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

Leading the News

FCA Hopes To Expand “Open-Ended” Deal With Google For More Autonomous Vehicles.

In continuing coverage of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ deal to build cars for Google’s autonomous driving project, the Detroit (MI) Free Press  (5/6, Snavely) reported that FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne acknowledged Friday that the company’s deal with Google “to create 100 self-driving Pacifica hybrid minivans is ‘very targeted’” but hopes that the relationship will grow into a greater partnership over time. He said, “We are approaching this in a completely open-ended fashion. They found it easy to work with us and to explore and learn. Whether this is enough for them to feel comfortable to take the next step is unclear to me.” He also said that FCA “[appears] to be on the wrong end of the wealth distribution. Some [tech companies] can buy us out of petty cash. And so its almost an unfair match when they decide to come in and participate with us.” According to Reuters  (5/6, Woodall), Marchionne said the two companies have not yet determined which will own the data gathered in their self-driving vehicle collaboration. He said, “We need to get to a stage where the car is viable so we can discuss the spoils of that work. We’re not there.”

Google is in discussions with other automakers, according to Bloomberg News  (5/6, Butters), because it “needs more cars to develop and test its autonomous technology” but is not weary of in investing “in factories to build them.” Marchionne said of autonomous driving, “I see this having tremendous use in real life. It’s not pie in the sky, it’s coming.” The AP  (5/6, Durbin) added that the partnership represents “the first time Google has worked directly with” an automaker “to install self-driving sensors and computers” in a vehicle. Other carmakers “have been reluctant” to collaborate with tech companies “because they want to own the technology in their cars.” But Marchionne said, “Making unequivocal bets and precluding development with others is a very dangerous path, at least in our view.”

The New York (NY) Times  (5/6, Boudette, Isaac, Subscription Publication) and the Wall Street Journal  (5/6, Bennett, Subscription Publication) offered additional coverage.

Older Drivers Reluctant To Embrace Self-Driving Technologies. Bloomberg BNA  (5/6, Beasley) reports automobile makers working on self-driving cars “already have started to introduce features, such as collision-avoidance alerts and hands-free cruise control,” that Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman Russ Rader said, in Bloomberg’s words, “will be especially helpful in preventing common errors among older drivers.” However, a 2015 Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence survey found that just 31 percent of drivers between the ages of 50 and 69 would purchase a self-driving car, even if it came at no additional cost. Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets focuses on outreach to older drivers and the disabled, and it “recognizes that it will face challenges in convincing older drivers, in particular, to embrace automated car technology, said David Strickland, the coalition’s counsel and spokesman.”

Higher Education

Virginia Tech Engineering Students Going To Nepal To Rebuild Irrigation System.

My Central Jersey  (5/5) reports that three Virginia Tech students in various engineering disciplines have formed a group called Service Without Borders, and “recently completed an assessment trip to Nepal to collect data and formulate a design plan for an agricultural irrigation system that was heavily damaged during an earthquake in April of 2015.”

University Of Phoenix Shareholders Approve Sale To Private Investors.

USA Today  (5/6, Hansen) reports that shareholders of the publicly traded Apollo Education Group, which owns for-profit college giant the University of Phoenix, have approved a $1.14 billion sale to “a trio of private investors.” The deal is subject to regulatory approval, and the firm is “under a cloud of government investigations and…a symbol of the now-shrunken for-profit education industry.” The piece notes that Apollo faces “an expiring credit line, a recent $70 million loss in business value and a worsening score the U.S. Department of Education uses to permit access to taxpayer-backed student loans.”

Bloomberg News  (5/6, Monks) reports on the details of the deal, focusing near the end of the article on the troubles the for-profit college industry has faced in recent years. The article notes that ED enacted rules last year “to ensure that schools demonstrate their students could obtain employment that would allow them to make enough money to pay off their education loans.” The Phoenix Business Journal  (5/6, Subscription Publication), The Street  (5/6), and KJZZ-FM  Phoenix (5/6) also cover this story.

NYTimes Profiles Businessman Behind Many For-Profit Colleges.

In a more than 3,100-word article, the New York Times  (5/7, Cohen, Subscription Publication) profiles Carl Barney, who “arrived in the United States in the 1960s as a jobless British immigrant and went on to amass a fortune running for-profit colleges. All the while, he was guided by the heroic entrepreneurial creed of Ayn Rand, a champion of unalloyed selfishness and remorseless capitalism.” According to the Times, Barney “is proud of the role of for-profit education in catering to students often ignored or left behind by traditional colleges and universities,” and he criticized the “‘deliberately designed campaign to cripple, crush and close these schools,’ spearheaded by people who ‘really think profit-making is wrong.’” The Times explains Barney has also become a “multimillion-dollar contribut[or] not to political candidates or super PACs – but to spreading Ayn Rand’s thinking around the globe.”

One-Third Of University Of Minnesota Students Are Transfers.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune  (5/8, Peterson) reports that one-third of the students at the University of Minnesota are transfer students, “one of the highest populations of undergraduate transfer students in the Big Ten.” But they “continue to face barriers, such as limited access to on-campus housing and lower financial aid, not to mention pressure to graduate on time. … As the university becomes more selective…and expensive, many students start at colleges under the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities umbrella before making the move to the U.”

Colorado State University Trying To Attract More Women To Computer Science.

The AP  (5/7, Garcia) reported that Colorado State University is working on ways to improve the proportion of women in computer science. The school “isn’t alone in struggling to get females interested in computer science majors. Dozens of schools across the country are seeing a similar gender gap that could prevent thousands of women from accessing high-paying, in-demand computer science jobs.” CSU “is experimenting with ways to attract, retain and graduate more women,” including scholarships and high school outreach programs.

Virginia Tech Has Created Integrated Science Curriculum.

The Roanoke (VA) Times  (5/8, Korth) reports on the “new integrated science curriculum” launched at the Virginia Tech College of Science five years ago. The students “gather in small groups to take classes that explore various scientific disciplines at the same time – students will study chemistry, physics and biology all in the same session.”

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

Column Considers Whether The World Is Ready For Driverless Cars.

In his column for the Los Angeles Times  (5/6), Michael Hiltzik considered whether the world is prepared for autonomous cars. California is becoming “the hub of autonomous vehicle research and development,” Hiltzik asserted, but driverless cars are still illegal on the roads – current regulations require a human driver to be ready to take control of an autonomous car at all times. There remain several challenges facing self-driving technology, including sensor accuracy, public perception, and moral dilemmas.

Boeing UAV Unit Opens New Facility At Mississippi State University.

The Chicago Tribune  (5/5, Services) reports that Boeing’s UAV division Insitu revealed on Wednesday that it is opening a new facility in Starkville, Mississippi “to work with Mississippi State University’s unmanned aircraft center.” According to the article, Insitu “plans to hire 25 people, working on engineering, software development and customer service support, working with the university.”

The Seattle Times  (5/5) reports that the university “is home to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) center of excellence for unmanned aerial systems, set up to partner with technology companies on research initiatives.” In addition, Insitu President and CEO Ryan Hartman said that the Boeing division is “investing time, talent and resources in Mississippi to develop industry-leading technology that can safely operate in the National Airspace System.”

EPRI To Study Impacts From Potential High-Altitude Nuclear Blast.

E&E Publishing  (5/6, Behr, Subscription Publication) reported that the Electric Power Research Institute will examine potential “impacts on the U.S. power grid from a high-altitude nuclear explosion.” The decision reflects “increased concern about what experts have called an unlikely but potentially devastating strategic threat to society.” The three-year EPRI study will examine “electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack scenarios” that can “guide the development of defenses, said Rob Manning, vice president of transmission at EPRI’s Power Delivery and Utilization research sector.” Manning said, “We hope to undergird the utilities and scientists in the country with some real science on the technical basis of what would actually occur in an EMP type of threat,” Manning said, adding, “Once we have a technical basis for that, we can look at what mitigation plans would actually work, what recovery plans would be appropriate, and what the technical gaps might be.”

Industry News

Apple, Google, Other Automakers Reportedly Looking For Bay Area Space For Autonomous Car Ops.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/5, Brown, Subscription Publication) reported that a number of companies, including Apple, Google, and several traditional automakers, are expressing interest in San Francisco Bay Area real estate to house their autonomous-car operations, according to leading area landlord Hudson Pacific Properties Inc. CEO Victor Coleman. He said, “We’re seeing the Toyotas of the world, the Teslas of the world, BMWs, Mercedes. Ford now is out in the marketplace looking for space. I haven’t even mentioned the 400,000 square feet that Google’s looking to take down and the 800,000 square feet that Apple’s looking to take down for their autonomous cars as well.” BGR  (5/6, Heisler), CNET News  (5/6, Hoyle), and Fortune  (5/6, Reisinger) offered additional coverage drawn from the Wall Street Journal report.

Tesla CEO Calls For Manufacturing Engineers To Speed Production.

Reuters  (5/6, Sage) reported that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has called on automotive engineers to help the company build one million fully electric vehicles by 2020, adding that he is “hell-bent” on reaching the goal. Tesla announced Wednesday that it had advanced its goal of building 500,000 cars from 2020 to 2018 and plans to produce one million cars by 2020. However auto experts point out that the industry in general is facing a shortage of manufacturing engineers and Tesla has a high rate of management turnover – its vice presidents overseeing production and manufacturing left the company last week. However, Society of Automotive Engineers President Cuneyt Oge warned, “You can’t just defy the laws of business physics which require you to go down a learning curve collectively to build that systems know-how.”

Bloomberg Business  (5/6, Hull) offered a glimpse inside Tesla’s Gigafactory, where the company will produce the electric car batteries; components critical to meeting the company’s EV production goal. Tesla Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel said, “We’ve accelerated some of our plans [at the Gigafactory]. And we’re still on track to have first cell production starting at the end of this year so that we’ll be able to ramp up to match the Model 3 schedule as well.” The company claims the factory “is designed to reduce battery costs by at least 30 percent” and has the “capacity to produce 35 gigawatt-hours of battery cells and 50 gigawatt-hours of battery packs” annually.

Business Insider’s  (5/7) Matthew DeBord argued that Musk is setting himself “failure on a whole new scale.” DeBord asserted that “no one thinks Tesla can pull” off its goal of producing one million cars by 2020; “it would be the fastest ramp-up in production in a century, since Henry Ford used mass production to roll a huge number of Model Ts off his assembly lines.” DeBord conceded that “It can be done because it has been done” but Musk has “set himself a humdinger of target with this one.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Dakota Access Asks Iowa Regulators To Immediately Start Bakken Oil Pipeline Work.

The AP  (5/6) reported Texas-based Dakota Access LLC, a unit of Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, asked the Iowa Utilities Board in a Thursday filing for permission to “immediately start work on most of the Bakken oil pipeline route through 18 Iowa counties.” Dakota wants to begin work except in areas that require preconstruction permits are required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The company said work must begin this month to finish the project in one construction session. Pipeline opponents intend to fight the request.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Oregon To Introduce Next Generation Science Standards.

The Bend (OR) Bulletin  (5/8, Spegman) reports Oregon “has new science standards and plans to roll out a new science test in 2018. The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by 26 states,” and 18 including Oregon have “signed on to use them. … Just as important as content are methods of scientific inquiry and cross-cutting concepts such as cause and effect or stability and change. The standards also emphasize hands-on learning.”

Alexandria Catholic School Wins Kentucky Robo Challenge Xtreme Tournament.

The Cincinnati Enquirer  (5/8, Mayhew) reports St. Mary School of Alexandria, Kentucky “won the middle school level with their Lego robot April 22 at the Robo Challenge Xtreme state tournament.” The school “won the tournament by 25 points with a tournament high score of 375 points in competition with 22 other teams.”

Washington State Eighth Grader Makes Prosthetic Hands With 3-D Printer.

The AP  (5/7) reported that Centralia, Washington eighth-grader Dylan Altona “has put his science skills to the test in order to help those in need by creating simple prosthetic hands using the after-school program’s 3-D printer.” The first “was for practice, the second one was designed for a 6-year-old, and the third was for Mark Westley, a math teacher at CMS, who is an amputee.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

Ford Invests In Software Company, GM And Lyft Announce Autonomous Fleet.
Corinthian Colleges’ Downfall Reveals Problems In Accreditation System.
Windows Is Working On Experimental “Pre-Touch Sensing” Capabilities.
ACR Partners With GE On “Imaging Boot Camp” For Breast Radiologists In The Middle East.
ExxonMobil Boosts FuelCell Energy Effort To Advance Carbon Capture Technology.
Energy Department Offers $70M For Power Saving In Manufacturing.
EdReports Reviews: Everyday Math Does Not Meet Common Core Standards.

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