Leading the News
Georgia High School Students Take Part In Engineering Design Challenge.
Several media outlets covered the recent 2015 Engineering Design Challenge at Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia. The Savannah (GA) Morning News (4/26) reports that the school’s Engineering Studies Program hosted the event, “which showcased the ingenuity and creativity of students” from a number of nearby high schools. Teams worked to craft “a battery-powered, multi-terrain wheelchair,” and were assisted by engineering students from the university.
WTOC-TV Savannah, GA (5/5) reports that students were given awards for how safe, creative, and well designed their entries were, noting that there was “a 40 meter race, a timed maneuver course and a demonstration of the safety features for each vehicle.”
AltSchool In San Francisco Combines Tech Company, Middle School.
The New York Times (5/4, Singer) reports in its Bits blog that private, technology-centric school company AltSchool announced Monday that it has raised an additional $100 million from “top-tier technology investors,” including Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Learn Capital, and First Round Capital, but also “major philanthropists” such as a fund financed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Emerson Collective. Founder and CEO Max Ventilla said that the inclusion of philanthropists is “one of the most interesting things about this fund-raising round” and is “hugely beneficial to us.”
NPR (5/4, Kamenetz) reports in its NPR Ed Blog that AltSchool in San Francisco operates a “unique, hybrid venture” that mixes a tech company and a private middle school. The “odd blend of retro and futuristic” includes a classroom that allows children to create personalized lessons, projects, and activities and could range from math lessons to biology skits. The school system will be expanding to Palo Alto, California and New York in the fall. Max Ventilla, founder of AltSchool, said that he “ultimately wasn’t confident” that the traditional school system would prepare his daughter for the modern world. Engineers work at the company to develop the software used in the class, which could ultimately be used to design academic programs for students in charter and public schools.
NASA Grant Will Help Cal State Los Angeles Develop New Education Center.
The Los Angeles Times (5/5, Rivera) reports that NASA provided Cal State Los Angeles a $5 million grant to develop the Data Intensive Research and Education Center in STEM, which will partner with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Center for Data Science and UC Irvine’s Data Science Initiative to help train students, “especially…minority and low-income students,” in fields such as “hydrology, climate change and other science and technology fields.”
NSF Freezes Funds To UConn, Private Company During Investigation.
The Torrington (CT) Register Citizen (5/4, Stuart) reports on Friday the Connecticut Auditors of Public Accounts told Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) “that National Science Foundation awards to the University of Connecticut and a private” marine sensor and communication technology company called Aquatic Sensor Network Technology LLC had been frozen pending the outcome of a Federal investigation into a potential conflict of interest.
More Colleges Adopting Test-Optional Policies.
Writing for Education Week ’s (5/5) “College Bound” blog, Caralee Adams reports that a new FairTest survey finds that more colleges are adopting test-optional admissions policies. The number of colleges doing so increased to 25 in the past year, up from an average of less than 10. Notable additions to the list are Hofstra University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Wesleyan University. Though the College Board is set to release a revised SAT next spring, Public Education Director of FairTest Bob Schaeffer says that colleges are reevaluating the usefulness of standardized tests in the admissions process.
De Blasio Announces $29 Million Increase For CUNY STEM Programs.
The New York (NY) Daily News (5/5, Durkin) reports that New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced Monday that the city will add $29 million to STEM programs at CUNY colleges next year, with a further $51 million increase for community colleges the year after. Speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, he said that New York needs “a broader approach that gets more and more people, especially young people, the skills that will give them opportunities of all kinds in this industry.”
Research and Development
Students Display Research At Rochester Institute Of Technology Imagine Festival.
The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (5/1) reports that that Rochester Institute of Technology students got the opportunity to “showcase their research” at the school’s recent “Imagine RIT: Imagination and Creativity Festival.” The piece profiles a number of students who got the opportunity to take “an important step in their entrepreneurial development” at the festival, where they presented their research to the public. Mechanical engineering technology professor Carl Lundgren said that the festival “provides an opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom.”
In a prior article, the Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (4/30) reported that some 30,000 people were expected to attend the event, which boasted “400-plus interactive exhibits in science, technology, the arts and more.” In one event, teams took part in a “two-part challenge that involves piloting quadcopters” and “programming the quadcopter to perform a task or series of tasks autonomously.”
In yet another article, the Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (5/2) reports that the event “brought tens of thousands of attendees to witness the best ideas from Rochester Institute of Technology programs and students.” Time Warner Cable News (4/30) also covered the event.
Washington, DC Startup Working To Develop Quantum Computing.
The Washington Post (5/4, Jayakumar) reports on local startup QxBranch and its work testing applications for quantum computing. It notes how this differs from classical computing and describes some of the challenges researchers must still overcome. The Post also mentions that QxBranch is a spinoff born out of a collaboration between Lockheed Martin and QxBranch CEO Michael Brett’s “previous venture, Aerospace Concepts.”
IEA Report Says World Needs To Boost Investment In Clean Energy Research.
The Washington Post (5/5, Mooney) reports that “the world needs to triple its investments in clean energy research, suggests a new study by the Paris-based International Energy Agency,” if we are “to have a chance of keeping the world below 2 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels.” That is “because in addition to any international agreement to cut carbon emissions that may be reached at the end of this year, the world will also need new technologies to fill the gap left behind as we use less of fossil fuels like coal.” The study “notes that land-based wind and solar photovoltaic in particular have grown markedly and are now ‘ready to be mainstreamed in many energy systems’” but there is “still a gap: We need innovation in discovering ‘enabling technologies’ that can better integrate these inherently variable sources of energy (wind doesn’t always blow, sun doesn’t always shine) into our electrical systems.”
Report: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Boosting Long Island Economy.
Newsday (5/5) reports, “Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is playing a growing role in Long Island’s economy as it commercializes inventions and collaborates with other local research institutions, according to a report commissioned by the lab” set to be released today. Among the findings in the study, “the 125-year-old center of molecular biology and genetics research has helped to start eight businesses since 2011, including five last year.” Long Island “leaders see the lab, along with Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook University and the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, as a linchpin in the development of an innovation economy.”
Mechanical Turk’s Use In Research Defended.
John Barry Ryan of Stony Brook University and Kathleen Searles of Louisiana State University write in the Washington Post (5/4) “Monkey Cage” blog that Amazon’s Mechanical Turk “remains controversial” among academics who question how a self-selected base of research subjects cannot be flawed. But experts at a recent meeting of the Midwestern Political Science Association agreed that “the right question is not whether to use MTurk but when to use MTurk.”
Jesse Jackson, Union To Protest Outside California Tech Firm.
USA Today (5/5, Snider) reports that Rev. Jesse Jackson, as part of his campaign “against the technology industry’s wage gap,” will hold a rally on Tuesday outside the Santa Clara offices of Broadcom. Jackson will be joined by the United Service Workers West, and will be “Universal Protection Service’s treatment of employees who are seeking union representation.” The firm provides security services for Broadcom.
Oil Publication Promotes Offshore-themed Monopoly Game.
The Houston Chronicle (5/4, Hawryluk) reports, “The industry publication Offshore Engineer is celebrating 40 years of publication with the limited release of a Monopoly board game customized to the offshore technology industry.” Brion Palmer, president and CEO of Atlantic Communications Media, said at the 2015 Offshore Technology Conference, “All the news hasn’t been good in the industry lately, and this has been a fun way to celebrate and promote it.” Several players in the offshore drilling business bought sponsorships representing their respective companies on the board, among them Pemex, which bought Park Place, as well as several Houston companies.
Op-Ed: Tax Preferences Should Discourage Boeing’s Job Cuts.
In an op-ed for the Seattle (WA) Times (5/4), International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 75 president Jon Holden writes that Boeing is “bleeding jobs,” having lost 3,000 since Nov. 2013, which Holden says is part of the larger trend of high-paying engineering, research and technology jobs being moved out of Washington state. Holden advocates for additional accountability to the aerospace tax preferences that would ensure Boeing would still benefit from its full tax incentive by keeping jobs in Washington.
Study: Electric Cars Not Selling In Mass Market.
USA Today (5/4, Woodyard) reports that a study from TrueCar.com found that “buyers of electric cars from major automakers tend to be younger and richer than those who opt for the convention versions of the same models.” The research suggests that “electric cars, not just luxury models like Teslas, aren’t finding their way into the mass market.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Study: EPA’s Coal-Plant Rule Could Save Thousands Of Lives Each Year.
The New York Times (5/5, A15, Tavernise, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports that a study, led by researchers from Syracuse and Harvard Universities, found that the Administration’s new emissions standards proposed last year for coal-fired power plants would “substantially improve human health” and “prevent more than 3,000 premature deaths per year.” The researchers “calculated three different scenarios using data from the Census Bureau and detailed maps of the more than 2,400 fossil-fuel-fired power plants across the country,” and the scenario with the largest health benefits “was the one that most closely resembled” the changes that the EPA proposed last June.
The Washington Post (5/5, Warrick) reports that the study, published in Nature Climate Change, found that “depending on implementation, the proposals could prevent about 3,500 premature deaths a year, mostly from respiratory disease.” Lead author Charles Driscoll said, “The bottom line is, the more the standards promote cleaner fuels and energy efficiency, the greater the added health benefits.”
Supreme Court To Hear Electricity Regulation Challenge.
The New York Times (5/5, Liptak, Subscription Publication) reports that the Supreme Court on Monday “agreed to decide whether federal regulators may encourage electricity users like schools, hospitals and shopping centers to reduce consumption at peak times in exchange for price breaks.” This regulatory approach, “known as ‘demand response,’ lowers costs for consumers and lessens the risk of system failures that can cause blackouts,” but “it also cuts into the profits of companies that own power plants, which lose money when price spikes are avoided.” Trade groups “representing utilities and power suppliers challenged the regulation, saying that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had overstepped its authority,” and last year, “a divided three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia agreed.” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., “representing the commission, told the justices that the decision ‘threatens significant damage to the nation’s wholesale-electricity markets.’”
Most STEM Educators Approve Of Next Generation Science Standards.
Writing for Education Week ’s (5/5) “Curriculum Matters” blog, Liana Heitin reports that a study released by several education development companies found that 60 percent of STEM educators viewed the Next Generation Science Standards favorably, with just six percent taking a negative view. Few who teach in states that had adopted those or other new standards planned to purchase new curricula, while most planned to augment the current ones. The post notes that respondents pointed to insufficient technology or short class times as challenges to adequately covering their subjects.
Monday’s Lead Stories
• US, Canada Unveil New Oil Train Safety Rules.