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

Leading the News

ED Conference Discusses How Music Can Be Integrated With STEM Subjects.

The Washington Post  (4/26, Balingit) reports jazz composer and musical icon Herbie Hancock was among a group of educators and researchers Tuesday at the Education Department’s headquarters to discuss “how music can be better integrated into lessons on math, engineering and even computer science.” Education Secretary John King Jr. said arts education is being squeezed out of classrooms because of an emphasis placed on math, reading, and standardized testing, “a trend he believes is misguided.” King stated, “English and math are necessary but not sufficient for students’ long-term success,” while adding that under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act, schools can fund arts education with new flexibility.

USA Today  (4/26, Toppo) reports that King “doubled down on his effort to support a well-rounded education for the USA’s schoolchildren, unveiling a curriculum that embeds music into math and science lessons for millions of kids.” King “brought in a large group of science, math and music educators, as well as legendary jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, who said young people live in ‘a world that now, more than ever, needs more creativity and innovation and less anger and hostility to help solve the challenges that we have to deal with every single day — and those that we will be facing in the future.’” The launch of the new curriculum comes on the heels of King’s recent statements that NCLB “has, in many instances, robbed kids of a full, rich, well-rounded education.” The piece quotes King saying, “I think we have to acknowledge that at times, particularly over the last few years, the conversation about English and math, and closing the gaps in English and math, has led some to make the mistaken conclusion that what we need to do to close those gaps is to do less science, less social studies, less of the arts, socio-emotional learning, less time on world languages — and that’s exactly backwards.”

Higher Education

Public Citizen Writers Praise ED’s Push Against For-Profit Colleges’ Use Of Forced Arbitration.

In commentary for Politico  (4/26), Public Citizen’s Sonia Gill and Amanda Werner write about the efforts of ED and CFPB to rein in the practice of forced arbitration, saying that the “long-awaited moves are critical to protecting consumers from the worst practices by Big Business.” They call forced arbitration language in consumer contracts “rip-off clauses” and note several paragraphs in that ED recently “released a proposal to address the explosion of forced arbitration clauses used by the for-profit college industry.”

Obama Launches $100M H-1B Funded Program To Expand Free Community College.

Inside Higher Ed  (4/26, Smith) reports that on Monday the Obama Administration unveiled a $100 million, H-1B funded competition for America’s Promise Job-Driven Training Grants that aim “to help colleges create tuition-free education and job training programs in partnership with their business communities.” The article explains that “employers pay a fee to the H-1B visa program to employ foreign workers in jobs that require specialized or high skills,” providing revenue to the Labor Department.

NSF Grants Renton Tech $200K For Computer Network Architecture Program.

The Seattle Times  (4/26, Long) reports the NSF granted $200,000 to Renton Technical College “to begin developing a new bachelor’s degree in computer network architecture” and “to create a related associate degree that will allow graduates of the two-year degree program to transfer into the bachelor’s degree program for the remaining two years of their studies.” The new degree will be “an applied bachelor’s degree, with a professional/technical focus,” and “is expected to begin in winter 2018.”

Competency-Based Education Programs Gaining Popularity In Texas.

Houston Public Media  (4/26, Isensee) reports on the increasing popularity of competency-based education programs in Texas, which purport to measure skills and knowledge rather than assessing learning in semesters and credit hours. The article highlights objections to the programs, citing the Education Department IG’s audit of Western Governors (WGU) that questions how much time students interact with instructors. WGU responded that “it’s been reviewed by multiple groups before and passed inspection.”

Analysis: For Master’s In Engineering Degrees, Online Programs Increasingly Accepted.

US News & World Report  (4/26, Friedman) provides analysis of increasing acceptance of online Master’s in Engineering degrees, reporting engineering recruiters say “employers in the field of engineering have generally become accepting of online graduate degrees in the past few years…particularly as well-established universities have built up their programs – though a few employers would still favor the traditional student.” Modis President Jack Cullen said “online graduate programs in engineering have become more prevalent because…they enable engineers to work and pursue a degree at the same time – there’s no need to take a gap year to return to school.”

SPECIAL SECTION: Prism Magazine on Whistleblowing
ASEE’s Prism magazine features engineering educators using their expertise to challenge authority when needed.

Online Workshop
Applying Evidence-Based Teaching Practices in Computing Education will show how such practices can be effectively used when teaching graduate and undergraduate students. The workshop will be held June 1 and lasts for 3 hours. Registration is $50.

Research and Development

University Of Florida Hosts Mind-Controlled Drone Competition.

The Christian Science Monitor  (4/26) reports that the University of Florida held its first “brain-computer interface (BCI) drone competition last weekend,” at which 16 competitors “used brain monitors to propel small UAVs through a 10-yard sprint across a basketball court.” The event was “heralded as an achievement for the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platform, and other technologies powered by brain waves.” The “racers” used EEGs to transmit their brainwaves through a computer program into commands “the drones, hovering over the court, can understand.” Reuters  (4/26) also covers this story.

NSF Gives Montana State Researchers Grant To Build Research Data Network.

The Bozeman (MT) Daily Chronicle  (4/27) reports that the National Science Foundation has given researchers at Montana State University a $472,000 grant to make it possible “to more easily share work with other scientists around the globe” by building “a dedicated research data network on campus.” MSU Vice President for Information Technology Jerry Sheehan said, “This is a substantial investment by the federal government to improve our infrastructure so we can better share the discoveries by Montana State researchers nationally, internationally and across campus.”

NSF Gives University Of Rochester Photonics Research Grant.

WROC-TV  Rochester, NY (4/27) reports that the National Science Foundation has given the University of Rochester a $199,419 grant “to fund photonics research in partnership with Henrietta-based manufacturer SiMPore.” Researchers will use the grant to “optimize sensors that can detect small molecules, such as explosives or biohazards, and make the technology commercially available.”

DARPA Awards Contracts To Eight Companies For GXV-T Work.

In a Gizmodo  (4/26, Novak) blogpost, Matt Novak reports DARPA has awarded contracts to eight different organizations to work on its GXV-T next-generation fighting vehicle: Carnegie Mellon University, Honeywell, Leidos, Pratt & Miller, QinetiQ Inc., Raytheon BBN, Southwest Research Institute, and SRI International. Novak says the GXV-T concept video “looks like a straight-to-VHS battlebots movie from the 1990s,” and says its unclear whether the vehicles will be unmanned or not, but adds, “one has to imagine that part of the reason they’re less concerned about these things lacking armor might have to do with the fact that they’ll likely be driverless.” SlashGear  (4/26, Roston) reports the program seeks to produce vehicles that are both able to withstand modern weapons but that “reverse the trend” of increased weight, and will focus on the areas of: “Radically Enhanced Mobility,” “Survivability through Agility,” “Crew Augmentation,” and “Signature Management.”

SHIELDS Workshop In Santa Fe Gather’s Scientists To Understand Space Weather.

With the knowledge that “a geomagnetic storm of significant magnitude” can cost up to $1 trillion in damages to satellites and space crafts take years to recover from, PC Magazine  (4/26, Stuart) reports that the SHIELDS workshop, “under the patronage of the Los Alamos National Laboratory,” took place this month in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where scientists from “multiple disciplines” gathered “to compare notes and move the field of space weather research to the next level.”

Industry News

Apple Reports First Revenue Drop Since 2003 As iPhone Sales Flag.

Apple reported its second quarter financials Tuesday morning, generating significant coverage in traditional and tech media outlets. Results missed analyst predictions, and sales of the company’s flagship iPhone dropped for the first time, intensifying concerns about both the company’s future earnings and demand for smartphones overall. The AP  (4/26, Bailey) reports that the company sold 51 million iPhones in the period, or 10 million fewer year-on-year, resulting in the company’s “first drop in quarterly revenue in 13 years.” Still, it “managed to rack up $10.5 billion in profit” in Q2. Apple reported quarterly revenue of $50.6 billion, down 13% from $58 billion in the same period last year, with $6 billion coming “from online services, apps and other software” – a 20% increase in the sector from a year earlier. The company predicted “another revenue drop of 13 percent or more in the current quarter,” a forecast that “drove [Apple’s] stock price down 8 percent in extended trading” to $95.71 on Tuesday and wiped more than $46 billion off the company’s market valuation. In spite of the weak showing, Apple still managed to generate Q2 profits that analysts expect will exceed the combined earnings of peers Alphabet Inc., Facebook Inc., and Inc., the Wall Street Journal  (4/26, Wakabayashi, Subscription Publication) reports. Still, its iPad sales dropped for the ninth-straight quarter to 10.25 million from 12.6 million, a decline of 19%. CNN Money  (4/26, Goldman) adds that Mac sales dropped 12% from 4.6 million to 4 million.

According to Reuters  (4/26, Love, Tharakan), the company’s quarterly results missed Wall Street forecasts – including reported earnings per share of $1.90 compared to the average estimate of $2 per share (and $2.33 a year ago) and $50.56 billion in revenue compared to forecasts of $51.97 billion – though the company’s 51.2 million in iPhones sales beat analysts’ estimates of about 50 million devices. Apple said it will raise its capital return program via a 10% increase in the quarterly dividend to $0.57 per share from $0.52 and a $35 billion rise in its share buyback authorization to $175 billion, and predicted Q3 revenue of between $41 billion and $43 billion – missing analysts’ consensus estimate of $47.3 billion. Shares of Skyworks Solution, Qorvo, Broadcom, and NXP Semiconductors – all Apple suppliers – fell at least 1% on the news on Tuesday. According to Bloomberg News  (4/26, Alpeyev, Amano), other Apple suppliers’ shares sank in early trading in Asia Wednesday, including Taiyo Yuden Co. by as much as 5.1%, Alps Electric Co. by 5%, and Murata Manufacturing Co. by 5.2% on the Nikkei; and Catcher Technology Co. by 4.9%, Largan Precision Co. by 3.1%, Zhen Ding Technology Holdings Ltd. By 2.7%, and Pegatron Corp. by 2.3% in Taipei.

Bloomberg News  (4/26, Webb) reports that investors wonder “whether lackluster” iPhone sales “reflect a broader slowdown in the market for high-end smartphones” or a temporary slowdown “before the next upgrade frenzy,” though forecasts from Apple “suppliers such as Qualcomm Inc. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.” indicate that “demand is cooling, and stalled economic growth in China is paring Apple’s sales in that region.” Bloomberg adds that the Q2 report shows that Apple can no longer “count on China as a growth engine” – sales there, in Taiwan, and in Hong Kong collectively dropped 26%. Apple blamed the drop primarily on “lower sales in Hong Kong, where the local currency peg with the U.S. dollar made products more expensive to visitors.”

Lockheed Martin Q1 Profits Fall Due To Charges As Sales Grow 16%.

Lockheed Martin issued its first quarter earnings Tuesday, reporting profits of $794 million during its first quarter of 2016, or $2.58 per share, down from $878 million, or $2.74 per share, last year. The Wall Street Journal  (4/26, Cameron, Beilfuss, Subscription Publication) reports that Lockheed Martin announced first quarter 2016 earnings of $794 million, compared to $878 million during the same time last year. in that the decline was due to charges that followed job reductions, particularly a 1,000-job voluntary buyout of US employees, which shaved 21 cents off of the company’s per-share earnings. Lockheed’s revenue grew 16% to $11.70 billion, however, beating expectations of $11.34 billion. Aeronautics sales grew 21% to $3.80 billion, primarily due to new sales from the F-35 program and C-130 deliveries. Meanwhile, mission systems segment revenue grew 52% percent as the company incorporated sales from Sikorsky Corp., which was purchased for $9 billion in 2015. Sales at the company’s information systems and space systems segments fell during the quarter. Lockheed increased its full-year guidance from $11.45 to $11.75 per share to $11.50 to $11.80 per share based on slightly higher revenue predictions. Reuters  (4/26, Ajmera) adds that following the report, shares climbed up to 2.2 percent during morning trading, with smaller rival companies such as Raytheon and Northrop Grumman increasing 1 percent as well.

The improved forecast, according to Bloomberg News  (4/26, Johnsson), offers “a glimpse” into the company’s future as it completes “a spate of dealmaking.” First-quarter margins were down in all business units, with overall margins falling from 13.4 percent to 11.1 percent, which are said to have been “squeezed” by the technical issues delaying the F-35. Defense Daily  (4/26, Biesecker) wrote that after the charges, earnings missed consensus estimates by $0.01. Lockheed’s chairman, president, and CEO Marillyn Hewson said Sikorsky’s integration is “progressing well” and that “cost reduction and efficiency opportunities” are expected to continue presenting themselves. The company delivered six F-35s during the quarter, but will provide another 47 before the end of the year, according to CFO Bruce Tanner.

Inside Defense  (4/26, Censer) reports that Hewson also said that with the end of the US government’s antitrust review, the “only remaining review of competitive impact” for the company’s merger of its IT services line with Leidos is the United Kingdom. Tanner added that the deal remains scheduled for completion at the end of the year, while Hewson said the management team at its IS&GS division has been making sure the company’s cost structure “is in line with the business space.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Tribe To Meet With Official Over Dakota Access Pipeline Concerns.

The AP  (4/26) reports that members of the Standing Rock Sioux plan to meet with a US Army Corps of Engineers official on Friday to “express their concerns” over Energy Transfer Partners’ $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline which would “carry crude from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to Illinois.” Tribal officials oppose the pipeline because “they fear an oil spill could contaminate drinking water on the reservation.” Regulators in all states approved the project, though it still awaits approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers.

FBI Will Not Reveal Method Used To Hack iPhone.

The Washington Post  (4/26, Nakashima) reports “officials familiar with the discussion” say the FBI “intends to tell the White House this week that its understanding of how a third party hacked the iPhone of a shooter in San Bernardino, Calif., is so limited that there’s no point in undertaking a government review of whether the tool should be shared with Apple.” While the FBI “paid more than $1 million for a tool to crack” the iPhone, the officials said the contract “did not include rights to the software flaws that went into the tool” and, as a result, “the bureau has a limited technical understanding of how the method worked.” FBI Director Comey “acknowledged the internal debate” Tuesday, telling a cyber conference at Georgetown University, “The threshold is: Are we aware of the vulnerability, or did we just buy a tool and don’t have sufficient knowledge of the vulnerability that would implicate the process?” The Wall Street Journal  (4/26, Barrett, Subscription Publication) says the decision is likely to mean Apple will remain uninformed about security gaps that exist on some of its phones.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Businesses, Governors Call On Congress To Boost Funding For Computer Science.

The Washington Post  (4/26, Brown) reports that “dozens of the nation’s top businesses” and a coalition of 27 governors are pushing Congress “to help provide computer science education in all K-12 schools, arguing that the United States needs far more students who are literate in the technologies that are transforming nearly every industry.” The parties are concerned that the US “could lose its competitive edge without significant efforts to boost computer science” education, and the governors say “they see teaching coding and programming as a way to draw middle-class jobs to their states.” Meanwhile, “dozens of school system superintendents and nonprofit leaders say they see computer science courses as essential for giving children the skills they’ll need to be successful in the modern economy.”

The Hill  (4/26, Trujillo) reports that “dozens of technology companies” are part of the effort, which comes “along with $48 million in private donations announced Tuesday to help the cause from companies like Google, Microsoft, AT&T and tech leaders such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.”

Utah Aerospace Pathways Program Expands To Another County.

The St. George (UT) Spectrum  (4/26) reports Gov. Gary Herbert has “announced the expansion of the Utah Aerospace Pathway program to the Iron County School District.” Herbert said, “There are 20,000 jobs for 100 different companies involved in aerospace in Utah. This program is going to provide opportunities for young people to get the skills in high school so they can work in the aerospace industry.”

University Of The District Of Columbia To Host Tech Program For Minority Middle School Boys.

The Washington Post  (4/26, Stein) reports that the Verizon Minority Male Makers Program, a new technology education program at the University of the District of Columbia, “will help 100 minority middle school boys learn 3-D modeling and app development and will expose them to future career opportunities in the tech sector.” The program is “a free, four-week summer boot camp to Washington, aiming to give rising sixth- through eighth-graders in the District’s schools a chance to get a boost in areas in which they are widely underrepresented.”

Vaughn College Wins 2016 VEX Worlds Robotics Championship.

The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal  (4/26) reports the Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology Robotics Team “defeated 60 other college teams and was named world champion at the 2016 VEX Worlds robotics competition in Louisville.” The competition, held at the Kentucky Exposition Center last week, “received recognition from Guinness World Records as the largest robotics event ever, with 1,075 elementary, middle, high school and college teams competing. Twenty of those teams represented schools from Kentucky.”

University Of Washington Researchers Say Stereotyping Keeps Girls Away From STEM.

Allison Master of the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, Sapna Cheryan of the UW Department of Psychology, and Andrew Meltzoff of the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences write in the Washington Post  (4/26) that “despite valiant efforts to recruit more women, the gender gap” in STEM fields “is not getting any better,” and “stereotypes are a powerful force driving girls away from these fields. Even though stereotypes are often inaccurate, children absorb them at an early age and are affected by them. … To make a real difference, we need to change the messages we send to young girls and boys…and we must start early before societal stereotypes take hold.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

White House Unveils $100 Million Worker Training Grant Program Modeled On Tennessee Promise.
$600 Million Cash Infusion May Be Too Late For Illinois Colleges.
DARPA Program Seeks Research Proposals To Prevent Terror Attacks.
Research: Loss Of Manufacturing Jobs Contributed To U.S. Political Divide.
Tunisian Startup Develops Bladeless Wind Energy Technology.
Ford, Others Explore New Manufacturing Roles For 3D Printers.
Senate Making “Good Progress” On Energy Funding Bill.

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