Washington Beat 1287

DN Staff

November 15, 1999

4 Min Read
Washington Beat

Engineering Academy awards reach $1 million with new Russ Prize

Individual awards for engineering achievements are starting to rival the Nobel Prizes. The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) next year will confer a second $500,000 prize, matching that of the Charles Stark Draper Prize. The new Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize will be given to recognize "outstanding achievement in an engineering field of critical importance that, through widespread use, contributes to improving the human condition." The first Russ Prize, endowed by the Russes through Ohio University, will recognize attainment in bioengineering. Meanwhile, NAE announced that three engineers--Charles K. Kao, Robert D. Maurer, and John B. MacChesney--are the recipients of the annual Draper Prize for their work in developing fiber optic technology. They will receive their $500,000 and medals during National Engineers Week. Phone Daniel N. Whitt Jr., NAE awards administrator, at (202) 334-1237.

Patent Office's systems computer declared ready for new millennium

All computer systems critical to the work of the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) have been verified operational for the Year 2000 and beyond. In January 1996 the agency began individually testing, repairing and replacing its information technology infrastructure of 600 software products and 44,000 computer hardware components. Its aim was to ensure that all components would function properly in the new millennium. This summer the PTO successfully tested 18 of its most critical systems, in combination, in a simulated Year 2000 production environment. Phone Brigid Quinn at (703) 305-8341.

Tougher EPA emission standards target heavy trucks, big SUVs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to mandate reductions of more than 90% in levels of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from heavy-duty trucks and large sport utility vehicles. Last May, in a separate action, the Administration announced the toughest tailpipe standards ever for passenger vehicles. That proposal would require light-duty trucks, mini-vans, and SUVs weighing up to 8,500 pounds to meet the same tailpipe-emission standards as passenger vehicles. It also would shrink significantly the sulfur content of gasoline. The proposal is expected to be approved before the end of this year. The latest proposal would ensure that the heaviest passenger vans and SUVs that have only recently been marketed and exceed 8,500 pounds would also meet the strict passenger vehicle standards proposed in May. EPA's strategy to reduce pollution from the heaviest vehicles involves two phases. In the first, the agency proposes that in 2004 gasoline trucks be 78% cleaner and diesel trucks be 40% cleaner than today's models. In the second phase, EPA plans to propose late this year or early next year standards to decrease pollution from heavy duty trucks still more. That regulation could take effect as early as 2007. The proposed rule and related documents are available on the Web at: http://www.epa.gov/oms/hd-hwy.asp

Panel to select top achievements in engineering in 20th century

Distinguished, but anonymous, engineers will draw up a list to be called The Great Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century. The list will be unrolled at a luncheon at the National Press Club (Washington, DC) in February during National Engineers Week. Nominations for the list are coming from more than 60 professional engineering societies. The selection panel, whose names are secret to ensure their objectivity, is composed of members of the National Academy of Engineering.

Laser-firing satellite to make 3D maps of world's forests

Scheduled for launch in September 2000, a satellite will provide data for the first maps of the 3-D structure of vegetation in the world's forests. The Vegetation Canopy Lidar (VCL) mission is a project of the University of Maryland with collaboration from NASA Goddard's Laboratory for Terrestrial Physics and other academic and industrial contributors. VCL is a new application of lidar, or laser altimetry, an emerging remote-sensing technology. The VCL lidar holds five lasers, each of which sends 242 pulses per second at the Earth's surface. Each beam covers an area 75 ft across. By spacing the five beams a little over a mile apart, each VCL orbit will sample an area 5 miles across, as shown in the drawing. VCL's Multi-Beam Laser Altimeter records the "waveform" of the returned signal. The unique shape of the waveform reveals where in the space between the ground and the tree tops the foliage, trunk, and branches are concentrated. Phone Ralph Dubayah, VCL principal investigator, at (301) 405-8066.

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