B.S. degrees in engineering plunge to lowest number in 17 years
Engineering appears to be losing appeal among American students. The number of Bachelor of Science degrees in engineering in the U.S. has fallen to a 17-year low. That is shown in the latest college survey by the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES) (Washington, DC). The survey covers data from 340 schools with engineering curricula and 284 schools with engineering technology programs in the U.S. Between 1986 and 1998, according to AAES, the number of students receiving engineering baccalaureates tumbled 19.8% to 63,262. Meanwhile, the number of students receiving B.S. degrees overall climbed by nearly 20%. Graduate awards also declined in 1998. Master's degrees dipped slightly from 1997 to 30,212. Engineering doctorate degrees fell for the first time since 1980. AAES Chairman Paul Torpey warns that the nation could find itself "without an adequate supply of engineers to provide the spark of Yankee ingenuity." Contact Matt Doster at (888) 400-2237.
Private investments leading comeback in R&D spending in 1999
Although federal spending on R&D is running below authorized levels, the private sector is more than making up for it. Total expenditures in R&D in the U.S. will rise to nearly $236 billion this year, experts from Battelle Laboratory (Columbus, OH, and Arlington, VA) forecast. The figure represents a growth of nearly 7% over the amount the National Science Foundation says the nation spent in 1998. Industry still dominates R&D expenditures in both the amount and the growth. Companies are expected to boost R&D outlays to $157 billion, up more than 9% from last year. Notable R&D gains are seen for electric components, pharmaceuticals and medicine, office computing, and communications equipment. The federal share of R&D spending, the study predicts, will total $68.1 billion, barely keeping pace with inflation. Barring a major economic downturn, the overall upsurge in R&D expenditures will continue well into the 21st century, maintains Jules J. Duga, co-author of the report. He explains: "A strong economy, a federal budget surplus, and a clear interest in breakthrough innovations for commercial products have fueled this cycle." Phone Duga at (614) 424-6512.
Pentagon picks research priorities for advanced technologies
The military wants to apply the latest in computer graphics to the command and control operations of the Joint Task Force. That undertaking is the top project of the Defense Department this fiscal year under the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program. The Pentagon hopes to use techniques of multi- and hyper-spectral imagery processing to support such functions as targeting, sea-air rescue, and counter-drug operations. Ten other projects are underway in the $89.83 million ACTD program. One would integrate the Patriot and Aegis theater missile systems to extend air engagement zones. Another would test and improve personal sensors and field analyzers to detect chemical and possibly biological agents. Advanced, miniaturized sensors also will be examined for use in military satellites to warn of possible environmental dangers in space. Contact Jacques S. Gansler at (703) 697-5737.
Government adopting standards for safety of electric autos
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is completing the creation of new federal standards exclusively for electric vehicles. As proposed, NHTSA's ruling will set requirements and test procedures for avoiding shock hazards, electrolyte spillage, and the ejection of batteries from their mounts in crashes. It is based on the Society of Automotive Engineers standard J1766 Feb. 96, titled "Recommended Practice for Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicle Battery Systems Crash Integrity Testing." Test procedures are to include frontal barrier crashes, side-moving barrier crashes, and rollover and rear-moving crashes. Once NHTSA has issued its final rule, manufacturers are expected to have a year to comply. For more information, E-mail email@example.com.
NASA urged to consult industry for design changes to shuttle
NASA should seek more ideas from industry for potential design changes to the space shuttle. So concludes a study by the National Research Council. It further suggests that the space agency provide more incentives to contractors for proposing and funding shuttle modifications. NASA recently lifted a freeze on improving the design of its four operating space shuttles. It earmarked about $100 million each year for making minor alterations and studying large-scale changes that might be needed in the future. First priority is to go to modifications that improve safety and support missions to the space station. To buy copies of the council's study, "Upgrading the Space Shuttle," phone the National Academy Press at (800) 624-6242.