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

Leading the News

Ford Invests In Software Company, GM And Lyft Announce Autonomous Fleet.

Ford’s investment in Pivotal Software and rumors that GM and Lyft will debut autonomous cars on public streets in the near future are the latest in a string of recent partnership between traditional automakers and technology companies, as ideas about personal mobility shift and software becomes increasingly important. The changing auto industry is generating significant coverage in the US, particularly focused on traditional carmakers’ efforts toward self-driving, connected, and electric car technologies.

Bloomberg News  (5/5, Bass, Naughton) reports that Ford is investing “$182.2 million in Pivotal Software Inc., the cloud-computing joint venture of EMC Corp. and VMware Inc.” in an effort to “boost its software expertise ahead of a shift to electric and autonomous cars.” According to Reuters  (5/5, McBride), the carmaker’s investment will make it easier for Ford to improve its software capabilities as it works to expand its business to include alternative mobility offerings. The companies will open joint labs in the US and Europe, where their engineers will collaborate to improve Ford’s software development. While other carmakers are making similar moves to partner with technology companies, CEO Mark Fields said the deal “is not about catching up or one upping the competition. We have had leadership in (autonomous vehicles) for some time now.” Ford’s investment is part of a $253 million round that includes investments from Microsoft, VMware, EMC, and GE, Business Insider  (5/5, Weinberger) reports, and raises the software company’s valuation to $2.8 billion. According to Business Insider, Pivotal offers “a set of software tools and consulting services” that “help even the largest, most old-school companies build and develop software as if they were a tiny startup.” In addition to Ford, the company counts Home Depot, Best Buy, Twitter, and Mercedes-Benz among its customers. Ford CIO Marcy Klevorn said the carmaker’s investment is part of its move to expand its efforts in autonomous vehicle and connected car technologies. Ford was also attracted to Pivotal’s “multi-cloud strategy,” which Klevorn said “is a huge thing for us.” The Detroit (MI) Free Press  (5/5, Snavely) and the Wall Street Journal  (5/5, Gage, Subscription Publication) offer additional coverage.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/5, Ramsey, Nagesh, Subscription Publication) reports that General Motors and Lyft plan to begin testing self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric taxis on public roads within a year, according to a Lyft executive, using technology purchased in GM’s $1 billion acquisition of San Francisco-based Cruise Automation Inc. The plan will include real customers in a yet-to-be disclosed city, who will be given the option to opt in to the pilot when requesting a vehicle via Lyft’s app. The Journal adds that the plan is centered on challenging Google’s self-driving car program and Uber, which is also planning a fleet of autonomous vehicles by 2020. GM will reportedly target Lyft drivers as primary buyers for the Bolt EV because of weak demand for electric cars in the US. According to Mashable  (5/5, Jaynes), it has been widely expected that the companies would partner to develop an autonomous fleet “since GM invested $500 million into the ride-share company,” but “no one expected it to happen quite this quickly.” CNET News  (5/5, Tibken) adds that participating Lyft riders “will be able to contact a GM OnStar assistant for questions or help.” The carmaker said in a statement that it has “nothing specific to announce in relation to potential rollout of vehicles and technologies at this time” but it “continues to make progress on our previously announced plans related to an integrated on-demand autonomous network with Lyft.” Bloomberg News  (5/6), the Detroit (MI) Free Press  (5/5, Gardner), Fast Company  (5/5, Melendez), Newsweek  (5/5, Lee), and TIME  (5/5, Worland) offer similar coverage.

The Los Angeles Times  (5/5, Dave, Masunaga) covers both the Ford and GM stories, reporting that senior IHS Automotive analyst Jeremy Carlson said that the increasing number of moves by traditional carmakers to partner with tech companies suggests that they’re looking to improve their flexibility as the concept of personal mobility changes. The auto industry is also facing “heightening competition from Tesla Motors, which recently began taking pre-orders for its most affordable vehicle yet.”

Higher Education

Corinthian Colleges’ Downfall Reveals Problems In Accreditation System.

In a piece for the US News & World Report  (5/5) “Knowledge Bank” blog, contributor Ben Miller explains that college accreditors, which must be recognized by ED, are “responsible for assessing the quality of education offered at every college across the country that participates in federal financial aid programs.” The article reports that when Corinthian Colleges Inc. imploded last year, it drew attention to the fact that several schools under the troubled for-profit college firm’s umbrella had just gotten “a clean bill of health” from their accreditor. This “should have started a frank conversation about improving America’s process for college quality assurance,” but “all but one of the four agencies responsible for reviewing Corinthian have hidden behind a veil of secrecy.”

For-Profit Colleges Buying Coding Boot Camps.

Politico  (5/5) reports in its “Morning Education” blog that Capella Education and other for-profit college firms have been buying or investing in coding boot camps. Capella recently “bought DevMountain for $15 million, and agreed to pay up to another $5 million if the programming bootcamp company meets revenue and performance targets.” The non-degree-awarding boot camps “typically aren’t eligible to draw federal student aid, so they aren’t governed by regulations such as gainful employment,” allowing the firms to “add new students in a time of flatlining enrollment and growing pressure from federal regulators.”

Foreign Students At Fake University Claim They Were Duped By DHS, Brokers.

In a 1,900-word article, the New York Times  (5/5, Robbins, Subscription Publication) reports foreign-born students who attended the fake University of Northern New Jersey, which was set up by the DHS as part of “an elaborate sting operation,” believe they were “collateral damage” as they now face deportation “or even a lifetime ban” from the US. The sting resulted in the arrest of 22 brokers, who arranged for the students to enroll at the school, where they didn’t have to go to class, but could get student visas and still work at their “dream jobs.” DHS spokesman Alvin Phillips said the students “were 100 percent fully aware” of the “pay-to-stay scheme,” but more than a dozen students told the Times that because the DHS’ website certified the university, “they believed the institution was legitimate.”

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

Windows Is Working On Experimental “Pre-Touch Sensing” Capabilities.

In continuing coverage, Engadget  (5/5, Tarantola) reports that Windows is teasing its prototype “pre-touch sensing” system, which employs “a self-capacitive touchscreen” to sense “both the user’s grip around the outer edge of the phone and their hovering fingers immediately above it.” Mashable  (5/5, Bell) adds that the “still experimental” display technology allows the phone to predict users’ needs based on how they’re holding the phone, according to a video released by Microsoft Research. For example, a video app could present playback controls when users move their hands close to the display or display the controls only on one side if the user is holding the phone in one hand. Mashable adds that it remains “unclear if there are plans to bring it to consumer devices.” Gizmodo  (5/5, Liszewski), PC Magazine  (5/5, Murphy), and The Verge  (5/5, Warren) offer additional coverage

Raytheon To Focus On Small, Swarming UAS.

Flightglobal  (5/5, Drew) reports Raytheon plans to launch “30 swarming Coyote aircraft within 1min” as part of the Office of Naval Research’s low-cost UAV swarming technology (LOCUST) program, and is also interested in “tactical off-board sensing” for USAF Special Operations Command Lockheed Martin AC-130 gunships. Flightglobal quotes Raytheon business development lead John Hobday, who said that the company would focus on its small Coyote and Silver Fox UAS, “The swarming revolution is the second part of it, with the [emphasis] on the third offset strategy…Autonomy, manned-unmanned teaming, the ability of dissimilar systems to connect together in a larger self-forming, self-healing network is going to be critical.”

Raytheon Creates Small UAS Directorate. GovCon Wire  (5/5) reports “Raytheon has formed a new unit within its advanced missile systems organization” focused on production of its Coyote and Silver Fox small UAS, according to a company announcement.

Scientist: Major San Andreas Earthquake Could Hit At Any Time.

ABC World News Tonight (5/5, story 13, 0:20, Muir) briefly reported a leading earthquake scientist said the San Andreas Fault is “locked, loaded, and ready to roll,” as the stress along California’s longest fault line has been building for more than 100 years.

Global Developments

ACR Partners With GE On “Imaging Boot Camp” For Breast Radiologists In The Middle East.

Radiology Business Journal  (5/5, Walter) reports that this week, the American College of Radiology announced “it has partnered with GE Healthcare and King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to develop an ACR-led ‘imaging boot camp’ for breast radiologists in the Middle East.” The three-day event is scheduled for May 23-25.

Industry News

ExxonMobil Boosts FuelCell Energy Effort To Advance Carbon Capture Technology.

The New York Times  (5/5, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) reports that ExxonMobil said Thursday that it has increased its investment in clean-energy company FuelCell Energy by an undisclosed amount, hoping to commercialize its carbon capture and sequestration technology. The technology aims “to take carbon dioxide, after it is removed from” natural gas or coal-burining power plants’ exhaust steam, “and to lock it away by pumping it into the ground or [using] it in industrial applications.” ExxonMobil Research and Engineering vice president for R&D Vijay Swarup cautioned that commercial development is years away but added, “We think it’s got the possibility to be a game changer.” Bloomberg News  (5/5, Martin) reports that the collaboration is aimed at cutting the cost of reducing greenhouse gasses emitted from power plants, according to FuelCell Energy Chief Executive Officer Chip Bottone. Bloomberg adds that the companies expect “strong global demand for the technology, though it will still require a few more years of development.”

The AP  (5/5, Koenig) reports that Swarup said 10 to 15 Exxon scientists would participate in research. FuelCell CEO Chip Bottone said 15 to 20 of his scientists would work on it, which he called “a pretty sizable commitment.” Reuters  (5/5, Scheyder) reports Exxon says the projects are unrelated to recent public outcry over its climate change disclosures, but rather are part of research into carbon sequestration and alternative fuels. The Financial Times  (5/5, Times, Subscription Publication) also reports, and Bloomberg News  (5/5) offers a video that describes FuelCell’s work in greater detail.

Engineering and Public Policy

Energy Department Offers $70M For Power Saving In Manufacturing.

E&E Publishing  (5/5, Marshall, Subscription Publication) reports the Energy Department this week announced $70 million in funding “to increase energy efficiency in the manufacturing process for industries ranging from biofuels to oil and gas refining.” DOE “put out a request for proposals for a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute focused on improving the chemical aspects of manufacturing, including developing innovations to combine multiple complex steps like mixing, reaction, and separation.” President Obama in 2013 “called for the creation of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), linking a series of manufacturing research institutes consisting of government, business and academic partners.” E&E adds “the new institute would be the ninth under NNMI and the fourth led by DOE.” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the institute would “help America maintain its leadership in developing chemical manufacturing processes that can make our industries more energy efficient, protect our air and water, and help reduce the impacts of climate change.”

Poll: Most Americans Have Not Heard Of Clean Power Plan.

The Hill  (5/5, Cama) reports that according to a new poll by survey the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation, “the Clean Power Plan is not a household word in America just yet.” In the poll, 69 percent of respondents said they had heard nothing or little about the EPA rule. “The survey found little to no difference in responses from Democrats, Republicans and independent voters.”

US Climate Chief’s Goal To Set In Motion Climate Work By 2021.

The Hill  (5/5, Henry) reports that US special envoy for climate change Jonathan Pershing on Thursday said at the Climate Action 2016 summit, “Five years from now, we need to have set in motion all of the pieces the president has talked about.” Pershing acknowledged the Paris agreement’s climate mechanisms won’t have changed the course of climate change by 2021, “but within five years we should see concrete evidence that those are in place and working, and working effectively.”

Republican-led States Benefiting From Shift To Renewables.

In a commentary for the AP  (5/5, Biesecker), Michael Biesecker writes that while Republican lawmakers have fought to protect coal-fired power plants, “data show their home states are often the ones benefiting most from the nation’s accelerating shift to renewable energy.” Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas lead in wind and “North Carolina trails only California in new solar farms.” Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, said, “We didn’t see the decline coming this fast and this deep.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

EdReports Reviews: Everyday Math Does Not Meet Common Core Standards.

Education Week  (5/5) reports that EdReports.org textbook reviews “show that Everyday Math, which is used in about 200,000 classrooms around the country, does not meet the expectations of the Common Core State Standards.” The first rounds of reviews, mostly by teachers, “showed that nearly all instructional materials analyzed failed to live up to claims of alignment.”

Study: Girls More Susceptible To “Math Anxiety” In Developed Countries.

The Washington Post  (5/5, Paquette) reports that a study in Plos One “suggests that living in a country that values gender equality actually makes girls more susceptible to “math anxiety” relative to their male classmates.” The study “crunched data from more than 700,000 15-year-olds in 68 countries” who took the Program for International Student Assessment in 2003 and 2012, and “also measured the students’ distress by asking them to rate on a four-point scale how much they agreed” with certain statements. In general, “teenagers in advanced countries (the United States, Sweden, France and Germany, to name a few) showed less math anxiety than those in developing economies, but the decline was much more significant for boys than for girls.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

NHTSA Announces Expansion Of Takata Airbag Recall.
MIT Students Using Robots To Reenact Revolutionary War Events.
White House To Set Smart Gun Minimum Standards For Law Enforcement.
NTSB Issues Safety Recommendations For DC Metro.
Neuroscientist Says Emotional Engagement Is Key To Learning.
Increasing Drone Use Raises Chances Of Collisions With Medical Helicopters, Other Flights.

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