Leading the News
Facebook Successfully Tests Aquila Aircraft.
USA Today (7/21, Guynn) reports Facebook completed its first est of its unmanned solar-powered Aquila aircraft, which was in the air for 96 minutes, more than three times longer than planned. With a Boeing 737’s wingspan, the craft is designed to stay aloft for up to three months at a time, providing Internet access in a 60-mile radius through new laser-beam technology. Challenges the company still has to address include “collecting enough energy during daylight hours to operate around the clock and designing high-energy, dense batteries that can efficiently store enough energy.” Facebook’s vice president of engineering Jay Parikh said, “We have a lot of work ahead of us.” Alphabet’s Project Loon aims to use high-altitude, wind-propelled balloons to deliver Internet service, and both OneWeb Satellites and Space X seek to use satellites to provide Internet connectivity. The Verge (7/21, Newton) calls Aquila “a linchpin of the company’s plan to bring the internet to all 7 billion people on Earth, regardless of their income or where they live.”
Study: Calculus Discourages Women From STEM Fields.
US News & World Report (7/21, Camera) reports that according to a study from Colorado State University, women are being discouraged from pursuing study in STEM fields because they lack “confidence in their ability” to handle calculus. Assistant statistics professor and study co-author Bailey Fosdick said, “When women are leaving, it is because they don’t think they can do it.” According to US News & World Report, the 2016 U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index indicates that although more women are earning STEM degrees, “they’re simply keeping pace rather than closing the gap with men.”
Penn State Will Offer Two New Graduate Degree Programs In Engineering This Fall.
The State College (PA) Centre Daily Times (7/21, Falce) reports that Penn State has added two new graduate degree programs in engineering. The school is adding a graduate degree in biomedical engineering, and “a master’s degree in engineering at the nanoscale.”
NSF Awards $503,000 Grant To University Of Pittsburgh Engineers.
The Pittsburgh Business Times (7/21, Tascarella) reports that researchers at the University of Pittsburgh “have received a $503,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study aluminum alloy microstructures.” According to the Business Times, “the three-year grant will also fund educational outreach and enhance Pitt’s material science curriculum.”
Virginia Educators Issued $900,000 NSF Grant To Teach UAV-Flying Classes.
The Washington Post (7/21, Laris) reports that educators in Virginia have been given a $900,000 federal grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) intended to spur a roll-out a UAV-flying classes at community colleges in the state. The move is part of an effort to develop a future workforce for “an exploding industry that is making inexpensive, high-resolution imagery widely available.” Cherie Aukland, who heads the geographic information system department at Thomas Nelson Community College, said, “That’s going to change how we analyze what’s happening with our world,” noting that UAVs can be used to monitor crop health, conduct land surveillance, and other uses.
Research and Development
LANL Developing Sample-collecting Laser For Mars Rover.
Drawing from reporting by KRQE-TV, the AP (7/21) reports Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers are working on a “SuperCam” for the Mars 2020 Rover that will collect soil samples from Mars with a laser. “Officials say the SuperCam also could determine the different minerals in the soil or rocks.”
Geothermal Energy Plan Proceeds Despite Opposition Over Seismic Risks.
The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (7/21) reports that the US Forest Service is proceeding with an assessment of geothermal energy exploration and development suitability near the Valles Caldera National Preserve despite “widespread opposition against it” and no input from the developer. The critics cite the allure of the area for recreationalists, earthquake risks, and the presence of a nearby nuclear plant. “The nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory has been required in recent years to shore up its defenses in a case of a seismic event.”
100 Black Men Partner With GM To Interest Youth In STEM Careers.
The Daytona (FL) Times (7/21, Douglas) reports that “last month, 100 Black Men of America, an organization dedicated to educating and empowering African-American youth, held its annual conference in Atlanta that focused on topics like civic engagement and managing money.” The Times reports that the event also focused on “getting youth interested in science, technology, engineering and math fields, commonly known as ‘STEM.’” Panelists included representatives from General Motors, such as HR executive director Tobin Williams who said, “[Technology] is absolutely essential. Over 33 years, the company that I work for [has become] a very different company,” said Williams. “Thirty-three years ago, it was primarily a manufacturing company. Three years ago, it was primarily a finance company and today it’s pretty much a software company. We are continuously looking for individuals who have the capability in software. There is a blending in terms of the software skill capability between engineering and computer science.”
Next And Innolux Team Up On Flexible Fingerprint Sensors.
DigiTimes (TWN) (7/22, Kuo, Hwang) reports Innolux and Next Biometrics are working together to “develop the world’s first flexible fingerprint sensor based on Next’s thermal sensing technology.” DigiTimes notes that Next and Innolux first began working together on “rigid fingerprint sensors in 2011,” with Innolux now expecting to ship 1.2 million rigid sensors this year. DigiTimes notes the companies hope to begin production of the flexible sensors, which “can accurately scan a larger area than capacitive fingerprint sensors, while production costs are competitive” in Q2 2017. Next hopes to ship two million flexible sensors next year, followed by 10 million in 2018.
Daimler To Accelerate EV Plans, Increase R&D Spending.
Reuters (7/21) reports that Diamler “has accelerated development of premium electric cars, Chief Executive Dieter said, adding he saw the vehicle segment gaining market share.” Zetsche told analysts, “We are adjusting our planning in this field. It is very important to get the right timing. As a tendency, and as a trend, we have become more bullish in that regard.” The company also “reiterated it will increase spending in research and development, which it expects to be ‘significantly above’ last year’s 6.6 billion euros, which was already a step up from 5.7 billion invested in 2014.”
Honda, SoftBank Partner On Developing Empathetic Cars.
The Wall Street Journal (7/21, Fujikawa, Subscription Publication) reports SoftBank Group Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son said the company is planning to shift toward AI as it works with Honda Motor Co. to develop cars that can learn to perceive drivers’ emotions. This project will aim to build attachments between humans and machines, Son said.
The Verge (7/21, Hawkins) quotes Son as saying, “Imagine if robots, with their super intelligence, devoted themselves to humans. And imagine that cars themselves became supercomputers or robots one day. Honda will be the first to adopt this technology.” Engadget (7/21) specifies the plans would utilize SoftBank’s life-sized Pepper robot to assess “drivers’ speech and other data compiled via multiple sensors and cameras.” Digital Trends (7/21) reports similarly.
Engineering and Public Policy
Administration Announces EV Efforts, Charging Station Loan Guarantees.
The AP (7/21, Freking) reports the White House announced that up to $4.5 billion in Energy Department loan guarantees will be available for commercial charging stations for electric vehicles. Additionally, senior adviser to the President Brian Deese “says the federal government also will partner with state and local governments to purchase fleets of electric vehicles.” Bloomberg Politics (7/21, Dorning) reports the Administration is seeking to create by 2020 complete a national network of fast-charging stations that will “make ‘coast-to-coast, nationwide zero-emissions travel’ a reality.”
The Washington Post (7/21, Mooney) reports the charging stations “will allow potential drivers to get around a key psychological problem: ‘range anxiety,’” in which people fear running out of charge on an EV far from a charging station. The White House also will “designate and develop key electric vehicle ‘charging corridors’” and announced “research initiatives at the Department of Energy and its laboratories to improve EV charging technologies.” The White House also “announced that some of the country’s largest power companies and automakers” signed a joint pledge “to ‘drive the market transformation to electric vehicles by making it easy for consumers to charge their vehicles.’” Department of Energy Undersecretary for Science and Energy Lynn Orr said, “The transportation sector is a quarter of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, so there’s a very important opportunity here.”
The Hill (7/21, Cama) reports, “The Energy and Transportation departments are teaming up to develop a guide for the federal government’s electric vehicle and charging infrastructure efforts like financing and funding.”
Southwest Research Institute Awarded $7.8M To Develop Cleaner Gas Turbines.
The San Antonio Express-News (7/21, Petersen) reports scientists at the Southwest Research Institute have won a $7.8 million grant from the US Department of Energy to build more energy efficient and environmentally friendly gas turbines.
“Maker Movement” Faces Challenges As It Moves Into Schools.
NPR (7/21, Westervelt) reports that the “maker movement,” defined as a “DIY culture of inventors, tinkerers and hackers is inspiring adults and children alike to design and build everything from sailboats and apps to solar cars,” is coming to schools this fall. However, NPR reports schools do not consider it to be learning in the traditional sense. In addition, schools are also concerned that the essence of the movement, which is driven by creativity and exploration, will be forced into a rigid system of accountability.
Students Continue Learning During Summer Tech Camp.
KPLC-TV Lake Charles, LA (7/21, Bivens), on its website, reports that during summer vacation, students attending Calcasieu Parish’s Tech Camp are continuing their learning. According to Calcasieu Parish schools chief technology officer Dr. Sheryl Abshire, Tech Camp is “a program that allows students to go above and beyond using technology,” engaging in robotics, coding, and Sphero.
Southeast STEM Summer Camp Ends. KSNF-TV Joplin, MO (7/21, Dimanche) reported that the Southeast STEM Summary Program ended with students “participating in a paint war.” According to KSNF-TV, students at the camp “had a chance to build CO2 cars, fire rockets and dissect a shark. They also visited Greenbush where they went canoeing, fishing and completed the ropes course. On Friday’s, students also got the chance to take field trips to different zoos, pools, airports and aquariums.” ThePittsburg (KS) Morning Sun (7/21, Hoener) also reports on the story.
New Laurel Summer Camp Mixes Science With Summer Fun.
The Baltimore Sun (7/21, Philip) reports that kids at Terrapin STEM Camp in Laurel, Maryland are spending the summer learning about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. According to the Sun, Terrapin STEM Camp at St. Mary of the Mills School was started “to offer kids in kindergarten through fifth grade a range of interactive STEM activities, from designing LEGO robots to working with 3D printers to learning about ‘creepy crawlers.’”
Mississippi Student Wins 2016 SkillsUSA Award.
The Winston County (MS) Journal (7/21) reports that “a career and technical student in Mississippi won one of the nation’s highest awards at the 2016 SkillsUSA Championships, held in Louisville, Ky., on June 22-23, 2016.” According to the Journal, students invited to the event showcased “their technical skills, workplace skills and personal skills in 100 hands-on occupational and leadership competitions including robotics, automotive technology, drafting, criminal justice, aviation maintenance and public speaking.”
Facebook Brings TechPrep To Get Chicago Kids Interested In Coding.
The Chicago Tribune (7/21, Graham) reports that on Wednesday, Facebook visited Malcolm X College on Chicago’s Near West Side in an effort to generate student interest in “TechPrep, a web resource designed to help kids and parents learn programming and pursue training and education.” According to the Tribune, almost 200 people attended the event during which “kids took coding classes as adults listened in on TechPrep demos and panels about how minority employees at Facebook got interested in computer science.” The Tribune reports that according to TechPrep partner manager Lauryn Ogbechie, Facebook was interested in bringing TechPrep to Chicago Public Schools due to the schools’ “decision to make coding a graduation requirement.”
Michigan Science Center Receives About $1.5 Million From Toyota.
The AP (7/21) reports that on Thursday, Toyota announced an almost $1.5 million donation to upgrade the Detroit Michigan Science Center’s theater and help enhance its educational offerings for students and teachers. According to the AP, Toyota said it wanted “to promote and expand education in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields.”
Delaware Students Scores Up In Second Year Of Smarter Balanced Assessment.
The Wilmington (DE) News Journal (7/21, Spencer) reports on Delaware’s results from the second year of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, given to all students in 3rd to 8th grades. The results were “better” than “last year, but still only about half are proficient” in English and math. Overall, 55 percent scored proficient in English and 44 percent in math, up from 52 percent and 41 percent last year. Frederika Jenner, president of the Delaware State Education Association, said that the fact that scores come out after the school year means the state should “critically analyze the test itself to ensure it serves [the] intended purpose of providing valid, timely and useful results.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Solar Car Challenge Offers Students Change To Design, Build, And Race Solar-Powered Cars.
• Morgan State University Names Dean Of Engineering School.
• Stretchable Electronics Show Promise For Medical Applications.
• Corning Announces New, Improved Gorilla Glass 5.
• Senate Bill Attempts To Boost Return On Federal Research Funding.
• Rowan University Hosts Summer STEM Camp For Middle School Students.