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September 11, 2015



With a longterm road bill stalled, a House science panel has time to influence its R&D provisions. Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Republican from traffic-clogged northern Virginia who chairs the House Science research subcommittee, wants a five-year strategy and all research by various transit agencies coordinated by a single official at Transportation. Her bill calls on the department to compile an online database of all research projects, including, where practical, those by University Transportation Centers. The National Research Council appears to get a strong say. Besides congestion and road surfaces, Comstock addresses integration of emerging technologies so that cars, trucks, traffic signals, cyclists, and pedestrians "can interact with and among each other through secure communications." The panel sent to the full committee the Future Transportation Research and Innovation for Prosperity Act, or Future TRIP Act, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.). It calls for research intended to "lay the foundation for the broad scale adoption of automated vehicle technology."

COUNTDOWN TO SHUTDOWN? Congress has eight scheduled legislative days before the fiscal year ends September 30 and no clear plan for passage of a stopgap continuing resolution to fund the government into FY 2016, CQ reports. Republican leaders face strong pressure from social conservatives to defund Planned Parenthood in the process. And House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) "did not rule out" tacking on language "that would seek to stymie the implementation of the Iran nuclear pact," according to CQ. The Office of Management and Budget says: "The President has made it clear that he will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation" of the Iran deal.


Graphic by Jennifer Pocock; source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF)


WEST COAST STRETCHABLE ELECTRONICS HUB: The San Jose, Calif.-based FlexTech Alliance will lead the Obama administration's latest manufacturing hub. This public-private venture will get "about $165 million in funding over the next five years from a mix of sources including the U.S. Department of Defense and a group of companies, universities, research centers and the local government," EE Times reports. "Products are expected to include active, stretchable patches such as sweat sensors that could measure hydration of athletes, soldiers and medical patients." Flexible electronics, the report says, "could help create soft robots or prosthetics with a lifelike sense of touch." Also: light-weight sensors embedded into roads and bridges. Read the White House press release.

AN OUNCE OF 'PREEVENT'-ION: The National Science Foundation encourages proposals for its Prediction of and Resilience against Extreme EVENTS (PREEVENTS) program. It aims to "enhance understanding of the fundamental processes underlying natural hazards and extreme events on various spatial and temporal scales," as well as their variability; improve models of said hazards and events and their impact; and "enable development of new tools to enhance societal preparedness and resilience." Learn more.

ROTEA IS NEW EEC DIRECTOR: Mario A. Rotea, inaugural head of the mechanical engineering department at the University of Texas at Dallas, began work September 8 as Engineering Education and Centers division director in NSF's engineering directorate. A former NSF program director, he has also been department head for mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue. Learn more.

BUSINESS INNOVATION FINALISTS: Engineering faculty at UC Berkeley, a Ph.D. candidate at Drexel University, and several engineering undergrads at the University of Pittsburgh were among winners in the most recent phase of the Department of Energy's Sunshot-BTO Business Innovation Competition. They will go on to the prototyping phase. See all the finalists.


HIGH DEFAULT RATES AT FOR-PROFITS, COMMUNITY COLLEGES: A Brookings Institution study found that most of the increase in student loan defaults "is associated with the rise in the number of borrowers at for-profit schools and, to a lesser extent, 2-year institutions and certain other non-selective institutions, whose students historically composed only a small share of borrowers." These students came from lower-income families, "attended institutions with relatively weak educational outcomes, and experienced poor labor market outcomes after leaving school."  Students at four-year public and private colleges had relatively low default rates.

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING CONTEST:  Sponsored by the The Association For Manufacturing Technology and the German Machine Tool Builders’ Association, this competion "recognizes innovations in additive manufacturing for industrial applications. This includes developments in the design of systems or major components, advances in processes or materials, new applications, data generation or measurement." Universities may participate. Learn more.


CONVERGING ON NANOTECHNOLOGY: Chad A. Mirkin of Northwestern University is the first winner of the National Academy of Science's $400,000 Prize in Convergence Research. He could be said to personify the growing research trend. He is director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology, the George B. Rathmann Prof. of Chemistry, Prof. of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Prof. of Biomedical Engineering, Prof. of Materials Science & Engineering, and Prof. of Medicine.


JOIN THE PROFILES SURVEY: The 2015 ASEE Survey of Engineering and Engineering Technology Colleges is now open.  We need your school to participate to create an accurate picture of engineering education in the U.S.  For providing data and paying a fee, your school’s data will be published online, you will receive a copy of our Profiles in Engineering and Engineering Technology Colleges book, and you will have access to our data mining tool with seventeen years of engineering education data.  Your school may register at https://survey.asee.org/registration.  Questions? Contact Brian L. Yoder, Ph.D.  Director of Assessment, Evaluation, and Institutional Research, 202-331-3535, or b.yoder@asee.org

NOW AVAILABLE: An all-new 6th edition of eGFI (Engineering, Go For It), ASEE's award-winning magazine for middle and high school students. To purchase copies, go to https://store.asee.org/products/egfi-magazine. For bulk purchases or other inquiries, contact eGFI@asee.org or call 202-331-3500.