Federal research support shifts away from engineering projects
Engineering's share of federal support for science and engineering (S&E) has plunged over the past three decades. That point is stressed in an "issue brief" presented by the National Science Foundation to Congress. Between 1970 and 1997, the report notes, the engineering portion of S&E funding dropped nearly two fifths, from 31.4 to 19.4%. Meanwhile, the share for life sciences shot up nearly half--from 29.4% of the total mix to 43.1%. A sharp rise in outlays for computer-related research led to a tripling of the percentage for mathematical and computer sciences, from 1.9 to 5.7%. Recent hikes in budgets of the National Institutes of Health "have stirred anxiety about funding imbalances between the life sciences and other fields," the issue brief states. The full text is on the Internet at: www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/issuebrf/ib99328.asp. U. S. Senators Bill Frist (TN) and Jay Rockefeller (WV) are sponsoring S. 296, the Federal Research Investment Act, which would require that Congress contribute "balanced" amounts of cash to "the various scientific and engineering disciplines." Phone Margaret Camp at (202) 224-5401.
Energy Department awards funds for fuel-cell, engine studies
Research in advanced fuel cells and high-efficiency automotive engines is getting a $70 million boost from the Department of Energy. The agency will divide the funds among 16 firms and colleges in nine states. The awards are intended to help reach the goal of the industry-government Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles: to produce affordable 80-mpg production prototype vehicles by 2004. The new projects will also aid development of similar fuel-cell technology for cogeneration applications in buildings. Fuel cells will be tested as part of high-efficiency systems that produce heating and cooling as well as electricity. Selected organizations will carry out cost-shared R&D over the next two to three years. Projects will focus on proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells for transportation and buildings, and new engine technologies, including compression-ignition and spark-ignition, direct-injection engines. E-mail Donna Lee Ho at Donna.Ho@ee.doe.gov.†
Panel recommends adding dummies of 10-year-olds in crash tests
Children from 5 to 16 years old need added protection in car crashes. So concludes a 28-member "blue ribbon" panel formed by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Among the panel's recommendations is the addition of a dummy representing a 10-year-old in government crash tests. A gap exists between the 6-year-old and the 5th percentile adult female dummies currently used. The panel also suggests that designers produce a booster seat for children weighing up to 80 lb and that they should be covered under DOT regulations on booster seats which now extend only to 50 lb. Phone Betsy White of the American Coalition for Traffic Safety at (703) 243-7501.
Stabilizing device, sticky resin named top inventions at NASA
The creator of a device that helps stabilize spacecraft has won NASA's Government Inventor of the Year Award. Charles E. Clagett, associate head of the Component and Hardware Systems Branch at Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, MD), received the honor for his SMEX Reaction/Momentum Wheel. He developed it for the Small Explorer program (SMEX), which required a compact mechanism that could accelerate at a high rate with little vibration. The NASA selection committee also picked a high-temperature resin material to be the NASA Commercial Invention of the Year. Called PETI-5, the material can be used as a glue that holds fibers together and as an adhesive in a variety of aerospace and commercial applications. The inventors are Paul Hergenrother, Joseph Smith, and Brian Jensen of Langley Research Center (Hampton, VA). Phone Sonja Alexander at (202) 358-1761.
SigmaPlot automates analysis, rapidly graphs engineering data
Designers can seamlessly access Sigma-Plot 5.0, a technical graphing program, from other applications, including CAD. The latest version of the software, demonstrated in Washington, DC, contains a point-and-click macro recorder. Also new is a data worksheet that offers faster operations and the ability to work with files containing more than a billion data points. The program can be useful to engineers who need to show data graphically ranging from basic statistics to advanced mathematical computations. Details on SigmaPlot, a product of SPSS Science (Chicago), are on the Internet at www.spss.com/software/science. Among other new products of interest to designers at the capital's annual FOSE technology show were the T8204 (600- dpi) and T8204+ (1,200- dpi) wide-format color laser printers. Tally Printer Corp. (Kent, WA) developed the printers for speedy, full-bleed, four-color proofs, mock-ups, or CAD designs up to 13 by 19 inches. Phone Annarose Lily at (425) 251-5553.