Leading the News
The Columbia (MO) Missourian (12/10, Wilt) reports that a “team from Midway Heights Elementary School, along with 27 others from mid-Missouri, spent Saturday designing and programming robots,” all hoping for “a chance of going to Kansas City next month for the FIRST Lego League regional championship.” The For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Lego League “has held robotic programming competitions since 1989, when insulin pump and Segway inventor Dean Kamen founded it as a way to engage children with subjects that might otherwise seem unglamorous.” One competition organizer, Matt Breitskreutz, said, “It’s not just about the robot, it’s about the kids learning to work together as a team.” He added that the event is aimed at building leadership, team spirit, and respect.
KOMU-TV Columbia, MO (12/12, Gjata) reports that “FIRST Organization, a non-profit group, sets up the FIRST Lego League competition for school kids in grades 4th–8th.” According to teacher and coach for the Columbia Independent School’s FIRST Lego League club Alex Terwelp, “there are three parts to the tournament” involving an initial August registration, followed by “a research project based on a given theme.” Second, “teams must agree to follow the organization’s core values, including teamwork and respect among other things. The third phase of the tournament is the building phase of the team’s Lego robot.”
The Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune (12/11, Jackson Jr.) also reports Saturday’s FIRST LEGO League robotics tournament at Jefferson Middle School.
Students From Pennsylvania, Hawaii Schools Take On Hour Of Code.
The Beaver County (PA) Times (12/10, Schaeffer) reported that “during Nicole Darroch’s Highland Elementary School classes Thursday morning, children learned to create” technology. Ambridge Area School District fourth to sixth grade “Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, or STEAM, classes spent the morning learning the basics of coding as part of The Hour of Code, an annual initiative designed to provide an engaging introduction to computer coding and to boost interest in computer science careers.” This year, from December 5 to 11, the Hour of Code was “observed around the world during Computer Science Education Week.” It “is sponsored by more than 400 partners, including computer science education advocacy organization Code.org, Apple, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the College Board and Microsoft.”
The Kaua’i (HI) Garden Island News (12/10, McCracken) reported that in the “past week, schools around the nation participated in an hour of programming and coding as an introduction into the world of computer science and programming.” Kauai High School arts and communications teacher Greg Anderson said, “If you look at the jobs and skills that employers are looking for now, there’s a huge area in computer science programming and computing that are being really under represented across the board,” adding, “Hour of Code gives these kids an introduction to coding and they have fun doing it. If you watch them you’ll see that they’re 100 percent engaged, so it’s something that’s more interesting for them.”
South Dakota Mines Students Building Robot For Mars Exploration.
The AP (12/11, Anderson) reports students from a range of engineering disciplines at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology are “building a robot that may someday rove across the sands of Mars for NASA.” The team’s Moonrockers rover was designed and created over the past two years “in hopes of winning NASA’s eighth annual Robotic Mining Competition.” The team placed second last year “for its creation of a bot capable of piloting itself,” and students now “are setting their sights on improving their past success.”
ICE: Number Of International Students Studying STEM In US Jumps.
Politico Morning Education (12/9) reports according to new ICE data, the number of international students studying STEM subjects in US schools has risen by 10% over the past year. The data show that there are 1.23 million international students, and “nearly 42 percent of those students were studying STEM — a 10.1 percent increase from last year.”
Negative Media Stories Eroding Harvard’s Cache.
The New York Times (12/10, Wayne, Subscription Publication) reports that Harvard University has a longstanding reputation as the pinnacle of US higher education, but adds, “after several incidents that have besmirched the university’s reputation, and in an era of heightened self-consciousness over privilege, that “cache “may be ceding to sincere shame and a reassessment of the merits of a Harvard education.” The university has endured negative press over such issues as its “gargantuan $35.7 billion endowment,” a scandal in which the men’s soccer team’s members “rated the sexual appeal of individuals on the women’s team,” and a strike by its food service workers. Meanwhile, “Harvard had the sixth-most-reported rape cases on campus in 2014, and its law school figured prominently in the controversial documentary about campus sexual assault, ‘The Hunting Ground.’”
Many Montana Students Taking Dual Enrollment Classes Can’t Afford Fee.
The AP (12/11) reports more Missoula County Public School “students are taking dual enrollment classes,” but only 290 out of 478 paid the additional fee. Superintendent Mark Thane said that “there’s a financial hurdle” for students, and argues that “there’s no reason they shouldn’t get the credits” for completed classes. Some schools have “implemented waivers or other forms of financial assistance” for students that can’t afford the fee.
Collinge: Failure To Address Student Loan Debt Will “Result In Disaster.”
In an op-ed in The Hill (12/11, Collinge, Contributor), StudentLoanJustice.org founder Alan Collinge explains that “student loan debt has grown to overwhelm all other categories of non-housing consumer debt” in the US. He argues that student loan debt “is uniquely predatory in that student loans have been stripped of the most fundamental consumer protections,” and believes “bankruptcy protections must be returned to student loans.” He describes prior administrations missteps in addressing the problem, and warns that failure to act will “absolutely result in disaster.”
Research and Development
Universities Receive Grants For Transportation Research.
The Klamath Falls (OR) Herald And News (12/7, Owens) reports Oregon Tech has been awarded a five-year grant by the Department of Transportation as part a multi-campus, $15.6 million research project. The grant will help state authorities “expand the National Institute for Transportation and Communities program” in partnership with Oregon Tech and others, which will benefit the school’s “computer systems, electrical, mechanical, manufacturing and renewable energy engineering” programs.
Informed Infrastructure (12/8) reports “a consortium of universities led by LSU” is another recipient of the five-year grant by the Department of Transportation “to establish a regional transportation research center.” The center “will focus on improving transportation infrastructure through the use of innovative materials and technology.” The group will receive $2,470,600 this year.
Cornell University Researchers Create Soft Robotic Hand.
NPR (12/11) reports Cornell University researchers have created a soft robotic hand that can “touch delicate items” and “sense the shape and texture of what it comes into contact with.” The hand can be produced for under $50, and “holds promise for better prosthetics, robots to interact directly with people or with fragile objects, or robots to squeeze into tight spaces.”
Popular Robot Toy Cozmo Was Created By CMU Robotics Institute Graduates.
The AP (12/11) profiles Cozmo, an “a Pixar-like toy truck with artificial intelligence software” that is a popular this holiday season. Anki, the company behind the toy, was started by a group of Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute students after graduation.
New $140M Manufacturing USA Institute To Research Energy Use Reduction In Chemical Processing.
The Powder Bulk Solids (12/9) reports the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) “will lead a Federally-funded institute to research ways to reduce energy use in chemical processing,” according to the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Acting Assistant Secretary David Friedman. The DOE said that the new Institute “will leverage approaches to modular chemical process intensification – like combining multiple, complex processes such as mixing, reaction, and separation into single steps – with the goal of improving energy productivity and efficiency, cutting operating costs, and reducing waste. In the chemical industry alone, these technologies have the potential to save more than $9 billion in process costs annually.”
Microsoft Developers Conference Moves To Seattle Next Year.
eWeek (12/9, Hernandez) reports that the Microsoft Build developers conference will convene in Seattle next year, transitioning the event “closer to its Redmond, Wash. Headquarters” after a number of years in San Francisco. Commenting on the conference, currently scheduled to take place May 10-12 2017 in downtown Seattle, Microsoft executive vice president and chief marketing officer Chris Capossela stated, “Once again, developers can hear from Microsoft engineering leaders and learn about the latest tools and technologies to boost creativity and productivity.”
Amazon, Boeing Partner On Cloud-Based Avionics Analysis.
The Seattle Times (12/9, Day) reported on how Amazon, Microsoft, and other tech companies have made Seattle into a center of cloud technology in the United States, and said earlier this year, the Amazon collaborated with engineers from Boeing to develop software leveraging Microsoft’s Azure. The initiative was aimed at building “web-based variants of its aviation analytics tools on Microsoft’s Azure” that could analyze “decades of maintenance data” to improve aircraft maintenance and fuel consumption.
Engineering and Public Policy
Nebraska Lawmakers Urged To Boost Biotech Industry, Change Tax Incentives.
According to the Omaha (NE) World-Herald (12/8, Nohr), a new report on advancing the state’s biotechnology sector calls on Nebraska’s lawmakers to “seek ways to bolster the biotechnology industry by changing state tax incentives to target jobs in the industry,” which ranges “from ag-related chemical production jobs to those in medical device manufacturing.” The recommendations are “in an effort to encourage an industry supporters say has the potential to be a major component of the state’s economy.” While the industry currently “represents about 2 percent of the state’s employment,” it “needs more high-skilled labor and graduates who understand how to work in a regulated environment,” Bio Nebraska Life Sciences Association Executive Director Phil Kozera said.
Michigan Governor Signs Laws Regulating Self-Driving Cars.
The Christian Science Monitor (12/10) reports Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder last week signed a package of legislation containing “regulation on self-driving cars, in what state officials on both sides of the aisle hope will put the state at the vanguard of investment and development for the budding industry.” Though other states allow testing of autonomous vehicles, “the Michigan laws shine a light on how lawmakers have struggled to stay abreast of rapidly changing technologies that could eventually revolutionize the roadways.”
DOE Launches $140M Hub For ‘Breakthrough’ Energy Efficiency Technology.
Greenwire (12/9, Marshall, Subscription Publication) reports that DOE “announced the creation of a new $140 million manufacturing institute today that is part of a larger multiagency network aiming to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030.” The new institute will be led by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and will focus on finding “breakthrough” technologies “to improve efficiency and productivity by 20 percent in five years in manufacturing industries like oil and gas, pulp and paper, and chemicals.”
DOE Moving Forward With Battery Charger Standards.
The Hill (12/9, Devaney) reports the Energy Department is going ahead “with new efficiency standards for battery chargers.” The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE “announced Friday new test procedures for uninterruptible power supplies.” The rule will go “into effect in 30 days.”
Bill Gates Among Those Backing $1B New Energy Fund.
Bloomberg News (12/12, Vance) reports that “Bill Gates and more than a dozen of the world’s wealthiest individuals revealed a new $1 billion investment fund late Sunday to foster major advances in clean energy production.” Breakthrough Energy Ventures aims “to pump money into risky, long-term energy technology that could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” in areas such as electricity generation and storage, agriculture and transportation.
Minnesota High School Offers Engineering Fabrication Lab For Students.
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead (ND) (12/11, Hollingsworth) reports Duluth Denfeld High School in Minnesota is offering new engineering and design programs with a fabrication lab. The lab, “which allows students to make things out of metal, plastic or wood,” is one of the ways the school “is working to ensure its career and technical education stays relevant.” Local manufacturers and businesses are praising the program, saying that much of what they do “could begin with the skills picked up in a fab lab.”
Minnesota High School Offers House-Building Trades Class With Area Businesses.
The AP (12/10) reports Milaca High School in Minnesota is offering a “hands-on style of teaching…with area businesses” in its building trades class. Students in the class work to “create a fully furnished 26-by-46-foot rambler house,” working closely with contractors and businesses “on the entire house except for the (exterior house wrap) taping.”
Students Learn Coding, Computer Programming From Yelp Engineers.
The Orangeburg (SC) Times And Democrat (12/11, Branch) reports on AI in ACTION, a nonprofit which “recently held workshop sessions in which students learned coding and computer programming skills from” Yelp engineers. During a workshop spanning two days, Yelp urged students “to pursue STEM fields.” AI in ACTION founder Eddie Massey said, “Friday was a special session just for our after-school students at Clark Middle School. Our program there is funded by a grant from the New Morning Foundation, where students have to build software that helps address issues in adolescent health. …So our students there are required to build an app or launch a website. Yelp taught them a session on how to make iPhone Apps at The Technology Center.” He added, “After that we brought a Yelp recruiter and engineer to Claflin to encourage students from HBCUs to apply for internships and jobs in Silicon Valley. …They went over resumes and the tech interview process, which is vastly different than other fields.” Elementary, middle and high school students also participated in workshop sessions.
Friday’s Lead Stories
• House Passes $12B Water Bill Authorizing 30 New Infrastructure Projects.
• Florida International University Awarded $10M For Bridge Engineering.
• Aerospace Architect Recognized For Leadership.
• UT-Austin Researchers Develop Novel Nanomaterial That Enables Rewritable Optical Circuits.
• IET Analysis Encourages STEM-Related Toys For Girls.
• Russian Nuclear Underwater Drone’s Existence Confirmed By Pentagon.
• Chevron Announces 2017 Capital Budget.