CRUCIAL FOR DEMOCRACY: While U.S. higher education is the "envy of the world," a National Science Board Sense of the Board statement declares that Americans get too bogged down in arguments over the direct employment benefits of certain degrees and miss the full benefit of education. "The NSB believes that higher education plays a broader, intangible, and crucial role in supporting the past, current, and future success of our democratic society. This role must be highlighted and better appreciated," says the Board.  Read the brief.

OVERWHELMING 'INDICATORS': "[W]hat began as a slim, 145-page report has ballooned into a 1500-page behemoth,"  reports Jeff Mervis in ScienceInsider, referring to the NSB's biennial "Science & Engineering Indicators." One idea emerging from a workshop: Put the report on a diet. "Several participants argued that a svelter Indicators would let the staff of NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), which compiles the report, spend more time being a clearinghouse and service center for the research community."

RESEARCH AT HBCUs: NSF is launching a pilot program "to strengthen the research capacity at HBCUs," which represent  "a vital asset." The 100 accredited Historically Black Colleges and Universities comprise about 2.2 percent of all institutions of higher education.in the United States. Learn more.

CAREER Q&A: Members of a coordinating committee for the NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) are hosting a webinar May 26 "to answer participants' questions about development and submission of proposals."

HELP WANTED - DEPUTY DIVISION DIRECTOR: NSF's Engineering Directorate seeks a deputy director of the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET). "Appointment to this Senior Executive Service position may be on a career basis, or on a one- to three-year limited-term basis, with a salary range of $160,300 to $177,800." See the position requirements.

BETTER APPLICATIONS SOUGHT: The Pentagon is said to be disappointed by a paucity of high-quality applications to its largest single investigator grant program, the National Security Science & Engineering Faculty Fellowship (NSSEFF). According to the program's website, it's looking for the kind of research that "may lead to extraordinary outcomes such as: revolutionizing entire disciplines, creating entirely new fields, or disrupting accepted theories and perspectives." Applicants have a chance to redeem themselves in NSSEFF's upcoming funding opportunity. A webinar is intended to give researchers a better understanding. Tenured professors, staff scientists and engineers from accredited U.S. doctoral degree-granting academic institutions may apply. Approximately 10 fellows are picked each year. Each gets up to $3 million. Register for the webinar.

SHADOW OVER SOLAR: One of the key challenges to further solar deployment, the Department of Energy says, "is the ability to integrate distributed generation sources like rooftop solar panels into the grid while balancing that generation with traditional utility generation to keep reliable and cost-effective power flowing to homes and businesses." $25 million is available through Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy (ENERGISE) to "help software developers, solar companies, and utilities accelerate the integration of solar energy into the grid."

CAMPUS ENTREPRENEURS: The Cleantech University Prize "seeks to catalyze clean energy start-up formation on college campuses, support novel training and educational opportunities that equip the next generation of energy entrepreneurs and innovators across the country, establish a national-level training program and competition for America’s top clean energy student entrepreneurs, and create a sustained and diverse community to support student entrepreneurs." Read the notice.


MANUFACTURING IN THE U.S. AND ABROAD: Findings in an updated Congressional Research Service report include these: The United States’ share of global manufacturing dropped from 28% in 2002 to 16.5% in 2011; China displaced the United States as the largest manufacturing country in 2010; U.S. manufacturers spend far more on research and development (R&D) than those in any other country, but manufacturers’ R&D spending is rising more rapidly in China, South Korea, and Taiwan; manufacturers in all major manufacturing countries appear to be spending increasing amounts on R&D, relative to their value added.

FUTILE EFFORTS: A recent article in the journal Small Business Economics despairs of government attempts to stimulate entrepreneurship: "[M]ost western world policies do not greatly reduce or solve any market failures but instead waste taxpayers’  money,  encourage  those  already  intent  on  becoming  entrepreneurs,  and mostly generate one‐employee businesses with low growth intentions and a lack of interest in innovating." What would work? [A] central‐payer healthcare would remove health‐care related distortions affecting employment choices; greater STEM education would produce more engineers of which some start valuable new firms; and labor market reform to encourage hiring immigrants in jobs they have been educated for would reduce inefficient allocation of talent to entrepreneurship."


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.

'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.


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.

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.