Leading the News
Toyota Research Institute Executive Forecasts “Hyper-Exponential Growth” Of Autonomous, Artificial Intelligence-Enabled Vehicles.
The Financial Times (6/20, Inagaki, Subscription Publication) reports former DARPA head of robotics Gill Pratt joined Toyota Research Institute as its chief executive officer six months ago. NBC News (6/20) reports Pratt said the Institute is integrating artificial intelligence technology to improve vehicle safety and, one day, potentially expand into the robotics industry to assist the elderly at home.
The AP (6/20, Kageyama) reports that Gill predicts the future of autonomous and artificial intelligence-enhanced vehicles will likely experience “hyper-exponential growth” in terms of their capabilities because outside technology companies, such as Google, Uber, and Apple, are engaging in the industry. Gill warned, however, “that what we are doing has high risk and that some of our efforts” resulting from the company’s $1 billion investment in the developing technologies “will not be entirely successful but we expect some of them to be very successful.” Seeking Alpha (6/20) reported Gill predicted that vehicle artificial intelligence will one day “figure out a plan for evasive action” and “be like a guardian angel, pushing on the accelerators, pushing on the steering wheel, pushing on the brake in parallel with you.”
Wikipedia Making Inroads On College Campuses.
The Washington Post (6/20, Dewey) reports that while college professors are traditionally quick to warn students not to rely on Wikipedia, “some professors have begun taking a very different tack. Not only are their students encouraged to see Wikipedia as an important information source, but they’re required to edit it for class assignments.” The piece describes a program run by the Wikipedia Education Foundation in which “more than 14,000 students have created or edited 35,000 Wikipedia articles as part of a program run by the Wikipedia Education Foundation.” The initiative is intended to counter negative public connotations about the reliability of information on Wikipedia.
Rochester Institute Of Technology Training Unemployed Vets For Tech Jobs.
The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (6/20) reports that Rochester Institute of Technology’s Veterans and Displaced Workers in Manufacturing program is training “20 unemployed or underemployed workers” in electronics and other job skills. The program “stresses hands-on training, with constant feedback from instructors, and its close ties to local companies that might hire the participants.”
Research and Development
University Of Washington Students Develop Technology To Help Diagnose Malaria.
The Puget Sound (WA) Business Journal (6/20, Subscription Publication) reports that two University of Washington electrical engineering students worked with local firm Intellectual Ventures “to develop a portable device that will make diagnosing malaria in poor countries less dependent on limited specialized workers.” The autoscope “is a portable automated device that will scan and analyze a sample and return a report that includes diagnosis, the quantity of parasites and the parasite makeup to be verified by medical professionals.”
Virginia Tech Engineer Develops Robotic Exoskeleton Hand To Diagnose Children.
The Augusta (VA) Free Press (6/18) reports that Pinhas Ben-Tzvi, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and founding director of the department’s robotics and mechatronics lab, working with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, has modified his Sensing and Force-Feedback Exoskeleton (SAFE) robotic glove “to help provide an early diagnosis of cerebral palsy in children.”
Aerospace Firms Struggle To Retain Qualified Workers.
The Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette (6/19, Heilman) reports that the tight labor market in the aerospace and defense contracting sectors is prompting major firms like Lockheed Martin to take extraordinary measures to retain workers. The piece explains that there has been a significant decrease in “re-badging,” in which “employees in the defense contracting industry typically got jobs with the winning bidder when their employer lost a major contract.” Instead, firms are working to hang on to those workers.
China Retains Supcomputing Lead, World’s Fastest Supercomputer Run On Chinese Chips.
The New York Times (6/20, Markoff, Subscription Publication) reports that in a new biannual list of the world’s fastest supercomputers published on Monday, “not only does China have the world’s fastest machine for the seventh consecutive time, it has the largest number of computers among the top 500,” a first for any country other than the US. China’s fastest supercomputer uses Chinese-made microprocessor chips instead of chips from Intel. US primacy on the Top 500 list has “slipped” as government support for supercomputing has “been slowed by long-running debates on the level of federal spending on basic scientific research” and opposition funding industrial research not related to national security, the Times explains. USA Today (6/20, Munger) reports the Sunway TaihuLight “is reportedly capable of 93 million billion calculations per second or 93 petaflops.”
Chinese Smartphone Manufacturers Challenge Apple, Samsung With Patent Acquisitions.
The Wall Street Journal (6/20, Osawa, Subscription Publication) reports Chinese smartphone manufacturers, including Huawei Technologies Co., are increasingly acquiring patents by entering licensing agreements, conducting acquisitions, and increasing research and development spending to slow down global market leaders Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. International intellectual property strategy consultant Benjamin Bai said the industry will likely “see a lot more Chinese companies filing patents outside China, and more deals and lawsuits involving patents and technologies” that, the article suggests, may lock Apple and Samsung in patent litigation.
Engineering and Public Policy
Time “Running Short” For Major Energy Legislation.
Bloomberg BNA (6/20, Natter) reports “with a seven-week congressional recess set to begin in less than a month and elections in the fall, analysts are casting doubt on lawmakers’ ability to beat the clock” to craft the “first broad energy policy bill in nearly a decade.” Damian Kunko, who represents the National Hydropower Association and companies such as Siemens subsidiary Dresser-Rand, told Bloomberg BNA “My glass is half empty and I don’t think there is going to be enough time.” Publicly, Congressional leaders “say they still have plenty of time to work out the differences in the House and Senate bills,” but in April, Sen. Lisa Murkowski “conceded time constraints would be one of the biggest challenges to getting the bill passed into law.”
Local Governments Urged To Back Clean Power Plan, Energy Transition.
Jay Fisette, the vice chair of the Arlington County Board, writes for The Hill (6/20, Fisette) that “local governments are the first responders to storm-related power outages, flooding, and threats to public health,” so “climate change is not an abstract issue for us.” Fisette highlights Arlington County’s support for the Clean Power Plan, along with 50 other city and county governments from 28 states. “We joined with a powerful majority of Americans who support the Clean Power Plan and a broad coalition of individuals and organizations.” Fisette urges support for the Clean Power Plan and the transition to greater efficiency and other clean energy.
California Power Grid Tested By Heat Wave.
Reuters (6/20, Gorman, Groom) reports power grid operators in California “warned homes and businesses” yesterday “to conserve electricity as rising demand for air conditioning stoked by a record-setting heat wave across the US Southwest tested the region’s generating capacity.” The Flex Alert was posted until 9 p.m. PST “during a second day of triple-digit temperatures that strained Southern California’s energy production, creating a potential for rolling blackouts on the first official day of summer.” But the California Independent System Operator reported that “the peak hour for energy demand came and went Monday evening without disruption of the region’s power delivery network.” Agency spokeswoman Anne Gonzales said, “Since we’re past that and have not experienced any trouble, I think we’re headed into the safe zone.” Bloomberg News (6/20, Chediak) reports the current heat wave is “the first big test of the Southern California grid” after the “historic” Aliso Canyon natural gas leak that has “constrained supplies of the power plant fuel.” California “has warned that the region risks as many as 14 days of blackouts this summer due to the leak.”
DOE Delays Efficiency Rules For Compressors.
The Hill (6/20, Devaney) reports the Energy Department is delaying new efficiency standards for compressors. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE “proposed new energy conservation standards for compressors” last month but it “is now extending the comment period to give the public more time to consider the changes.” The public will now have the chance to comment until Aug. 17.
Data Centers Increasingly Look to Efficiency And Renewables.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (6/21, Moore) reports on how data centers are increasing their energy efficiency through system improvements and renewable energy purchases. The firm vXchnge recently “signed a deal to source the Pittsburgh center’s next three years of electricity — all 20 million kilowatt-hours — exclusively from wind farms.” The American Wind Energy Association has tracked the growth in long-term contracts obtained by non-utility buyers, which grew to 52 percent of all wind power purchases in 2015. According to the US Department of Energy, onshore wind power is now competitive with new coal-fired and nuclear power, although still slightly more expensive than natural gas.
Legislation Blocking Wind Farms In North Carolina Military Zones Clears State Senate.
The AP (6/20, Robertson) reports a bill “that would bar wind-energy operations in military training areas across” large stretches of North Carolina “cleared the state Senate on Monday night after the chamber opposed making changes that would keep the door open for more projects.” The legislation “would prohibit the facilities in a large swatch of central and eastern North Carolina.” The bill received “support from senators concerned that allowing tall wind turbines in low-altitude training routes for jets and helicopter would strike a blow against preserving units at military installations.” A wind project being built in Perquimans County will not “be subject to the new rules, while two projects currently seeking federal approval – but not yet state permitting through the Department of Environmental Quality – are at risk of being halted.”
King Calls For Increased Use Of Maker Spaces In Schools.
In an op-ed in US News & World Report (6/20), Education Secretary John King writes about the current “National Week of Making,” which “recognizes that makers, builders and doers – of all ages and backgrounds – always have had a vital role in pushing our country to develop creative solutions to some of our most pressing challenges.” He defines “making” as traditional industrial arts along with “digital fabrication made possible by computer design tools, robotics, laser cutters, 3D printers and other tools.” King discusses the positive benefits of making in academic settings, including fostering collaborative thinking, increasing student engagement, and motivating students to study STEAM subjects. King writes that ED is “issuing a call to action to give every student opportunities to use these advanced tools and leverage the act of making for real learning,” calling for “creating ‘makerspaces’ in schools and after-school programs and recruiting talented mentors for our students.” King also announces that ED and the Alliance for Excellent Education “are launching Future Ready Librarians, an expansion of the Future Ready initiative aimed at positioning librarians as leaders in the digital transformation of learning.” Liana Heitin writes about King’s op-ed at the Education Week (6/20) “Curriculum Matters” blog. She notes that King points out that “companies can sponsor maker spaces and have their employees serve as mentors, principals can commit to designating such spaces in their buildings, entrepreneurs can create maker ‘kits’ to get schools started, and foundations can help build spaces in low-income schools.”
Rainbow PUSH Encouraging Black Churches To Promote Coding For Youth.
USA Today (6/20, Guynn) reports the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition is pushing an initiative “to forge a new generation of computer programmers” and “is reaching out to African Americans in their spiritual homes with FAITHTECH Labs, an initiative that provides access to computers for all ages and coding classes for young people.” The initiative has set up computer labs at a handful of churches across the country, “equipped with laptop and desktop computers, printers, servers and networking technology donated by Hewlett Packard Enterprise.”
Illinois School District Enhancing STEM Education in New Libraries.
The Deerfield (IL) Review (6/21, Sadin) reports that as part of a larger $4.4 million investment in Deerfield Public Schools, $2 million will go to purchase SmartLab computers in elementary school libraries to “provide fourth and fifth grade students, and in some cases younger children, with hands on STEM experience.” This move is “part of the K-12 STEAM Engine being done in partnership with Deerfield High School” to integrate STEM learning at all ages.
MakerGirl Workshops Promote STEM To Young Girls In Illinois.
The Freeport (IL) Journal-Standard (6/20, Farrell) reports on a “science, technology, engineering and math initiative started by female engineering students at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign” called MakerGirl that is introducing STEM careers to young girls. The group recently put on a 3-D printer workshop in Pearl City, Illinois and has plans to visit 19 states this summer to promote young women in these male-dominated fields.
Colorado Educator Begins One Year Term As President Of The National Science Teachers Association.
The Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette (6/20, Kelley) reports Colorado science educator Mary Gromko “on June 1 began her one-year term as president of the National Science Teachers Association, the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Indiana Teachers Take Part In STEM Workshop.
• ED Pushes Colleges To Refrain From Asking About Criminal History In Application Process.
• Pentagon Works Towards Technological Upgrade To Handle Evolving Arms Race.
• NYTimes Analysis: Wyoming’s Wind Industry Leads To Lost Jobs In Coal Industry.
• Start-Up EV Companies Recruiting Tesla Engineers, Managers.
• WPost A1: Nuclear Power Raises Debate About Combating Climate Change.
• Michigan High School Students Organize Hackathon.