Leading the News
University Of Texas At Austin Researchers Develop Advanced Rehab Exoskeleton.
Gizmag (5/6) reports that researchers at the University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering have developed a “two-armed, robotic exoskeleton that uses mechanical feedback and sensor data to provide therapy to patients with spinal and neurological injuries.” In the past, rehab exoskeletons have generally had just one arm, but the “Harmony” device “fits the entire upper body, connecting to the patient in three places.”
The SlashGear (5/6) reports that the device is “a collaboration between mechanical engineering researcher Ashish Deshpande and graduate students at the Rehabilitation and Neuromuscular Robotics lab,” who have been working on the project since 2011.
Kaplan Experimenting With Competency-Based Courses.
Inside Higher Ed (5/5) reports that for-profit Kaplan University has announced that it will begin to offer “personalized ‘competency reports’ to its 45,000 students,” marking the firm’s “biggest move into competency-based education so far.” The piece explains how the new system breaks courses into modules, and explains that the new “modular experiment will stop short of discarding the credit hour.” ED has only approved six schools to us this “direct assessment” approach.
Traditional Colleges Joining For-Profit Lobby’s Efforts To Fight ED Regulations.
The Huffington Post (5/6, Macgillis) reports that as ED prepares to implement new regulations on the for-profit college sector, the “troubled industry” is ramping up its lobbying efforts against the new rules, and is suddenly getting help from “a set of unlikely allies: traditional colleges and universities.” Most of the lobbying groups representing “traditional higher education” signed onto a recent letter supporting “Republican legislation that would block the new restrictions on for-profit colleges.” The Post speculates that this is an effort on the part of traditional colleges to “to capitalize on Republican control of Congress to limit the government’s reach into their own campuses.”
African-Americans Face Tough Burdens For Student Loans.
The National Journal (5/6, Quinton, Subscription Publication) reports that minorities, especially African-Americans, face burdens when trying to pay off student loans. Urban Institute shows that family debt rates are 14 percent higher for African-Americans than whites, a fact the US Rep. Elijah Cummings says is “driven by an enormous wealth disparity.” Research argues that African-Americans may have “a lower return on their investment in education” because of a lack of access to social networks and hiring discrimination, and student debt means that young African-Americans “face a discouragingly steep path to financial security” even after graduation.
Google Embeds Engineers In HBCUs To Increase Diversity.
The AP (5/5, Mendoza) reports that Google has begun embedding its employees in computer science departments at historically black colleges and universities in an effort to recruit more minorities into the Silicon Valley workforce. The initiative, which sees Google Engineers teach courses and develop curricula, mirrors one undertaken by AT&T, Bell and Hewlett Packard in the 1970s. The article notes that for Silicon Valley tech companies, “Google is typical — about 1 percent of its technical staffers are black.”
Research and Development
ONR Gives University Of New Orleans Professor Young Investigator Grant.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune (5/6) reports that the Office of Naval Research has given University of New Orleans professor Christine Ikeda a $510,000 Young Investigator grant. Ikeda is an assistant professor of naval architecture and marine engineering, and will use the grant to “fund her research into how the hulls of high-speed watercraft interact with repeated contact with waves, allowing naval engineers to improve navy craft design.”
Engineers Working To Design Better High Heel Shoes.
Bloomberg News (5/5, Vance) profiles Dolly Singh, a former SpaceX employee who recruited engineers for the firm, and is now engineering high heel shoes that are easier on women’s feet. Singh is consulting with SpaceX Aerospace engineer Hans Koenigsmann and Andy Goldberg, “a surgeon who specializes in the reconstruction of feet and ankles.”
Researchers Find The Farthest Galaxy Ever Discovered.
The AP (5/6, Borenstein) reports that researchers from Yale and the UC Santa Cruz used data from the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer space telescope, and Keck Observatory to detect and confirm the existence of a galaxy 13.1 billion light-years away. This is “the most distant galaxy” ever detected, placing it “among the universe’s first generation of galaxies.” The article notes that research said confirming the find was “difficult.”
The New York Times (5/6, Overbye, Subscription Publication) notes that the galaxy is also “one of the most massive and brightest in the early universe.” According to the article, it will take the “coming generation of instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope” to discover how galaxies like this one initially formed.
Experts: Tech Industry Must Begin Recruiting Women During School.
Reuters (5/5) reports that according to experts, there is a significant gender gap in the tech sector, but notes that women played a key role in the early days of the computer science field. The article focuses on a documentary by Robin Hauser Reynolds called “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap,” which points out that cultural issues often discourage girls from studying science once they enter their teens.
Engineering and Public Policy
Tomlinson: Time To Standardize Offshore Drilling Wells.
Chris Tomlinson writes for The Houston Chronicle (5/5, Tomlinson) about the need to standardize the way oil wells are made across the industry in a bid to stop “spending money reinventing the wheel,” as Ian Cummings, head of upstream engineering at BP, told a panel Monday at the Offshore Technology Conference. He added, “It affects our ability to consistently engineer reliable facilities and start up on time and stay on it.” Brad Breitler, VP of technology at FMC Technologies, said, “If you really want to cut costs, standardize on our specifications, standardize on a couple of configurations…and we can take 20 percent to 40 percent off the price.” He explained that at $60 per barrel, it makes no financial sense to spend more for uniquely designed wells.
Local Opposition Looks To Block Keystone’s Path In The Plains.
Highlighting the opposition of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, the New York Times (5/6, Smith, Subscription Publication) reports that that a grass-roots effort has emerged in recent years in the Plains to block the path of the Keystone XL pipeline. For example, some landowners in Nebraska along the proposed route have “gone to court to challenge eminent domain proceedings,” while in South Dakota, some “say their state could be another barrier to construction.”
Some States Look To Remove Local Limits On Drilling.
The AP (5/6, Schmall, Weissert) reports that lawmakers in Texas and “energy producing states across the nation are rushing to stop local communities” from limiting oil and gas drilling, despite “growing public concern about the health and environmental toll of such activities in urban areas.” The AP says that the drop in oil prices has “only added to the urgency of squelching local drilling bans and other restrictions the industry views as onerous.”
Northrop Grumman Volunteers At Illinois Junior High STEM Expo.
The Chicago Tribune (5/5, O’Shea) reports that Cary Junior High School hosted a STEM Career Expo on Monday in Illinois. The fair presented information about the manufacturing, healthcare, aerospace, and defense industries and hosted products associated with the fields, including architectural materials, robotics, and prosthetics. The article notes that Northrop Grumman “showcased a thermal camera and sound sensors manufactured for military use,” with the company’s systems engineer Jason Cortez present to answer questions for the students.
South Dakota Technical Programs Face Challenges.
The Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader (5/5, Young) questions whether President Obama’s announcement that “a great education can be within everyone’s reach” is accurate, and notes that even as he comes to South Dakota to deliver a commencement speech at a technical college, the state “continues to struggle” to meet its skilled labor needs. Problems standing in the way of meeting these needs include high costs, low amounts of aid, marketing and perception issues, and a lack of community support. Scholarships do not fund enough students to do any more than “bring attention to the need” for skilled scholars.
Research Paper Discusses STEM School Teaching Methods.
WileyOnline (5/5, Morrison, McDuffie, French) carries a research paper on STEM teaching components and how to approach problem solving and student inquiry. Student motivation, social interaction, and collaborative work were all “strong” due to the “environment of inquiry” presented at the school.
Genentech To Fund Biotech Classrooms In California.
The San Francisco Business Times (5/6, Leuty, Subscription Publication) reports in its Biotech blog that Genentech has promised to build a building for “state-of-the-art biotech classrooms” for South San Francisco High School in California. The move is part of “a growing pledge” by Genentech to fund STEM education.
Ford STEM Programs Connect Classrooms To Careers.
Forbes (5/5, Muller) reports that Ford Motor Company’s Next Generation Learning program is working to “prepare students for jobs in the 21st century and meet the growing need for workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).” The academies blend STEM fields with practical applications to connect students with potential career fields. There are currently programs operating in Volusia County Florida, Louisville, Kentucky, and Utica, Michigan, with more planned for Detroit in partnership with the United Autoworkers Union.
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Georgia High School Students Take Part In Engineering Design Challenge.