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

Leading the News

Ford Invests In Mapping Technology Start-Up Civil Maps.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16, Gardner) reported that Ford announced that it will invest $6.6 million into California start-up Civil Maps, which specializes in three-dimensional map generation, for product development and deployment. In an email, Ford spokesman Alan Hall explained, “Investing in and working with Civil Maps gives us an additional way to develop 3D high-resolution maps, which will bring fully autonomous Ford vehicles a step closer to reality for consumers.”

Digital Trends Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Branman) said that Ford’s investment is one of the first focused on “the broader facilitation of autonomous infrastructure.” With Civil Maps’ crowdsourced, processed, and transmitted data, fully-autonomous cars will be able to identify and analyze on- and off-road features and react accordingly. PC Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Brant) reported that the artificial intelligence-mapping software will enable “fully autonomous vehicles to drive like humans do,” according to Civil Maps CEO Sravan Puttagunta in a statement. The article suggested that Ford’s investment in the start-up may signal that Ford is serious about its self-driving vehicle development.

The Street Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15) said Ford was more cautious in its approach to driverless technology development than its primary domestic competitor, General Motors. The article predicted that Civil Maps’ ability to use sensor-collected data from vehicles with artificial intelligence to create “meaningful map information” may be “critical to developing autonomous features and, eventually, fully driverless cars.” Venture Beat Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15) similarly predicted that mapping technology “will prove pivotal to the success of self-driving cars” and added that Civil Maps specifically has a low-cost and light data footprint, of particular importance since the data will transmit over cellular networks. Fortune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15) explained that Civil Maps’ technology “can quickly generate and maintain maps that give fully autonomous vehicles the comprehensive and precise knowledge” over cellular networks that will ensure “self-driving cars can crowdsource, update, and share road data in real-time.”

The Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Gardner) said Ford registered Smart Mobility, a limited liability corporation, in March through which it invests and develops mobility services like Civil Maps. Motus Ventures, Wicklow Capital, StartX Stanford, and AME Cloud Ventures also invested in Civil Maps. Investor’s Business Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Detar) added that Ford is now one of at least 30 companies engaged in autonomous vehicle technology development. Similarly, Tesla, Apple, and Google are developing maps for their self-driving vehicle projects, and Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz also acquired Nokia’s map business to further their projects.

Higher Education

Clinton College Tuition Proposal Expected To Raise Cost Of College.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16, Appelbaum, Subscription Publication) reports on Hillary Clinton’s proposal “to allow most Americans to attend public universities at no cost” citing economists who argue it would result in higher tuition, as an author of a 2015 study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York put it, “Colleges have the opportunity to extract money from the federal government, and they do it.” Still the article says that even though the proposal would probably result in higher costs, it might still be beneficial given the expected economic gains.

Study Finds More Public Colleges Pay Over $1 Million To Presidents.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/17, Binkley) reports The Chronicle of Higher Education in its annual report on executive pay at public colleges found that “a growing number” of college presidents received over $1 million in “total pay” with five surpassing the mark in 2015. Three of those are in Texas. The most recent figures regarding private schools are from 2013, and over 30 of those schools’ presidents were paid over $1 million.

New Rules Require Schools To Offer “Neutral” Menu Of Ways For Students To Receive Financial Aid Balances.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Carrns, Subscription Publication) reports on new rules regarding bank accounts for financial aid balances explaining that recently students have been sent “marketing materials that implied they had to open a special account, often a debit card account with hefty fees, to get their money.” Now, schools are required to “provide a ‘neutral’ menu of ways students can receive their money, and the choice to have it deposited in an account the student already has must top the list.”

Maryland Schools Target Dropouts With Less Than One Year Needed To Finish Degrees.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16) reports on a program developed by Morgan State University to encourage students who had formerly dropped out to complete their degrees. The program is spreading after being “embraced by” Maryland, and has been “replicated at other universities and community colleges.” With the program, Morgan State has raised its six-year graduation rate from 29 percent to 31 percent, and “about half of the 134 students” contacted by the school re-enrolled. The Maryland Higher Education Commission is offering “up to $75,000 to pay for scholarships to lure back students” as well as “support staff or software” to aid former students to re-enroll. The programs target students who need less than one year of coursework to graduate.

Pennsylvania Schools Focus On Retention.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/17, Silber) reports on efforts by Pennsylvania schools to strengthen retention of “students — especially low-income, first generation students.” Edinboro Assistant Vice President for Student Retention and Academic Success Fai Howard explained that many students have jobs and many are “heads of households.” Because of their responsibilities they may “leave college in order to work a full-time job, or to care for a sick relative,” while others “find themselves academically or socially unprepared for college life.”

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Research and Development

Researchers Aim To Develop Robot Platform For Specialty Farming.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Ellis) reported researchers in Idaho are developing a robotic platform they’re calling “IdaBot,” which “they believe could help specialty crop growers manage their crops and reduce labor costs.” The two-year project aims to “create a simpler robot that can navigate an orchard or vineyard autonomously and be used to apply chemicals.” Researchers also “hope to teach the robot to do other things, such as count fruit on the tree or vine and assist pickers.”

Washington University Experiment Claims Locusts Could Help Detect Bombs.

The Columbia (MO) Missourian Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/17, Alamdari) reports that researchers at Washington University hope to develop an “the ultimate smelling machine” which mimics how locust antennae function. According to the researchers, locusts have sensors that are “more complex than any chemical sensor an engineer could make.” According to the Columbia Missourian, researchers hope that one day, the insects will help “the military detect land mines or verifying bomb threats at airports.”

Rochester Institute Of Technology Professors Earn National Science Foundation Grants.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) reported that Rochester Institute of Technology astronomy professors Carlos Lousto and Manuela Campanelli have won research grants from the National Science Foundation totaling $1.035 million. Both hav ebeen studying gravitational waves. Lousto won $600,000 for “research modeling the collision of black holes, which cause the waveforms,” and Campanelli was granted $435,000 for “software tools.”

Armstrong State Chemistry Professors Win National Science Foundation Grant.

The Savannah (GA) Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15) reported that Armstrong State University chemistry professors Brandon Quillian, Sarah Gray, Gary Guillet, Cliff Padgett, Nathaniel Shank, Mitch Weiland, and Sarah Zingales have been awarded a $279,297 grant from the National Science Foundation in support of their project “Polymer Chemistry: Cross-linking the Curriculum (PC3).”


Recruiter Develops Tool To Mask Gender Voices During Technology Job Interviews.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Turner) reported that after having witnessed a great deal of bias in employment, Allie Lerner developed “, a platform that allows people to practice technical interviews in a bias-free environment with people from major tech companies such as Google and Twitch.” According to the WPost, Lerner is also using the platform to address possible bias in job advancement. Lerner said she was surprised because “there is nothing about programming a computer that ought to favor one gender over another. And technical interviews, especially, are a learned skill.” Although Lerner acknowledges that her experiment is limited due to “sample size,” the WPost reports that her results are consistent with those of other studies of gender gaps in the technology industry.

High School Students Get Opportunity To Earn Certification Through ECPI Summer Program.

The Hampton Roads (VA) Virginian-Pilot Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/17, Newsome) reports that 20 students participated “in an Advanced Manufacturing Summer Academy sponsored by ECPI University,” sponsored by the university and the Portsmouth Public Libraries, and science group Global Changer. At the end of the program, the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot reports “students will take a manufacturing-skills industry standard test to earn a certification that can help them get an entry-level job after high school. ECPI runs similar technical education programs in other local public schools.”

Coder Shortage Affecting Other Tech Valley Industries.

The Albany (NY) Times Union Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/16, Rulison) reports that there “are hundreds of cool jobs in the Capital Region,” but there are not enough coders to fill the positions. The problem is not limited to software companies. According to the Times Union, “the problem also impacts other local employers, from hospitals and banks to manufacturers and government agencies.” To help address the issue, Annmarie Lanesey created AlbanyCanCode, a nonprofit organization geared toward “creating a new generation of software coders for local employers.” According to AlbanyCanCode’s executive director Janet Carmosky, “We’re working to shift mindset in the community…The idea that a career in software is open only to people with high math aptitude, a computer science degree, or indeed any college at all, is a misconception.”

Industry News

California Solar Power Had Record Day Last Tuesday.

The Sacramento (CA) Bee Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Ashton) reported that the California Independent System Operator “managed enough solar energy to power 2 million homes” on Tuesday, and “its 8,030 megawatts recorded at 1:06 p.m. from solar sources stood out as double the network’s best day in 2014. It also was 2,000 megawatts more than its solar peak from last year.” Sean Gallagher of the Solar Energy Industries Association said, “It’s a great milestone for California and the solar industry.”

Pennsylvania Clean Energy Jobs Up 15.7%.

Philly (PA) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Maykuth) reported that “more than 66,000 Pennsylvanians worked last year in the clean energy industry at 5,900 businesses, up 15.7 percent from 2014,” according to a report from the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance and Environmental Entrepreneurs.

Engineering and Public Policy

DOE Moving Forward With Efficiency Rules For Wine Coolers.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Devaney) reports the Energy Department is going ahead “with new efficiency rules for certain refrigeration products such as wine coolers.” The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the DOE said Friday that it is establishing new test procedures for wine coolers. The rule is set to go into effect in 30 days.

Obama Announces $400 Million 5G Wireless Network Research Initiative.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Snider) reported that on Friday, President Obama announced the launch of the Advanced Wireless Research Initiative in an effort to further the research and development of 5G wireless networks. The National Science Foundation, AT&T, Intel, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon have pledged to fund the $400 million initiative, which is expected to decrease movie download times on mobile phones and tablets to less than five seconds, improve self-driving vehicles, and introduce Gigabit-speed wireless broadband in public areas and businesses.

Bloomberg Politics Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Keane) said that the initiative furthers the Federal Communications Commission’s unanimous Thursday decision to increase airwave spectrum for 5G networks. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy technology and innovation deputy director Tom Kalil explained, “There is a recognition that these are long-term investments we need to create to fuel economic growth and job creation.”

PC Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Brant) revealed that the National Science Foundation will start development next year on four “city-scale advanced wireless testing platforms” in cities to be chosen in an upcoming competition and also contribute over $350 million for Internet of Things network, device, and protocol testing and development initiatives. Engadget Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Steele) reported that the National Science Foundation has partnered with Intel to launch a $6 million project aimed at developing wireless edge networks capable of handling large-scale data transfers in under a millisecond and partnered with the Academy of Finland for a $4.7 million wireless systems and network research effort.

Tesla Asked To Brief Senate Committee On Autopilot.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/17, Zanona) reports that Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chairman John Thune (R-SD) is asking representatives from Tesla to brief committee staff concerning May’s fatal incident that may be linked to the use of Autopilot. In a letter Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14) to CEO Elon Musk, Thune wrote that “while investigations are still ongoing, questions remain as to whether the technology performed as intended and whether this tragic accident could have been avoided.” The senator said that he supports driverless vehicle technology, but emphasized that it is “essential to use lessons learned from this incident to improve safety technologies, ensure they perform as advertised, and make certain that consumers are properly educated about their use.” TheWashington (DC) Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/17, Fung) adds that in addition to the May accident, Thune is seeking information on “Tesla’s actions in response, and the company’s cooperation with NHTSA.” According to Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15), Thune also said in his letter that manufacturers like Tesla “must educate consumers” about the benefits and limitations of driverless technology. Zacks Investment Research Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15) reports that Thune asked Musk to provide a briefing by July 29.

Analysis: Autopilot Crashes Will Not Slow Industry Progress. Analysis and columns from multiple outlets found the general consensus that recent incidents allegedly involving Tesla’s Autopilot feature will not stop industry progress towards driverless cars. Writing at USA Today Share to
FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Kalra), columnist Nidhi Kalra argued that though the Florida incident “raises important questions,” it should not “stop development of self-driving and driverless cars.” Kalra emphasizes the number of traffic fatalities caused by human errors that automated systems can prevent. Jack Baruth comments at Popular Mechanics Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/17, Baruth) that there is now “a cottage industry springing up of people who are trying to make a name, or a living, or both, disparaging Tesla and its products” instead of a more-justified celebration of Autopilot and what the technology means for transportation in the US. He calls the innovation “a technologic miracle” and touts the statistic that Autopilot is at least as safe as a human driver.

Elementary/Secondary Education

High School Students Develop Water Filtration Product At MIT.

The Hometown Life (MI) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Mullin) reported that four California high school students who participated in MIT Launch – “a four-week summer entrepreneurship program” – have “developed a product aimed at solving the water scarcity problem in Haiti.” Under the company name VivaFlow, they created a portable water filtration system, “now incubated at MIT,” that can make saltwater drinkable.

Virginia High School Earns Grant To Develop Career, Technical Education Program.

The Charlottesville (VA) Daily Progress Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/14, Brooks) reported that Virginia’s Madison County High School “was one of five to receive a $50,000 planning grant from the Virginia Department of Education.” The grant will go toward developing a “program that will enable students focused on career and technical education to pursue industry credentials and apprenticeships,” and “support research into a simulated workplace model found in other states that will enable students to earn experience within the classroom.”

Notre Dame Camp Targets Girls For STEM Fields.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15) reported that the GE Girls@Notre Dame summer camp, sponsored by GE Global Research, GE Healthcare, Notre Dame, and the Women’s Network of Chicago, in its third year endeavored to interest “local sixth- through ninth-grade girls to spend a week at the University of Notre Dame and participate in science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) related activities, hoping to instill in young girls an early interest in science and engineering careers.” Notre Dame Director of the First-Year Engineering program Victoria Goodrich said, “Our numbers in college aren’t representative of women in the workforce either. It kind of gets a little thinner and thinner as you go through the ranks…The hope for me is that I can get more women coming into a program like mine.”

Manitowoc Youth Showcase Engineering Robotics Talents.

The Manitowoc (WI) Herald Times Reporter Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/15, Bloechl) reported that members of Lakeshore FIRST Robotics showcased the robot built by Manitowoc-area students at Energybank. According to the Herald Times Reporter, “FIRST was created in 1989 to inspire children from kindergarten through high school seniors to get involved with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related activities, to help foster a future in those careers along with building self-confidence, communication and leadership skills.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

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