The Monthly SWE Newsletter
July 2014
February 2012

Engineering for Change: Ph.D. Candidate Develops Wound Pump to Triple Patient's Healing Rate

Danielle Zurovcik, a Ph.D. candidate at MIT, along with her team, created the Wound Pump, an alternative to the $25,000 medical device used in hospitals. The Wound Pump, which was developed to conform to low costs, portability and operation without electricity, can help heal potentially life-threatening injuries in settings where people may not have the resources to use the more expensive medical devices. Click here to read the full article from Engineering for Change.

SWE Magazine Winter 2012 Edition

The SWE Magazine Winter 2012 edition is now available. Click here to read the magazine in its entirety or view the featured articles below.

Education and Workforce Chair Releases Draft Accountability, Teacher Effectiveness Legislation

In late December, House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) said that while the Committee has been working for months on a bipartisan re-write of the “No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB),” the two parties were not able to reach agreement. Therefore, Republican lawmakers decided to release two additional pieces of NCLB legislation in early January, which are intended to improve accountability, increase flexibility and support more effective teachers in the classroom.

In his statement, Chairman Kline said, “The upcoming 10 year anniversary of No Child Left Behind provides an opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing our nation’s classrooms. There is a strong sense of urgency that the heavy-handed law must be reformed to ensure more children have access to the quality education they deserve.”

The first of the two bills is the Student Success Act, which focuses on updating NCLB’s accountability system, the adequate yearly progress metric. The bill intends to reform education by:

  • Returning responsibility for student achievement to states, school districts and parents, while maintaining high expectations
  • Providing states and school districts greater flexibility to meet students’ unique needs
  • Investing limited  taxpayer dollars wisely
  • Strengthening programs for schools and targeted populations
  • Maintaining and strengthening long-standing protections for state and local autonomy

A summary of the Student Success Act is available online.

The second bill, the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, would like to offer states and local districts more flexibility by:

  • Providing information to parents on teacher effectiveness
  • Increasing school choice and engaging parents in their child’s education
  • Increasing state and local innovation to reform public education
  • Eliminating unnecessary and ineffective federal programs
  • Supporting Impact Aid

A summary of the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act is available online, as is an additional analysis of the new Republican ESEA bill.

Commerce Department Report on Competitiveness and Innovation Highlights U.S. Commitment to Education, Infrastructure and Cutting-Edge Technology

A report unveiled earlier this month by Commerce Secretary John Bryson titled, “The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States,” focuses on the need for the nation to continue to support the three pillars of innovation and competitiveness: basic research, education and infrastructure. The report was mandated by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act which was signed into law one year ago. While the legislation was aimed at a gradual doubling of the research budgets of key science and engineering federal research agencies by 2017, tight budgets since 2010 have left the country far off track for meeting the long-term funding goals of COMPETES.

The report concluded that “common to all three pillars—research, education and infrastructure—is that there are areas where government has made, and should continue to make, significant investments. For a variety of reasons, the private sector under-invests in these areas so the government needs to step in to bring investment up to the socially optimal levels. An additional common thread between these three pillars is that the benefits of these investments took years to be fully realized. This long-term outlook should not be forgotten.”

“There are clear actions that can help this nation regain its innovative and competitive footing. To succeed, we must have the will to implement and to sustain the policies that will prepare the United States to continue to be an economic leader in the 21st century,” including the following:

  • Continue to support government funding for basic research
  • Enhance and extend the R&D tax credit
  • Speed the movement of ideas from basic science labs to commercial application
  • Address STEM shortcomings
  • Increase spectrum for wireless communications
  • Increase access to data to help spur innovation
  • Coordinate Federal support for manufacturing
  • Continue and strengthen efforts to foster regional clusters and entrepreneurship
  • Promote America’s exports and improve access to foreign markets
  • Ensure that the conditions exist in which private enterprise can thrive

A webcast of Secretary Bryson’s presentation of the report before the January 6 meeting of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology is available online, as is a White House blog post discussing the report.

President Obama Meets with President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness at the White House

On January 17, President Obama convened a meeting at the White House with the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to discuss initiatives and policies to strengthen the economy, promote and accelerate job growth and bolster America’s competitiveness around the world. At that meeting, the Council presented ideas to spur job growth which are included in a new Jobs Council report available on the Council’s website.

The new Jobs Council report focuses on the following recommendations from three new streams of work focusing on long-term competitiveness:

  • Invest in Our Future with Education and Innovation: This strategy is focused on ensuring Americans have the right education and skills to realize their full potential, and cultivating a vibrant innovation ecosystem that supports new ideas.
  • Build on Our Strengths in Manufacturing and Energy: This strategy is focused on the manufacturing sector and how the U.S. can scale up and support clean energy while responsibly accessing unconventional supplies.
  • Play to Win through Regulatory and Tax Reform: This strategy is focused on instituting longer-term regulatory and corporate tax reform to support job creation.

Their specific education recommendations are as follows:

  • Providing clear performance data for the full spectrum of educational institutions (including pre-K–12 and higher education) can empower parents, students, education providers, government and employers to drive systemic improvements in education and better match labor skills supply with employer demand.
  • Improving STEM education throughout our educational system is critical in an increasingly technical world.
  • Raising standards across the educational system is a fundamental tool for improvement, including speeding the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and expanding them to science in collaboration with the nation’s governors.

The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness was created to provide non-partisan advice to the President on ways to strengthen the economy and ensure the competitiveness of the United States. The Jobs Council is made up of representatives of various sectors of the economy who offer diverse perspectives from employers and workers in the private sector on how the Federal Government can best foster growth, competitiveness, innovation and job creation.

The Jobs Council held its first meeting at the White House on February 24, 2011, focusing on finding new ways to promote growth, encourage hiring, educate and train U.S. workers to compete globally, and attract the best jobs and businesses to the United States. The Council has held two additional meetings—in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina in June and in Pittsburgh, PA in October.

Report: U.S. Lost One Quarter of High-Tech Manufacturing Jobs in a Decade

The United States remains the global leader in supporting science and technology (S&T) research and development (R&D), but only by a slim margin that could soon be overtaken by rapidly increasing Asian investments in knowledge-intensive economies. So suggest trends released in a new report by the National Science Board, the policy-making body for the National Science Foundation (NSF), on the overall status of the science, engineering and technology workforce, education efforts and economic activity in the United States and abroad.

According to the new Indicators 2012, the largest global S&T gains occurred in the so-called "Asia-10"—China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand—as those countries integrate S&T into economic growth. Between 1999 and 2009, for example, the U.S. share of global R&D dropped from 38 percent to 31 percent, whereas it grew from 24 percent to 35 percent in the Asian region during the same time. In China alone, R&D growth increased a stunning 28 percent in a single year (2008-2009), propelling it past Japan and into second place behind the United States.

That means that the United States lost 28 percent of its high-technology manufacturing jobs over the last decade, as the nation’s rapidly shrinking lead in S&T in the global marketplace was accompanied by a toll on U.S. high-tech jobs. U.S. employment in high-technology manufacturing reached a peak in 2000, with 2.5 million jobs. The recession of 2001 provided the first big hit causing “substantial and permanent” job losses, the report said. By the end of the decade, more than a quarter of the jobs were gone.

The relative shift of R&D to Asia also can be seen in overall expenditures. The United States still does more R&D than any other single country, spending $400 billion in 2009. But for the first time, the Asian region has nearly matched the United States, with R&D expenditures of $399 billion.

NSF has launched a number of new initiatives designed to better position the United States globally and at home by enhancing international collaborations, improving education and establishing new partnerships between NSF-supported researchers and those in industry, for example:

  • Science Across Virtual Institutes fosters interaction among scientists, engineers and educators around the globe. Because S&T excellence exists in many parts of the world, scientific advances can be accelerated when scientists and engineers work together across international borders.
  • The NSF Innovation Corps program, a public-private partnership, will connect NSF-funded scientific research with the technological, entrepreneurial and business communities to help create a stronger national ecosystem for innovation.
  • NSF investment in advanced manufacturing holds great potential for significant short-term and long-term economic impact by promising entirely new classes and families of products that were previously unattainable, including emerging opportunities in cyber-physical systems, advanced robotics, nano-manufacturing, and sensor- and model-based smart manufacturing.
  • Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability is a cross-disciplinary approach to sustainability science designed to spark innovations for tomorrow's clean energy.

President Obama’s Proposed Higher Education Changes in SOTU

In his State of the Union address and a follow-up speech at the University of Michigan, President Barack Obama announced a major new higher education initiative, “a new, $1 billion version of his signature Race to the Top competition aimed at encouraging states to improve their higher education systems—while requiring that they maintain adequate levels of funding for higher education if they hope to win one of the grants.”

In addition, the Administration would create a $55 million grant contest, called the “First in the World” competition, to help institutions scale up promising strategies in areas such as technology and early-college preparation.

During his speech, President Obama warned universities that they might be in “danger of losing key federal student financial aid if they don't keep tuition in check and are unable to graduate higher numbers of students, including those eligible for Pell Grants, which help low-income students pay for college.” Specifically, the Administration would like to rethink the formula for distributing campus-based aid, such as that in the Perkins Loan Program, to reward institutions that keep tuition costs down while graduating higher numbers of low-income students.

To implement both proposals, Congressional approval would be needed, and to date, the reaction on Capitol Hill has been mixed.

Interestingly enough, the president did not address much of his K-12 agenda during his speech, specifically the Race to the Top program or the Administration’s recent decision to consider granting states NCLB waivers. An analysis from Education Week said that this could due to Congressional Republicans’ recent criticisms and efforts to de-fund these initiatives—or the president was concerned about alienating teachers, many of whom have not been supportive of the aforementioned initiatives.

New GAO Report Analyzes the Federal Government’s STEM Programs

In mid-January, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report analyzing the federal efforts, funded at more than $3 billion in total, to improve STEM education across 13 agencies. While the report found most of the programs “overlapped to some degree with at least one other program,” the report said this overlap should not automatically be interpreted as redundancy. However, the report also notes that a majority of these programs have not been subject to comprehensive effectiveness evaluations since 2005. In addition, those programs with evaluations were not always in alignment with program objectives. The report was requested by House Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN).

Elaborating on the potential duplication, the GAO report continues, "Many programs have a broad scope, serving multiple target groups with multiple services. However, even when programs overlap, the services they provide and the populations they serve may differ in meaningful ways and would therefore not necessarily be duplicative. Nonetheless, the programs are similar enough that they need to be well coordinated and guided by a robust strategic plan."

The conclusion of the GAO report calls on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to lead a government-wide STEM education strategic planning effort, working with the other federal agencies “to better align their activities with a government-wide strategy, develop a plan for sustained coordination, identify programs for potential consolidation or elimination and assist agencies in determining how to better evaluate their programs.”

OSTP is already drafting such a STEM strategic plan, which is slated to be released in conjunction with the Administration’s FY 2013 budget. In addition, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) recently released its own report, which was described as "the most detailed inventory of the federal STEM education portfolio ever compiled.” Regarding duplication, the NSTC said, “There is only modest overlap in investments and no duplication among the STEM education investments. That does not mean that there are not opportunities for better alignment and deployment of STEM resources."

In responding to the findings of the GAO report, Chairman Kline released the following statement: “The federal government has dedicated significant resources to developing STEM programs, yet taxpayers have seen little evidence that these programs are actually working. According to the GAO, only about a quarter of the 209 federal STEM programs have been evaluated for efficacy since 2005, and nearly 90 percent overlap with at least one other program. Investing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is a worthwhile endeavor—but pumping billions of dollars into programs that may be duplicative or unproductive is just plain foolish.”

Also of interest, Chairman Kline’s draft bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is discussed in more depth below, would eliminate the $150 million Math and Science Partnerships program at the U.S. Department of Education.

Read This Month's Letter from President Melissa Tata

As the month of February begins, remember that Engineers Week is February 19-25, 2012. I hope all SWE members will do something to encourage a child to consider an engineering career and/or increase public knowledge on the positive impact engineers make. Volunteer kits can be ordered at the Engineers Week website.

It is a great honor to announce that I recently attended a meeting of the science and technology community with Dr. John Holdren, the President’s Science Advisor, on behalf of SWE. The meeting was held in the West Wing of the White House in the Roosevelt Room. At this meeting, I had the opportunity to thank Dr. Holdren for the Administration’s work to diversify the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce, and encourage the Administration to continue this work, i.e. Title IX reviews at the federal science and engineering agencies, in 2012.

Politicians of both political parties agree that the goal of STEM education is to educate and train the next generation of discoverers and entrepreneurs, and to not only have a tech-savvy workforce but a greater population that has science literacy. In order to continue to have funding for and general public support of scientific and engineering pursuits, it’s important that we all serve as STEM ambassadors. Many of our peer scientific organizations have said that they tend to focus their communication on their constituents who are already STEM proponents. As our members support outreach activities, I encourage discussions about the benefits of science and engineering to society and diverse audiences.

I wanted to draw attention to an upcoming exciting opportunity for SWE members. On March 21-22, the SWE Government Relations and Public Policy (GRPP) Committee is sponsoring a Congressional outreach day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the event is to increase awareness of the need for and the importance of increased diversity and inclusion in the STEM workforce. SWE is taking the lead in organizing this event, and to date, 26 STEM and diversity organizations have agreed to co-sponsor.

SWE’s “2012 Capitol Hill Day: Diversity and Inclusion Drives Innovation in STEM” event will begin promptly at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21, and conclude by 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 22. This event is made possible by a grant from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, and I encourage all interested SWE members to consider attending this event. When I attended a couple years ago, it was truly eye-opening for me. It demonstrated how an individual engineer can affect the public policy process by educating members of Congress and their staff on issues of importance to SWE. It also showed how respected SWE is on Capitol Hill, and within the Obama Administration, as the gender diversity power broker in STEM public policy. While there are no specific volunteer travel funds available for this event, some meals will be provided for attendees. Anyone interested in participating or with questions should contact Karen Horton, GRPP Chair, at karen.horton@swe.org by February 24. Please note that space is limited, and reservations will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. Geographic diversity will also be considered.

I continue to be impressed with our FY12 results as evidenced in our scorecard. In particular, our Collegiate-to-Career, transition and joint membership numbers are strong and we should continue this emphasis as we chart toward achieving more than 20,000 members in FY12. As we approve the updated strategic plan, we ensure we will continue to multiply the momentum for the next year and a half. Of course, our success is built upon all the great actions of our members, and I encourage everyone to share their success stories.

 

melissaMelissa Tata
FY12 SWE President
president@swe.org

How do you deal with stress in your professional life?

Every so often, at the end of a grueling work week or the completion of a major project, I declare a Total Veg Day. I stay in the house and in my pajamas all day, and just putter around doing whatever catches my fancy… I think this actually makes me more productive and stress-resistant when I come back to the real world and get back to work, since I am mentally and physically refreshed and ready to go.” ~Sandi M.

“Years ago, I was lucky enough to work in the same building as my best friend. When either of us had a stressful moment, we would go for a walk in the shop and share our frustrations.” ~Stacey D.

“I just took up knitting. When I think, I mess up my stitches, so it forces you into a zen-like trance. Worth trying!” ~Jen H.

To get more tips from fellow SWE members, visit our Facebook page!

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