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

Leading the News

Apple Claims Improved Gender, Racial Diversity Numbers In New Report.

Apple says that according to its latest racial and gender diversity report, the company made modest gains in improving workforce diversity, with nearly 54% of the company’s new employees listed as minorities.

The Guardian (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports that Apple also increased its overall number of black and Hispanic employees by a combined two percentage points compared to last year, while the number of women in the firm’s technical positions went up by one percentage point against last year’s numbers. MacWorld Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Raymundo) says 37 percent of Apple’s new hires were women.

According to the Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Todd), the results of the survey place Apple well ahead of other Silicon Valley mainstays, including Google, where blacks and Hispanics make up 2 and 5 percent of their workforce respectively. Facebook boasts similarly low numbers, where that same demographic comprises just 1 and 3 percent of the firm’s tech employees.

Apple says the most recent survey results reflect an active, sustained effort by the company to diversify its workforce after the company received increased scrutiny for its recruiting efforts amid low diversity statistics. Reuters Share
to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Todd) reports long-time civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, one of the leaders who recently challenged Apple CEO Tim Cook to improve the company’s lack of diversity and disparate compensation numbers, recently “applauded its efforts” to turn around recruiting among engineers of color, particularly through partnerships with historically black colleges and other minority-focused scholarship institutions.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Cava) reports Apple has also made fair pay a higher priority. The company’s latest report explains, “we’ve achieved pay equity for similar roles and performance. Women earn one dollar for every dollar male employees earn. And underrepresented minorities earn one dollar for every dollar white employees earn.”

Higher Education

Study Finds Calculus, Confidence Keep Women Out Of STEM.

Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Heitin) reports that a “study, published in PLOS One last month, found that women are 1.5 times more likely to drop out of the STEM pipeline after Calculus I than men are. And that’s likely because women, when compared to men of similar capabilities, tend to start and end the course with lower confidence in their math skills.” The researchers from Colorado State University and San Diego State University write, “This work points to female students’ mathematical confidence entering college as a major contributing factor to women’s participation in the STEM workforce, and thus more work is needed to understand the factors (such as classroom environment, home environment, extra curricular involvement, etc.,) that help to shape students’ perceptions of their own success before they enter college.”

The Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Mosbergen) reports that according to the research, girls in early grades are “just as interested and are definitely not less skilled in STEM subjects than boys,” and explores the “‘leaks’ in the so-called STEM pipeline,” but says that “the notoriously difficult college math class, Calculus I” could be having one of the most significant impact on girls’ participation in STEM courses and careers.

Twenty Percent Of Students Do Not Seek Financial Aid.

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Stratford) reports that “one in five undergraduate students in the country did not seek out any form of financial aid – federal, state or institutional – to attend college, according to a new report by the National Center for Education Statistics.” Politico says “the most-frequent reason (cited by 44 percent of these students) was they thought they were ineligible” while 43 percent “said they could afford college without it.”

Report: Low-Income Students Need More Support For Workplace Success.

Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Gewertz) reports that, according to a new report from the GE Foundation called “New Dimensions of College and Career Readiness,” getting “low-income students into and through college isn’t enough to position them well for success in the workplace.” According to the report, “they need programs that give them strong mentors and real-world work experience, and help them build their science, math, and technology skills.” The report offers five strategies, including: “Fostering mentorship programs; Offering internships, apprenticeships and jobs; Turning up the focus on technical science skills; Building their skills in science, technology, engineering and math; and Developing ‘essential skills’ such as higher aspirations, teamwork, grit, perseverance, and adaptability.”

Study Identifies Challenges Facing Rural Dual-enrollment Programs.

Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Mader) reports that, according to a new report by the Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia, “high school students taking college courses in rural areas can face fewer options and higher cost.” The report found that “many rural dual-enrollment programs lack enough high school teachers who have the proper credentials to teach dual-credit courses.” It suggested rural districts “might offer scholarships or other incentives to students and to teachers to gain credentials; partner with online schools; or regularly review the quality of the courses available.”

From ASEE
Envisioning the Future of the Maker Movement
A new report from ASEE on this important development in engineering education.


Sustainable Development Primer for Higher Education Presidents, Chancellors, Trustees and Senior Leaders
This new primer describes the sustainability related, crucial roles and tasks for presidents, trustees, and senior leadership and explains how sustainability is a robust national trend in higher education

Research and Development

NSF Gives University Of Rochester $2 Million For Photonics Research.

The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) have announced that the National Science Foundation is giving the University of Rochester a $2 million grant “to develop new technology officials say will ‘open up new opportunities for the AIM Photonics Center in Rochester.’” Schumer also said the funding “promises to also create educational materials for the industry, new areas of study for K-12 students and increase participation by minorities and others currently under-represented in the field.”

The Rochester (NY) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports that the grant will help researchers “investigate challenges in quantum photonics,” and explains that researchers are working on “transforming the capacity of information processing for secure communication, metrology, sensing and advanced computing.”

Other media outlets covering this story include Rochester (NY) Time Warner Cable Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3), WHAM-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Rochester, NY (8/3), and WXXI-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Rochester, NY (8/3).

Facebook Opens Hardware Lab For New Technology Projects.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Bailey) reports deep inside Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters, “engineers have stocked a new lab with computerized lathes, industrial mills and tools for making physical goods.” According to the AP, it’s not a mass-production facility but rather a space for engineers to work on “some of the high-tech gadgetry needed for the company’s long-term plans to connect people through smart devices, virtual-reality headsets and high-flying drones that deliver internet signals via laser to remote parts of the world.”

Wearable Device Measures Person’s Blood Alcohol Level Within 15 Minutes.

Yahoo! Beauty Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Capetta) reports that engineers have devised “a sensor that can measure a person’s blood alcohol level within 15 minutes.” The device, which is flexible and wearable, “includes two parts: A temporary tattoo and a portable electronic circuit board that connects to the tattoo by a magnet.” In a nine-participant study, investigators “found that the device provided accurate readouts before and after the volunteers consumed either a bottle of a beer or a glass of red wine.”

Lockheed Mini Missile Successfully Complete Second Test Flight.

UPI Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Ziezulewicz) reports that Lockheed Martin’s Miniature Hit-to-Kill, or MHTK, interceptor missile successfully completed its second test flight at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The article notes that the “engineering demonstration of the MHTK’s agility and aerodynamic capability was part of the US. Army’s Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center’s (AMRDEC) Extended Area Protection and Survivability program,” also known as EAPS.

Phys (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports that Janice Booth, program manager at AMRDEC, said, “We still need to review the data gathered, but we are pleased with what we have seen so far. The MHTK has the potential to bring miniaturized capabilities to the warfighter with lower costs and reduced logistic footprints, and opens up a world of opportunities for applications of small interceptors.”

Army Technology Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports that the 72cm-long MHTK interceptor is “designed for use against rocket, artillery and mortar (RAM) targets at ranges greatly exceeding those of current and interim systems.”

Xcel-Funded Microgrid Project Seeks Researchers, Vendors.

Smart Grid News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Nowicki) reports Xcel’s Renewable Development Fund “has invested $2.1 million into a microgrid research project on the University of St. Thomas campus, and the project needs collaborators.” Midwest Energy News wrote today that the university “will not own any intellectual property associated with the microgrid project, creating a unique opportunity for third party vendors to join forces.”

New App Helps Patients To Find Lost Memories.

Science Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports that students at Cornell have created a new app called Remember Me! to help “people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of age-related dementia” to “stay connected to their memories – and thus to their friends and family – and perhaps will even help them keep a conversation going.”

Workforce

Execs: Cyber Talent Shortage Causing Harm.

Federal News Radio (DC) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Serbu) reports that according to a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Intel Security, hundreds of IT leaders worldwide agree that “a national and global shortfall of cybersecurity talent is a genuine problem.” According to Federal News Radio, the study revealed “the extent to which the talent shortage is a problem not just for government agencies, but also for private companies who are usually able to vastly outspend the salaries the public sector can offer,” but “expect 15 percent of their critical cyber positions to remain unfilled by the year 2020.”

Philadelphia Lags In STEM Job Growth.

Philly (PA) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/4) reports a new Brookings Institution study shows Philadelphia, a city with previously high advanced industry jobs, now ranks below average in growth of those jobs over the last few years. Brookings defines advanced industry “as types of business in which more than 20 percent of employees have significant knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math and in which research and development spending is high on a per-worker basis.”

Industry News

Study: Ride Sharing To Help, Not Harm Auto Industry.

WardsAuto Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Wilssens) says app-oriented mobility services such as car and ride sharing won’t harm the auto industry, according to a Center for Automotive Research report called “The Impact of New Mobility Services on the Automotive Industry.” Lead author of the study Adela Spulber says the growing popularity of Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, and other alternatives to car ownership instead creates “new opportunities for automakers,” such as partnerships with new-age mobility firms, R&D on transportation solutions, in-house mobility services, new-vehicle financing models and fleet sales to mobility providers.

Cybersecurity Firm Details New Methods Hackers Use To Target Business Email.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/4, Mcmillan, Subscription Publication) details research released by cybersecurity firm SecureWorks Inc. about new methods hackers are using to target business email. The Journal says SecureWorks traced many of the scams back to Nigeria.

Engineering and Public Policy

Auto Industry, NHTSA, And Environmentalists Clash Over Fuel Efficiency Goals.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Shepardson) reports the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers this week have requested that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “reconsider its planned 150 percent increase in fines for automakers who fail to comply with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program.” Industry leaders estimate the costs of compliance would increase by $1 billion annually.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Spector, Subscription Publication) reports automakers clashed with federal regulators this week at an automotive conference in Michigan. Industry leaders contend that low gas prices have shifted consumer preferences to larger cars and trucks which makes mileage targets harder to meet. This argument is based on findings in a recent technical report co-authored by the NHTSA and the EPA. The report prompted a mandated midterm assessment of future mileage standards, which must be decided by April 2018.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Snavely) reports that even though the technical report did show that that automakers would “likely only reach an average of 50 miles per gallon to 52.6 mpg instead of a fleet-wide target of 54.5 mpg for all automakers by 2025,” environmentalists argue that there should be even higher standards set for the industry to help mitigate greenhouse emissions. Mitch Bainwol, CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, “said the standards are inconsistent, too aggressive and will force automakers to sell cars that will cost more than consumers are willing to pay.” The Arizona Republic Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Snavely) reports that the auto industry is arguing that “regulators have set standards that must be met by 2025 far too high,” and that the current regulations are “out of step with the cost of developing the technology and what consumers want to buy.”

West Virginians See “All Pain, No Gain” From Clean Power Plan.

Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy executive director Garrett Ballengee and research associate Michael Reed write in an op-ed for The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) that if implemented, the Clean Power Plan will “disproportionately impact states where coal is the majority generator of electricity.” Energy consulting group Energy Analysis Ventures sees wholesale electricity prices rising by 30 percent by 2030, and for West Virginia, “an increase of 30 percent in the price of a critical good through an EPA diktat is a tough pill to swallow.” They go on to highlight the state’s high rates of drug overdose, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and working-age adults on disability benefits, driven they say by joblessness that the CPP will exacerbate.

Clean Power Plan Said to Fall Short On Protections For Low-income Minorities.

George Goehl, co-executive director of People’s Action, writes in an op-ed for The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Goehl) in its “Congress Blog” that 68 percent of African-Americans live “within 30 miles of a coal plant, major sources of deadly pollutants,” while 80 percent of Latinos live in areas that don’t meet federal EPA air quality standards. Goehl calls the EPA’s Clean Power Plan a “historic step toward slowing climate change and transitioning to a clean energy economy,” but laments that there is a “lack of protections for the hardest hit communities.” In Illinois, Goehl urges state lawmakers to pass an expanded Clean Jobs Bill “to bring green jobs and support to people who need it most.”

EPA Confident Ahead Of Clean Power Plan Oral Arguments.

The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports that the Obama Administration used the one-year anniversary of the Clean Power Plan “to tout their strong legal standing ahead of oral arguments in federal court next month.” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a Wednesday blog post wrote that the EPA’s “charge from the president was clear: to exercise our statutory authority to lay out steady, responsible steps to cut carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.” McCarthy added that the EPA “remains fully confident in [the Clean Power Plan’s] legal merits.”

Wind Group Responds To Trump’s Claims About Wind Power.

The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, King) reports wind energy supporters “brushed off” GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s most recent “attack on wind farms a day after he declared that wind power ‘kills all your birds.’” David Ward, American Wind Energy Association director of public affairs, “argued wind power has one of the lowest impacts on wildlife among any form of energy generation.” Ward also “said Trump’s statements about wind turbines’ appearance – Trump said wind turbines are ‘driving you loco when you look at them’ because they are ugly – are not necessarily representative of the rest of the population, either.” Ward stated, “Polls shows 91 percent of likely voters favor ‘expanding wind power,’ that includes 81 percent of self-described conservatives.”

Honolulu Praised For New Renewable Energy Project.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3) reports Honolulu is being praised by environmental groups for its “efforts to turn a byproduct from its wastewater treatment plant into renewable energy.” Recently, officials with the city “awarded a contract to Hawaii Gas to capture and process biogas at the wastewater facility into renewable energy.” Blue Planet Foundation executive director Jeff Mikulina “called the move an ‘exciting step’ toward reaching state conservation goals.” According to the AP, “the biogas at the Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant is now flared or burned.” The agreement “calls for Hawaii Gas to remove impurities and produce renewable natural gas that can be blended with synthetic natural gas in its existing pipeline.” Honolulu “will then be able to sell the biogas as a way to boost revenue.”

California Expected To Set Computer Efficiency Regulations.

The San Diego Union-Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Nikolewski) reports the California Energy Commission, by the end of the year, is expected to “adopt energy efficiency guidelines for computers, becoming the first state in the nation to do so.” The CEC “estimates it will add about $18” to the cost “of a computer but promises it will save customers and businesses much more in energy savings.” Given the size and importance of the state, “the rules adopted by the CEC expect to trigger changes across the industry by mandating changes even the federal government has thus far avoided tackling.” The Energy Department “has been considering adopting mandatory energy standards for computers.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Nebo School District Awarded Grant To Interest Kids In Coding And Create High School STEM Ambassadors.

The Provo (UT) Daily Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Dodson) reports that Nebo School District was recently awarded a $193,000 grant, funded through the state Department of Workforce Services, aimed at getting young kids interested in coding. According to the Provo Daily Herald, “a high school ambassador program to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to get student participation in school technology helpdesks” will also be created under the grant.

New Minnesota Teachers Attend STEM Workshop.

The Owatonna (MN) People’s Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/3, Segner) reports that “new educators at McKinley Elementary School engaged in a two-day STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) workshop on Monday and Tuesday.” Principal Justin Kiel said, “Our current reality is that each year we have new staff coming to McKinley with limited or no STEM experience. … People are coming from undergrad programs, but it’s really just a quick snapshot of STEM and not in-depth, but here at McKinley, we do STEM all day long.” The Press says “new teachers learned methods of encouraging higher-level questioning and thinking in the classroom” and “also worked on enforcing lessons with journaling and art integration.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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