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

Leading the News

Ford Successfully Tests Self-Driving Car At Night.

USA Today  (4/11, Cava) reports that engineers at Ford successfully made “a self-driving Ford Fusion lap its Arizona Proving Grounds in complete darkness, using laser radar, or Lidar, as its guide.” USA Today highlights that the test reveals how self-driving cars can operate under circumstances that human drivers may not be able to. USA Today explains that during the test, instead of headlights, the Ford Fusion used “onboard cameras to plot its course against pre-loaded 3D maps.” The article mentions that Google also recently expanded its self-driving test to Phoenix, Arizona.

Forbes  (4/11, Abuelsamid) emphasizes that Ford’s focus on night driving is important since a 2007 NHTSA test found that in 2005, 49 percent of all traffic deaths occurred at night.

Christian Science Monitor  (4/11, Kenworthy) reports the Ford test car used “2.8 million laser pulses per second,” which “allow the car to orient itself by comparing its position to detailed 3D maps that included topography, road markings, and landmarks such as signs, buildings, and trees.” Ford is said to have “proven to be a leading innovator when it comes to automated cars” and “is rumored to be in talks with Google.”

Higher Education

State AGs Call On ED To Drop Embattled Accreditor.

Inside Higher Ed  (4/11) reports that the attorneys general for 12 states called on ED last week to “deny federal recognition of one of the largest accreditors of for-profit colleges, including the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges.” ED is scheduled to review its support for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools in June. The letter from the state attorneys general said that ED “should not continue to recognize ACICS as an accreditor whose stamp of approval carries weight for the purposes of receiving federal student aid money.”

WPost A1: Undocumented High School Senior Set To Be Valedictorian, Can’t Receive Federal Loans.

In a 1,786-word front-page article, the Washington Post  (4/11, Brown) reports Edwin Ordoñez, who spoke no English when his family illegally entered the US when he was nine but is now set to graduate as valedictorian of the Washington, DC’s Bell Multicultural High School. Ordoñez took 12 AP classes, including calculus and computer science, and he has “many advocates among his teachers and counselors at school, none more fierce than Joseph Talarico, his English teacher.” Talarico says Ordoñez “reaffirms my belief in the power of education to transform lives.” However, Ordoñez faces “an uncertainty that many undocumented students confront during their senior year” because he’s not eligible for federal loans or grants due to his immigration status.

Critics Say Common Application Causes Low Admission Rates.

The New York Times  (4/12, McPhate, Subscription Publication) reports on concerns that the Common Application is resulting in prospective college students “applying to too many colleges, driving down admission rates and elevating the prestige of selective universities, which leads more students to apply.” The piece reports that the ease of using the Common Application “has led many students to decide almost on a whim to add one, two or even 10 more universities to their list.” The trend is known among admissions experts as “application inflation,” and according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the percentage of students who applied to seven or more schools rose from 9% in 1990 to 32% in 2013.

Facebook Donates $250,000 For Minority Coding Scholarships.

USA Today  (4/11, Molina) reports that Facebook donated $250,000 to cover “full tuition for 20 women and underrepresented minority students” for the San Francisco Dev Bootcamp, a coding initiative, ahead of Facebook’s f8 developers conference. Dev Bootcamp’s vice president of business development and corporate strategy released a statement calling the donation a “real impact” on the organization’s goal of achieving “proportional representation of the U.S. population with our student base of women and minorities.” Although Facebook has increased its diversity initiatives, the majority of both its employees and f8 attendees are white and Asian men.

Regulatory Science Degrees Praised For Helping Researchers Target FDA Approval.

Profiling former NIH researcher Jonathan Helfgott, the Washington Post  (4/11, Luberecki) touts regulatory science master’s degree programs as helping “graduates learn to navigate the increasingly complex world of scientific regulations so they can help companies, universities, hospitals and scientific associations bring medical innovations to market.” George Washington University’s regulatory affairs program director Daniela Drago asserted the need for the degree saying, “Developing a new, FDA-regulated product is long, difficult and expensive.” Georgetown’s program for regulatory science and medicine’s executive director Erin Wilhelm said, “These programs take some of the murkiness out of what people perceive as the black box that is the FDA, the perception that data goes into the FDA but not a lot of information comes out.”

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

SAE Holding Annual World Congress.

The Detroit Free Press  (4/10, Phelan) reports that the Society of Automotive Engineers International is holding its annual World Congress in Detroit this week, saying over “10,000 attendees from around the world will talk about everything from cyber security to artificial intelligence to alternate energy.” The event “combines elements of a think tank, trade show, job fair and academic conference.”

Haptics Researchers Gather For Philadelphia Symposium.

The Philadelphia Daily News  (4/12, Avril) reports that researchers from around the world were in Philadelphia for a “symposium on emerging technology called haptics,” which “involves the use of electronics and miniature motors to create or enhance the sensation of touch.” The piece describes it as a “much fancier version” of the vibrate function on a phone. The event is “affiliated with the New York-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.”

SpaceX’s Dragon Cargo Ship Delivers BEAM To ISS.

The Daily Mail  (4/10, Woollaston) reports “a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday,” carrying 7,000 lbs of freight that included Bigelow Aerospace’s Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). The Washington Post  (4/11, Davenport) reports Bigelow is “already thinking” about using similar inflatable space habitats for “research and even space hotels.” The Post reports the company announced the United Launch Alliance, a “joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin,” will deliver larger habitats to orbit starting in 2020.

Virginia Tech Researchers Testing Alternative To Lead-based Piezoelectric Materials.

The Augusta (VA) Free Press  (4/12) reports that in an effort to reduce the amount of lead in the environment, a group of researchers at Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science led by post-doctoral researcher Deepam Maurya are working “to find an alternative to lead-based piezoelectric ceramic materials.” The researchers are “working to solve the problem of replacing the lead with a suitable piezoelectric material that will meet the working thresholds of PZT.” The current version “is used in the automotive, medical, and electrical fields, among others, to make sensors, filters, actuators, and other products.”

Industry News

Engineer: Claims That Autonomous Vehicles Will Prevent 90% Of Accidents Aren’t True.

Israeli business website Globes  (4/10, Moran) cited Dr. Ian Noy, an Israeli-born engineer who “has filled a number of senior roles related to road safety” in Canada, as casting doubt on claims that autonomous vehicles will prevent 90% of traffic accidents. Addressing a conference audience, Noy said that assessment is based on data inaccurately targeting “human error” as the “default” cause of nine in 10 accidents, regardless of whether facts prove “a misjudgment by the driver.” Although autonomous vehicles “have certain advantages over drivers” in that they don’t get tired or drunk and aren’t distracted, “they face many challenges even before we touch on the safety issue, challenges which relate to their integration into the flow of traffic.”

US EV Sales Still Just A “Drop In The Bucket,” Despite Tesla Model 3 Frenzy.

The Los Angeles Times  (4/11, Peltz) reports that, in spite of the “frenzy” surrounding Telsa’s Model 3, electric car sales are “a drop in the bucket for the U.S. auto industry” at 71,064 of 17.4 million cars sold – 0.4% – in 2015. With hybrids included, the electric car industry’s sales accounted for 2.9% of sales or 498,426 units, down from 3.5% at 570,945 units in 2014. The market is, however, expanding as traditional automakers look to add electric and/or hybrid models to their offerings.

BCG: Self-Driving Cars To Total 12% Of Global Car Sales By 2025. Investor’s Business Daily  (4/11, Chandler) reports that Boston Consulting Group expects “the full universe of vehicles with some autonomous features” to account for “12% to 13% of car sales globally” – representing a market of about $42 billion for the autonomous features only – by 2025. By 2035, BCG forecasts that “sales of fully autonomous vehicles will comprise 9.8% of the global market for new light vehicle sales”– or approximately “a $38 billion market for autonomous-vehicle features.” These figures mean “a significant rollout of new-from-the-ground-up autonomous cars ‘may take decades,’” according to vice president of global engineering and services Delphi Automotive Glen DeVos. IBD offers a summary of companies’ efforts to develop self-driving cars and lawmakers’ attempts to regulate them.

RAND: Driverless Cars A Long Way From Being Proven Safe.

The Detroit News  (4/12, Martinez) reports that new research from RAND Corporation says driverless cars will need to be driven for hundreds of billions of miles before they can be declared safe. “Our results show that developers of this technology and third-party testers cannot drive their way to safety,” Nidhi Kalra, a co-author of the study, is quoted saying. “It’s going to be nearly impossible for autonomous vehicles to log enough test-driving miles on the road to statistically demonstrate their safety, when compared to the rate at which injuries and fatalities occur in human-controlled cars and trucks.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Battles Expected At Senate And House Energy And Water Markups.

E&E Publishing  (4/11, Subscription Publication) reports that this week “the prospects for President Obama’s request to double clean energy spending over five years will become clearer” as appropriators in the House and Senate “unveil their fiscal 2017 spending bills that fund the Department of Energy.” On Wednesday, “the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee will mark up its bill…continuing the tradition of moving early on legislation that is widely popular because it funds DOE’s nuclear weapons programs and federal laboratories.” Also on Wednesday, “the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee will also take up its version of the bill…where they will also announce the discretionary spending caps known as 302(b) allocations, followed by a full committee markup Thursday.” The usual battle “over the division of funds between renewable and traditional energy programs will be exacerbated this year by the Mission Innovation proposal” which “has been championed by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.”

Senate Committee Hearing To Examine Small Business Perspective On EPA Regulations.

The Hill  (4/11, Wheeler, Devaney) reports that on Tuesday the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight will hold a hearing to examine how EPA regulations affect small businesses in the United States.

Editorial Stands By Critics Of Missouri Grid Modernization Legislation.

An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch  (4/11) calls on the Missouri Senate to listen to critics of Senate Bill 1028, the so-called “21st Century Grid Modernization and Security Act,” who say the bill is a “job killer” that would result in “higher utility bills.” The bill would “radically overhaul regulatory oversight of Missouri’s investor-owned electric utilities,” which includes Ameren Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light, and the Empire District Electric Co. of Joplin. If the bill were approved, electricity rates could soar by as much as 71 percent by 2026, according to Missouri regulators.

Freedom Partners, AFP Fight Back Against Renewable Energy Tax Breaks In FAA Bill.

The Hill  (4/11, Zanona) reports Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity said they would turn to the House if the Senate attempts to attach renewable energy tax breaks to the FAA reauthorization bill. Freedom Partners senior policy advisor Andy Koenig said on a press call, “If the Senate isn’t going to do anything to stop this, we’re going to put pressure on the House,” pointing out that the “House is under no obligation to take up a bunch of energy subsidies if they don’t want to.” Koenig said, “We’ve heard over and over again that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is committed to regular order and a transparent process,” adding, “He did negotiate an extenders bill which specifically did not include these additional energy extenders, and he should, according to his rhetoric, be opposed to a process where you’re putting unrelated tax provisions into an FAA bill.”

Massachusetts Gov. Baker Signs Bill Lifting Solar Energy Caps.

The AP  (4/11) reports that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday signed a bill that raises caps on the state’s net metering program. “Existing net metering caps have been reached in much of Massachusetts, stalling some solar projects.” Renewable energy advocates say the law is only a short-term fix. The Boston Business Journal  (4/11, Subscription Publication) also covers this story.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Virginia High School STEM Students Win Award For Trail Safety Design.

WRC-TV  Washington (4/11, Jones) reports that STEM students at Loudoun Valley High School designed a solar-powered trail safety system enabling trail users to notify police if they are in danger and won a judges’ award for the design at Samsung’s national Solve for Tomorrow contest. The award is accompanied by “$120,000 in Samsung technology and $9,700 in Adobe software” for the students’ school.

Monday’s Lead Stories

Replacement Esophagus Grown Inside Patient.
Thirteen AGs Call On ED To Revoke Corinthian Accreditor’s Recognition.
Next Generation Jammer Increment 1 Moves Forward.
Tech Sector Increasingly Trying To Recruit Women Back To Work.
Australia To Reveal New Cybersecurity Strategy.
Trend Towards “Bug Bounty” Programs To Pay For Identification Of Security Vulnerabilities.
AP Analysis: Almost 1,400 Water Systems Have Exceed Federal Lead Standards Since 2013.

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