Leading the News
Google Acquires Car Manufacturing Bona Fides With Hire Of Former Hyundai Executive.
The announcement that Google had hired former Hyundai CEO John Krafcik to head its autonomous vehicle division generated a great deal of very positive media coverage for Google. Krafcik’s hiring is being interpreted as evidence that Google is moving full-speed ahead in its push to have a self-driving car available to the public in the next few years, especially considering Krafcik’s decades of experience in automobile manufacturing. Patrick George of Jalopnik writes: “Over the past few months we’ve seen tech companies like Google and Apple poach engineers and experts from the car world as they develop autonomous cars, but this is easily the biggest ‘get’ by a tech company yet.”
The Los Angeles Times (9/15, Fleming, Dave) reports that Dave Sullivan, product analyst for AutoPacific, describes Krafcik as “the best of Detroit iron, California car culture and Silicon Valley.” According to Sullivan, Krafcik “has the connections and manufacturing experience to help Google form the right partnerships to make a self-driving car reality.”
Navigant automotive analyst and former Ford engineer Sam Abuelsamid tells IndustryWeek that he was “a little surprised when [Krafcik] went to TrueCar” after leaving Hyundai, and “had speculated at the time that he might end up at Tesla.” Investors Business Daily reports that on Monday, Cowen and Co. analyst John Blackledge wrote that Krafcik “looks like a sensible fit given his Stanford/MIT engineering pedigree and long auto career.” Headlines such as Google Just Got Really Serious About Driverless Cars were representative of the tone of the coverage.
Echoing that narrative, the AP reports that for Google, which “has promised to have a self-driving car in the public’s hands by 2020,” bringing on Krafcik “shows the tech giant is serious about turning autonomous cars into a sustainable business.” The AP notes that on Monday, Google said it has “made more progress on its autonomous car technology than it ever thought was possible.”
Likewise, Conor Dougherty of the New York Times says the hiring of Krafcik “puts the self-driving car project, which sits inside Google’s ‘Google X’ research division, one step closer to graduating from an expensive engineering experiment to a real commercial undertaking that could drastically change how people commute.” USA Today (9/14, della Cava) says Google’s “autonomous vehicle project…is considered among the most developed among an increasingly crowded field that now includes both automakers as well as new tech entrants such as Uber.”
Google announced on Monday that Chris Urmson, who had been the top executive at the driverless car program, “will continue to lead technology development for the effort,” according to Bloomberg News (9/14, Womack). Drew Olanoff of TechCrunch says Google’s “self-driving car unit” currently “reports up to” Google Product Chief, and incoming CEO, Sundar Pichai, “but could be spun out as a company under Alphabet, since it’s clearly going to turn into a monster of a business for the parent company.” In a post for Gizmodo , Leah Becerra also says Krafcik’s hiring is “a sign that Google may be preparing to push the driverless car project outside the Google X safety bubble eventually.”
Obama Takes College Affordability Campaign To Des Moines High School.
President Obama took his campaign for college affordability to North High School in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday, addressing an audience of about 1,400 on his plans to reform the financial aid process and his call for two free years of community college. The trip was ignored by the national broadcast and cable networks, but was favorably covered by local Iowa broadcast media. National print media coverage, meanwhile, focuses on the President’s choice of the lead-off presidential caucus state for the trip, though it notes Obama generally steered clear of commenting on the 2016 campaign.
The Des Moines (IA) Register (9/15, Rodgers) reports Obama “called for making college more affordable to an audience of students and parents,” highlighting “his administration’s efforts to put a college education within reach for more students from middle class and poor families” and pushing his “$60 billion proposal unveiled earlier this year that would allow ‘any student willing to work for it’ to attend a two-year community college for free.” The President also alluded to his 2008 victory in the state’s Democratic presidential caucuses, saying, “It’s good to be back in Iowa. I was missing you guys.”
Newsweek (9/14, Martinez) reports on its website that Obama “implored high schoolers and parents to fill out the newly simplified Free Application for Federal Student Aid” and introduced his Administration’s long-awaited college scorecard, “encouraging students to use the tool to find information on the affordability of different colleges.” The Iowa State Daily (9/14, McCarty) reports the Administration has made changes that “will allow students to apply for the FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, as opposed to Jan. 1. Student applicants will also be able to electronically receive tax information filed for an earlier year.”
MOOCs Gaining Popularity.
The Washington Post (9/15, Rucker) reports massive open online courses (MOOCs) are gaining popularity as a way to learn more about a wide variety of topics. People in and out of college are taking them more frequently for career advancement. The article outlines what people should look for if they are interested in taking a MOOC.
NSF Grant Will Help Train New Science Teachers In Arkansas.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (9/14) reports the National Science Foundation awarded a $1.2 million grant to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to help the university improve the state’s STEM opportunities. The UALR Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program will help prepare new science teachers for secondary education.
Grassley Will Introduce Bill To Help Students Know More About Student Loans Before Borrowing.
The Hill (9/15, Carney) reports Senator Chuck Grassley is introducing legislation this week to increase “students’ awareness of their ability to pay back federal loans.” The legislation would required students getting federal loans to undergo financial counseling to better understand the debt they are taking on, which will include estimating how much they will likely make after graduating. Sen. Grassley says the federal government “has a responsibility to at least ensure that students know what they’re getting themselves into before they get in over their heads.” Grassley hopes to add the provision to the Higher Education Act.
Research and Development
Researchers Study Mechanical Forces Behind Knots.
The Imperial Valley (CA) News (9/15, Chu) reports that “researchers at MIT and Pierre et Marie Curie University in Paris have analyzed the mechanical forces underpinning simple knots, and come up with a theory that describes how a knot’s topology determines its mechanical forces.” The researchers ran experiments “to test how much force is required to tighten knots with an increasing number of twists,” and compared the results with predictions that turned out to be quite accurate.
Raytheon, Naval Research Lab Tested MALD-J Defenses.
Defense Systems (9/14, Pomerleau) reports that Raytheon and the Naval Research Laboratory “recently demonstrated new electronic attack architectures” as part of the Miniature Air Launched Decoy-Jammer, an inexpensive missile that mimics the flight profiles of manned aircraft to distract incoming attacks while jamming radars. The system was tested in “12 operationally relevant missions” and uses interchangeable and customizable payloads.
NU Institute Receives $5.3M Contract To Research Biodefense Threats.
The Lincoln (NE) Journal Star (9/15) reports the University of Nebraska’s National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) received a $5.3 million contract from the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases to research potential biodefense threats. Dr. Ken Bayles, associate vice chancellor for basic science research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said the contract “is an important step in developing partnership” with the Defense Department’s efforts to defend against biological attacks.
Array Of Things Project Gets Boost From $3.1 Million Grant.
The Chicago Tribune (9/14) reports researchers in Chicago “dealing with a year’s worth of technical and financial glitches for their Array of Things data sensor project celebrated a multimillion-dollar federal grant” yesterday “that they say will let them install dozens of the sensors on city streets by early next year.” A joint Argonne National Laboratory-University of Chicago “team had been anticipating the $3.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation that was announced Monday.” The project was unveiled last year “but then ran into several delays ranging from glitches with the sensor technology to public concern about privacy issues.” The researchers now “will finally have the resources to build the sensors and place them on utility poles around the city, said Charlie Catlett, the lead scientist on the project.” Researchers believe that “collecting data from the public way…will help researchers and city officials better understand the urban atmosphere.”
Crain’s Chicago Business (9/14) also provides coverage of this story.
Former Glass Engineer Who Left For Oculus Quietly Returns To Google.
In a piece picked up from Business Insider, the Houston Chronicle (9/14, D’Onfro) reports that Adrian Wong, “the former Google Glass lead electrical engineer who left the company last year to join” Oculus, has “quietly rejoined Google to work for parent company Alphabet, according to his LinkedIn page.” Wong’s “departure from Glass was viewed as a high-profile poach by Facebook.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Resolution Introduced In House To Impeach EPA Administrator.
The Dallas Morning News (9/15) reports that six members Texas’ delegation to the US House “and a scattering of colleagues from 12 other states have co-sponsored articles of impeachment against EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.” McCarthy is accused in the resolution “of perjury and making false statements before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.” She has led the agency “during a period of aggressive expansion of its work imposing limits on pollutants in the air and water, including carbon emissions linked to climate change.” Likely, the resolution “will be meaningless unless it attracts enough support from enough other GOP lawmakers to get a hearing in a committee and then enough votes to get to the House floor.”
California Wildfires Damage Geothermal Plant.
The Los Angeles Times (9/15, Penn) reports that five cooling towers at Calpine’s Geysers geothermal power generation facility have been damaged by wildfires in California, although Calpine spokesman Brett Kerr said the facility is still producing at more than two-thirds of capacity. California Independent System Operator spokesperson Steven Greenlee “said the troubles at the Geysers have not threatened reliability of electric service in the state,” the Times notes.
California Passes Climate Bill Mandating More Renewables, Greater Energy Efficiency.
Bloomberg Politics (9/14, Nash) reports that lawmakers in California on Friday “passed a watered-down version” of their climate bill, which will mandate that by 2030, half of the state’s energy come from renewable sources and that building owners double the energy efficiency of their facilities. The bill, which passed 51-26 in the Assembly and 26-14 in the Senate, will now go to Gov. Jerry Brown to be signed. Bloomberg highlights reactions from the bill’s supporters and opponents.
Indiana Middle School Has STEAM Theme For The Year.
The Shelbyville (IN) News (9/15, Gable) reports Triton Central Middle School in Fairland, Indiana has a STEAM theme for the year with Principal Bobby Thompson encouraging teachers to assign students cross-curricular projects. Students are learning how to program, how to sew, how to put on plays, and some are making movies that have to incorporate a list of vocabulary words assigned to them.
Students Learn About STEM, Baking, And Community Service At Colorado Elementary School.
The Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette (9/15, Kelley) reports students at Explorer Elementary in Colorado Springs learned about STEM subjects, food, and community service by participating in the “Bake for Good” program over the weekend. On Friday, a representative from King Arthur Flour company taught the students how to make bread by requiring them to answer math and science questions about the process. Then the students took home a baking kit to make a loaf of bread at home, which they brought back on Monday to donate to a local charity.
Two Missouri University Professors Develop App To Teach Physics To Local High School Students.
The Columbia (MO) Missourian (9/15, Yuan) reports two Missouri University physics professors, Meera Chandrasekhar and Dorina Kosztin, have created an app called Exploring Physics to teach high school students about the science. The app is divided into nine units covering “motion, forces, Newton’s Laws, momentum, energy, and electricity.” The creation of the app was funded by a $5 million National Science Foundation grant called “A Time for Physics First.” The app will be used by students in local high schools that partnered with the university during the development process.
Arkansas High School Joins Project Lead The Way Teaching STEM Classes To Students.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (9/14, Perozek) reports Rogers Heritage High School in Arkansas has joined Project Lead the Way, which offers courses in STEM subjects to students. Students learn about computer programming, engineering, and biomedical science through hands-on projects. Teacher Jay Gilstrap describes the learning approach in the courses as, “I’m not telling them, ‘This is what works best.’ They’re doing it on their own. It’s been a really good fit. I think the students really enjoy it.” Project Lead the Way started in New York in 1986, but has now spread to more than 8,000 schools across the country.
Monday’s Lead Stories
• GAO Report Criticizes Failure To Locate Abandoned Mines.