Leading the News
Toyota Announces $50 Million Investment In Developing Autonomous Car Technologies.
USA Today (9/4, della Cava) reported online that Toyota is committed to “spending $50 million to accelerate the pace of its autonomous car research,” having announced on Friday that it will invest over the coming five years in developing “joint research facilities at both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, both of which team with professors boasting robotics, engineering and artificial intelligence degrees.” According to the story, driver-assist technologies are becoming more and more “vital” to auto safety “in an era of growing distracted driver accidents.” According to NHTSA, there are over a thousand crashes a day, and over nine fatalities per day, involving distracted drivers.
The AP (9/5, Liedtke) reports from East Palo Alto, California, noting that Toyota “hired robotics expert Gill Pratt to oversee research aimed at developing artificial intelligence and other innovations that will enable future car models to navigate the roads without people doing all the steering and stopping.” Besides Toyota, “major tech companies such as Google and Uber are competing against a range of automakers to make robot cars that will be better drivers than people and save lives by causing fewer accidents.”
Wired (9/4) also reported online.
ED Delays Announcement On Corinthian Students’ Debt Relief.
The Huffington Post (9/8, Nasiripour) reports that ED has announced that “students who claim they were defrauded by for-profit schools owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc. into taking out federal student loans will have to wait several more months” for a decision on whether their debts will be canceled. The Post notes that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said in June “that the administration would ‘fast-track’ debt relief claims filed by students who attended the Corinthian-owned career school Heald College.” The article says that the “new timeline is one of many troubling issues student advocates identified” in special master Joseph Smith’s recent report. The piece quotes Mitchell saying, “Creating a new system to handle thousands of claims will take a little bit of time.”
NASA Gives Santa Monica College Minority Research Grant.
The Santa Monica (CA) Mirror (9/8) reports that Santa Monica College has been selected to receive a NASA Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Community College Curriculum Improvement (MC3I) grant, which will give the school “up to $250,000 per year for a maximum of three years to provide training for professors teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses and expand STEM course offerings at the college.”
The Santa Monica (CA) Daily Press (9/8) reports that the school is one of four US community colleges to receive the grants. The school “has a successful and growing STEM program in a partnership with” UCLA “funded by a five-year $5.8 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education in 2011.”
Duncan, Perez Endorse K-14 Model For Workforce Development.
In commentary in the Philadelphia Inquirer (9/8), Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez write that the US education system “must do a better job of teaching job-ready skills and equipping the next generation to thrive in the global economy.” To be prepared for the jobs that will exist in the coming decades, they write, students will need critical thinking skills, “a solid foundation in the basics,” and “technical know-how to match the technology they’ll inevitably work with.” The secretaries praise high schools that are “offering instruction in robotics, computer programming, even nanotechnology,” and single out Brooklyn’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), calling it “a unique arrangement among IBM, the City University of New York, and the New York City Department of Education.” The writers note that the school has a six-year program which “allows students to graduate with a high school diploma, an associate’s degree and the industry experience they need to compete for high-demand jobs,” and recommend that this “K-14” model be replicated across the country.
LATimes Analysis: Student Loan Debt Threatens Nation’s Economic Growth.
The Los Angeles Times (9/6, Puzzanghera) reports that student loans “now threatens the nation’s economic growth.” Since 2009, the amount of student loan debt has “skyrocketed 76 percent to almost $1.2 trillion,” which places it “only behind mortgage debt” as the primary sources of household debt. Delinquency rates have increased, with “11.5 percent of student loans at least three months delinquent as of June 30.”
Research and Development
BAE Systems Engineer Invents Firefighter Thermal Imaging System.
The Lowell (MA) Sun (9/6, Feathers) reports that BAE Systems engineer Barry Lavoie has invented the “Thermal on Demand facemask and imaging system,” which allows firefighters to see through smoke during a fire. The system uses a camera that “looks like a prop from a cyborg movie” which covers the right eye and uses thermal imaging to “allow firefighters to clearly see the outlines of obstacles in pitch-black settings.” While Lavoie “said the facemasks have been ready for mass production and use since 2012,” patent-owner BAE Systems “has not put them on the market.” Company spokesman Paul Roberts said that “Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has sponsored BAE Systems to update the Thermal on Demand (TOD) based on feedback from user evaluations and certification requirements, this important work is underway.”
Lockheed Martin JAGM Contract Moves To Engineering, Manufacturing Development Phase.
UPI (9/4, Tomkins) reports that the Lockheed Martin Joint Air-to-Ground Missile has started the engineering and manufacturing development portion of a US Army and Marine contract worth $66.3 million. The contract lasts two years and covers “production, test qualification and integration of the JAGM on [Boeing] AH-64 Apache and [Bell] AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopters” as well as “an initial low-rate manufacturing capability in support of two follow-on low-rate initial production options.”
Northrop Grumman Awards Australian Firm Contract For Triton Parts.
IHS Jane’s (9/6) reported that Northrop Grumman has awarded Australian firm Mincham Aviation a contract to supply components and minor assemblies for the MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance UAV on the first low-rate initial production lot of the vehicles. Northrop Grumman has said it continues to look to include Australia’s aerospace and defence industry in the production of the Triton amid the Australian government’s commitment to acquire the UAV. The Aero-News Network (9/8) reported the award is the second to an Australian firm following Northrop’s contract with Ferra Engineering for mechanical sub-assemblies in July.
Engineering and Public Policy
GOP Looking To Undermine President’s Effort To Negotiate Climate Treaty.
Politico (9/7, Restuccia) reports that “top” GOP lawmakers are looking to launch a “wide-ranging offensive” to “undermine” the President’s goal of “reaching an international climate change agreement that would cement his environmental legacy.” Politico says that the GOP strategy includes “sowing doubts about Obama’s climate policies at home and abroad, trying to block key environmental regulations in Congress, and challenging the legitimacy of the president’s attempts to craft a global agreement without submitting a treaty to the Senate.” The piece highlights the GOP’s intention to reach out to foreign embassies to highlight domestic opposition to a deal.
Studies Warn About Effects Of Climate Change. Meanwhile, the Washington Post (9/7, Warrick) reports that a pair of new studies, by separate teams of scientists, are “adding to concerns” that there is a possibility that global warming could “slow or shut down the Atlantic’s great ocean circulation systems, with dramatic implications for North America and Europe.” Among other things, the systems “help ensure relatively mild conditions in parts of Northern Europe that would otherwise be much colder.”
Arctic Melting Hasn’t Sparked Drilling Boom. The New York Times (9/8, A1, Myers, Krauss, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that despite predictions, the melting of Arctic ice has not resulted in a boom in drilling in newly exposed open water. The piece highlights a shuttered project in Siberia, and says that the drop in oil prices has torpedoed that and other initiatives.
EPA To Face Barrage Of Hearings Over Mine Spill.
The Hill (9/7, Cama) reports that the EPA “will face tough questions as lawmakers return and examine the mine waste spill it caused in Colorado,” as four congressional committees have planned hearings on the August 5 spill. The incident has “brought a wave of unwanted attention on the EPA as Republicans, the agency’s opponents and local residents criticized officials for what they saw as hypocrisy and a lack of transparency.”
Utah Governor Unveils Aerospace Certificate Program For High School Students.
The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (9/4, Wood) reported on Friday Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced the creation of a new program that will allow the state’s high school students to “receive an aerospace manufacturing certificate before they graduate.” Offered through Davis Applied Technology College and Salt Lake Community College, and with financial support from a $400,000 Department of Workforce Services grant, “the Utah Aerospace Pathways program…will provide a targeted curriculum and place students in paid internships.” Gov. Herbert was quoted saying that, “For young people looking for an exciting opportunity to develop their skills and have a good quality of life with a good-paying job, aerospace really fits that bill.”
STEM Partnership Shows Washington Teachers How To Set Up Sensors And Share Video And Data From Nature With Classes.
The Kitsap (WA) Sun (9/8, Henry) reports data sharing is allowing for new methods of teaching in STEM classes. The article gives the example of University of Washington Professor Debbie Kelley who gave a presentation to a group of Washington science teachers showing them how they could show live video and continuously updated data from hydrothermal vents 300 miles off the coast of Washington. The teachers also learned how they can set up their own technological sensors to monitor spots in nature that they can show to their students in class. The presentation and technological instruction is part of the Olympic STEM Pathways Partnership, intended to prepare educators for teaching in the 21st century.
Nebraska Schools Adding Agriculture Education Programs.
The AP (9/8) reports 13 schools in Nebraska added agriculture education programs to their fall schedule this year. Nebraska State Director of Agriculture Education Matt Kreifels said, “Agriculture is such a good industry to be involved in,” and hoped more schools would be able to open their own programs after finding qualified teachers.
More Prisons Teaching Inmates About Welding, An In-Demand Skill.
NPR (9/7, Capelouto) reports more prisons are teaching inmates how to weld in order to meet a predicted shortage of trained personnel in the profession. The American Welding Society estimates there will be a shortage of 300,000 welders by 2020.
Friday’s Lead Stories
• EPA Chief Will Not Appear At Congressional Hearing On Colorado Spill.