Leading the News
Volkswagen Suspends Sales In South Korea.
Volkswagen’s Korean Unit sent a letter to dealers announcing its decision to suspend deliveries for 34 different models. The auto manufacturer faced increasing pressure from the South Korean government’s scrutiny of its use of emissions-testing software.
AutoWeek (7/22) reports that while most of the affected models were sold in Europe, those models did not violate EU environmental regulations. Prosecutors are investigating the issue under South Korean law, however, and have already arrested one Volkswagen executive on charges related to the issue. Seeking Alpha (7/22) said that the Environment Ministry is expected to conduct a detailed review of Volkswagen’s diesel emissions cheating software use in late July.
Chosun Ilbo (KOR) (7/25) reports that the Environment Ministry was also urging Volkswagen to implement a sales suspension because it allegedly submitted forged documents to secure sales approval in South Korea. The article notes that in the letter, sent on Thursday, Volkswagen hinted that it made its decision because dealers were struggling with management strategies and customers were confused. Yet, CNET News (7/22) reports that a company spokesman told Reuters that the declining sales contributed to Volkswagen’s decision. Vehicle sales in South Korea declined in the first half of 2016 by 33 percent.
Volkswagen Proposes Fix For 2-Liter Diesel Models. The AP (7/22, Krisher) said dealers briefed by Volkswagen executives said that the company’s proposed fix for most of the 2-liter diesel engines included under its settlement agreement will involve a computer software update and the installation of a larger nitrogen oxide-trapping catalytic converter. The dealers also suggested that the proposed fix may not diminish the cars’ mileage or performance.
Cars (7/22, Mays, Meier) added that Volkswagen spokesman Jeannine Ginivan said the company “cannot comment on remedies until they are approved by” the EPA and the California Air Resources Board. Cars notes that in January, CARB rejected Volkswagen’s previous proposal, and last week, regulators rejected the carmaker’s proposed fix for Audi and Porsche models.
Analyst Increases Estimate For Diesel Scandal’s Cost To Volkswagen. Fortune (7/22) reported that Volkswagen has reserved about $17.85 billion for costs related to the falsified emissions tests, but NordLB analyst Frank Schwope estimated that the total international cost could be as high as $38 billion. He cautioned that the estimates “show that the dieselgate scandal is far from dealt with.”
Volkswagen CEO: Diesel Model Production Rate May “Not Come Back.” Car and Driver (7/21) said that Volkswagen’s US CEO Hinrich Woebcken hinted that the company may “have to accept that the high percentage of diesels that we had before will not come back again.” Prior to October, Volkswagen’s TDI models comprised about a quarter of the company’s US sales; the article said that the company must “find a replacement for all that volume–and fast,” and noted that Volkswagen failed to apply for new sales licenses for its diesel-driven Jetta, Golf, Beetle, and Audi A3 models.
University Of Michigan Engineering Students Defending Champs In American Solar Challenge.
The Detroit Free Press (7/23) reports on the University of Michigan’s team’s prospects in the American Solar Challenge, explaining the team’s difficulties defending their championship while coping with a last-minute design change intended to keep the team’s solar car within the contest’s regulations. The competition consists of an “eight-day, 1,900-mile race.”
Fewer Colleges On ED’s Heightened Cash Monitoring List.
The Wall Street Journal (7/22, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that ED updated its list of colleges facing heightened cash monitoring status on Friday, and that the number fell from 528 to 513 from three months earlier. Most of the schools on the list are for-profit colleges, and the Journal describes the reasons that schools make the list. The Journal quotes and unnamed ED official saying that the heightened cash monitoring list is “one of many important tools” the department uses “to maintain oversight of taxpayer dollars and ensure participating institutions responsibly administer Title IV funds.”
FCC Proposes Limits On Student Loan Robocalls.
Bloomberg News (7/22, Shields) reports that despite fears that a new Federal law allowing student loan servicers to “auto-dial borrowers on their mobile phones” will lead to a “deluge” of harassing calls, the FCC, “acting against advice from bankers and even the Obama administration’s Education Department, has proposed limiting calls to three a month.” The article quotes Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) saying, “As I’ve said from the beginning, this exemption never should have become law. Since that’s unfortunately what’s happened, the FCC now has a responsibility to put clear, enforceable limits in place to spare consumers as much harassment from robocalls as possible.” Noting that ED backs letting servicers “call 10 or more times a month,” Bloomberg quotes ED assistant press secretary Kelly Leon saying in an email, “We can only help borrowers avoid default -– and the harm it can do their finances -– if we can reach them.”
ED Releases Latest Distance Learning State Authorization Rule.
Inside Higher Ed (7/22) reports that ED on Friday “released its latest proposal on how colleges that offer distance education programs to students in other states should be regulated.” Under the rule, colleges providing distance education must “follow state laws governing how they become authorized to offer courses and programs to students in states other than where they are located.” However, contrary to past drafts, “the proposed rule does not require states to conduct an ‘active review’ of out-of-state colleges – a provision that was in previous drafts that many distance education groups criticized for placing an undue burden on states but consumer protection groups argued was important to prevent fraudulent colleges from taking advantage of students.”
Rise Of High-Tech Manufacturing, Aging Workforce Could Spell Worker Shortage.
The Orange County (CA) Register (7/23) reports on the growth of “middle-skill” jobs that require more education than a high-school degree, but less than a college degree, and which have grown by 25 percent in the US since 2003 in Orange County, California. Jobs in area such as “advanced manufacturing” are a “key to prosperity” as factories go high-tech across the country. At Boeing’s facility at Huntington Beach, the workforce of engineers and machinists that work on satellite and UAS is aging, which could lead to a shortage of highly skilled machinists, welders, mechanics, and engineers by 2020, according to a Boston Consulting Group report.
Research and Development
University Of Florida Engineering Student Creates Foldable Shield For Mass Shootings.
The AP (7/23) reports that University of Florida engineering student Andrew Bloomfield, “disgusted by the mind-numbing trend of senseless, mass violence in recent years,” has developed “what he thinks could be a way to help people caught in the mass-shooting scenarios happening with alarming frequency.” Bloomfield’s Minuteman Ballistic Protection Shield consists of “folding squares of metal that quickly unfurl with the flip of a latch into a protective shield.”
West Virginia University Researchers Struggle Financially Despite VW Emissions Discovery.
The New York Times (7/24, Ewing, Subscription Publication) profiles the team of West Virginia University researchers who “first noticed big discrepancies in Volkswagen’s diesel emissions,” saying they have “scrounged for grants and research funding to survive.” Dan Carder, director of the university’s Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions, has been thrust into the national spotlight, but his success “illustrates the huge disparity in resources between carmakers and oversight groups.”
Curiosity Rover Gains Autonomous Laser Powers.
Gizmodo (7/21) reports that NASA announced that it has given its Curiosity rover the ability to autonomously fire its laser “to zap rocks to analyze their chemical composition.” The article notes that NASA researchers previously had to hand-pick each location that Curiosity would examine with its laser and manually enter operational commands. However, following a recent software upgrade, the rover’s camera “will continue to sweep the landscape for good analysis candidates,” even when researchers and Curiosity lose contact, and “fire off a quick beam on its own if it comes across an unusual rock, a strange patch of soil, or the meddling scientists who trapped its metal body on a cold, dry Martian hellscape.”
Yahoo! News (7/21) adds that NASA Robotics Engineer Tara Estlin said in a statement, “This autonomy is particularly useful at times when getting the science team in the loop is difficult or impossible – in the middle of a long drive, perhaps, or when the schedules of Earth, Mars and spacecraft activities lead to delays in sharing information between the planets.”
General Atomics’ Energy Multiplier Module Reactor Design Profiled.
The Los Angeles Times (7/24, Nikolewski) reports that the scientists and engineers at General Atomics believe the future of nuclear energy is “coming on the back of a flatbed truck.” The San Diego company, which “has been developing nuclear technologies for more than 60 years, has already spent $40 million in the expectation that its ambitious plans for the next generation of reactors will actually work.” Christina Back, General Atomics VP of nuclear technologies and materials, said, “We have technology that we think is going to qualitatively change the game.” General Atomics concept, called the “Energy Multiplier Module, or EM² (EM-squared),” is still in development but “promises to produce electricity more cheaply, safely and efficiently than the nation’s current fleet of nuclear plants.” The design is so compact that it can be transported by tractor-trailer. According to Back, building a prototype is at “least 10 years away, and ‘we’re looking at 2030-ish’ before a commercial reactor could be operational using EM² technology.”
Survey Indicates Laid-Off Energy Workers Found New Jobs, Won’t Return.
The Houston Chronicle (7/23, Eaton, DePillis) reported, “A survey by research firm Evercore ISI showed that more than half of a group of laid-off energy service workers have found work in other industries, and four out of five say they wouldn’t take a job in the oil patch again – even if they could get their old jobs, or better ones, back.” This is “potentially a big problem for oil and gas companies looking to ramp up production if oil prices continue their rise.” Janette Marx, “chief operating officer of the energy staffing firm Airswift, said energy firms could be facing a ‘long-term talent shortage’ especially for highly skilled workers like engineers and technicians.”
Day: Firms Envisioning Satellite Constellations Should Read New Book.
In a Washington Post (7/22, Day) op-ed, Dwayne Day, a space policy analyst and historian, argued that companies planning to create satellite constellations “would do well to read John Bloom’s new book” called “Eccentric Orbits,” which focuses on Iridium, which went bankrupt after becoming the first company to try filling the sky with satellites nearly 20 years ago. According to Day, Bloom’s book “is a reminder of the probably apocryphal saying by rocket engineer Wernher von Braun that we can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.”
Metal 3D Printing Revolutionizing Manufacturing.
Filemon Schoffer, the head of community at 3D Hubs, writes at TechCrunch (7/24) that “although the mainstream consumer adoption of 3D printing might be falling behind on certain expectations, metal 3D printing for product designers and engineers seems to be delivering on all the potential that 3D printing has in store.” He explains that “at its core, ‘metal 3D printing’ is a simplified term for a metal-based additive manufacturing process; primarily either Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) or Selective Laser Melting (SLM).” He concludes that “paired with powerful new design capabilities from modern CAD software and the ability to create entirely new geometries that were otherwise impossible to manufacture, industries that have come to rely on complex metal products – particularly space exploration, aerospace and healthcare – are experiencing a manufacturing revolution thanks to the capabilities of 3D printing.”
University Of Minnesota Conducting Science Outreach For Kids At Local Farmers Markets.
The AP (7/23, Clarey) reports that students and faculty at the University of Minnesota have set up a program called Market Science which takes place at local farmers markets and is intended to “pique the curiosity of children by making scientific research more digestible.” The sessions “feature activities like making poultices or peering through microscopes at fruit.”
Arkansas Computer Science Programs Awarded $2M For High School Education.
The Fort Smith (AR) Times Record (7/24, Lovett) reports that “robotics and computer science programs for three local school districts through the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith received nearly $2 million recently.” According to the Times Record, “employees from industry partners like Baldor Electric Co. and Hickory Springs Manufacturing, will serve as mentors to students participating in the coursework.”
Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College Campers Build Robots.
The Orangeburg (SC) Times And Democrat (7/23) reported that about “two dozen rising fifth- through 11th-graders gathered to build and program robots during the VEX Robotics Summer Camp at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.” According to the Times And Democrat, “The VEX Robotics Summer Camp was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. A second camp was held July 18-22.”
Columbia University Encourages Girls’ Interest In STEM Careers.
The Miami Herald (7/22, Veigacveiga) reported that “this summer, a group of young women from across Miami-Dade County got a hands-on introduction to working in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. They were all selected for Columbia University’s highly competitive Girls in STEM program. The goal: to help more women break through gender barriers in the often male-dominated world of STEM.” The Herald reports that according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, women “are sorely underrepresented in fields such as computer science, engineering and physics. For example, only 7 percent of mechanical engineers are women.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Facebook Successfully Tests Aquila Aircraft.
• Study: Calculus Discourages Women From STEM Fields.
• LANL Developing Sample-collecting Laser For Mars Rover.
• 100 Black Men Partner With GM To Interest Youth In STEM Careers.
• Next And Innolux Team Up On Flexible Fingerprint Sensors.
• Administration Announces EV Efforts, Charging Station Loan Guarantees.
• “Maker Movement” Faces Challenges As It Moves Into Schools.