January 29, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced $18 million in funding for six new projects across the United States. These projects are related to the development and demonstration of integrated, scalable, and cost-effective solar technologies that incorporate energy storage to ensure energy reliability.

Solutions for modernizing the grid and enhancing storage will be developed as part of the Department’s Grid Modernization Initiative under the SunShot Initiative. These efforts seek to increase solar-generated electricity that can be dispatched at any time - day or night - to meet consumer electricity needs while ensuring the reliability of the nation’s electricity grid. The projects aim to create an affordable pathway toward the efficient and sustainable integration of solar energy on the nation’s electrical grid in much larger amounts than currently possible.

The Department’s six new integrated PV and energy storage projects will utilize internet capable inverters and will work in conjunction with smart buildings, smart appliances, and utility communication and control systems. These projects are either led by a utility company or include a utility company as a key partner, and the teams will conduct at least a one-year field demonstration of their technologies. Ultimately, the solutions developed under this effort will enable the sustainable and holistic integration of hundreds of gigawatts of additional solar energy onto the electric grid throughout the United States.

Additional information about the specific projects can be found at: http://www.energy.gov/eere/sunshot/sustainable-and-holistic-integration-energy-storage-and-solar-pv-shines


The National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking proposals for its Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems Program. The overarching goal of INFEWS is to catalyze the interdisciplinary research efforts to transform scientific understanding of the food, energy and water (FEW) nexus in order to improve system function and management, address system stress, increase resilience, and ensure sustainability.

The NSF INFEWS initiative is designed specifically to attain the following goals:

  • Significantly advance the understanding of the food-energy-water system through quantitative and computational modeling, including support for relevant cyber infrastructure;
  • Develop real-time, cyber-enabled interfaces that improve understanding of the behavior of FEW systems and increase decision support capability;
  • Enable research that will lead to innovative system and technological solutions to critical FEW problems; and,
  • Grow the scientific workforce capable of studying and managing the FEW system, through education and other professional development opportunities.

NSF is interested in promoting international cooperation that links scientists and engineers from a range of disciplines and organizations to solve the significant global challenges at the nexus of food, energy and water systems. Proposals including international collaboration are encouraged when those efforts enhance the merit of the proposed work by incorporating unique resources, expertise, facilities or sites of international partners. The U.S. team’s international counterparts generally should have support or obtain funding through other non-NSF sources.
For more information, please visit: http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/


ASME Government Relations held a webinar Thursday, January 14, 2016, which highlighted a current and a former ASME Congressional Fellow, both of whom provided their personal perspectives on the accomplishments and challenges associated with the Fellowship.

Kalan Guiley, Chair of the Committee on Government Relations, hosted the webinar and provided general information about the Fellowship program and current opportunities. Guiley has been a member of the ASME Committee on Government Relations since 2007, and has served as VP/Chair since 2013.  He works for The Boeing Company as the Manager of Continued Airworthiness for Twin-Aisle Airplanes.

Dr. Briana Tomboulian, ASME’s 2015 Congressional Engineering Fellow, was the first speaker. Dr. Tomboulian served in the office of the Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass), from January- December 2015, where she worked on energy, environment and manufacturing issues. Dr. Tomboulian came to ASME’s Fellowship program from a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship program, where she spent time at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Glenn Research Center developing critical components for deep-space power systems. She received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (ME) from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and her B.S. in Engineering Science from Smith College.

Stephen Lehrman followed Dr. Tomboulian. Lehrman served as ASME’s 2006 Congressional Engineering Fellow for Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark). After his fellowship ended in 2006, Mr. Lehrman was offered—and accepted—a position as Legislative Assistant for Senator Pryor. He was ultimately promoted to Senior Legislative Assistant for the economy, tax, budget, banking, housing, small business, energy, environment, and science and technology policy issues. Before working on Capitol Hill, Lehrman founded an intellectual property consulting and marketing firm, LabraTek Consulting, and worked for RTI International, Fuentek LLC, Corporate Consulting and Development Company, and Stone & Webster Engineering. A registered professional engineer, Lehrman received his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Northeastern University, and his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University. Lehrman is currently working as an independent contractor for the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office.

To review the archived webcast, please visit: https://engage.vevent.com/rt/asme~asme_congressional_fellowships

Additional information about the webinar, as well as our 2016 ASME Congressional Fellowship and America Makes Fellowship, is available on the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/. Please share this link with interested colleagues. 


According to the latest federal data, the United States science and engineering (S&E) enterprise still leads the world. The U.S. invests the most in research and development (R&D), produces the most advanced degrees in science and engineering and high-impact scientific publications, and remains the largest provider of information, financial, and business services. However, Southeast, South, and East Asia continue to rapidly ascend in many aspects of S&E. The region now accounts for 40 percent of global R&D, with China as the stand-out as it continues to strengthen its global S&E capacity.

These and other data on the domestic and global S&E landscape can be found in the National Science Board’s (NSB) Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 (Indicators) report released last week.

The 2016 edition of Indicators highlights that China, South Korea and India are investing heavily in R&D and in developing a well-educated workforce skilled in science and engineering. Indicators 2016 makes it clear that while the United States continues to lead in a variety of metrics, it exists in an increasingly multi-polar world for S&E that revolves around the creation and use of knowledge and technology.

According to Indicators 2016, China is now the second-largest performer of R&D, accounting for 20 percent of global R&D as compared to the United States, which accounts for 27 percent. Between 2003 and 2013, China ramped up its R&D investments at an average of 19.5 percent annually, greatly exceeding that of the U.S.

China is also playing an increasingly prominent role in knowledge and technology-intensive industries, including high-tech manufacturing and knowledge-intensive services. These industries account for 29 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and for nearly 40 percent of U.S. GDP. China ranks second in high-tech manufacturing, where the U.S. maintains a slim lead with a global share of 29 percent to China’s 27 percent. While China plays a smaller role in commercial knowledge-intensive services (business, financial, and information), it has now surpassed Japan to move into third place behind the United States and the European Union.

To review the entire report, please visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/research-and-development/


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is launching ARIAC—the Agile Robotics for Industrial Automation Competition, a joint effort with the IEEE Conference on Automation Science and Engineering. Now in the planning stages, this first-ever, simulation-based competition aims to inspire applications of the latest advances in artificial intelligence and other technologies to solve the challenge of making robots more capable, versatile and collaborative, as well as easier to program.

By engaging now, organizations and individuals can participate in devising the challenges that will make up the competition. NIST will unveil the specific task-related challenges at the IEEE International Conference on Automation Science and Engineering, to be held August 21-24, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas.

Today’s robots excel at a few tasks. Expanding this limited repertoire to accommodate changes in product design or processes requires a significant amount of off-line programming, or downtime. According to NIST studies, programming efforts to integrate a robot into a manufacturing operation are estimated to account for 45 percent to 60 percent of the cost of deploying a robot. Improving agility, so that robots can perform a diverse set of tasks and be re-tasked on the fly, would eliminate a major obstacle to wider adoption of the technology, especially among small and medium-size manufacturers. 

Overcoming agility limitations requires advances in four key areas:

  • Failure identification and recovery, in which robots can detect failures in a manufacturing process and automatically recover from those failures; 
  • Automated planning, to minimize or eliminate the upfront time of programming a robot when a new product is introduced;
  • A fixtureless environment, where robots can sense their surroundings and perform tasks on manufactured parts that are not in predefined locations; and,
  • Plug-and-play robots, in which robots from different manufacturers can be swapped in and out without the need for reprogramming.

For its part, NIST will use the results and knowledge gained from ARIAC to further its efforts to develop metrics and test methods to measure robot agility as well as tools manufacturers can use to assess and the agility of robot systems.

More information about ARIAC can be found at: http://nist.gov/el/isd/ms/agility_competition.cfm


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to review the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) research participation program, which seeks to enhance the future scientific and engineering workforce by providing students, postgraduates, and faculty with hands-on research experiences in federal agencies. The program is administered by a Department of Energy (DOE) contractor, and other agencies sponsor research participants via interagency agreements with DOE. Research participants engage in a variety of projects at DOE and other sponsoring agencies, but they are not considered federal government employees and thus are prohibited from performing inherently governmental functions.

GAO was asked to review the program expenditures by all sponsoring agencies and selected agencies’ assessments of program effectiveness and their guidance on inherently governmental functions.

GAO found that sponsoring agency components establish their own objectives for research participants and can decide whether and how to assess the extent to which the ORISE program meets those objectives. DOE, DOD, and HHS components have used questionnaires and other methods to assess how well the ORISE program meets the short-term needs of research participants and of the agency staff who oversee their activities. Agencies also face challenges in assessing the program’s long-term effectiveness; for example, they do not have methods to track research participants over their careers to determine the extent to which participants’ success is a result of the program. DOE has worked with other agencies on developing ways to address such challenges.

The 40-page report is available at: http://gao.gov/assets/680/674697.pdf

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036
Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations