ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Hour Of Code Events Teach Computer Science.

TechRepublic  (12/9, Gilpin) Organizations including Code.org, Girls Who Code, and Code for America have inspired computer science programs, and, with this week being Computer Science Education Week, Code.org is holding “its popular Hour of Code learning event,” in which anyone is taught how to program by writing a game for an hour. With over a million computer science jobs expected by 2020, only 2.4 percent of students graduate with related degrees. Code.org has partnered with over 30 school districts to encourage computer education and bring more women and minorities to the field.

WCCO-AM  Minneapolis (12/8, 6:28 p.m. CDT) reports, “Teachers say the benefits later in life” to learning programming “are huge.” The financiers of Code.org “pay to train teachers and for the curriculum materials they need.”

KHON-TV  Honolulu (12/8) reports on the “Hour of Code” event at Maemae Elementary School in Hawaii.

Other Programs Aim To Continue Computer Programming Interest. THE Journal  (12/8, Meyer) reports on MIT’s partnership with New York City Public Schools through the City Digits project to encourage data literacy and civic engagement. Project founder Sarah Williams, assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and director of the Civic Data Design Lab in the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, argues that though students are told data will be important in their world, “if we can’t read or understand that data, it’s going to be hard to make effective decisions.” The article highlights the Local Lotto module, which has helped students understand how the lottery operates through data collection and analysis.

Microsoft VP Touts Partnership With Code.org. In an op-ed in the “Congress Blog” on The Hill  (12/9, Humphries), Microsoft VP for government affairs Fred Humphries touts Microsoft’s partnership with Code.org to promote “The Hour of Code” event and introduce 100 million students globally to computer science in the hopes that they, legislators, teachers, parents, and educators will reflect on the field. He also highlights the growing demand and short supply for computer science majors, noting that American competitiveness will depend on filling these positions with prepared and qualified individuals. He argues that more states should count computer science courses towards graduation.

Higher Education

Presence Of E-Sports On College Campuses Rising Rapidly.

In a front-page article, the New York Times  (12/9, Wingfield, Subscription Publication) reports on the rise of video game competitions, also known as e-sports, on college campuses across the country. The Times says this growth “mirrors the broader rise of e-sports as entertainment.” The largest college e-sport league has over 10,000 competitors, which nearly doubles the amount of student-athletes who play Division I men’s college basketball. The Times says video game makers are “propelling the sharp rise in interest” through scholarship prizes and organizational support. The Times writes that it is “unclear” whether it would be a good idea to formalize e-sports, and that Robert Morris University Illinois in Chicago will be the sport’s guinea pig, as it became the first school to create an official video game team this fall, complete with the same kind of scholarships given to student-athletes in traditional sports.

From ASEE
#ASEEYoADiversity TEDx Talk: “As an African American child, society may not have viewed me as belonging in technology.” Professor Andrew B. Williams

Support ASEE with Your Amazon Holiday Purchases
ASEE participates in Amazon Smile, a program allowing you to donate a percentage of your purchase total to the charity of your choice. To set up your account to donate to ASEE, follow these few simple steps.

November Prism Online – Now Open to Public
The cover story, “Corporate Blinders,” presents an engineering ethics case study.

Research and Development

Sandia Lab Project Studying How Aging Electronics In Nuclear Weapons Affect Performance.

The Fierce Homeland Security  (12/9, Sarkar) reports about Sandia National Laboratories’ three-decade long research project which is “studying in real time how aging electronic components within a nuclear weapon affect performance.” According to a December 4 press release, “Sandia researchers are specifically looking at how environment, including radiation from a weapon, impacts the electronics of a W76-1 warhead,” which “could have important implications for future stockpiles of weapons.”

IBM Study Says Old Laptop Batteries Can Provide Electricity For World’s Poor.

Business Insider  (12/8, Barrie) highlights new research at IBM that suggests old laptop batteries could be used to provide free, sustainable electricity for the world’s poor. IBM researchers examined “a sample of discarded batteries” and found that nearly three-quarters of them had enough energy “to keep an LED light on for more than four hours a day — for a whole year.” According to the article, IBM collaborated with RadioStudio “to understand how to use laptop batteries to provide light to homes.”

Industry News

New York Startup Working With Army To Generate 3D Images To Fit Women With Body Armor.

The CNN  (12/8, O’Brien) reports online that But Manhattan startup Body Labs is partnering with the US Army “as part of a two-year, $825,000 contract to create protective gear for female soldiers in combat.” The piece explains that existing body armor does not always fit female soldiers well, and that the firm “will turn scans of female soldiers into 3-D avatars so the Army can create accurate sizing for women’s bodies and virtually test the way the clothes fit.”

Amazon May Move Drone Research Overseas.

The Washington Post  (12/8, Fung) reports Amazon may “have no choice” but to move the company’s drone research overseas if the company “doesn’t get approval to test its fleet of unmanned delivery vehicles” in the US soon. Amazon wrote in a letter that the FAA’s “continued delay on developing drone regulations” is “undermining” the company’s plans for Amazon Prime Air. The letters comes as the FAA is “under increasing pressure to accelerate its rulemaking” after missing an August deadline on commercial drones weighing less than 55 pounds.

Bloomberg News  (12/8, Soper, Levin) reports Amazon has already “begun testing” drone deliveries and may have to “divert more research abroad” is the US government doesn’t grant the company “permission to test drones outside of laboratories in Washington state.” The letter indicated the FAA may be “impeding technology innovation” in the US. Amazon’s vice president of global policy wrote, “It is our continued desire to also pursue fast-paced innovation in the United States, which would include the creation of high-quality jobs and significant investment in the local community.” The FAA said it is reviewing Amazon’s letter.

USA Today  (12/8, Hughes) notes the FAA has “essentially banned” commercial drone use without specific permission. In addition, the FAA has banned journalists from flying them over “fires or disasters, even through search-and-rescue groups say they’ve proven invaluable.”

Reuters  (12/8, Seetharaman) reports Amazon will move its drone testing overseas without the FAA’s quick permission. Amazon said in a letter outdoor testing is critical to developing its program of using drones to deliver packages. NBC News  (12/8) and Fortune  (12/8) ran the Reuters story.

Business Insider  (12/8, D’Onfro) also reported on the story.

Amazon Testing Drones In Cambridge. The Telegraph (UK)  (12/9, Trotman) reports on the drone testing Amazon is conducting in the UK, as the company has moved more drone testing overseas. Amazon is now organizing its team in Cambridge, where the company runs a research and development office, to test more drones and are hiring engineers, site leaders, and a software development engineer. Other companies are also branching out into drone use, including Google which “held extensive tests in Queensland, Australia, just three months ago.” The drone tests including flying “chocolate bars, dog treats, cattle vaccines, water and radios to people in remote areas” with 30 successful delivery flights over the course of a week.

IARPA Awards Contracts For Energy Efficient Supercomputer Prototype.

In ongoing coverage, Federal Computer Week  (12/8, Rockwell) reports the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity “is moving forward in its effort to develop a new type of superconducting supercomputer that would use exponentially less power and floor space” by awarding “three research contracts to support the first phase of the Cryogenic Computing Complexity (C3) program.” The contracts, which were awarded to IBM, Raytheon BBN Technologies and Northrop Grumman, are part of a program that “aims to develop a small-scale supercooled supercomputer prototype.” In an interview with FCW, Marc Manheimer, C3 program manager at IARPA, explained that “supercooled supercomputers might use as little as 1/20th of the space that massive high-performance supercomputers, such as the Energy Department’s Titan, currently need,” and “would also use substantially less power.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Report Shows Los Angeles Unprepared For Massive Earthquake.

On the NBC Nightly News (12/8, story 8, 2:10, Williams), Jacob Rascon reported that renowned seismologist Lucy Jones released a report on Monday in which she warned that Los Angeles is not prepared for “a long overdue massive earthquake” that could result in many deaths and the city’s economic collapse. In order for the city to survive, she recommends the partial reconstruction of thousands of old buildings. Rascon continued: “An ongoing NBC news investigation also found critical gaps in earthquake planning,” such as supplies for first responders, and pointed out that “LA’s century-old water main system” would suffer catastrophic damage. The segment quoted Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as saying these “responsibilities have been shirked for far too long. That stops now. … We simply cannot afford to wait any longer to make this happen.”

The CBS Evening News (12/8, story 10, 1:45, Pelley) reported that Mayor Garcetti has “proposed the most ambitious safety program in California history,” calling for “mandatory retrofitting or strengthening of older concrete buildings and soft first-story structures.” The plan also makes recommendations regarding the city’s water supply and communications systems. Though the retrofitting could cost building owners hundreds of millions of dollars, it reported, the effort could also save millions of lives.

The New York Times  (12/9, Nagourney, Subscription Publication) reports that Garcetti released a number of proposals, including requiring “the owners of thousands of small, wooden apartment buildings and big concrete offices to invest millions of dollars in strengthening them to guard against catastrophic damage in a powerful earthquake.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Advocate Calls For Increased Computer Education In California Schools.

In an op-ed in the Sacramento (CA) Bee  (12/9, Flapan), Julie Flapan, executive director of the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools and of Expanding Computing Education Pathways-California, writes that California is not producing enough computer science graduates to meet the growing demand. She calls for the democratization of computer science by offering introductory courses to all high school students, and lauds efforts in the state legislature to consider computer science toward high school graduation and college admission requirements. She calls for increasing computer science development, training, and resources for teachers to implement these bills and improve computer science learning for students.

Guidelines Suggested For Incorporation Of Technology Into Early Education.

The Tahoe (CA) Daily Tribune  (12/8, Jackson) reports on the incorporation of technology into early education, focusing on a Google Certified Teacher’s guest lecture on the use of such technology for social-emotional development. The piece moves on to list guidelines for teachers and educators alike, such as using ad-free apps with young children to help augment learning. Other suggestions included following reputable recommendations, promoting open-ended play, and avoiding overexposure to television.

Monday’s Lead Stories

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