Thumbs up to en'light'ened driving

Thumbs up to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for once again developing cutting-edge technology that continues to amaze.

This time, PNNL has received a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy to continue research that replaces the metal in vehicles with plastic reinforced with carbon fibers.

The idea is that the lighter the car, the better the gas mileage. The Obama administration has set new auto manufacturing standards for increasing fuel economy for passenger cars and light-duty trucks that extend through model year 2025. One way to do that is to make automobiles lighter. Reducing a vehicle's weight by just 10 percent can improve the fuel economy by 6 percent to 8 percent, according to DOE.

The carbon fibers in the plastic resin is similar in many respects to steel rebar in concrete. PNNL's contribution to this new technology will help the auto industry meet its goals for creating more fuel efficient vehicles as well as open the door to other uses for the material.

The minds at PNNL are one of the Tri-Cities' best assets.

Thumbs up: The old college try

To the Kennewick school teachers and community members who recently contacted about 10 of 52 former high school students in an effort to get them to continue their education and graduate.

Many times, kids fall through the cracks and nobody seems to care. Getting that personal invitation to try again might just be the motivation many students need to return to school and get their high school diploma.

The program called, "We Want You Back," is aimed particularly at students who are over 18, yet still young enough to return to school. The High School Academy at Columbia Basin College partners with the school district and is designed to help students in this situation.

Already, seven of the 10 students contacted have been in touch with the academy, and another effort is under way to reach more students.

School officials need to keep this program going. One phone call can change a student's life.

Thumbs down: Attention passengers

To United Airlines for reportedly losing track of a 10-year-old girl flying alone. Phoebe Klebahn was flying as an "unaccompanied minor" from San Francisco to a summer camp in Michigan with a connection in Chicago.

Her parents said they paid United $99 extra to help the girl make her connecting flight. But the girl ended up alone and confused, and when she asked for help, flight attendants reportedly kept putting her off.

When Phoebe didn't arrive at her destination, camp officials called her parents, who frantically tried to find out what happened. It took them an hour to get an answer.

The girl eventually made it to camp, but her ordeal was traumatic for her and her parents. United Airline officials really need to pay more attention when children are traveling alone -- especially when parents pay the extra fee to ensure their child's safety.