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

Leading the News

Amazon’s Alexa Said To Steal Show At CES.

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Kharpal) reported that Amazon’s Alexa stole the show at CES thanks to its integration into a number of products, “including Ford’s cars, LG’s new refrigerator, and Huawei’s Mate 9 smartphone.” Neil Campling, head of global technology, mobile, telecom research at Northern Trust Capital Markets said the rise of Alexa shows a move towards “voice-led OS” for the Internet of Things. CNBC noted that while Alexa was the star of CES, it still faces challenges from Google, Apple, and Samsung for dominance in among digital assistants. Wired Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Pierce) reported that at CES visitors couldn’t walk “without tripping over a speaker, an appliance, or even a robot or two that supports Alexa.” Wired wrote that Alexa, and other digital assistants like Cortana and Siri, could represent a shift from “tapping and typing on touchscreens to simply shouting commands,” though there is still much work to be done before digital assistants become wholly integrated into our lives, particularly on the context level.

BBC News (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7, Baraniuk) also highlighted the ubiquity of virtual assistants at CES, led by Amazon’s Alexa, thanks to the company being “quick to notice the potential of voice control following the rise of smartphone apps that could interact with appliances,” according to Dinesh Kithany an analyst at IHS Technology. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Tsukayama) reported digital assistants have “emerged as the keystone of the tech world,” as connected gadgets rise in popularity and artificial intelligence becomes more reliable. The Post noted CES showed “we’re out of the prototype stage and onto the practical.”

Fast Company Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Sullivan) offered a list of the products using Alexa at CES.

Higher Education

AAU President Encouraged About Trump’s Science Stance.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Anderson) reports that while many higher education leaders are concerned about President-elect Trump’s “rhetoric on climate change, immigration, health care and other issues following a divisive campaign.” However, Association of American Universities President Mary Sue Coleman “said she takes comfort in what Trump has not said.” The piece quotes her saying, “We haven’t heard anything from the president-elect that says he’s anti-science. I’m not going to make any presumptions.”

Washington University Researchers Testing Robotic Prosthetics For Children.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/8, Munz) reports that researchers with the Washington University School of Medicine are enrolling 10 children “in a study to determine how to develop a prosthetic that is useful for children born with all or part of a limb missing or whose limb is missing through trauma or surgery.” The researchers fit subjects with prosthetics using “myoelectric technology — sensors that detect when muscles in the stump contract and signal parts in the prosthetic to move.”

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Research and Development

New York University Computer Science Professor Studies Spread Of Flu Virus.

The WNYC-FM Share to FacebookShare to Twitter New York (1/5) Brian Lehrer Show features Amanda Aronczyk, reporter for WNYC’s Only Human podcast, and Rumi Chunara, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at New York University, who describe “their experiment which tracked the flu virus through their social circles to understand how we spread disease.” The research is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Engineering Student Uses 3D Printer To Create Cheap, Functional Prosthetic Limbs.

NBC Nightly News (1/8, story 11, 2:35, Snow) reported University of Central Florida engineering student Albert Maneiro created plans to “make prosthetic limbs affordable and widely available for children who need them” by using a 3D printer, after a mother wrote the school asking for a prosthetic arm for her son. His efforts have created a nonprofit, Limbitless, which has sent “blueprints for arms to families and student engineers in 176 different countries.”

General Motors Head Of Design Interviewed On Future Of The Company.

Motor Trend Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Rechtin) features an interview with General Motors Vice President of Global Design Mike Simcoe who discusses GM’s future plans. After discussing the legacy of his predecessor and his own personal design ethos, Simcoe delves into how “both engineers and designers get what they want in the current international regulatory climate with emissions, crash safety, pedestrian protection, and such.” He said, “The design fails if one group – design, engineering, marketing – has the upper hand in the deal.” He added, “It’s not compromise; it’s balance. Make it attractive. Make it function well. Make it safe. Make it an emotional vehicle that connects to customers. All those things are important and rely on different players.” Simcoe also described each of GM’s five brands and affirms that the designers strive to cater vehicles for each markets’ tastes.

Global Developments

Obama Administration Calls For Restrictions On Chinese Investment In US Semiconductor Industry.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Talley, Subscription Publication) reports the Administration on Friday said the US should increase “protection of the American semiconductor industry” for national security reasons. The report, authored by the president’s chief science adviser recommends “much tougher restrictions on Chinese investments in the US semiconductor industry.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Volkswagen Near A Deal To Settle US Criminal Probe.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Schoenberg) reports Volkswagen AG and the Justice Department may be close to settling a multibillion lawsuit leveled against the company “over its cheating of diesel emissions tests,” according to those familiar with the case. Bloomberg says the settlement could come as early as next week and “would include criminal and civil penalties.” The article notes Volkswagen and the government have been seeking a resolution to the suit prior to January 20 when “the Trump administration comes into office and replaces the political appointees who have been overseeing the diesel-cheating case.”

Trump, Sessions Target H-1B Visa Program For Overhaul Or Elimination.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/8, Bearak) reports that President-elect Trump and Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions have targeted “the [H-1B visa] program for a major overhaul, or even scrapping it altogether.” Trump has called the program, which brings some 100,000 “‘highly skilled’ contract workers, mostly in tech and mostly from India, to the United States every year,” a “cheap labor program” subject to “widespread, rampant” abuse. Sessions and Sen. Ted Cruz co-sponsored legislation last year “to effectively gut the program,” while Rep. Darrell Issa released a statement on Wednesday saying he was reintroducing similar legislation called the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act.

Obama Administration Denies Permits For Seismic Testing For Oil Under Atlantic.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Fears) reports the Obama Administration denied six permits on Friday “seeking to use seismic cannons to search for oil under the” Atlantic Ocean. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the decision “was based on several factors,” including “concerns that seismic testing could harm marine animals.”

E&E (1/6) reports that BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper said that “the agency was ‘guided by an abundance of caution,’ ultimately deciding that the potential risks to marine life outweighed the value of the surveys.” She said in a statement, “Since federal waters in the Mid and South Atlantic have been removed from leasing consideration for the next five years, there is no immediate need for these surveys.”

Politico Pro (1/6) reports that Hopper added, “In the present circumstances and guided by an abundance of caution, we believe that the value of obtaining the geophysical and geological information from new airgun seismic surveys in the Atlantic does not outweigh the potential risks of those surveys’ acoustic pulse impacts on marine life.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Fears) reports that Obama’s “latest action appeared to be made with an eye on the president-elect, who promised in his campaign to ‘open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands’ and to ‘unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.’”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Daly, Press) reports that “environmental groups and some East Coast lawmakers oppose the surveys, saying that loud sounds from seismic air guns could hurt marine life.” The advocacy group Oceana welcomed the announcement, saying the Obama administration was “finishing the job in protecting the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling activities.”

The Cape (DE) Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6) reports that Caroline Wood, Mid-Atlantic campaign organizer for Oceana, said, “This is one last parting gift from a president and an administration that understands the value of a healthy and vibrant ocean, one which cares about protecting Atlantic communities from climate change, and one which actually listens to its constituents and works with them to create good policy.”

However, USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Waymer) reports that “industry officials said it would hamper America’s energy independence, scientific knowledge and jobs.” David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute, said, “This agency has stated over and over again – even under this administration – how safe and efficient and how scientifically proven geological science is to do this. So I see it as a horrific political example that’s only the latest in disregarding American energy security needs.”

Coverage by the AP was also picked up by the San Antonio Express-News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6), the Minneapolis (MN) Star Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6), Philly (PA) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6), U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6), the Kaua’i (HI) Garden Island News Share to FacebookShare
to Twitter (1/6), the Washington (DC) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Daly), and the Daily Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6).

Additional coverage was provided by the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Kang, Haberman, Subscription Publication), the Newport News (VA) Daily Press Share
to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Subscription Publication), the Augusta (VA) Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6), Offshore Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6), Offshore Engineer Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6), and Think Progress Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6).

Murkowski Targeting Offshore Drilling Ban. Politico Pro (1/6) reports that “one potential target being eyed” by Sen. Lisa Murkowski is “Obama’s permanent ban of oil and gas drilling in portions of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.” According to the article, “ban proponents argue the administration’s decision cannot be undone, though the Alaska Republican says her team is looking into that.” She said, “We think we can make the argument that it does fall within review, but again that’s what the smart legal teams are doing.”

Additional coverage was provided by Newsweek Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7, Parenteau).

EPA Says Water Quality Back To Normal After Gold King Mine Spill.

The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Richardson) reports that the EPA announced last Friday that “water quality in Colorado and New Mexico rivers has returned to normal since the massive Gold King Mine spill unleashed by an EPA-led crew.” According to the EPA’s final analysis of the August 2015 spill, “samples collected over the next year found that mineral levels are now the same at the Animas and San Juan rivers before they were contaminated by the bright yellow plume.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6) reports that nearly 540 tons of metals were released into Colorado’s Animas River over nine hours during the August 2015 spill, according to the report, however, the EPA said “its research supports earlier statements that water quality in the affected river system has returned to pre-spill levels.” Denver Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Paul) reports that the EPA’s survey claims that “aquatic life does not appear to have suffered any short-term impacts,” and that concentrations of metals in well-water samples “did not exceed federal drinking water standards.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Michigan Districts Opening New CTE Dual Enrollment High School.

The Holland (MI) Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7) reports that a coalition of nine school districts in Monroe County, Michigan are working to “provide new opportunities for students to attain post-secondary credentials,” and have established the Monroe County Technical and Career (MCTC) Early College. Juniors and seniors will take classes at nearby Monroe County Community College. The program “will focus on career and technical education.”

Students Take Part In Western Pennsylvania FIRST Lego Competition.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/8, Schackner) reports that students from Ohio, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania took part in the Western Pennsylvania FIRST LEGO League Grand Championship over the weekend in Pittsburgh. Event organizer Marcel Bergerman stressed that the competition promotes STEM fields and “encourages good communication skills by requiring the students to develop and present their research before tournament officials.”

Students Learn Aeronautical Science At Florida High School Academy.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7) reports last year Ocala Trinity Catholic High School launched its Aerospace Career Academy. Students work toward getting their private pilot’s license while learning about associated aeronautical science concepts. The school is adding “unmanned flying instruction for students who want to make a career of flying in the ever-expanding drone markets, like in real estate or the military.”

Pennsylvania Legislators Call For Enhancing CTE Programs.

The State College (PA) Centre Daily Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7) reports that two Pennsylvania legislators have issued a report containing “encouraging news for local career technical school administrators who aim to make sure their students are ready for the workforce.” The report contains “40 recommendations in five categories for CTE institutions.”

IBM Preparing Lower-Income Students For “New Collar Jobs.”

Business Insider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Menezes) reported that IBM is preparing lower-income students for new collar jobs through its P-TECH vocational schools. Business Insider reported that these schools “involve six-year programs that combine four years of high school and an associates degree” with the goal of leading students into STEM fields. According to Business Insider, “many of the students go on to work at IBM, find jobs at other companies, or pursue bachelor degrees.” Business Insider added that this is a part of IBM’s effort to train the next generation of workers for new collar jobs, which are jobs that “combine technical skills with a knowledge base rooted in higher education.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

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