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

Leading the News

Google, FCA Begin Work On Autonomous Minivans In Detroit Suburbs.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/25, Bennett, Subscription Publication) reports that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Google have started working on autonomous driving technology to begin testing in Pacifica minivans and are preparing to launch an engineering and development center in Michigan, according to Google autonomous vehicle head John Krafcik. The move is part of a recent deal struck between the two companies to collaborate on a limited number of autonomous minivans. The AP  (5/25) reports that on Wednesday, Google said it will open a 53,000-square-foot “self-driving technology development center” in Novi, Michigan. Bloomberg News  (5/25, Clark) notes that Google posted in a blog that the facility’s location “will help us collaborate more easily and access Michigan’s top talent in vehicle development and engineering.” The blog post adds that at the facility Google “engineers, working with local partners, will further develop and refine self-driving technology.” According to Mashable  (5/25, Jaynes), the choice of location “likely indicates it is interested in partnering with hometown carmakers Ford and GM as well.” Google hopes to complete “at least a few of the 100 autonomous minivans” by the end of 2016. Sources offering similar coverage include the Detroit (MI) Free Press  (5/25, Snavely), Reuters  (5/25, White), and USA Today  (5/25).

Higher Education

NSF Grant To Fund STEM Scholarship Program At Austin College.

The Sherman (TX) Herald Democrat  (5/25) reports that the National Science Foundation has given Austin College in Sherman, Texas a $650,000 grant to give “bright students, who might not be able to afford secondary education, the opportunity to go to college and earn a degree in science.” The grant will fund a series of STEM scholarships. KTEN-TV  Sherman, TX (5/25) also covers this story.

DC AG Sues Student Aid Center For Misleading Student Borrowers.

The Washington Post  (5/25, Douglas-Gabriel) reports Washington, DC District Attorney General Karl A. Racine has filed suit against Student Aid Center, “a Florida-based debt-relief company, and its owners for misleading area residents about the firm’s ability to lower student-loan payments and illegally charging upfront fees before providing the service.” Racine’s office said the company charges up to $1,000 “in exchange for simply mailing out paperwork that borrowers can obtain and submit for free through the federal government.” Moreover, “telemarketers implied or told [consumers] Student Aid Center was affiliated with the Education Department, a relationship that could help fast-track applications for loan forgiveness or lower monthly payments.”

Military Groups Call On Senate To Kill Language Giving For-Profits Access To Military Bases.

The Hill  (5/25, Kheel) reports that a coalition of 20 military and veterans groups have signed a letter calling on the Senate “to rid its defense policy bill of language they say would allow predatory for-profit colleges unfettered access to military installations.” The letter says “the language undermines the Pentagon’s current process of using a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to decide which educational institutions to allow onto bases.”

Kode With Klossy Expanding To Offer Postsecondary Scholarships.

USA Today  (5/25, Tulp) reports that Kode with Klossy, the coding instruction initiative for girls launched by fashion model Karlie Kloss, is “now offering young women 18+ the Kode with Klossy Career Scholarship, aimed at young women who want to jump-start their careers in code.” The program “aims to give women the opportunity to learn coding languages, build a robust code portfolio on GitHub, and experience building Web apps — both independently and with others in the program.” The program has a number of corporate partners that will offer successful participants apprenticeships.

EDITOR NEEDED: Journal of Engineering Education
ASEE members recognize JEE as the world’s premier journal on the scholarship of engineering and engineering technology education. Read more if you’d like to be considered as the next editor.
Retention Strategies
Going the Distance” is a video showcasing effective retention strategies at six universities.

ASEE has done extensive work on retention and time-to-graduation rates over the previous several years. A good distillation was recently done by consultant Cindy Veenstra.

Research and Development

Researchers, Legal Experts Debate Implications Of AI Advancements.

The New York Times  (5/25, Markoff, Subscription Publication) reports that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy sponsored a discussion on Tuesday in Seattle, at which “legal specialists and technologists explored questions about autonomous systems that would increasingly make decisions without human input in areas like warfare, transportation and health.” Despite this increased concern about regulating AI systems, researchers say they are “still far from matching the flexibility and learning capability of the human mind.”

Researcher Discusses What Technologies The iPhone Of The Future May Hold.

TechRadar  (5/25, Marshall) spoke with Dr Kevin Curran, Ulster University Reader in Computer Science and IEEE Technical Expert and Royal Academy of Engineering/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellow about what the iPhone could be like in 2020. Among his thoughts were that a felxible display for the phone could be possible and he said “other promising materials such as graphene could revolutionise design due to its incredible strength, lightness and slimness. We should also see more ultra thin, ultra-bendable glass such as Corning Willow.” Curran also believes improved transflective displays will be available, and that the iPhone will be the center of an ecosystem that includes a smartwatch and car-based displays.


For First Time Ever, Clean-Energy Jobs Overtake Those In Oil, Natural Gas Extraction.

Bloomberg News  (5/25, Hirtenstein) reports that “the number of US jobs in solar energy overtook those in oil and natural gas extraction for the first time last year, helping drive a global surge in employment in the clean-energy business as fossil-fuel companies faltered.” According to an International Renewable Energy Agency report, “employment in the US solar business grew 12 times faster than overall job creation.”

Industry News

Apple Rumored To Be Exploring EV Charging Technology.

Reuters  (5/25, Love, Sage) reports in an exclusive that Apple is exploring EV charging technology, talking with companies that own charging stations and hiring engineers with competence in the area, though its unnamed sources did not specifically say the company was interested in EV charging. However, evidence from earlier reports points to EVs, according to Reuters, though it remains unclear whether the company would pursue universal or proprietary charging technology. Tech Insider  (5/25, Thompson) adds that “the iPhone maker has recruited several experts in the field” and has reportedly initiated discussions with “several companies already in the business of building charging stations.” Citing the Reuters piece, Tech Insider adds that the company has “hired at least four charging experts from various backgrounds,” including former Google engineer Kurt Adelberger – who “co-authored a patent prior to leaving Google for a smart charging system.”

The Road and Track  (5/25) contributor Bob Sorokanich laments the distinct possibility that Apple will choose proprietary technology, further complicating the electric car charging world. Though he admits that the report is only “a hunch,” Sorokanich argues that “it’s not hard to imagine a future in which a (hypothetical) first-generation Apple electric car uses one type of Apple-designed plug” that will be “replaced by a different proprietary plug on the second-generation car.” Jalopnik’s  (5/25) Raphael Orlove offers similar commentary.

Ford: Detroit Can Become America’s “Mobility Central.”

The Detroit Free Press  (5/25, Snavely) reports that Ford executive chairman Bill Ford said in an speech that Detroit could become the center of American mobility, citing “more engineers…than any other state,” “a huge customer base here with (automakers) and tier one suppliers.”

Engineering and Public Policy

House Advances Toward Conference On Energy Bill.

The Hill  (5/25, Cama) reports the House on Wednesday voted to pass an amended version of the Senate’s energy bill, forming a conference committee. The House attached to it “numerous other, mostly Republican, energy and natural resources bills, including legislation to bring drought relief to California.” Democrats “said the measure was backward looking and had little to do with modernization” and that the drought provisions “would do far more harm than good.”

House Votes To Bar Future Purchases Of Heavy Water From Iran.

The AP  (5/25, Taylor) reports, “The House has voted to bar the US government from future purchases of heavy water from Iran, undercutting the controversial nuclear pact with that nation and earning a certain veto threat on a key government funding bill” covering the Energy Department. Last month, the Administration completed an $8.6 million purchase of Iranian heavy water.

White House Proposes Requiring Contractors To Disclose Climate Impacts.

The Wall Street Journal  (5/25, Harder, Olson, Subscription Publication) reported yesterday morning that the White House would propose a new rule Wednesday that would push federal contractors to publicly disclose more information about their impact on climate change. The rule is expected to be finalized this fall and would affect an estimated 90 percent of all federal contracts. The Hill  (5/25, Henry) reports that Chief Acquisition Officer Anne Rung and two other officials wrote in an Administration blog post that the rule means “we’ll be able to better assess supplier greenhouse gas management practices, manage direct and indirect greenhouse gas emission, address climate risk in the federal government’s supply chain and engage with contractors to reduce supply chain emissions.”

PG&E Accuses Prosecutors Of Improper Evidence Collection In San Bruno Blast Probe.

The San Francisco Chronicle  (5/25, Egelko) reports, Pacific Gas and Electric “is accusing federal prosecutors of lying and concealing evidence showing that federal investigators were also part of a state probe of the blast that gave them direct access to the utility’s records.” PG&E said, as many as four expert consultants for the prosecution also served as consultants to the California PUC. PG&E said the consultants gave prosecutors “access to PG&E personnel, records, facilities” and other evidence without having to go to court. PG&E lawyers said the judge would be “well within (his) discretion to dismiss this case or any counts outright for the systematic misconduct and deceitful behavior” they described.

Cheap Wind, Natural Gas-fired Power Squeezes Illinois Coal, Nuclear Plants.

In an analysis, Bloomberg News  (5/25, Chediak) reports Illinois offers a “snapshot of the woes of the US coal and nuclear industries” following a four-year drop in electricity demand and fourfold increase in cheap wind from neighboring states that has prompted the closure of 10 percent of generating capacity in the state. Exelon and Dynegy “are asking lawmakers to bail out their money-losing assets to prevent further job-cutting.” Morningstar utility analyst Travis Miller explained, “You’ve got free wind power coming from the west and cheap gas coming from the east and that’s not a good place to be for coal and nuclear power plants.”

Millions Spent On Both Sides Of Nevada Rooftop Solar Referendum.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal  (5/25, Whaley) reports that campaign contributions to Nevada state lawmakers have been made by SolarCity and NV Energy and millions more spent by the two “on an initiative referendum sought by the rooftop solar company to ask voters in November to restore Nevada’s more favorable net metering rates.” The spending “suggest the issue will see another hard fought battle in the 2017 Legislature.” Between January 1 and May 20, SolarCity has contributed nearly $70,000 to 15 incumbent legislators, while NV Energy donated more than $200,000 to 43 legislative incumbents and candidates.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Middle School Students Build Underwater Remote Operated Vehicles.

The Hickory (NC) Daily Record  (5/26) reports students at Newton-Conover Middle School have “learned to see any problem as an opportunity to succeed after spending the last few weeks building two SeaPerch Underwater Remote Operated Vehicles.” As part of a STEM project at the school, the students demonstrated their ROVs at the Shuford YMCA pool Wednesday in front of to teachers and administrators. Charles Draper, the teacher of the school’s Exception Children class, said the program has “allowed them to use math, science, technology, engineering in the classroom in a practical way and to use those skills to build a final product.”

Minnesota Students Create Prosthetic Hand For Younger Girl.

The AP  (5/25) reports on two students at Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School in Faribault, Minnesota who plan to spend their final two years of engineering classes designing a prosthetic hand for a local 14-year-old girl. Shattuck-St. Mary’s teacher Mike Boone, will supervise the students.

Mishawaka High Uses Grant For Technology In The Classroom.

The AP  (5/25) reports that “state law allows for the capturing of property tax dollars in certain areas designated as TIFs,” and “Based on the number of students in P-H-M schools who are Mishawaka residents, the city gave that school system about $125,000 in TIF money for Project Lead the Way.” South Bend schools received about $542,000 to be paid out over three years for computers, software and supplies for STEM-based programs in the city schools, South Bend Community Schools spokeswoman Sue Coney said Monday. Ben Modlin, Project Lead the Way teacher at MHS, said “the mission is to get students career ready. He said the biomedical program received about $127,000 and engineering received approximately $210,000.”

Also in the News

Regeneron Says It Will Sponsor Iconic Science Talent Search.

The New York Times  (5/26, Hardy, Subscription Publication) reports that Regeneron Pharmaceuticals plans to be the new sponsor of the nationwide Science Talent Search, an iconic contest that “counts among its finalists several Nobel Prize winners, as well as university professors, popular science authors and business executives.” Regeneron is taking over from Intel and said it would devote $100 million to the competition over 10 years. The Times says the contest sponsorship “increasingly reflects the state of American business as it relates to education in so-called STEM subjects, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Texas A&M, UT, UNM Announce Joint Bid For Sandia Lab Contract.
Finnish Company Donates Ship Engine To Texas A&M Galveston.
Bill Nye Observes Successful LightSail Spacecraft Test At Cal Poly.
VW “On Track” In US Civil Suit.
PennDOT May Reopen Road Closed Since April 29 Gas Pipeline Explosion.
Baltimore Elementary School MakerLab Inspires Creativity, Ingenuity.

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