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

Leading the News

Apple Rumored To Have Instituted Hiring Freeze On Car Project.

Business Insider’s  (1/25) Matthew DeBord reports that rumors have surfaced that “Apple isn’t happy with the progress being made on the secretive Apple Car” and has parted ways with Doug Betts, “the executive in charge of the effort.” According to DeBord, the way the company has handled “developing its foray into mobility has been, in a word, weird” and ultimately concludes that the company “hasn’t made the moves so far with the project that would fill anyone with confidence that the Apple Car will be a huge success.” CNET News  (1/25, Cunningham) reports that AppleInsider cited an inside source at the company that also “claims…that Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive was unhappy with” the direction of the rumored project, though a “person familiar with the matter” told CNET the story about Ive is untrue. CNBC  (1/25, Lenzo) adds that the rumors come “several days after” Steve Zadesky, an engineer in charge of the Apple Car project, was reportedly leaving the company. International Business Times  (1/25, Villapaz) and USA Today  (1/25, della Cava) offer similar reports and speculation about the rumors.

Daimler CEO: Apple, Google Further Along With Driverless Cars Than Expected. Mashable  (1/25, Wong) reports that German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported that Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche “and his company’s senior managers” believe Apple and Google are “making great progress on development” their cars. Zetsche told Welt am Sonntag, “Our impression was that these companies can do more and know more than we had previously assumed.” The Independent (UK)  (1/25, Bolton) reports that Zetsche explored Silicon Valley’s efforts in “the car industry on a recent business trip to California, during which he tried to discover the factors behind the area’s ‘creative spirit.’” Similarly covering Zetsche’s comments are 9 to 5 Mac  (1/25, Lambert) and AppleInsider  (1/25, Fingas). Information Week  (1/25, Eddy) also reports, in addition to offering a brief summary of Silicon Valley companies’ progress on their ongoing car projects.

Michigan AG Names Former Prosecutor To Lead Flint Investigation.

Alex Perez reported on ABC World News (1/25, story 8, 1:15, Muir) Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Monday “an independent team is now leading an investigation into the mishandling” of the Flint water crisis. The New York Times  (1/25, Smith, Subscription Publication) says Schuette announced former county prosecutor Todd Flood will head his office’s investigation. Schuette said Flood will work with Andrew Arena, former head of the FBI’s Detroit office “to assess whether state laws were broken in that process, the attorney general.”

Lester Holt said on NBC Nightly News (1/25, story 9, 0:20, Holt) “it could take months or years to restore safe drinking water for the city,” adding that “outraged residents gathered on the steps of City Hall” Monday, “furious that they are still getting bills for lead-contaminated water service.”

Milbank: Snyder To Blame For Flint Disaster. In his Washington Post  (1/25, Milbank) column, Dana Milbank casts blame for the Flint crisis on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, arguing it “not a failure of government generally,” but “the failure of a specific governing philosophy: Snyder’s belief that government works better if run more like a business.” While the EPA “deserves blame for failing to sound warnings more loudly and publicly, and for being too deferential to state authorities, once it learned last year that high lead levels in Flint were poisoning children,” the agency “had no role in the decisions that caused the problem, nor was it supposed to.”

Higher Education

Politicians, Nobel Laureates Celebrate Launch Of The Zuckerman Scholars Program In STEM Leadership.

US News & World Report  (1/25, Neuhauser) reports New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, four Nobel Prize laureates and the Israeli consul general were present to welcome the Zuckerman Scholars Program in STEM Leadership at a ceremony at the Harvard Club in New York City. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provided a video message and Mort Zuckerman, the scholarship’s sponsor, delivered the keynote address. The program will provide $100 million in scholarships and related educational activities to “postdoctoral researchers and graduate students in the U.S., fostering collaboration with researchers at Israel’s most prestigious research institutions.” In his speech, Zuckerman said, “At a time when collaboration is essential to advanced scientific research, this program gives the next generations of leading American and Israeli academics the ability to work together on cutting-edge research in ways that stand to benefit their fields for years to come.”

Commentary: Colleges Around The World Targeted Because Of Vulnerability, Diversity Of Ideas.

In commentary for the Washington Post  (1/25), Robert Quinn, executive director of Scholars At Risk, writes violent attacks on universities are not incomprehensible events but part of a widespread pattern of attacks worldwide that has reached crisis levels. Scholars at Risk’s report, “Free to Think,” released in June 2015, documented 333 attacks involving violent or coercive force against higher education institutions and their members in 65 countries. Quinn writes that most attacks go unreported, and that schools are targeted because they are predictable, soft targets where “diverse voices and points of view” are encouraged.

Chicago State University Facing Shutdown Amid Ongoing Budget Impasse.

The Huffington Post  (1/25, Bellware) reports Chicago State University is facing a shutdown as early as March 1 as the state budget impasse in Illinois continues from last June. President Thomas Calhoun Jr. said the budget impasse “may lead to a massive disruption of services” at the majority black university, and some students have begun organizing a campaign to pressure lawmakers to pass a budget soon. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s deputy chief of staff Richard Goldberg says Chicago State University has been poorly managed and that is why they are struggling to stay open.

Wisconsin Legislator Introduces Bill To Pay College Students’ Expenses In Exchange For Working In the State.

The AP  (1/25) reports Wisconsin state representative Melissa Sargent introduced legislation that would give grants to students at public universities in the state on the condition that they maintain a 3.0 GPA and work in the state for three years after graduating.

International Association of Continuing Engineering Education
Call for papers for May 17-20 conference in Porto, Portugal. January 31 deadline.

Surmounting the Barriers
The joint NAE-ASEE report makes recommendations for breaking down long-identified barriers to diversity in higher education.

Research and Development

University Of Delaware Launches Nanofabrication Lab.

The Wilmington (DE) News Journal  (1/24) reports that the University of Delaware has opened “one of the most advanced…nanofabrication” labs in the Mid-Atlantic region, in the Mid-Atlantic. The piece explains that nanotechnology “offers new opportunities to researchers on the hunt for scientific advances and new products that are smaller, faster and more reliable than their larger counterparts.” The $30 million lab is intended to help “some of the top minds in academia and industry to build cutting-edge devices smaller than a fleck of dust.”


Disney Accused Of Colluding To Replace US Tech Workers With Immigrants.

The New York Times  (1/25, Preston, Subscription Publication) reports Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, technology workers who were laid off by Disney a year ago, have filed class-action lawsuits in Federal court in Tampa against the company as well as the global consulting companies, HCL and Cognizant, “which brought in foreign workers who replaced them.” The lawsuits claim “the companies colluded to break the law by using temporary H-1B visas to bring in immigrant workers, knowing that Americans would be displaced from their jobs.” The suits mark “the first time Americans have gone to federal court to sue both outsourcing companies that imported immigrants and the American company that contracted with those businesses, claiming that they collaborated intentionally to supplant Americans with H-1B workers.”

The Orlando (FL) Sentinel  (1/25) reports that “separately, about two dozen of the Disney workers who were laid off have made complaints to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission” which “allege discrimination because of nationality, race and age.”

Global Developments

UAV Test Could Lead to Increased Payload Capacity.

Wired  (1/25, Crucchiola) reports that researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) successfully landed a UAV on a moving car last week. The DLR researchers claim that “using a speed-matching vehicle to catch a drone makes for safer landings,” plus removing “cumbersome landing gear frees up space for the UAV to carry more equipment.” Tin Muskardin, an engineer at the DLR’s Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, explained, “The available payload capacity can be increased significantly. In the case of very light solar aircraft it could be almost doubled.” This means a UAV without wheels and landing gear “could accommodate more scientific instruments for errands like taking weather measurements up in the stratosphere.” Wired says that even though there may not be an obvious use for this technology yet, it’s easy to envision “Amazon tinkering with it” so its Prime Air drones can link up with its delivery trucks.

Industry News

Google May Be Mounting VR Challenge For Oculus, Samsung.

The Verge  (1/25, Statt) reports that recent job postings indicate that “Google may be getting ready to move beyond its cardboard, DIY approach” to VR, though the company has kept the wording “purposefully vague.” The company posted ads for various positions, including Hardware Engineer, and Electrical Hardware Engineer. Engadget  (1/25, Conditt) reports the postings originally referenced “Virtual Reality” but were later changed to say “Consumer Hardware.” Engadget adds that Google recently hired “former Vine boss Jason Toff” to work on VR. Digital Trends  (1/25, Curry) also reports.

Engineering and Public Policy

Inhofe Expects Obama Executive Action On Cap-And-Trade.

Roll Call  (1/25, Bennett) reported in its “POTUS Operandi” blog lawmakers are expecting the President to take executive action “on everything from terrorist detention to campaign finance to environmental issues.” According to Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Inhofe, “one possibility is an executive action setting up a carbon cap-and-trade system.” Inhofe said the President “has legacy things and he doesn’t have as much time as he would like to have. … Cap-and-trade and closing Gitmo, those are the things he wants to do. … If it doesn’t work through regulation…executive action is all that’s left for him.” Roll Cal added others “expect Obama likely would not stop with cap-and-trade, and predict action on other environmental issues about which he feels strongly.”

Oil Bust Hurting Small US Refineries.

Bloomberg News  (1/25, Wilson) reports the “shale bust is threatening to ruin a renaissance in small refineries,” with the article particularly focusing on Dakota Prairie Refining LLC. Diesel sold in Minot, North Dakota received an average premium between $56 and $69 a barrel from 2011 to 2014, but by the time Dakota Prairie opened in May 2015, diesel premium was in the mid $30s, and it was $17.57 this Sunday. Robert Campbell, head of oil-products research at Energy Aspects Ltd., says small refineries are facing a “double whammy” because the diesel market is widening worldwide, while demand in their specific local market plunges.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Female Engineering Student Creates “Think Like A Girl” Engineering Kits For Girls.

Philly (PA)  (1/25, Lai) reports Rowan University engineering student Gaby Rochino has created a series of engineering activities kits for young girls called “Think Like a Girl.” Rochino and her co-founders were inspired after their personal struggles with difficult engineering classes in college as well as sexism in the engineering industry, so they decided to work on a project to help future female engineers at a young age. Rochino developed the project with other engineers during a class on entrepreneurship and innovation.

Michigan High School Student Selected For White House Award For Creating Computer Science Camp For Girls.

The AP  (1/25) reports Christina Li, a senior at Utica Community Schools in Michigan, will receive one of the “White House Champions of Change for Computer Science Education” awards for creating the “Hello World” computer science education summer camp for 30 middle school girls. Li taught the girls how to program websites, games, robots, and apps.

High School Student Competing In National Science Competition To Meet Others Who Love Math And Science.

On its website, NBC News  (1/26) reports Sanath Devalapurkar is one of 40 finalists in this year’s Intel Science Talent Search, a prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors, where he will present his project “Algebraic K-Theory is Stable and Admits a Multiplicative Structure for Module Objects” at the competition. Devalapurkar has already begun taking classes at UCLA, which will allow him to graduate from West High School in Torrance, California two years early. He says he is most interested in the competition so he can meet other people who love math and science as much as he does.

California School District Testing Out New Math Curriculum In Elementary Schools.

Palo Alto (CA) Online  (1/25, Kadvany) reports Palo Alto Unified School District is testing out a new elementary school math curriculum aligned with the new Common Core-based standards adopted by the state. The district has designated this school year an “exploration year” where teachers can pick and choose portions of the curriculum to test out, so the district can get feedback about it.

Louisiana Launching New Career And Technical Education Program.

The Lake Charles (LA) American Press  (1/25) reports Louisiana’s new career and technical education program Jump Start calls for schools to align their programs with state and regional workforce demands under the supervision of the state BOE. The article quotes two legislators who sponsored the bill creating the program who said they wanted to do more to help young people prepare for future careers. Former state senator Bob Kostelka, who also served as a judge, said that he was tired of seeing so many young people in court and he wanted to help them develop valuable skills so they could find work after high school.

Monday’s Lead Stories

WPost And NYTimes A1: Government Neglect Responsible For Flint’s Water Crisis.
Amenities, Flagging State Support Contribute To Rising College Costs.
Scientists Seek To Reduce Costs Of Smart Windows.
Experts: Cyber Threats Not Catastrophic, But Security Mechanisms Require Improvement.
FAA: Nearly 300,000 Drones Registered.
Indianapolis Robotics Competition Spurs Interest In STEM.

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