Leading the News
The Detroit Free Press (12/15, Gardner) reports General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced Thursday the company will start testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolts on public roads near Detroit, Michigan. GM will be the second major carmaker “to test a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads outside their own campuses and proving grounds.” The announcement follows Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature of “a package of four bills aimed at positioning Michigan as a hub for development and testing of self-driving cars.” Barra said being in Detroit “where we can get the cold, snow and all the different weather conditions, with the support of our Warren Technical Center and Milford Proving Grounds is very important.” Investor’s Business Daily (12/15, Ma) notes the winter storms in Detroit “will put the automaker’s autonomous technology to the test.” The conditions accompanying a “polar vortex” introduce “a different set of challenges,” some of which have affected the technology from other manufacturers. Some have reportedly “been tripped up by clouds of condensation, mistaking them for solid objects.” Additionally, navigating icy roads presents a difficulty for autonomous vehicles.
The AP (12/15, Krisher) reports Barra also announced the company will construct “an unspecified number of fully autonomous Bolts on the assembly line where regular Bolts are made, in order to gain expertise in building autonomous vehicles.” The autonomous Bolts will be produced from the Orion Township starting in 2017. GM executives did not say when the company would start testing without a human backup, but predicted it would be in the next couple years. The Verge (12/15, Golson) notes the autonomous Bolts feature “LIDAR, cameras, sensors, and other hardware to allow the cars to drive themselves.” CNET News (12/15, Krok) reports the research cars “will be sent to San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona,” where GM has been testing self-driving cars since June and “currently operates about 40 vehicles split between the two cities.”
Reuters (12/15) during the announcement, Barra refused to discuss a potential Chinese government anti-trust probe. She told reporters: “I don’t think anyone benefits from speculating on that.”
ED Announces Experimental Student Loan Counseling Program.
The Washington Post (12/15, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ED announced on Thursday that it is launching an “experimental program” allowing 51 colleges to expand the financial counseling that colleges give to student loan borrowers in an effort to “keep students from making costly mistakes.” The Post quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying, “It’s important for students to make good decisions about their student loan borrowing, but many lack timely and relevant information about financial aid to guide their borrowing decisions each year.”
Inside Higher Ed (12/15) reports that the purpose of the program is to “find the best loan counseling services for student borrowers,” explaining that ED has “asked 35 public two-year and 14 public four-year institutions to test the effectiveness of required loan counseling for student borrowers.”
Politico Morning Education (12/15) also covers this story, as does the Las Vegas Review-Journal (12/15) which notes that College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College are taking part in the pilot.
DeVry Agrees To Pay $100 Million For Misleading Ads.
The Washington Post (12/15, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the FTC has announced that DeVry Education Group has agreed to pay $100 million “to resolve allegations that it lied about the employment and earnings of its graduates in numerous radio, television, online and print advertisements.” The FTC sued the firm a year ago accusing it of “deceiving consumers about the likelihood of landing a job, with claims that 90 percent of DeVry graduates seeking employment land jobs within six months of graduation.” The lawsuit also calls for some $50 million in debt forgiveness. The Post reports deep in the article that DeVry CEO Lisa Wardell “struck an agreement with the Education Department in October to resolve a related probe, agreeing to no longer advertise that 90 percent of DeVry graduates land jobs within six months of leaving school.”
The AP (12/15, Binkley) reports that DeVry is “one of the nation’s largest for-profit college chains,” and says DeVry released a statement Thursday in which it “denied all wrongdoing but said they are ‘pleased this matter is reaching resolution.’” This piece also mentions that the firm dropped its “marquee ad claims” in a deal with ED.
MarketWatch (12/15) reports that DeVry “will forgive $30.35 million in student loans,” but notes that this does not “include any federal student loans made to students who attended the school during the period of the lawsuit.” Moreover, the deal “includes a $49.4 million payment to the FTC that the agency will distribute to students harmed by the misleading marketing.” The piece notes that the settlement “comes as the Obama administration looks to cement its legacy as a tough enforcer in the higher education space, specifically for-profit colleges.”
Foxx: Congress May Reduce How Much Students Can Borrow.
The Wall Street Journal (12/15, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) reports that on Thursday, Rep. Virginia Foxx from North Carolina, who will take over as chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, was critical of federal student loan programs, in particular, Plus loans. Foxx wants some loan programs ended. She said, “Why did we have a housing bubble? Why did we have a crash in 2008? Most people would say it was because…we pushed the banks to give loans to people they couldn’t give back,” adding, “When you do that with student loans it’s the same sort of thing.” However, Ben Miller from the Center for American Progress said, “If we’re really worried about loan performance we should first talk more about what schools we allow to lend, not student terms,” adding, “There’s not enough accountability for how schools perform with their loans and more needs to be done there.”
Data Show Election Of Donald Trump May Deter International Students.
U.S. News & World Report (12/15, McPhillips) reports that due to the statements made by President-elect Donald Trump, some international students are uncertain about attending school in the US. A survey of approximately “7,000 prospective international students” shows that “more than half said they would still consider studying in the U.S. after Trump’s win.” One third “of prospective students from Russia and China indicated that they were more likely to consider studying in the U.S. after the election.” However, even though “the majority of prospective students from the Middle East said they would still consider studying in the U.S., three times as many said they were less likely to study in the U.S. than more likely to.”
Research and Development
Pegasus Launches NASA CYGNSS Satellites For Weather Forecasting Mission.
USA Today (12/15, Dean) reports that NASA successfully placed “four pairs of microsatellites” into orbit on Thursday, launched aboard an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket from Cape Canaveral The satellites are part of the agency’s $157 million Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), for use “measuring ocean surface wind speeds in the center of storms” in order to improve hurricane forecasting and “model potential storm surge.”
ABC News (12/15, Dunn) reports that the University of Michigan’s Christopher Ruf “said the satellites will undergo a few months of testing and should start churning out full-fledged science data in the spring” just ahead of hurricane season. PBS NewsHour (12/15, Thoet) reports and CBS News (12/15) also cover this story.
University Of Illinois Researchers Develop Self-Healing Materials.
WAND-TV Champaign, IL (12/15) reports that University of Illinois researchers are developing “autonomous materials,” which “can heal themselves or keep themselves from becoming too hot or cold.” Such materials can be use for electronics, and “use vascular systems like those of plants and animals, in some cases moving liquids through the material that can become solid and repair damage like cracks or chips.” The piece quotes PhD fellow Tony Griffin saying, “This allows airplanes, cars and such to heal themselves on the go.”
Northeastern Engineer Says Altering Pipe Texture Can Reduce Deadly Bacteria In Water.
The Boston Herald (12/8) reports that Tom Webster, department chairman of chemical engineering at Northeastern University’s College of Engineering, says that “transforming the texture of pipe systems can repel dangerous microorganisms,” such as the “deadly bacteria reportedly linked to the Flint, Mich., water crisis.” The piece quotes Webster saying, “If you have a bacteria that sticks to the wall of a pipe, it’ll basically grow uncontrolled.” Webster reports that “breaking down the inside of pipes on a nanometer level — creating tiny hills and valleys — keeps bacteria from attaching to the structure and multiplying.”
NASA To Use Watson To Sort Through Aerospace Research.
SPACE (12/15, Lewin) reports that NASA’s Langley Research Center is planning to use IBM’s Watson “to help researchers sort through the huge volumes of data that is generated by aerospace research.” IBM engineer Chris Codella told Space.com that “there’s so much data out there that consists of unstructured text that usually only humans can make sense of, but the challenge is that there’s too much of it for any human being to read.” Codella added that the “idea here is to have a Watson system that can be a research development advisor to people who work in the aerospace fields.”
FDA Approves Tissue Engineering Technique.
The Scientist (12/15, Krisch) reports the Food and Drug Administration has approved “Maci,” a tissue engineering technique “that involves growing a patients’ own cartilage on scaffolds and then implanting the cell-covered device back into their damaged knees.” In a press release, the FDA said, “Overall efficacy data support a long-term clinical benefit from the use of the Maci implant in patients with cartilage defects.” Celia Witten, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, added, “Different cartilage defects require different treatments, so therapy must be tailored to the patient.”
South Korea, Israel Unveil Hybrid VTOL UAV.
Business Korea (12/15) reports that the South Korean government and the Israeli Ministry of Economy have unveiled a hybrid vertical takeoff and landing UAV that combines an electric battery system, an internal combustion engine, and an electric power generator in a system that “has doubled” the aircraft’s flight time and “can charge a battery while operating.” South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) demonstrated the UAV at the Gyeryongdae Emergency Landing Strip in South Chungcheong Province on Wednesday. The UAV was developed by Hankuk Carbon and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) “through an international joint research project.”
Engineering and Public Policy
California Threatens Legal Action Against Uber For San Francisco Self-Driving Testing.
In continuing coverage of Uber’s expansion of self-driving cars to San Francisco, the AP (12/15, Pritchard, Liedtke) reports the company is refusing the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ demand that it immediately cease pickup service in the city. The DMV sent Uber a letter Wednesday calling the move illegal because the company lacked an autonomous vehicle testing permit, but Uber said its cars don’t meet California’s definition of an autonomous vehicle because people are present to intervene if necessary. The two sides planned to meet Thursday, but “both seemed dug into opposing positions.” AutoWeek (12/15, Palmer) reports the DMV has threatened legal action if Uber does not comply, claiming in its letter “California requires these permits so it can ensure the testing company’s financial responsibility; have trained test drivers; and notify the DMV when the vehicles have been involved in a collision.”
The Hill (12/15, Zanona) quotes Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project Director John M. Simpson as stating: “Uber is threatening public safety and trying to avoid providing important information about its activities…Using public roads as your laboratory carries responsibilities. Uber is ignoring them and shamefully flouting important safety requirements. It must be stopped immediately.” In a contributor piece for Forbes (12/15, Abuelsamid), Sam Abuelsami, a senior analyst on the Transportation Efficiencies team at Navigant Research and co-host of the Wheel Bearings podcast, is critical of Uber’s recent actions, agreeing that Uber “completely disregarded California regulations” about autonomous vehicle testing. Abuelsami writes that Uber and its CEO’s behavior shows “why it’s important to maintain a higher standard what is a minimally viable product while we develop autonomous vehicles.” He also notes Volvo’s role in jeopardizing consumer safety “over even the most basic rules.”
NPR (12/15, Domonoske) cites a Wired magazine report that indicates Uber is abusing a loophole, as it has tested state boundaries in the past. Uber had expected backlash to its decision to launch without a permit, writing an extensive blog post on the issue. In the post, the company asks the public to hear its explanation, writing: “First, we are not planning to operate any differently than in Pittsburgh, where our pilot has been running successfully for several months. Second, the rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them. For us, it’s still early days and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them.”
Physical Movement Used In Teaching Coding To New York Students.
The Poughkeepsie (NY) Journal (12/15) reports that the Chancellor Livingston Elementary School Physical Education Department in Rhinebeck, New York announced it “recently implemented and taught their new, cutting-edge interdisciplinary Human Robotics Coding Unit,” which “coincided with the Hour Of Code, a worldwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week and Code.org to introduce millions of students in more than 180 countries to computer science and programming.” In the fall, CLS physical educators Kevin Yarnell and Ryan Edson collaborated “with technology integration teacher Alison Vaccarino to consider teaching students in grades K-5 about the basics of coding through the use of physical movement.” CLS students “are also being exposed to coding and programing during their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and library classes.”
Non-Profit Aims To Get Students Interested In Computer Science.
KCRG-TV Cedar Rapids, IA (12/14, Chapman) reports on non-profit AIM, which “is working to introduce Council Bluffs, Iowa students to computer science.” Wilson Middle School students participated in the Hour of Code during Computer Science Week, “a global movement to build technological talent,” and AIM hopes “to get more people involved in tech careers” because, according to AIM’s Dr. Kandace Miller, “there are huge opportunities. There’s huge salaries and it’s something our economy needs and the company in this community needs.”
STEM Program Brings Real-World Experience To Kids.
The Waterbury (VT) Record (12/15, Collier) reports that according to the US Department of Education “only 16 percent of high school students are interested in a STEM career and have proven proficiency in math.” In addition “57 percent of high school freshmen who declare an interest in a STEM-related field lose that interest before they graduate.” However, teachers at the Washington West Supervisory Union “are trying to make a change on a small-scale level by beginning STEM education as early as kindergarten.” In 2015, “the supervisory union began to revamp the technology program at Harwood Union High School by integrating STEM disciplines,” and this fall, “they joined Project Lead the Way, which provides elementary students with the Launch Program, middle school with the Gateway Program and high school with the Engineering Program.” Washington West director of curriculum Sheila Soule said that “Project Lead the Way ‘has a long history of successfully engaging students in STEM subjects,’” adding, “We are excited to offer (these) programs to our students, giving them a chance to get excited about STEM concepts and pursue these subjects as they continue their educational careers.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Obama Administration Finalizes Wind Energy Rule, Permits Thousands Of Eagle Deaths.
• Analysis: Little Known About DeVos’ Higher Education Views.
• Florida Atlantic University Awarded Two Grants By Department Of Transportation.
• Apple Hires Berlin Mapping Company Engineers.
• Media Analyses: Trump Meeting With Tech Execs Cordial, Productive.
• Virginia District Teaches Coding As Early As Kindergarten.