ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Tesla Seeking To Fill Thousands Of Positions In Autonomous Electric Cars Unit.

Fast Company  (12/29, Captain) reports that Tesla is seeking to fill 1,600 positions in its self-driving electric car unit, many of which are software engineer positions, as it continues work on a fully autonomous car. According to Fast Company, the company is facing “increasing competition for talent from other electric and autonomous carmakers such as Chinese-backed Faraday Future, Karma Automotive, and Atieva” and intends to hire “4,500 more workers in the Golden State alone within four years,” tax filings reveal. Fortune  (12/29, Groden) offers similar coverage.

Self-Driving Cars May Have To Deal With “Trolley Problem.”

The “Innovations” blog in The Washington Post  (12/30, Achenbach) reports that makers of self-driving cars are being confronted with the “Trolley Problem”, a hypothetical dilemma where a person must decide whether to take action to kill one person instead of five people. The problem has been a popular “intellectual exercise” for decades, but now self-driving cars may have to be programmed with an answer to the dilemma. The blog outlines different responses to the possibility that self-driving cars will have a programmed “answer” to the problem.

Higher Education

College Activists Band Together In Calling For Divestments.

The AP  (12/30, Binkley) reports that activists on college campuses are beginning to cooperate in pressuring US colleges and universities “to financially divest from industries that run counter to their beliefs.” Many of the activists, who have fought for separate issues, see them as interconnected and are now merging their demands and consolidating their influence to call for divestments from fossil fuels, the prison industry, and others.

WPost A1: College Athletics Spending More On Administrators.

In a 2,300-word front-page article, the Washington Post  (12/30, A1, Hobson, Rich) details the rising salaries of administrative and support staff for college athletic programs, “one of the biggest reasons otherwise profitable or self-sufficient athletic departments run deficits.” According to a Post review of financial records from 48 schools, combined pay for non-coaching staff climbed 69 percent in 10 years, from $454 million to $767 million. The Post also highlights that this higher spending “exposes the fallacy of the NCAA’s argument that most big college athletic departments can’t afford to pay players.”

From ASEE
Improve Your Federal Funding Efforts
This two-minute video explains the benefits of ASEE’s Engineering Research Concil meeting, March 7-9.

Read ASEE’s Capitol Shorts
This weekly newsletter keeps our members informed of important developments in Congress and federal agencies affecting engineering education and research.

Research and Development

NSF Awards Grant To University Of Washington Research Center To Develop Device To Help Paralyzed Move Limbs Again.

The Seattle Times  (12/30, Long) reports the National Science Foundation has awarded a $16 million grant to a team of researchers from several universities working at the University of Washington’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering to develop “an implantable device that could help paralyzed people move their limbs” that would be “available for clinical trials in eight to 10 years.” The research center was established in 2011 with an $18.5 million federal grant.

Workforce

Petroleum Engineering Graduates’ Job Prospects Hurt By Oil Slump.

The Dallas Morning News  (12/29, Hervey) reports that the boom-and-bust cycles in the oil business “can be brutal for those wanting to make it a career” as recent graduates struggle to enter the field. The next two graduating classes of petroleum engineers “are still the largest in history” even with enrollment caps in place at major Texas universities. Last year, about 80 percent of Texas A&M graduates were placed in full-time positions or in graduate programs, but a December poll found that this year that “only 50 percent of those graduating have job offers, and 10 percent plan to go to graduate school.”

Global Developments

Russia, India Agree To Increase Collaboration On Space Exploration.

Space Daily  (12/30) reports that according to a joint statement published last Thursday, Russia and India have agreed to continue to collaborate on space exploration, and rocket and engine manufacturing. The statement came after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday during a two-day summit in Moscow, where the two leaders “assessed the June 2015 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).” According to the article, the memorandum aims to further

Samsung To Invest Additional $600 Million In Vietnam Tech Park.

Reuters  (12/29) reports that Samsung has received approval from the Vietnamese government to increase its investment in the Ho Chi Minh City Saigon Hi-Tech Park by $600 million. The move will bring Samsung’s total investment in the tech park to $2 billion, with the additional new investment being used for research and development and the production of smart TVs and other electronics.

Industry News

Boeing Ramping Up Production Of Starliner Spacecraft At KSC.

Universe Today  (12/29) reports that Boeing is ramping up the production of its first CST-100 Starliner spacecraft at its new Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF), located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Since the facility opened in September, “significant progress has been made assembling the [structural test article] crew and service modules.” Noting the progress, Danom Buck, manager of manufacturing and engineering team for Boeing at KSC, said, “The lower and upper domes comprise the primary structure of the crew module,” adding, “Dome assembly is complete and the tunnel has been attached.” Moreover, John Mulholland, vice president for commercial programs at Boeing, said, “The [structural test article] will be completed in early 2016,” adding, “Then we start assembly of the Qualification Test Article.”

Airbus Helicopters Creates PEEK 90HMF40 Piece To Replace Aluminum In Aircraft Door Fitting.

Plastics News  (12/29, Snodgrass) reports that aircraft are increasingly using composite materials in a bid to trim their weight, with “plastics moving into more uses on planes, including a first commercial use in doors.” The article adds that a piece of “carbon fiber-reinforced PEEK 90HMF40 from United Kingdom-based materials firm Victrex has been used to replace aluminum in a fitting for the aircraft door of the A350-900.” The piece was fabricated by Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth, Germany and “has received regulatory approval and entered serial production.” Airbus Helicopters’ head of airplane doors research and technology, Christian Wolf, said: “The expertise gained from the initial use of fiber-reinforced PEEK can be transferred to other components and to other areas of application with similar requirements.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Scientists Say World’s Freshwater Lakes Are Getting Warmer.

The Washington Post  (12/30, Warrick) reports that new research funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA and published in the peer-reviewed journal Geographical Research Letters, says the world’s lakes “are growing rapidly warmer,” and warns of “potential consequences ranging from depleted fisheries to harmful algae blooms that kill fish and contaminate water supplies for cities large and small.” According to the research, warmer freshwater lakes “are yet another sign of global climate change, and their increasing temperatures are happening at a faster rate compared to the warming seen in the oceans and atmosphere.”

King: Polluters Behind Black Chamber’s Campaign Against Clean Power Plan.

In a Washington Post  (12/30) op-ed, Martin Luther King III, co-founder of the Drum Major Institute, writes that the National Black Chamber of Commerce’s warning to “communities of color that the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan will cause job losses and generate higher energy bills” is untrue. Noting that “the money behind the chamber’s campaign comes from polluters who stand to gain if the Clean Power Plan is blocked,” King argues that African Americans will not be “fooled by any group supported by industrial polluters.” King adds that people of color “can benefit greatly by supporting the Clean Power Plan, which will help reduce the impacts of climate change and expand the use of clean, renewable energy from the wind and sun.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Social Media Campaigns Promote Engineering, STEM Education.

Education Week  (12/29, Heitin) highlights the social media campaigns of ExxonMobil, toy company Goldieblox, and engineer Isis Wenger, which have been designed to promote engineering and STEM education, prompting Education Week to ask whether 2016 could be the “Year of the Engineer.”

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Promotes STEM Education.

The Christian Science Monitor  (12/29, Prince) writes that New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum “preserves history while inspiring young Americans to become bold, innovative, and daring explorers themselves” and quotes president Susan Marenoff-Zausner who stated that the greatest asset of the museum “lies in its ability to foster an interest in STEM.” Aiming to promote STEM education, Marenoff-Zausner and her staff reportedly run 800 education programs, many of which serve girls and underserved children.

Georgia State Auditors Recommend Reconsideration Of Program That Incentivizes New Math And Science Teachers.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (12/30, Stevens) reports Georgia state auditors has recommended state lawmakers to reconsider the need for a $15 million per year program that aimed to attract better-trained math and science teachers due to the belief that the state would face a shortage. The program gives bonuses to new math and science teachers, and also compensates teachers for taking extra classes in math and science. The auditors say the program is not very effective citing low participation, and that the predicted shortage of math and science teachers may have been overestimated in Georgia.

Opinion: Children Need To Learn How To Use Technology To Solve Problems Early.

In an opinion piece in The Hechinger Report  (12/29, Dicken), Wes Dicken, a kindergarten teacher at John Rex Charter Elementary School in Oklahoma city, argues that children need to learn “how to harness technology to create, solve problems and collaborate” in early elementary education. Dicken says children will embrace opportunities to try out technology in kindergarten because they are at an age where they are familiar with technology that they have grown up with and are willing to experiment and try new things with less fear of failure than many of them may feel later in life. Dicken also shares how he has incorporated programming robots into his curriculum as part of how he teaches his students math and reading.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

White House To Defend Power Plant Rules, Finalize New Truck Rules In 2016.
Utah State Engineering Students Create Tandem Bike For Riders With Disabilities.
Nonprofit Gives Cal Poly Student Tech Startups Grants.
Northrop Grumman Awarded Contract To Support MQ-8 Fire Scout.
Florida High School Students Preparing For Cybersecurity Competition.

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