Project to offer federal judges engineering, science expertise
A five-year demonstration project will provide engineering and scientific expertise to federal courts. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (Washington, DC) launched the venture after consulting federal judges and members of the legal, engineering, and scientific communities. Called Court Appointed Scientific Experts (CASE), the project will offer engineers and scientists to serve as court-appointed experts. They would serve in cases in which the court has determined that traditional means of clarifying issues fall short. In addition to providing testimony in court, the experts may be asked to: educate judges and juries on technical issues; advise the court on the underlying methodology or reasoning in a pretrial; comment on testimony of the parties' experts; or assist in damage assessment. A panel drawn from a range of disciplines, including engineering, will help choose appropriate experts. The Federal Judicial Center, the educational and research arm of federal courts, will evaluate CASE. Phone Deborah Runkle at (202) 326-8964 or e-mail her at email@example.com for more details.
Rail gun has possibilities, major drawbacks for military
Design engineers still must solve a host of problems before the electromagnetic (EM) gun can join arsenals of future armies. So concludes a report from the National Research Council. Also known as the rail gun, the test weapon has been an R&D project of the U.S. Army since 1979. The report cites many advantages to the rail gun, including the smaller weight and volume of its rounds compared with a chemically propelled round with the same projectile mass. But the council's Board on Army Science and Technology also notes serious limitations to using a strong magnetic field to accelerate armor-piercing projectiles. The major logistical disadvantage is that EM gun systems require a substantial source of battlefield electric power. They also need fast, solid-state devices that can rapidly switch very high current loads switches not yet developed. You can buy a copy of the NSC report, "Reducing the Logistics Burden for the Army After Next," by phoning (800) 624-6242.
Undergrads build pounding device to test armored vehicles
Three undergraduate engineers at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD) have invented a device to help the Army test the combat-durability of critical electronic and mechanical parts. The air-powered hammering device can repeatedly deliver up to 45,000 pounds of force to a slab of metal. The U.S. Army Research Laboratory plans to use the invention to check the accuracy of computer models that are used to forecast damage to armored vehicle equipment when hit by even more powerful forces on a real battlefield. A cylindrical breech chamber on the cannon-like device collects pressurized air. A narrow barrel houses a projectile. Up to now, Army researchers have validated their computer results by using a clumsy and inconsistent hand-held nail gun that can deliver up to only 35,000 pounds of force. E-mail Phil Sneiderman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Computer tool cuts disk failure in turbine-powered jet engines
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released to industry software designed to reduce the disk failure rate in turbine-powered jet engines. Manufacturers can use the code with their engine design systems to comply with an advisory circular on disk life, which the FAA plans to publish. The circular and the computer tool apply to those disks that are heavy, high-speed, rotating parts inside an engine with attached fan blades that produce thrust. Fast-moving fragments from the disk can disable or damage the airplane. Undetected material or manufacturing flaws in turbine engine disks can undermine a disk's structural integrity. Companies may obtain copies of the workstation software from the FAA. Phone Tammy L. Jones at (202) 267-8521.
Engineering firms can be bigger and still get federal funds
A larger number of companies engaged in engineering, architectural, surveying, and mapping services are now eligible for development assistance from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Such industries looking to qualify as ''small'' now have to show their average annual receipts are $4 million or less. The previous limit was $2.5 million for the first three sectors and 3.5 million for mapping services. SBA estimates that 1,015 engineering services qualify as small under its new definition. Phone D. J. Caulfield at (202) 205-6740.