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

Leading the News

DOT Releases Policy On Self-Driving Cars.

The US Department of Transportation released its Federal Automated Vehicle Policy, a 15-point set of guidelines on self-driving vehicles aimed at ensuring the safety of the new vehicles without hindering the advancement of the rapidly-developing technology. Many outlets commented that the new policy represented a significant change in the federal government’s approach to the technology. The New York (NY) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Kang, Subscription Publication) features a breakdown of the 15 points: Certification, Consumer Education, Crashworthiness, Data Sharing, Detection and Response, Digital Security, Ethical Considerations, Fallback, Human-Machine Interface, Laws and Practices, Operational Design, Post-Crash Behavior, Privacy, System Safety, and Validation.

NBC Nightly News (9/20, story 8, 1:40, Holt) reported on its nightly broadcast that DOT has released a 15-point compliance plan that will require automakers to detail numerous aspects of their technology. Additionally, federal regulators may require manufacturers to “submit driverless cars for safety inspections before they hit the market.” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “the policy is about establishing safety as a cornerstone of autonomous vehicles from the outset.” NBC reports the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, made up of prominent auto manufacturers and technology companies investing in the technology, have endorsed the new rules. NBC News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Eisenstein) reports online that Foxx said the guidelines are “just the first step” in regulating the new technology, though the article calls it “particularly significant” that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s approach to regulating autonomous technology is supportive rather than acting as “an anchor.” Foxx said the new method of regulation marks “a change in culture” for the federal regulators.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) quotes Foxx saying the policy “isn’t prescriptive in the sense that we’re saying there have to be certain proof points. We have to have a level of confidence. It’s really creating a more open-ended type of approach.” Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(9/20, Shepardson) reports Foxx explained at a Tuesday press conference, “The absence of something like this policy creates a bit of a vacuum and makes it difficult for safety to be addressed properly.”

The Detroit (MI) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) remarks that the guidelines represent a “sharp departure from NHTSA’s typical posture of largely waiting for automakers to self-report problems before recalls are issued.” The News says the 15-point guidelines would have automakers assess their vehicles on subjects including “data recording and sharing; privacy; how drivers interact with cars; and consumer education and training.” While NHTSA said the self-reporting process for auto manufacturers will be voluntary to start, it “may be refined and made mandatory through a future rule-making” that would require an act of Congress. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers supported the guidelines, as Alliance Director of Communications Wade Newton said the group believes “guidance is the right action to take since the technology is developing quickly and collaboration between automakers and NHTSA is critical to avoid policies that become outdated and inadvertently limit progress in reducing the number of crashes and saving lives.”

Characterizing the guidelines as “remarkably hands-off,” the New York (NY) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Boudette, Subscription Publication) said the only “firm requirement” issued by NHTSA is that the self-driving vehicles are safe. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said the policy will “create a path for a fully autonomous driver with different designs than what we have on the road today.”

The Washington (DC) Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Halsey, Laris) says DOT is foregoing the lengthy process of developing formal regulation and instead is “working to nudge the industry along.” Foxx said, “We’ve laid out, basically, standards, and we’re inviting the industry to tell us how they will meet those standards.” The Post reports five unnamed NHTSA officials met with reporters to further discuss the rules, comparing the safety push in the autonomous car industry to the airline industry in which airlines “share data they collect with one another if it helps make flying safer.” The Post questions whether the automakers will choose to share data with their rivals or “make hay” when a competing company experiences a series of high-profile crashes.

Higher Education

NSF Grant Aims To Help Female UMass Lowell STEM Students.

The Lowell (MA) Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports the National Science Foundation has given UMass Lowell a $3.5 million grant to “fund a new initiative that aims to remove barriers for women in science, technology, engineering and math.” The Making WAVES program “is designed to help universities establish a supportive environment for female faculty and faculty from other underrepresented populations.”

DeVry Will Voluntarily Reduce Revenue From Federal Student Aid.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that for-profit college firm DeVry Education Group has announced that “it will limit the amount of revenue it receives from federal student aid, including veterans and military tuition assistance.” The Post characterizes this as an effort to proactively address the issue, which has resulted in increased regulatory pressure on the for-profit sector as a whole. The piece explains that lawmakers have worked to reduce the amount of Federal student aid and GI Bill funding that for-profit schools can use, noting that “now DeVry is taking steps in that direction on its own.” The company announced that as of July 2017, it will cap all Federal student aid revenue at 85% of its overall revenues.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports the move places DeVry among the for-profit providers that “are embracing reforms to differentiate themselves” from the troubled firms in the industry that are facing vigorous regulatory pressure. This article characterizes the move as “lowering the so-called federal 90-10 rule at each of its institutions.” MarketWatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) also covers this story.

ED Announces New Online Resource For Students Of Shuttered Colleges.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports Under Secretary Ted Mitchell told reporters Monday that “students left befuddled and stranded by college closures will have access to a new online resource meant to connect them with financial aid and academic counselors.” ED is launching the NextStepsEdu.org portal “two weeks after ITT Tech announced it was shutting down, which forced more than 30,000 students to scramble and decide whether to attempt to transfer or to have their federal loans forgiven.”

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports the move comes amid criticism that ED “has not done enough to help” former ITT students. ED “has partnered with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and Beyond 12, which helps first-generation, low-income college students, to match students with counselors for free.” The piece notes that over 100 former ITT students have launched a debt strike.

Analysis: More Colleges Making SAT, ACT Optional.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Strauss) reports that a new analysis conducted by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest) shows an uptick in the number of schools that have policies making college placement tests such as the SAT or the ACT optional. Some schools are test-optional, meaning they “don’t require ACT or SAT scores sent along with an application,” while others are test-flexible, meaning they “allow students to choose from a list of test scores they want to submit.”

Funding Issues Blocking Thousands Of People With Disabilities From College Aid.

The Hechinger Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Kolodner) reports that over 30 years ago, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) offices were created under the Rehabilitation Act “to help people with disabilities become independent.” However, federal data shows that “more than 800,000 people with disabilities found eligible for services received no assistance.” According to the Hechinger Report, “delays in service provision were so widespread that, in 2014, Congress mandated that a person with a disability must receive a plan for employment within 90 days of being deemed eligible for assistance.” According to advocates, high caseloads and high turnover rates are contributing to the problem. Executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York Susan Dooha said, “I don’t understand why, given the large cost of maintaining people with disabilities in poverty, in institutions, the state doesn’t invest more in VR services, but I cannot remember the last time that an increase was proposed that would allow the hiring of more counselors.”

From ASEE
Profiles Survey Now Open
The annual Profiles of Engineering and Engineering Technology Schools survey is open. Make sure your institution is included in this important report.

Safe Zone Ally Training – October 6, 2-4pm, ET
This free Level 2 webinar will explore LGBTQ issues and help you create a positive environment for LGBTQ individuals. Register here. If you missed the Level 1 session, you can find webinar recordings here.

Research and Development

Northeastern University Researchers Studying Use Of Nanoparticles To Fight Infection.

The Boston Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/15) reports that a team of bioengineering researchers at Northeastern University are studying using “microscopic particles of bacteria-killing metal” to “combat deadly infections — a possible antidote to antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’ that continue to evolve faster than medicine can advance.” The researchers have found that iron and silver nanoparticles “clog the pores of bacteria, making it impossible for them to take in nutrients or excrete waste.”

IBM Teams Up With MIT To Teach Computers To Recognize Images, Sound As Humans Do.

The Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Bray) reports IBM and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology teamed up to announce a multi-year research program whose goal is to try to teach “machines to recognize images and sounds as people do, and react in useful ways.”TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Coldewey) reports the IBM-MIT Laboratory for Brain-inspired Multimedia Machine Comprehension will be lead by Jim DiCarlo, head of MIT’s Department for Brian & Cognitive Science. TechCrunch reports that DiCarlo’s department, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and IBM’s Watson team will contribute members to the new lab. TechCrunch adds that “no money will change hands and no specific product is being pursued.”

Idaho Researchers Focus On Cybersecurity Protections For Infrastructure.

The Idaho Statesman Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory are focusing on “protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure.” The lab, mostly known for nuclear and renewable energy research, says its “fastest-growing research program is now national security, where cybersecurity plays a major role.” The Statesman says the lab has hired 128 new researchers in the last two years, all of whom have some training in cybersecurity.

Lockheed Awarded $147 Million DARPA Hypersonic Glide System Contract.

Zacks Investment Research Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports that Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $147.3 million contract to conduct research on the hypersonic Mach 5 Tactical Boost Glide aircraft project under DARPA’s Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) program. The TBG program aims to develop technologies for “air-launched, tactical-range hypersonic boost glide systems” that run at and above Mach 5.

Global Developments

MIT Researchers To Test Self-Driving Boats In Amsterdam.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/19) reports MIT researchers said Monday they plan to launch prototypes of autonomous boats – referred to as “roboats” – in Amsterdam by 2017. MIT Professor Carlo Ratti characterizes the boats as “dynamic and temporary floating infrastructure, like on-demand bridges and stages that can be assembled” in hours. Several different prototypes are “due to be tested,” but there’s “one basic design under consideration” that “resembles a square, flat-topped pallet a little less than two meters (six feet) a side.”

Engineering Firms Fear Brexit Will Lead To Dearth Of Skilled Engineers.

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports that engineering firms in the UK fear the “decision to leave the Europe Union will result in a skills gap in the sector, with current British graduates lacking key knowledge.” According to an employer survey, “62 percent say British graduates do not meet their expectations and 68 percent were concerned the U.K. education system would struggle to keep up with the skills required as technology develops.”

Industry News

Renault, Nissan To Acquire Sylpheo For Self-Driving Car Technology Development.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) reports Renault Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services senior vice president Ogi Redzic said on Tuesday that both Renault and Nissan will acquire French software development company Sylpheo and absorb its 40 software and cloud engineers and consultants to develop “our next generation of connected cars and other advanced technologies.” Sylpheo will create the connected car service platform’s applications, to be integrated in the car manufacturers’ self-driving car technologies. Reuters notes that Nissan intends to develop autonomous multiple-lane driving functions by 2018 and full urban driving functions by 2020.

Engineering and Public Policy

FBI InfraGard Program Pairs With Private Sector Against Cyberthreats.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Sobczak, Subscription Publication) reports as part of government-sponsored program InfraGard, FBI representatives are allowed into company procedures to “keep private-sector operators of critical infrastructure, such as ports and power plants, apprised of the latest threats to their systems.” The program depends “on private-sector input, with individual, not-for-profit chapters distributed around each of the nation’s FBI field offices.” The meetings between the FBI and private-sector companies revolve around sharing intelligence and encouraging “people who normally keep a low profile but who would be first in line to respond to a cyber or physical strike on the nation’s infrastructure.” Some parts of the InfraGard program are not publicly available, which is crucial “for an organization aimed at addressing weak spots in U.S. infrastructure.” The national power grid presents a large target to cyber terror, leading to “an upcoming National Capital Region Members Alliance talk on lessons from the utility industry’s GridEx III exercise.” GridEx III is designed to pit “grid operators against simulated hackers, drones and physical attackers” and is not visible to the press.

Tesla Releases Software Update To Fix Hacking Vulnerabilities. Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Snyder) reports Tesla released a software update to fix vulnerabilities in its Model S control system identified by Chinese “white-hat hackers.” The vulnerabilities allowed for hackers to remotely breach the system and “disrupt actions including turn signals, seat positions, displays and the door lock system.” A Tesla statement says, “Our realistic estimate is that the risk to our customers was very low…But this did not stop us from responding quickly.” Tesla added that the software update was sent to vehicles remotely without customers having to bring their vehicles into a repair shop. PC World Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Constantin) adds that the vulnerabilities were reported through Tesla’s bug bounty program.

Lloyds Survey Finds Business Leaders “Complacent” On Cybersecurity. Computer Weekly Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Ashford) reports research by Lloyds of London has revealed most European businesses have been breached by cyberattacks in the past five years, however, only 54% of CEOs in European companies take responsibility for cybersecurity and only 42% of firms are concerned about a future attack. The research used data from Lloyd’s “Facing the Cyber Risk Challenge” survey of nearly 350 European executives. Lloyd CEO Inga Beale said, “It is reassuring that responsibility for cyber risk is sitting at the most senior level of businesses, but it is clear that too many firms do not believe that the dangers of a breach will severely affect them.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Titus: US Must Invest In STEM Education.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) asserts in an op-ed for The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20) that American “society cannot afford such a drop-off and corresponding loss of brain power” in the STEM fields. Titus says she’s “sponsoring legislation to create a National Science Foundation grant program” that will provide “at-risk K-12 students” with “the tools they need to improve their STEM education,” including “loan forgiveness grants” for “low-income and minority students studying STEM at colleges and universities” and aiding “minority-serving institutions in the development of STEM programs that reach out to those demographics.” She proposes to pay for the program by increasing the fee for H-1B visas, which allows companies to “pay to bring highly skilled foreign workers” to the US.

New Abington Heights (PA) Program Introduces Youngsters To Computer Science.

The Abington (PA) Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Derveken) reports on a new initiative in Abington Heights, Pennsylvania designed to introduce elementary school students to computer science and STEM-related subjects. The district implemented that program, called Comet Connect, at the start of this school year. This summer, two teachers were trained by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit providing hands-on, student-centric curricula. Students in kindergarten through fourth grade participate in biweekly Comet Connect sessions, a computer science class incorporating all aspects of the curriculum. According to Rose Minniti, Abington Heights’ Director of Mathematics and Science, the district is “trying to foster logical thinking and problem solving that will not only support our computer science program, but also all of our other programs.” Abington Heights previously implemented Project Lead The Way curricula at the secondary level, and Minniti believes its expansion to the elementary level will yield additional growth. Minniti said the district aims “to be the leaders in computer science, not only regionally but nationally.”

“Maker Spaces” Arrive in KC-Area Schools.

KMBC-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Kansas City, MO (9/20, Johnson) reports that an academic innovation called “maker spaces” is spreading to the Kansas City metropolitan area. A maker space is a place in a school giving students “a space and … some time where they can come in and really find something that they are interested in,” said Michelle Brown, maker space instructional coach at a Shawnee, Kansas, elementary school. Brown’s space, for instance, has something to interest every student, who can work with Legos, art supplies, sewing and cooking supplies, coding tools, circuit boards, iPads, and robotics. While it is still only a handful of area districts which have implemented maker spaces, and even those have only one or two.

Career And Technical Education Takes Center Stage At Kansas Board Of Education Meeting.

The Topeka (KS) Capital-Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/20, Deines) reports that career and technical education was spotlighted at Tuesday’s meeting of the State Board of Education. Lynette Yevak, chair of the state’s CTE advisory committee, told board members her committee works to ensure all students will have a career after graduation. Department of Education officials also updated board members on new career clusters, including one for government and public administration, as well as a new system giving progressive CTE credits in four categories: participant, concentrator, completer, and CTE scholar. Responding to concerns that students could be locked into careers, Jay Scott, the department’s assistant director for CTE stated, “Students are going to change their minds when they get to college. This is about career exploration. We’re just preparing them for their next move.” Scott said the goal is for each Kansas secondary school student to have an individual plan of study based on their career interests.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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