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

Leading the News

Research Indicates Consumers Are Ignorant And Wary Of Hybrid, Autonomous Cars.

Reuters  (5/26, White) reports that a new Harris Poll found that US customers are ignorant about electric and hybrid vehicles, with 76% of respondents saying they are “not at all sure” about the range a plug-in hybrid car could travel on a single charge and underestimating the range by more than half. A separate British survey found that 55% of respondents answered that they weren’t likely to want to ride in an autonomous car. Similarly, a University of Michigan survey found similar sentiments in the US. However, automakers are Under increased pressure to sell more hybrid vehicles to comply with emission limits and EV sales mandates.

Popular Science  (5/26, Griggs) also reports on the University of Michigan poll, which found that upwards of “45 percent wanted no self-driving capabilities” compared to “only 15 percent” who “wanted a completely self-driving car.” In addition, researchers wrote that “two thirds of respondents” felt “either very or moderately concerned” about riding in fully autonomous vehicles.

Higher Education

Regeneron Says It Will Sponsor 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, a 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.” The Wall Street Journal  (5/26, Winslow, Subscription Publication) and Reuters  (5/26, Pierson) provide similar coverage.

College Graduation Rates Increasing, But Gender And Racial Gaps Still Exist.

The Hechinger Report  (5/26, Zinshteyn) reports the federal Condition of Education 2016 report released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics found the graduation rate for first-time students seeking bachelor’s degrees was 60 percent in 2014, a slight increase from 57.7 percent in 2000, “but stubborn racial and gender gaps are widening.” The percentage of white 25-29-year-olds attaining bachelor’s degrees between 1995 and 2015 increased from 29 to 43 percent, widening the gap with blacks, which went from 15 to 21 percent, and Hispanics, which rose 9 to 16 percent. The study found 39 percent of women aged 25 to 29 had received a bachelor’s degree in 2015, compared to 32 percent of men. More women than men are graduating from college—in 2015, 39 percent of women compared to 32 percent of men—but in “virtually every one of the 10 major economic sectors, men outearned women and white workers were paid more than Black or Hispanic workers.” Asian students boosted their graduation rate from 43 to 63 percent, and “generally had higher wages than white workers with bachelor’s degrees.”

East Stroudsburg Unviersity Dropping Mandatory Submission Of ACT, SAT Scores.

The Lehigh Valley (PA) Express Times  (5/26, Satullo) reports Pennsylvania’s East Stroudsburg University is the first state school to eliminate “the mandatory submission of an applicant’s SAT and ACT scores” starting in the spring of 2017. Over 850 colleges and universities nationwide have made the change. David Bousquet, vice president for enrollment management, explained, “By removing the stigma of poor standardized test results, we hope to remove a barrier for students who don’t think their SAT or ACT scores are accurate indicators of their academic ability.”

Report: States Are Wrong To Base Higher Education Funding On Performance.

The Washington Post  (5/26, Douglas-Gabriel) reports a Century Foundation paper by assistant professor of education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison Nicholas Hillman agues that by tying public college and university funding to the schools’ ability to retain and graduate students, states are reinforcing disparities within public higher education and doing little to move the needle on completion. According to Hillman, many different factors account for students’ failure to graduate, and these factors can only be properly address by colleges that have ample funding. Hillman said, “If we truly want to make progress towards a completion agenda and improve educational outcomes, we have to make sure that we have every college on an equal playing field with an adequate amount of resources to perform…We’ve got it all backwards to tell colleges to perform first, without actually addressing their capacity constraints.”

From ASEE
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

Study Suggests Data Taken From Car’s Internal Computer Can Determine Driver In Minutes.

Wired  (5/25) reports a new study suggests that data collected by a car you regularly drive “can probably identify you based on that driving style as little as a few minutes behind the wheel.” The study by researchers from the University of Washington and the UC San Diego found they could identify drivers only based on data collected from a car’s internal computer network known as a CAN bus. They also determined “that the data collected from a car’s brake pedal alone could let them correctly distinguish the correct driver out of 15 individuals” nearly 90 percent of the time after just 15 minutes of driving. After 90 minutes of monitored driving, “they could pick out the correct driver fully 100 percent of the time.”

University Of Arizona Professor Designing Guided Systems To Automate Parts Of Some Surgeries.

In a radio broadcast, KJZZ-FM  Phoenix (5/24, Brodie) reported Jerzy Rozenblit, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona who has a joint appointment in the surgery department in the College of Medicine, is working on developing guided systems for surgeries. Rozenblit’s systems are used for training on “minimally-invasive procedures” and emphasize “a non-patient-based learning environment.” Rozenblit believes, in the future, “we will definitely transition from open surgery to more laparoscopic/endoscopic procedures with very strong computer systems that, in our view, really provide improved situation awareness.” He also suggests that automated surgery may be normalized in 20 to 30 years.

Researchers Mimic iPhone Force Touch Feature With Software Update Using Ultrasonics.

TechCrunch  (5/26, Coldewey) reports that researchers at the University of Michigan have created a feature similar to Apple’s Force touch that uses ultrasound to detect pressure changes, rather than “sensors in the touchscreen.” According to TechCrunch, the phone can detect changes to an emitted sound caused by pressure on the screen or body of the device. The research team will present its work at MobiSys in Singapore next month. Gizmodo  (5/26, Liszewski) adds that the feature can be added to any phone with a software update – dubbed ForcePhone – that will use devices’ speakers and microphones to detect changes to the 18 kHz tone (which is well out of the range of human hearing) caused by pressure on the phone screen or body.

Industry News

Microsoft, Facebook Partner To Build Transatlantic Subsea Cable.

Reuters  (5/26, Goliya) reports that Microsoft Corp and Facebook Inc have partnered to build a 6,600 kilometer cable subsea cable – dubbed MAREA – crossing the Atlantic Ocean between the US and Southern Europe to handle increased demand for high-speed online and cloud services. The AP  (5/26) adds that “the project will be operated by an affiliate of Spanish telecommunications firm Telefonica” and “will connect data hubs in Northern Virginia and Bilbao, Spain.” According to Bloomberg News  (5/26, Bass), the cable will be “designed to have a bandwidth of as much as 160 terabytes per second” – the “highest capacity one of its kind under the Atlantic.” The companies will begin construction in August and expect to finish in October 2017.

Wired  (5/26, Metz) reports that “Facebook is buying up what’s called ‘dark fiber’ – unused terrestrial cables” in order to “control how its data moves from place to place and move it more efficiently.” Data moved by “a few online giants” – including Google, Microsoft, and Facebook – now represents “more than two thirds of the digital data moving across the Atlantic,” up from ten percent “just a few years ago,” according to telecommunications research firm Telegeography. Sources offer similar coverage include Newsweek  (5/26, Burningham), US News & World Report  (5/26, Risen), USA Today  (5/26, Weise), The Verge  (5/26, Statt), and the Wall Street Journal  (5/26, Fitzgerald, Subscription Publication).

Firm Predicts Industry Shift From Glass To Plastic OLED Displays.

Android Authority  (5/26, Triggs) reports that the plastic OLED panel industry appears “set for a boom across the handset, tablet, TV, and wearable segments,” according to IDTechEx Research forecasts – which predict the “flexible OLED market will bring in over $12 billion in revenue” in 2016 and up to “$57 billion by 2026” based on an industry shift from glass to plastic substrates. IDTechEx expects mobile phones to lead the shift, enabling the creation of “truly bendable and foldable mobile devices” in the future, followed by tablets and notebooks. The firm also expects “new markets in the augmented and virtual reality spaces” to strengthen demand in the near term, though TVs will remain dependent on glass-based displays “for a while longer” because “scaling-up OLED production size is proving expensive.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Colorado Senators Seek Return Of Natural Gas Royalties Set Aside For Anvil Points Cleanup.

The AP  (5/26) reports Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) have “introduced a provision” to the National Defense Authorization Act to return the $32 million to $80 million in natural gas royalties that remain in a fund after paying “for the cleanup of the Anvil Points oil shale research site near Rifle.”

Snyder: Calls For Halt To Internal Flint Probe After Complaints.

The Detroit Free Press  (5/26, Egan) reports Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday called for the “Office of the Auditor General and the DHHS Inspector General to temporarily suspend their internal investigations” into the Flint drinking water crisis after Attorney General Bill Schuette and US Attorney Barbara McQuade “complained it was complicating – and potentially compromising – his ongoing criminal investigation.” Schuette and McQuade also both criticized an internal Michigan State Police investigation. Assistant US Attorney John Neal said in a letter to the state attorney general’s office that Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) employees “were told they could lose their jobs if they didn’t answer questions during the internal MSP investigation,” as the courts “could view that evidence as ‘compelled statements,’ which could taint the ongoing federal criminal investigation.”

Michigan Environmental Quality Chief: Fired Employees “Thrown Under The Bus.” The Detroit News  (5/26, Oosting, Livengood) reports DEQ chief deputy director Jim Sygo, in a March 1 voluntary interview with MPS, defended former Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance chief Liane Shekter Smith and regulator Stephen Busch, who were fired for their roles in the Flint water crisis after a Snyder-appointed task force “found that the DEQ failed to require corrosion control chemicals when the city began using Flint River water in April 2014.” Sygo claimed the two were “thrown under the bus.” Lt. Lisa Rish wrote in a report that Sygo “felt there was politics involved.”

Coalition Calls On Moniz To End Support Of TCEP.

The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico  (5/26) reported a coalition of Taxpayers for Common Sense, Friends of the Earth and The R Street Institute has sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz arguing for an end to support for the Texas Clean Energy Project. The project “will burn gassified coal and use carbon capture technology to hold down its greenhouse gas emissions.” TCEP “has missed some key milestones, and while DOE suspended its funding, it recently gave the project an extension of its cooperative support agreement, which allows the department to restart the money spigot.”

E&E Publishing  (5/27, Subscription Publication) reports that regarding the extension, the coalition wrote, “This is a worrying development for both taxpayers and the environment. … Extending the project’s cooperative agreement and leaving open the possibility to provide further support only increases the department’s financial exposure.” The project “has significant support on Capitol Hill, including from House lawmakers who pressed” Moniz “on the suspended funding during recent appropriations hearings.”

Chemical Industry Pushed For Greater EPA Oversight Amid “Hodgepodge” Of State Rules.

Bloomberg Politics  (5/26, Kaskey) reports the Senate is poised to send President Obama a revised Toxic Substances Control Act that would expand “the Environmental Protection Agency’s oversight of chemicals used in products such as spot cleaners and paint strippers.” The chemical industry, including lobbyists for DuPont and Dow Chemical pushed for the legislation to provide companies with consistent rules to follow over the “hodgepodge of retailer bans, consumer boycotts and state regulations.” The compromise legislation would require EPA to focus on “high-priority” chemicals already in the marketplace and would also require the EPA to review the safety of new chemicals before commercial introduction. The American Chemistry Council said on its website that eroded confidence in EPA regulation of chemicals prompted state legislatures “to create their own chemicals management laws and on retailers to pull products from the shelves, often based on the claims of activists rather than scientific conclusions.”

CPUC Grants SCE Energy Storage Procurement To Alleviate Risk Of Blackouts.

Reuters  (5/26) reports the California Public Utilities Commission has granted Southern California Edison energy storage procurement authority in an effort to alleviate electric reliability risks to the Los Angeles area as a result of the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak. The Los Angeles Times  (5/26, Penn) reports the CPUC “wants Southern California Edison to expedite plans to acquire electricity storage using batteries to help prevent potential blackouts.” CPUC president Michael Picker said, “We’re doing what we can to expedite the next generation of energy solutions in that very constrained piece of California’s infrastructure. …This is one important part of the overall effort.”

Nevada Task Force Recommends Rooftop Solar “Grandfathering.”

The AP  (5/26) reports Nevada’s New Energy Industry Task Force “wants to allow the state’s early-adopter rooftop solar customers to go back to an older, more favorable rate structure.” On Thursday, the task force voted “to recommend a bill be drafted that would ‘grandfather’ customers who applied to go solar by Dec. 31, 2015.” The panel recommended permitting “customers keep the lower rates for 20 years from the date their system started operating.”

Work Has Started On Large Minnesota Solar Project.

The AP  (5/26) reports that work has begun “on one of Minnesota’s largest solar projects,” located in Lyon County, which “will generate enough electricity to power about 15,000 homes.” The project “on 355 acres near Marshall will be owned and operated by Marshall Solar, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources in partnership with Xcel Energy.” The Marshall Solar Energy Project, according to Xcel, will be the third-biggest solar installation in the state.

Elementary/Secondary Education

California Education Officials Discussing How To Build College, Career Readiness Metric.

EdSource  (5/25, Leal) reports California education officials are considering “at least a dozen elements” as the state designs its “first tool to gauge college and career readiness at high schools.” The career readiness metric, which would meet new state and federal guidelines, could be adopted in September and implemented in the 2017-18 school year. A preliminary version of the metric is expected when the state Board of Education meets July 13-14. Some elements under consideration are the amount of AP and Career Technical Education courses a school offers, the percentage of students who take college entrance and AP exams, the percentage of students concurrently enrolled in college credit courses at a community center, and more. The challenge building a metric “that takes into account the different goals prioritized across California’s high schools,” California Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley informed board members earlier this month.

Texas Math Standards Almost Identical To Common Core.

Slate  (5/26) reports on a Hechinger Report story by Sarah Garland, who writes that according to experts, “even in a state that said an emphatic “No!” to Common Core, the new math standards here are pretty similar to the standards the state rejected.” According to Slate, “the Texas standards reference ‘Adding It Up,’ a major 2001 study by the National Research Council about how children learn math, a study also explicitly cited by the Common Core standards writers.”

Students Talk Science And Technology At Denver Broncos Stadium.

The Denver Post  (5/26, Chuang) reports “several Broncos employees who shared a different side of working for the NFL team – the science, technology, engineering and math side – with students Thursday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.” According to the Denver Post, Montrose High School pre-engineering students were able to learn and understand “how to put STEM degrees to work at places such as Sports Authority Field – from building and maintaining the turf to working in the ThunderVision Control Room.”

Op-Ed: Underrepresented Groups Need Hand Up In STEM Education.

In an op-ed for US News & World Report  (5/26), contributor Vince Bertram writes about the “100 middle-school boys in the nation’s capital” who “are set to take part in a new technology-education program in late June that will teach them, among other things, 3-D modeling and app development” funded by a $395,000 grant from Verizon. Black and Hispanic youths chosen for the Verizon Minority Male Makers Program, a four-week summer boot camp at the University of the District of Columbia, will explore future career opportunities in the technology sector, a field where minorities are underrepresented.

Branstad Signs CTE Bill Into Law.

The Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette  (5/26, Crippes) reports on legislation aimed at modernizing career technical education throughout the state signed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad into law on Thursday. According to Branstad, “the legislation is aimed at making sure students graduate “genuinely ready” for college or career training. It also helps with the Future Ready Iowa goal of ensuring 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce have education or training beyond high school by 2025.”

North Carolina Middle School Students Build Underwater Remote Operated Vehicles.

The Hickory (NC) Daily Record  (5/26) reports students at Newton-Conover Middle School in Newton, North Carolina 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.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Google, FCA Begin Work On Autonomous Minivans In Detroit Suburbs.
NSF Grant To Fund STEM Scholarship Program At Austin College.
Researchers, Legal Experts Debate Implications Of AI Advancements.
For First Time Ever, Clean-Energy Jobs Overtake Those In Oil, Natural Gas Extraction.
Apple Rumored To Be Exploring EV Charging Technology.
House Advances Toward Conference On Energy Bill.
Middle School Students Build Underwater Remote Operated Vehicles.

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