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Washington beat

Washington beat

Engineering workforce much bigger than estimated, study contends

The size of the science and engineering (S&E) workforce in America is at least twice as large as estimated under the government's current classification system. So concludes a study by the National Science Foundation. The report suggests that reclassifying those people would give a better measure of the importance of S&E in education and the economy. In addition to the official total of 3.2 million engineers and scientists, about 3.1 million people hold jobs closely or somewhat related to their highest S&E degrees, surveys indicate. Future foundation reports should provide a more precise count, says Melissa Pollak, the report's author. This year's National Survey of College Graduates is asking those whose highest degrees are not in S&E fields if their jobs require technical expertise in engineering or science. This new information could increase the estimated size of the S&E workforce to more than 8 million people. Phone Pollak at (703) 306-1777 ext. 6931 or e-mail her at [email protected].

NASA adopts STEP data standard for CAD, manufacturing systems

NASA now requires all of its computer-aided engineering, design, and manufacturing systems to have STEP-compliant tools. Also known as ISO 10303, STEP is the international standard for the exchange of product model information. The decision by the space agency is one of the strongest endorsements yet for STEP. "It basically says that if you want to exchange data with NASA, ISO 10303 is the way to do it,'' comments a STEP expert. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has been a leader in creating STEP. For more information contact Steve Waterbury of Goddard Space Flight Center at (301) 286-7557.

Streamlined Fastener Quality Act limits coverage, creates hotline

Congressional leaders called it "unworkable'' and "a $20 solution to a $5 problem.'' Now, after nine years of non-enforcement, the Fastener Quality Act has been modernized and simplified. Enacted in 1990 to prevent the dumping of bogus fasteners on U.S. markets, the law originally required that many fasteners used in critical products such as cars, airplanes and tanks pass government-approved tests. However, the Administration never was able to set up the elaborate testing structure the law mandated. In the interim, industry, on its own, vastly improved quality control and inspection systems for fasteners. Under Congress' amendments, fasteners made in accordance with accepted quality assurance systems are now considered in compliance. Further, the Act's coverage is sharply limited to high-strength fasteners. However, manufacturers of industrial fasteners must state the strength and characteristics of their products. They face criminal prosecution if they lie about them. Manufacturers also must mark almost all fasteners with registered trademarks. To cut paperwork, the Act now allows firms to file reports to the government electronically. Congress also created a hotline system for easier reporting of suspected frauds. The government still will run a voluntary program to accredit laboratories that test fasteners. You can download the Act's latest text and a fact sheet describing major amendments from the Internet at www.nist.gov/fqa .

3D version of crime-solving tool would speed up bullet analyses

It once took technicians all day to compare scratches on a bullet found at a crime scene with those on a bullet fired from a suspect gun. Then Intelligent Automation Inc. (IAI;Rockville, MD) invented RotoScan, a tool that digitizes and compares bullet markings and produces results within 30 minutes. RotoScan captures 2D images using a high-speed neural network driven by fuzzy logic. The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization developed the network system for potential use in controlling missiles and satellites. RotoScan is the chief component of the DRUGFIRE(R) system used by the FBI and many state and foreign crime labs. Building on that technology, IAI has now produced a stand-alone 3D version of RotoScan, called SciClops. Benjamin Bachrach, senior scientist at IAI tells Design News that SciClops can further reduce the time it takes to analyze striae. SciClops is capable also of providing more precise information, since it evaluates micron-size details found in the depths of the scratches. SciClops greatly reduces image distortion such as reflectivity variations between bullets and variations in lighting. Such distortions often appear in 2D systems. Built-in algorithms automatically correct for effects of tilt, wobble, and off-centeredness while SciClops analyzes a bullet. E-mail Bachrach at [email protected] or phone him at (301) 590-3155.

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