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

Leading the News

Government, Scientists, Industry Working To Determine Autonomous Vehicle Regulation.

A 1,540-word analysis on the Association for Computing Machinery  (4/29, Goth) website examines the regulatory hurdles autonomous vehicles face before being deployed into the real world. According to one industry scientist, “the amorphous situation about exactly what autonomous vehicle developers will have to do to prove their technology is safe enough for real-world deployments is just one example of a regulatory ecosystem sorely lacking in expertise.” Meanwhile, NSPE President Tim Austin “offered his organization’s expertise,” saying that “the vehicles’ capabilities must be tested within the context of the ‘overall transportation system. As long as we’ve had automobiles, we’ve had engineers who are designing bridges, road systems, safe zones, traffic control, and things of that nature that help those vehicles perform safely.’” The analysis highlights the recent work by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and state motor vehicle departments on regulator issues and potential vehicle testing.

Massachusetts Officials Raise Questions About Future Of Self-Driving Cars. The Springfield (MA) Republican  (4/28, Schoenberg) reports that at a meeting in Boston, Massachusetts’ Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash asked self-driving cars experts and advocates about how the state can best prepare for self-driving technology. Ash said, “We’re excited about this opportunity to interact with the larger community that has been working on autonomous vehicles to see where the synergies are and identify where there may be some gaps that we can fill and really propel Massachusetts forward.” Meanwhile, Pollack explained, “The rules of the road in Massachusetts will need to be modified if we’re serious about autonomous vehicles.” Pollack added, “I’m confident the industry can design a fully or semi-autonomous car that’s a safer driver than a Massachusetts driver is. But what does the world look like when it’s in that mixed state?”

Higher Education

SRNS Offers Funds For USC Engineering Professor Endowment.

The Augusta (GA) Chronicle  (4/30) reports that Savannah River Nuclear Solutions has committed $550,000 to establish an endowment “to fund a professor at the University of South Carolina Aiken’s recently established Industrial Process Engineering bachelor’s degree program,” the largest single gift the university has received for the program. SRNS President and CEO Carol Johnson said she hoped the contribution would “create professional opportunities for our region’s students and faculty, and will strengthen the workforce of the CSRA region and beyond.”

NYTimes A1: Small Liberal Arts Colleges “Under Financial Siege.”

The New York Times  (4/29, Hartocollis, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that “small liberal arts colleges have been under financial siege, forced to re-examine their missions and justify their existence.” The Times says “the colleges are fighting over a dwindling pool of applicants” as some areas of the country are experiencing a drop in high school graduates and “students and parents have started to question the choice of expensive private schools that leave them with high debt and no clear job prospects, taking a second look at public universities.”

CBS Analyst: CFPB’s Payback Playbook Offers “Plain English” Guidance On Student Loans.

On the CBS Evening News (5/1, story 8, 2:00, Glor), CBS business analyst Jill Schlesinger detailed the new federal student loan payback program saying, “The government was really wondering why weren’t more people taking advantage of various repayment options that have existed since 2009. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau did a study. They found there were big problems with the loan servicers not giving enough information to student borrowers.” Schlesinger said the CFPB’s Payback Playbook “lays out three specific ways that students can pay back their loans, and they do it in plain English, no fine print. … You have three plans. You figure out which one is the best one for you.”

Many Chinese Students Seek US Education Over Flawed Domestic System.

In a 2,160-word article, the Wall Street Journal  (5/1, A1, Chen, Jordan, Subscription Publication) reports that as the number of foreign students coming to the US to attend college increases, more are coming from middle-class backgrounds, especially those from China, where students question domestic institutions and what they perceive to be a flawed college application process. The Journal says college life in China is extremely strict, and because the Communist Party funds all public schools, education has an underlining ideological component. Students and teachers are also prevented from using websites like Facebook and Google Scholar. In addition, the standardized gaokao test is used to determine which school an individual is assigned to, along with what they’re allowed to study.

Dartmouth Hosting Hybrid Car Design Competition.

The AP  (5/1) reports that Dartmouth College is holding its 10th annual Formula Hybrid Competition at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway this week, noting that “engineering graduate and undergraduate students race electric and hybrid cars they designed.” Teams from around the world will compete, “including the contest’s first all-female team – the 16-member Hot Wheelz – from the Rochester Institute of Technology.”

University Of Wyoming Seeking Grant To Promote Gender Equity In STEM Fields.

The Laramie (WY) Boomerang  (5/2) reports that a groups of University of Wyoming faculty and administrators are seeking a National Science Foundation grant aimed at addressing “disparities among male and female faculty members, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, disciplines.”

From ASEE
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

Washington State University Student Gets Fellowship To Study Soft Robotics.

The Tri-City Herald (WA)  (5/2) reports that a doctoral student at Washington State University-Tri-Cities has earned a National Science Foundation fellowship to study soft robotics, which could be applied to creating “machines able to pick apples with the gentleness of a human hand” or “prostheses with the dexterity of the limbs they are designed to replace.”

Elon Musk Creating Robot Training “Gym.”

The Christian Science Monitor  (4/30) reports that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk “is building an open-source ‘gym’ for computer programmers to train their robots.” Musk, the Monitor reports, “has said AI could represent humanity’s ‘biggest existential threat’ because it could prove destructive in the wrong hands or simply go astray on its own,” and now “has built this ‘OpenAI Gym’ so innovators can train their artificially intelligent systems in the right path.”

Engineer Develops Touch-Screen Mirror.

BGR  (5/1, Smith) reports that Ryan Nelwan an engineer at Swipe Labs created “his own operating system” for a mirror concept that “features a touchscreen interface and support for widgets.” BGR notes that the mirror “can play music and videos and browse pictures on the web,” while using an interface similar to that one smartphones.

The Verge  (5/2, Mirror) reports that “every few weeks a new homespun smart mirror pops up on Reddit,” adding that “Nelwan went his own way” with his design. The Verge also asks when will a “touchscreen smart mirror” be available “at Walmart?”

Opinion: Electric Vehicles Must Be Powered By Clean Energy.

In a Baltimore Sun  (5/1, Glakpe) opinion piece, Howard University mechanical and nuclear engineer Emmanuel Glakpe argued Americans are beginning to turn to electric cars, given “technological innovations that are reshaping the automobile industry.” He highlighted findings in the American Lung Association’s annual report, “State of the Air,” regarding the disproportionate affects of pollution on those living in “densely populated cities.” In particular, the report noted it is those “who live or work near a busy road … who face higher exposure to ozone pollution,” especially African Americans. Electric vehicles offer a solution to this, he maintains, but in order to make a successful switch “the electricity that’s used to recharge EVs [must] come from clean-air nuclear power and renewables.”

Nanoparticles May Offer Sustainable Alternative To Fertilizer.

The Digital Journal  (4/29, Graham) reported that researchers have developed a method of using zinc oxide nanoparticles to activate native phosphorus in soil in order to avoid using more fertilizer. A team at the Washington University in St. Louis published their research last month on the mung bean. Using less phosphorus in fertilizer will reduce water pollution, the researchers hope. UPI  (4/29, Hays) added that the team hopes to deploy the technology in India and China, which account for almost half of agricultural phosphorus consumption.

Workforce

IBM’s Millennial Corps Discusses What Young Workers Need From Supervisors.

Business Insider  (4/29, Lebowitz) reported on IBM’s Millennial Corps, a team of over 4,000 IBM employees “dedicated to improving millennials’ experience at the company.” According to the team’s research, young workers need ongoing feedback, overall career coaching, and expectations about bringing ideas forward from their supervisors. Managers should actively solicit their employees’ opinions, added one of the team’s members.

Amazon Tops List Of Best Tech Firm For New UK Grads. The Independent (UK)  (4/29, Rodionova) reported on the top-paying tech firms for graduates in the UK and ranked IBM tenth.

Global Developments

Chinese Companies Push Into EV Market In Uncertain Times.

The Wall Street Journal  (4/29, Yu, Subscription Publication) offered continuing coverage of the Beijing Auto Show, reporting that NextEV is one of almost a dozen Chinese companies working on new electric vehicles, following the Internet regulator’s decision to loosen investment rules to allow nonautomotive companies to invest in the EV companies last year. But some analysts worry that shrinking government subsidies will stymie the nascent industry. Forbes  (4/29, Feng) reported that Alibaba debuted “its first automobile product, Roewe RX5,” and top online video platform LeEco “launched its first EV called LeSEE” at the auto show. Tencent-Foxconn joint venture Future Mobility “has already attracted four core members from BMW’s EV research team” and Baidu says it has established a unit researching autonomous vehicles in Silicon Valley. The

Industry News

New York Nonprofit Aims To Promote Tech Industry.

The New York Times  (5/1, Lohr, Subscription Publication) reports that a group of “executives at tech start-ups, big tech companies and venture firms are creating a new policy and advocacy organization, Tech: NYC,” which is aimed at improving the odds of “the next big thing” in the tech industry taking off in the city. The organization’s approach “will be to work early with city, state and federal officials on issues that affect tech companies, before laws are passed.”

Google Brain Developer Discusses AI, Autonomous Cars.

The Washington Post  (4/28) reported in a video that Baidu Research chief scientist Andrew Ng – founder of the Google Brain and “one of the most prominent minds on artificial intelligence in Silicon Valley” – offered his thoughts on self-driving cars and artificial intelligence. He said that “AI today is already making machines so much more intelligent” but he is “even more excited about the things coming” in the future. He says he thinks it is “a mistake” for self-driving cars to appear “everywhere, all at once,” calling instead for “small autonomy-enabled regions.” According to Ng, Baidu plans to begin commercially operating autonomous vehicles in small areas, “like a single bus route or a city,” by 2018.

New EV Registrations Rising In Europe, But Remain “Humble.”

Deutsche Welle (DEU)  (4/29) reported that the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) revealed Friday that “35,730 new e-cars were registered in the EU” in the first three months of 2016, a 27% increase from the same period in 2015. However, new car registrations totaled 3.8 million in the first quarter, meaning “the sales figures for e-cars were still looking pretty humble.” Deutsche Welle added that German authorities decided last week to give €4,000 ($4,570) bonuses to new EV buyers, though a GfK market research study “indicated Friday the subsidy might have little impact on consumers’ decision to buy or not to buy such cars.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Utah Regulators Call For Delay In EPA’s New Ozone Standards.

The Deseret (UT) News  (5/1, O’Donoghue) reported that the “remote and rural” San Juan County in Utah “often posts” levels of ozone in violation of the EPA’s new ozone standards due to “naturally occurring ozone, wildfires, and ‘transport’ of the pollutant from Asia.” Thus, some state regulators are demanding a 10-year delay for the rule to take effect, arguing that the “threshold is unattainable due to circumstances beyond their control.” Alan Matheson, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, said the EPA “needs to have in place the necessary tools to allow states to succeed,” and recommends additional research “to determine what portion of ozone pollution and its chemical precursors is coming from background ozone and to clarify how exceptional events and international transport will affect attainment designations and compliance.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Teacher’s Book On Elementary STEM Profiled.

The Maryville (TN) Daily Times  (5/1, Miller) writes about Sam Houston Elementary School teacher Miranda Reagan, who “literally wrote the book” on “incorporating science, technology, engineering and mathematics into their lessons.” When she became interested in the topic five years ago, “there wasn’t a lot of curricula for elementary STEM,” so she wrote “STEM-Infusing the Elementary Classroom.”

Houston School Becomes Second In US To Be STEM-Certified.

KHOU-TV  Houston (5/1) reports on its website that Grace School in Houston “is marking a milestone achievement this week” as “the first elementary school in Texas – and just the second in the country – to be STEM certified: a school qualified to give kids an early and heavy dose of Science, Technology Engineering and Math.” The private school’s STEM certification “is by AdvancED, the largest non-profit, on-site, private (not state-run) accrediting agency in the country.”

Club Code Program Focuses On Training Teachers In Coding.

The McAllen (TX) Monitor  (5/1, Perez) reports on the Club Code program at Fossum Middle School in McAllen. The program “is focusing on training teachers on new coding programs and ways to get the students engaged.” It “began as a partnership by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Continuing Education Department and the local organization Border Kids Code.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

ED Launches Website For Student Loan Borrowers, Pushes Repayment Options.
Napolitano Places UC Davis Chancellor On Leave.
University Of Washington Students Invent Gloves That Translate Sign Language.
China Conducted Seventh Successful Flight Test Of Hypersonic Warhead.
The Hill Analysis: Moniz Has Become A Key Player On Energy And Foreign Policy Issues.
Dow Chemical Employees Volunteer At Middle School STEM Event.
Study: Bakken Shale Formation Key Factor In Sudden Global Ethane Increase.

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