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

Leading the News

Toyota Announces New Partnership With Microsoft For Connected Cars.

USA Today  (4/4, Bomey) reports Toyota and Microsoft have partnered to create Toyota Connected a subsidiary focused on accelerating the “data-science-based development of technologies for vehicles.” The company “will explore advanced ways to integrate artificial intelligence and data analytics into various aspects of the automaker’s business,” with Toyota scientists and Microsoft engineers “working side by side.” Toyota’s Zack Hicks said of the venture “Toyota Connected will help free our customers from the tyranny of technology. It will make lives easier and help us to return to our humanity.”

The AP  (4/4) reports the company’s goal is to simplify technology for users “perhaps even getting rid of distracting and complicated touch screens that now are in most cars and replacing them with heads-up or voice-activated technology.” The AP adds that Toyota Connected will “research connecting cars to each other and to homes, as well as telematics features that learn and anticipate a driver’s habits.”

Reuters  (4/4, Lienert) reports that the company is an expansion of a five-year partnership with Microsoft, with the technology company having a 5 percent stake on Toyota Connected.

Bloomberg News  (4/4, Lippert) reports that Microsoft’s Kurt DelBene said the partnership would work “to make driving more personal, intuitive and safe.”

The Detroit Free Press  (4/4, Bomey, Woodyard) and Fortune  (4/4, Korosec) offer additional coverage.

Higher Education

ED To Launch Single Website For Student Loan Servicing.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (4/4) reports that ED announced this week that it “plans to streamline student-loan repayment by introducing a single web portal for borrowers.” The new website “will allow borrowers to find information about their loans, payments, and benefits on one website,” and ED also “rolled out plans to develop better customer service for borrowers and to provide one platform for federal student loans.”

Inside Higher Ed  (4/4) reports that ED plans “to change how the loan servicing companies they hire go about collecting payments from federal student loan borrowers,” who “will log on to a single Education Department web portal to make loan payments instead of navigating various loan servicers’ websites.” Moreover, servicers “will have to use Education Department branding – rather than their own logos – when communicating with loan borrowers.” Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said in a Monday blog post that the goal is for borrowers no longer to have “the need to know the name of their servicer.” Another ED official said that ED “also plans to be more prescriptive about how the loan servicing companies it hires must interact with federal loan borrowers.”

Analysis: Texas College Costs Rise Faster “When Lawmakers Set The Prices.”

The Dallas Morning News  (4/4) reports that the its “analysis of average undergraduate tuition and fees over the last quarter-century found that costs rose faster at most Texas public colleges and universities when lawmakers set the prices.” The paper reports that this runs contrary to politicians who “say school officials have used their authority to force students to bear an ever-increasing burden of funding their education.”

University Of Hawaii Calls For Independent Investigation Into Lab Explosion.

The AP  (4/4) reports that officials with the University of Hawaii said they have called on the University of California Center for Laboratory Safety “to investigate what caused a laboratory explosion last month that seriously injured a visiting researcher.” The incident happened “when a researcher was growing cells by feeding them a mixture of low-pressure hydrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen,” which university officials say is a common process.

South Dakota Offering In-State Tuition To Iowa Students.

The Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette  (4/4) reports that after seeing a reduction in the number of students from Iowa in recent years, the South Dakota Board of Regents “has decided to start offering resident tuition rates to students from the Hawkeye State.” The plan “will allow first-time freshmen or new transfer students from Iowa to qualify for undergraduate resident tuition at the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, Dakota State University, and Northern State University.”

Massachusetts AG Sues ITT Educational Services Over “Abusive Sales Tactics.”

The Washington Post  (4/4, Douglas-Gabriel) reports Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has filed suit alleging that for-profit college firm ITT Educational Services has engaged in “abusive sales tactics and misleading students about the quality of its programs.” ITT employees told prospective students “that anywhere from 80 to 100 percent of graduates found jobs in or related to their field of study,” while this rate was actually closer to 50%. Moreover, “ITT counted jobs selling computers at big box stores and providing customer service for an airline as working in the field of computer technology.”

From ASEE
Engineering Informing Liberal Arts Education
ASEE and education expert Sheila Tobias have launched a series of case studies on engineering habits-of-mind enhancing a liberal arts education.  Funding came from the Teagle Foundation.

Research and Development

Autonomous Cars Lack Capacity To Recognize Some Hazardous Conditions.

Marketplace  (3/31) reports on the inability of autonomous cars to recognize some roadside hazards in less-than-optimal conditions. Many self-driving cars “rely on sensors to read lines on the road, which means navigating less than pristine markings can be tough.” Moreover, in chaotic traffic conditions, cars are competing for data transmission capacity. The piece quotes University of Maryland Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Director Michael Pack saying, “Think about the fact that you now have thousands and thousands of people out on the road trying to compete for that information at the same time. When you’re driving 60-70 miles per hour down the interstate you want to be absolutely sure that your vehicle is going to be able to communicate quickly and clearly with all the vehicles around it.” Marketplace continues, “Pack notes that self-driving cars need to process their location, speed and directions, which could use a lot of data.”

Interview With Michael Hoffman On Microsoft HoloLens.

Venture Beat’s  (4/4) Dean Takahashi interviews Michael Hoffman, who left Microsoft’s HoloLens development team to start “Object Theory” to devote his time to making enterprise apps for the headset, about the HoloLens AR headset. Hoffman says he “absolutely believe[s] that HoloLens is the future” and that Microsoft will “make a big difference in revolutionizing AR.” Hoffman discusses Object Theory’s work with architecture, engineering, and construction consulting firm CDM Smith, the difference in utility between AR and VR, and possible other enterprise applications for AR technology.

Review: HoloLens Could Enhance Social Interaction. MIT Technology Review’s  (4/5) Rachel Metz highlights the HoloLens’ potential to enhance social interactions in the future, though the technology is currently restricted to developers.

Workforce

Startups Working On Improving Diversity In Tech Hiring.

The Christian Science Monitor  (4/4) profiles Stephanie Lampkin, “a petite black woman” who “was once told during a job interview that her background wasn’t ‘technical’ enough for software engineering jobs” despite her “software engineering degree from Stanford University and stints working for Microsoft and Deloitte.” In response, Lampkin created an app called Blendoor, “a platform that matches up companies and potential workers, Tinder-style, and scrubs the name and photo from a job candidate’s résumé” in an effort to increase “the chances of qualified minority candidates to break into homogeneous industries.” Blendoor, the Monitor reports, “is part of a bumper crop of startups jockeying to be the go-to tool for making hiring more democratic.”

Industry News

Apple Engineers: iPhone Vulnerability Will Be Short-Lived

Yahoo! Tech  (4/5, Plummer) reports that according to unidentified Apple engineers, the FBI’s path into the iPhone will soon be blocked. “Once Apple engineers identify the security loophole that allowed the U.S enforcement agency to hack into a locked iPhone 5c, the tech firm will be able to fix the encryption hole,” Yahoo says, paraphrasing the engineers.

The Independent (UK)  (4/4, Griffin) reports that Apple is working to uncover the FBI’s hacking technique and will reveal it to the public once its engineers discover it. Should Apple be unable to discover the security flaw itself, “it will probably be revealed through the court cases that are set to follow the revelation that the FBI managed to get into the phone,” the Independent says. Mac Daily News  (4/4) and WHNT-TV  Huntsville, AL (4/4, Stark) also report on this story.

FBI To Help Local Authorities Unlock iPhones, Letter Suggests. The Washington Post  (4/4, Peterson) continues coverage of an FBI letter obtained by Buzzfeed News in which bureau officials pledge to “consider any tool that might be helpful” to local law enforcement in their quest against strong encryption. Should the bureau use the same method in local cases that it used on the San Bernardino iPhone “there may be limitations, because the FBI – which has declined to identify who helped the agency unlock the San Bernardino phone – would likely be unwilling to testify about the method. Otherwise, it might be forced to reveal how the hacking tool works,” the Post says. Vox  (4/4, Lee) notes that the FBI missive said the bureau would do all it could to help local investigators “consistent with our legal and policy constraints.” Those constraints, Vox says, will “likely include the FBI’s desire to keep the details of how it hacks the iPhones a secret.” Vanity Fair  (4/4, Kosoff) and PC World  (4/4, Ribeiro) also report on this story.

Boeing CTO Honored In STEM Leadership Hall Of Fame.

US News & World Report  (4/4) announced the winners of its 2015 STEM Leadership Hall of Fame, selected because of their “measurable results in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields; challenged established processes and conventional wisdom; inspired a shared vision; and motivated legions of aspiring STEM professionals.” Among the honorees is John Tracy, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President, Engineering, Operations & Technology, at the Boeing Company.

Engineering and Public Policy

Clean Power Plan Receives Some Unexpected Utility Support.

E&E News PM  (4/4, Subscription Publication) reports that Dominion Resources was “perhaps the most unexpected party to side with U.S. EPA in the massive litigation” over the Clean Power Plan. Dominion said in a court filing that the rule “provides a flexible, accommodating compliance framework that means the Rule can be implemented by states and EPA in a way that is challenging but ultimately manageable for regulated power plants.” E&E reports that utilities, including Southern California Edison Co. and Pacific Gas and Electric Corp., have intervened in the case on EPA’s side, “but most in the power sector are seeking to block the rule.”

Utility Bills Rising On Infrastructure Costs Despite Falling Power Prices.

Bloomberg News  (4/4, Crawford, Malik) reports that “record-low costs for power in the U.S. haven’t translated into lower monthly payments for consumers” because electricity costs make up only a third of residential bills and most of the charges cover power lines and infrastructure. “Consumer advocates say the power companies are using falling electricity costs as cover to raise other charges. Utilities counter that it’s payback for billions of dollars worth of government-mandated improvements to long-neglected infrastructure.”

Study: Offshore Wind Farm Would Reduce North Carolina Coastal Rentals.

The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer  (4/4, Murawski) reports that “an offshore wind farm off the coast of North Carolina would reduce coastal home rentals and potentially harm tourism, but the impacts diminish as wind turbines are placed at a maximum distance from shore, a study by N.C. State University economists found.” The study “found that the visibility of 500-foot tall turbines – which are as tall as 50-story office buildings – would render summer vacationing less appealing for many people who regularly rent homes along North Carolina’s coastline.” The report says, “Over 50 percent of those surveyed indicated that they would not return to the same beach for their next rental should a utility-scale wind farm be placed offshore. This is true despite wide-spread support for wind energy development among these same respondents.”

Oregon, California, Federal Officials Seek Removal Of Klamath Dams.

The AP  (4/4, Cooper) reports that Oregon, California, the Federal government and others have agreed to go forward with a plan to remove four hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest “without approval from a reluctant Congress, a spokesman for dam owner PacifiCorp said Monday.” The move aims to remove the dams in 2020 and “would be a major victory for tribes” in the area and “could breathe new life into a struggling effort to allocate more water for farmers and ranchers in the drought-stricken Klamath basin.” PacifiCorp has supported the dam-removal.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Tampa Area Elementary School Praised For STEM Emphasis.

WUSF-FM  Tampa, FL (4/4, Carter) reports that Jamerson Elementary School was named the “top elementary STEM program in the nation” by an Orlando technology education conference due to its incorporation of engineering into such varied topics as music and art. Students tackle challenges including road design, data collection, and the merits of space programs, and teachers say that the early STEM emphasis especially benefits girls, who tend to be more confident and “more successful” than female students from traditional schools.

Coding Academy Reaches Out To Young Refugees.

The Arizona Republic  (4/4, Nordquist) reports that Arizona business incubator Seed Spot offered a day-long “coding academy” for refugee students as young as seven. Organizers expressed desires to offer the students an opportunity “to build the future,” particularly by extending opportunities to girls and students from “traumatic situations,” according to one volunteer. A larger event is in the works for World Refugee Day on June 20.

New Asheville STEM After-school Program Opens.

The Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times  (4/4) reports that Zaniac, a national STEM after-school center, will open “its first North Carolina campus” in Asheville on April 19. Programs will engage participants in “creative, conceptual problem solving” that include robotics, Legos, Minecraft, and programming activities. Zaniac partners expressed excitement to “enrich children’s lives,” “strengthen self-esteem,” and provide “a positive model” for their daughters.

Monday’s Lead Stories

Experts: iPhone Hacking Technique Not Likely To Stay Secret.
As Tuition Costs Escalate, College Endowments Come Under Scrutiny.
Carter To Announce Initiative With MIT To Develop High-Tech Textiles.
Tech Industry Demand Expected To Again Exceed Supply Of New H1-B Worker Visas.
China Aggressively Promoting Autonomous Cars.
More Than 200 Current, Former Lawmakers File Brief Supporting Clean Power Plan.
Hartford High School Hosts Robotics Competition.

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