Leading the News
“New MacGyver Project” Aims To Cast “Iconic Female Engineer” To Inspire Next Generation.
The Christian Science Monitor (2/19) reports that the creator of ABC’s popular 1980s TV series “MacGyver” is partnering with the National Academy of Engineering and the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering to “launch the ‘Next MacGyver’ project, a contest to generate plot lines for a new TV series, inspired by MacGyver but with an ‘iconic female engineer’ as the lead character.” The plan is to use crowdsourcing to collect “script ideas over the next two months from people who have never been paid to write a TV episode.” The proposed series is intended to serve “not just as entertainment, but as inspiration for a new generation of engineers.”
NPR (2/19) reports in its “Goats and Soda” blog that series creator Lee Zlotoff “has teamed up with the National Academy of Engineering and top Hollywood TV producers to launch a crowdsourcing competition” in which participants “can submit ideas for the fictional character. Five winners will get the chance to work with a Hollywood producer to develop the character and write a pilot script.” The piece explains that the original series is wildly popular in the developing world, where “MacGyver’s resourcefulness appeals to kids who grow up with little.”
Napolitano Postpones UC Tuition Increase.
The Los Angeles Times (2/18) reports that University of California President Janet Napolitano announced this week that a planned tuition increase of up to 5% will be postponed until at least after the summer session “since budget negotiations are underway with the legislature and governor that could affect those rates.” She warned, however, that unless state revenues increase beyond projections, the hike will go through for the fall semester. The Times describes efforts by Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown to reach a compromise, noting that Brown “has insisted that UC not increase its tuition if it is to get any additional state funding.”
The AP (2/18, Armario) reports that Napolitano said Wednesday that she is taking the step “as a good-faith gesture stemming from her ongoing negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown to resolve their standoff over higher education funding.” The two leaders “have been working in private to consider proposals the governor believes will allow the university to serve more students without increasing tuition or receiving a significant budget hike.” Brown has suggested “increasing the number of hours faculty spend teaching, moving classes online, encouraging students to finish their degrees in four years or less and make it easier for community college graduates to transfer to UC campuses.”
Professor Advocates For STEM Majors With Liberal Arts Training.
In the Washington Post (2/18), Loretta Jackson-Hayes, an associate professor of chemistry at Rhodes College in Memphis, agrees that “remaining competitive in the sciences is a critical issue.” However, she believes that “science education cannot be divorced from the liberal arts.” Jackson-Hayes outlines her argument, urging educators to “grow our STEM graduates as aggressively as possible,” but making “sure they also have that all-important grounding in the liberal arts.”
Research and Development
UMass Chemical Engineer Receives NIH Grant To Create Nontoxic Salmonella Bacteria That Deliver Cancer-killing Agents Inside Tumors.
The Springfield (MA) Republican (2/20) reports, “University of Massachusetts chemical engineer Neil Forbes has received a five-year, $1.56-million grant from the National Institutes of Health to create nontoxic Salmonella bacteria that deliver cancer-killing agents inside tumors.” The article points out that Forbes “received a more than $1 million grant from NIH in 2008.”
Apple Reportedly Looking To Begin Car Production By 2020.
A report that Apple is looking to being car production as early as 2020 generated heavy news coverage in the latest cycle, though much of it was at heart derived from the Bloomberg News piece that broke the story.
Bloomberg News (2/19, Higgins) reports that Apple, “which has been working secretly on a car, is pushing its team to begin production of an electric vehicle as early as 2020, people with knowledge of the matter said.” The short time frame “underscores the project’s aggressive goals and could set the stage for a battle for customers” with Tesla and GM, which both are looking to roll out new EVs in 2017. Bloomberg says that Apple has “$178 billion in cash with few avenues to spend it.”
USA Today (2/19, Woodyard) reports that the Bloomberg report “follows disclosure by the Financial Times that Apple has several hundred workers involved on an automotive endeavor under the code name Project Titan.” Apple declined to comment on that report last Friday.
Reuters (2/19) runs a very short piece on the issue, based on the Bloomberg story.
The Los Angeles Times (2/19) looks at the reasons why Apple would be considering entering the EV industry, such as their “strong brand” and their large horde of cash. Similarly, in a piece for Vox (2/19, Lee), Timothy B. Lee writes that it is quite probable that Apple is looking to enter the EV business, citing its hires from other vehicle makers and its wide array of products, which it designs from the ground up.
In a piece picked up from The Motley Fool, USA Today (2/19, Niu) runs an item by Evan Niu, who writes that investors have “long dreamed” of Apple buying Tesla, and one analyst projected that Apple could acquire the EV maker for “an astounding $75 billion.” Niu says, however, that the amount is “simply way too much money.”
Rolls-Royce Plans To Fly Engine With The Largest 3D-Printed Part.
Flightglobal (2/19, Morrison) reported that Rolls-Royce plans to fly a Trent XWB-97 engine later this year which may have “the largest component ever built using additive layer manufacturing (ALM),” or 3D-printing. Rolls-Royce reportedly does not have any current plans to include the “tractor-tyre-sized part” in a production model of the engine. However, the article notes that if the part passes the tests, it could speed up development of future prototypes. Alan Newby, chief engineer for future programs and technology, said that the company has “a lot of work to do on scaleability” before ALM components of this size can enter into production.
Volvo Launching Self-Driving Vehicle Pilot Program In Sweden.
The Los Angeles (CA) Times (2/19) reports that Volvo announced a pilot program in Sweden in which customers would operate 100 autonomous vehicles in the country by 2017. The Times reports that this would be the first autonomous vehicle program that would involve customers instead of company employees. Peter Mertens, senior vice president of research and development for Volvo, claimed, “We are entering uncharted territory in the field of autonomous driving.” Erik Coelingh, a technical specialist at Volvo, noted that “It is relatively easy to build and demonstrate a self-driving concept vehicle, but if you want to create an impact in the real world, you have to design and produce a complete system that will be safe, robust and affordable for ordinary customers.”
Engineering and Public Policy
WPost Calls For Stringent Oil Train Standards.
In an editorial, the Washington Post (2/20) says that the West Virginia “oil train disaster was bad — but it could have been worse.” Federal regulators “should have mandated modernization years ago,” and now that they are considering them, should “require cars that are safer than the ones that derailed in West Virginia.” Regulators “also should set an ambitious schedule to finish retrofitting and replacing old cars, and they should do so soon.”
Bill Would Possibly Block Yucca Mountain Project By Restricting Land Use.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal (2/20, Brean) reported a bill introduced by Sen. Harry Reid last year would limit mining and energy exploration on Federal land in Lincoln and Nye counties, possibly hindering the Yucca Mountain Project by prohibiting a rail corridor for nuclear waste shipments. The Journal says the bill is unlikely to pass in the Republican-led Congress.
Electricity Officials Ask For More Time To Meet EPA Rule.
The Washington Examiner (2/20, Colman) reports that state environmental agencies and power companies “pleaded” with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission yesterday “to push back on the deadlines the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed for complying with its power-plant emissions rule.” The first FERC “technical conference on the EPA proposal showcased unified worries about the agency’s aggressive proposed interim emission reduction targets.” The “targets begin in 2020, but organizations that are affected contend there’s not enough flexibility or time to comply.” Leading EPA officials have admitted the agency “is considering scuttling the near-term target.”
Cliffside Park High School Selected For NASA Secondary Students Program.
The North Jersey (NJ) Media Group (2/20, Agnes) reports on students at Cliffside Park High School in New Jersey who were selected to participate in the Exploration of the Moon and Asteroids by Secondary Students program managed by NASA’s Center for Lunar Science and Exploration. Several schools were chosen to participate in the program. Four of these will eventually be selected “to travel to the NASA Ames Research Center this summer to present their research at the Exploration Science Forum.”
Illinois High Students Share Experiences From STEM Learning Exchange.
The Elgin (IL) Courier News (2/19) reports that during a meeting of the Central Community Unit School District 301 board this week, eight students from Burlington Central High School shared their real-life experience of their participation in “the AFNR (Agriculture Food & Natural Resources) & Manufacturing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Learning Exchange that was held in December at the Caterpillar facility in Peoria.” They had “worked in two teams that were led by department chair Cathy Mullahy and Central High teacher Sue Zagorski,” and “had to come up with a plan to market the Caterpillar 336E H Hybrid Excavator to both grain farmers and dairy farmers,” in “no more than six pages.”
Fifty Ohio School Teams Compete In FIRST LEGO League Contest.
The Xenia (OH) Daily Gazette (2/20) reports on the FIRST LEGO League Ohio State tournament which was held Feb. 7-8 at the Ervin J. Nutter Center on the campus of Wright State University. The annual science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) event. brought together fifty “teams of some of Ohio’s brightest 9- to 14-year-old students to demonstrate their engineering and problem-solving skills, critical thinking, teamwork, competitive play, sportsmanship and sense of community.” Fifty teams from across the Buckeye state competed in this annual science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) event.
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• UMass-Amherst Reverses Ban On Iranian Students In Engineering, Science Programs.