Leading the News
Toyota Research Pledges $22 Million To University Of Michigan For Autonomous Vehicle Development.
The Detroit Free Press (8/10, Gardner) reports the Toyota Research Institute is investing 22 million dollars into the University of Michigan “to advance research on artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous driving.” The money will be used over four years under the direction of robotics professors Ryan Eustice and Ed Olson. Toyota is working towards establishing “southeast Michigan and Ann Arbor as a major hub for development of new modes of mobility and in-home robotics designed to help older citizens.” Last year a facility called Mcity opened on UM’s North Campus, providing a location “where a variety of automakers, suppliers and telecommunications companies are testing many autonomous vehicle systems in a controlled environment.” Toyota is a founding partner of Mcity, along with General Motors, Ford, Nissan, and Honda. The Detroit News (8/10, Martinez) reports national manager for advanced technology and new business at Toyota John Hanson said the company will probably contribute more than the original 22 million dollars because it is seeking “a long-term relationship” with the school to “create a very intelligent car that is incapable of causing a crash.”
ED Student Debt Forgiveness Proposal Generates Backlash From Colleges.
The Wall Street Journal (8/10, Mitchell, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that a large number of colleges are pushing for the Administration to scale back ED’s proposal for eliminating the college loans of students who were defrauded by the marketing practices of their schools. ED says the plan could cost taxpayers up to $43 billion, and colleges say the rules could pave the way for meritless lawsuits, onerous government sanctions, and reduced college accessibility for minorities and underprivileged students.
LSU President Calls For State-Federal Partnership On College Affordability.
In an op-ed in the Washington Post (8/10), Louisiana State University President F. King Alexander writes about the rhetoric on the presidential campaign trail surrounding college affordability and “the concept of free college.” Alexander writes that a “key element” of any such plan would have to be “a federal-state partnership to incentivize continued or enhanced state investment in public colleges and universities.” King writes that this concept is already being used “to encourage state funding for healthcare, highways and hospitals” and would work by leveraging “federal dollars to incentivize states to maintain at least a base level of funding for their public colleges and universities.”
Wisconsin Governor Touts Tuition Freeze, Other College Affordability Actions.
In an op-ed for the Madison (WI) Capital Times (8/9), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) hails the fact that the University of Wisconsin has frozen tuition four years running, saying he intends to continue the practice in the coming years. He writes that his other college affordability goals are “to find ways to reduce the amount of time to graduation and ways to help more students earn credits for college while still in high school.”
Traditional Colleges Increasingly Offering Coding Boot Camps.
Inside Higher Ed (8/10) reports that a number of traditional four-year colleges across the country are offering coding boot camp courses, “immersive programs that teach students programming languages.” Some colleges are setting up their own courses, while others “have partnered with outside organizations that already offer boot camps, drawing on existing instructors and resources.”
Brooks And Logsdon: US Must Increase Investment To Maintain Supercomputing Lead.
In a post in The Hill ’s (8/10) “Pundits Blog,” Chuck Brooks And David Logsdon discuss the current state of high-performance Computing (HPC), and assert that maintaining leadership in supercomputing and HPC “is both a national and economic security imperative for the United States.” The Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Defense, and National Science Foundation were named the lead agencies for the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI) in the White House budget for fiscal 2017. The authors write that “there are real concerns” that the US’ “domination” in supercomputing “is eroding,” and call for more investment in the NSCI, and more collaboration between “government, academia, and industry.”
Research and Development
Johns Hopkins Engineering Students Create Prosthetic Leg For High Heels.
The Washington Post (8/9, McDaniels) reports that many women with leg amputations “miss the joy of fashionable footwear,” and that a group of Johns Hopkins engineering students “may have a solution.” The students “have developed a prosthetic foot with an ankle that can adjust to accommodate many heel heights.” This is “not the first high-heeled prosthetic, but the available choices are limited and the Hopkins model could be the most versatile and advanced.”
New Biodegradable Liquid Quickly Fixes Torn Clothes.
According to WTVR-TV Richmond, VA (8/10), Pennsylvania State University researchers have been working on using bacteria and yeast to create a biodegradable liquid material that can fix torn clothing by helping fabric to quickly bind to itself. The process involves putting a few drops of the liquid on the tear, applying warm water, and pressing the edges together for a minute. Penn State Engineering Professor Melik Demirel says the material then reattaches and essentially self repairs.
UK Engineers Develop Tethered Drone With Unlimited Flight Time.
Reuters (8/10, Stock) reports University of Southampton engineers have developed a tethered drone that allows for unlimited flight time. Dr. Stephen Prior from the university said the drone could be attached to a land vehicle and be driven around to various areas while remaining in the air.
Boeing Orders Titanium 3DP Structures For Testing.
IndustryWeek (8/10, Brooks) reports Norsk Titanium AS has a contract from Boeing to supply 3D-printed, titanium engineering test articles for commercial aircraft structural components. IndustryWeek says contract details are unknown, but Norsk says its project “is intended to demonstrate part-to-part repeatability and to optimize the operations processes necessary to enter into long-term production of structural components for fleet aircraft.”
Sony’s New TVs Challenge OLED On Picture.
USA Today (8/10, Snider) reports that Sony’s Z Series of TV’s are 4K models that come with an “Extreme 4K HDR processor and a dense array of backlights” meaning the 65-, 75-, and 100-inch TVs can “produce more realistic detailed images.” The article quotes Tom Campbell Video & Audio Center’s chief technologist on the TVs saying they are an “answer to OLED. … We used to say looking at OLED was like looking through a glass window. This is like being there.” USA Today also spoke with IHS Markit’s Paul Gagnon, director of TV sets research, on the TVs, who said “I can’t say it’s better than OLED, but I can say it’s pretty impressive.”
Apple Increases Investment Into VR/AR Technology.
CNBC (8/10, Taylor) reports Apple’s recent investing patterns prove that CEO Tim Cook is interested in the long-term future of virtual and augmented reality, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. After investors have shown concern that “Apple is moving too slow to develop new technology,” Cook has “made it clear that his interest in augmented reality is high.” Munster says because there is not yet a “widely adopted platform to power augmented reality experiences,” smartphones will probably continue to have a part in the technology. Other companies appear to be showing high interest in augmented and virtual reality development, including Facebook, whose CEO “suggested on his company’s July earnings call that wearables and smartphones will play a part in developing these new technologies.” Data analyzed from LinkedIn has revealed “employee hires to staff growing teams working on augmented reality at Microsoft, Alphabet’s Google, Intel and Apple all increased.” Munster predicts Apple’s “research and development spending to increase 21 percent this year to $10.4 billion.”
US, India Announce Expansion Of Energy Partnership.
The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (8/10) reported the US and India on Tuesday announced “an expansion of its energy research partnership,” that is “dedicated to research into smart grids and energy storage.” Each country “will supply $7.5 million in funding over five years, and each country’s private sector will provide equal matching funds, for a total of $30 million, to launch a new research collaborative with the new focus.” In a statement Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, “Smart grid and storage technology will transform how we produce and consume electricity, which has the potential to decrease carbon pollution by scaling up renewable energy deployment. … Working collaboratively with India will accelerate solutions to drive down technology costs and improve grid resilience and reliability in both countries.” The Hill (8/10, Henry) reports the two countries “launched the clean energy research project in 2009 and announced a $50 million investment in solar power, energy efficiency and biofuels research in 2012.” The energy storage and smart grid “research represents a new front in the countries’ energy push.”
Report: iPhone SE Remains Apple’s “Sleeper Hit” Amid Latest Sales Increase.
The iPhone SE continues to be Apple’s “sleeper hit” reports SlashGear (8/10, Roston), as multiple outlets, includingTechCrunch (8/10, Russell) cite new data showing the four-inch device contributed to a slight overall sales boost for the company in U.S. and Europe. The $399 iPhone SE has been particularly successful in the U.K., where TechCrunch reports it as “the top selling smartphone with 9.2 marketshare.” In a feature titled, “People In Great Britain Love Apple’s iPhone SE,” PC Magazine (8/10, Moscaritolo) indicates the SE “helped Apple’s iOS grab 37.2 percent of Great Britain’s smartphone market in the second quarter of 2016” which represents “an increase of 3.1 percentage points compared to a year earlier.”
Fortune (8/10, Reisinger) similarly covered the company’s latest SE-spurred surge, sharing the belief of many analysts that Apple will need the SE’s strong performance to continue for some time, at least “until it unveils its next flagship smartphone.” Including an excerpt from Kantar’s latest iPhone-related analysis, Fortune quotes the research firm as saying, “sales data shows that 49% of U.S. iPhone owners and 51% of Chinese iPhone owners own an iPhone 5s or older. This represents a large opportunity to upgrade these consumers to the latest four-inch iPhone.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Increased Regulation Could Be Reducing Oklahoma Earthquakes.
USA Today (8/10, Miller) reports Oklahoma “has been shaken by 448 magnitude-3.0 and greater quakes so far this year, down from the 558 it experienced in the same time frame in 2015,” according to USGS data. USGS geophysicist Robert Williams said, “Increased regulation on wastewater disposal related to oil and gas extraction could be one reason behind the decline.” Although there is “no one clear answer why Oklahoma experiences more earthquakes than other states,” Williams “thinks the location of many of the wastewater disposal sites, which lay on top of ancient seismic fault lines, contributes to the trend.”
San Bruno Officials Plan To Ask Judge To Appoint Special Monitor To Oversee PG&E.
The San Jose (CA) Mercury News (8/10, Avalos) reports San Bruno officials warned Wednesday that Pacific Gas & Electric’s criminal conviction on six counts for their actions before and after the 2010 San Bruno explosion “doesn’t mean the embattled utility has learned its lessons from the catastrophe.” City officials plan to ask US District Court Judge Thelton Henderson to appoint an independent monitor to supervise the utility at the sentencing hearing. San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson said, “It’s not enough to leave it to PG&E corporate executives to act appropriately…We think that PG&E needs independent supervision to oversee its actions.”
Column: PG&E Conviction Fails To Hold Anyone Accountable For San Bruno Explosion. In a column for the Los Angeles Times (8/10, Hiltzik), Michael Hiltzik argues that the criminal conviction of Pacific Gas & Electric related to the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion “feels like a waste of time and effort,” as the utility “faces a maximum fine of $3 million, which is about as much as its parent company collects in revenue every 90 minutes.” Hiltzik points out that none of PG&E’s executives were named as defendants in the case, meaning that none can be jailed, and says the company did not “exude much more than a lip-service level of remorse or shame.” Rather, Hiltzik writes, “the real lesson of the PG&E case is that criminal prosecution of a corporation is usually a meaningless exercise” as no individuals have been held accountable. Hiltzik concludes, “even with six criminal convictions on its record, PG&E is almost certain to continue in business as if nothing has changed.”
Editorial: PG&E’s Criminal Conviction Is Inadequate. In an editorial, the San Jose (CA) Mercury News (8/10) says that while PG&E’s criminal conviction over its role in the San Bruno explosion is “gratifying,” it would be better “if the utility showed more actual remorse and accepted the decision instead of fighting it at every turn” and “admitted at what level the executive decision was made to put profits before safety.” The Mercury-News argues ratepayers and San Bruno residents “deserve to know what factors were considered and who made the final call.”
Nevada’s Move Could Lead To Shift Away From Government Support For Solar Energy.
Fox News (8/10) reports taxpayers in Nevada “have spent millions subsidizing homeowners who install rooftop solar panels – but that’s about to end.” The state, in a controversial decision, “is phasing out that subsidy over the next 12 years, a move being met with protests, lawsuits and even a failed bid to put the issue before voters.” The state supreme court last week “ruled that a referendum from solar activists challenging the decision would not be allowed on the November ballot.” The “changes and challenges” are “now being watched carefully by other states and the solar industry as a whole – as it could signal a shift away from government support for solar energy.”
Sierra Club Highlights Cities Leading Clean Energy Transition.
TIME (8/10) reports on a new Sierra Club report highlighting large and small cities “leading the charge on the country’s transition to clean energy,” motivated by concerns that range from air pollution to job creation. Addressing climate change “is often not the reason that cities accelerate their push to clean energy, according to the Sierra Club,” which points out that San Diego committed to clean energy to boost the city’s clean tech sector, while Georgetown, Texas cited cheap wind and solar power prices. Jodie Van Horn, director of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, said that “no two cities will do this for the same reasons or get there the same ways.”
Florida International Program Exposes High School Students To STEM Subjects.
WSVN-TV Miami-Dade, FL (8/8) reports on the Miami Pre-College Enrichment and Preparation Program (PREP) at Florida International University, which “shows teens how science, technology, engineering and math can be fun.” High school students work “one-on-one with scientists and engineers, test driving college courses.”
College Robotics Camp Encourages Team Work.
The San Antonio Express-News (8/10, Flinn) reports that student at Northeast Lakeview College SeaPerch program learned to “to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in an in-school or out-of-school setting.” According to the Express-News, head of STEM and Navy awareness for Navy City Outreach Houston and the Southwest Region, Therese Rogers, “said the goal of SeaPerch is to instill a sense of team unity in completing a skill-tasking project.”
Students From Muldrow School To Participate In NASA STEM Challenge.
The Sequoyah County (OK) Times (8/10, Sivilay) reports that students in grades five through eight participating in the Muldrow Middle School’s 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) program have “been invited to participate in the 2016-2017 NASA Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) Challenge.” According to the Times, the students will “interact with NASA scientists while experiencing hands-on learning.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Pentagon: Iran’s Offensive Cyber Abilities Have Improved Since Nuclear Deal.
• ED Calls On Colleges Not To Change Financial Aid Deadlines Despite Accelerated FAFSA Schedule.
• National Science Foundation Gives University Of Arizona Grant For Organic Semiconductor Research.
• Ugandan Villagers Enthusiastically Await Solar Polar Plant.
• Opinion: Physics Could Prevent Prime Air Drone Deliveries.
• Court Rules In Favor Of DOE Efficiency Rules.
• TI Commits About $5 Million To STEM Programs.