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

Leading the News

Apple Reclaims Title Of Top Smartphone Seller Due To iPhone 7 Sales In Record-Setting Quarter.

Several media outlets reported on Apple’s fiscal first-quarter earnings Tuesday, with many emphasizing the success of iPhone 7 sales helped the tech giant break out of three consecutive quarters of falling revenue.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31) reports Apple reclaimed the title of the world’s top smartphone seller for the first time since fourth quarter of 2011, “beating out rival Samsung in units shipped for the holiday quarter and boosting revenues with a strong showing for its new, top-of-the-line iPhone 7 Plus.” Apple sold 78.29 million iPhones in the quarter, up from 74.78 million the year before, topping analysts expectations of 77.42 million, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount. This beat Samsung Electronics’ 77.5 million smartphone sales in the quarter, according to tech data firm Strategy Analytics, although Apple “may have benefited from Samsung’s much-publicized recall of its fire-prone Galaxy Note 7.” The glowing results “come at a time when global demand for smartphones is slowing and cheaper Android alternatives are flooding the market.”

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Mickle, Subscription Publication) reports in a front-page story that sales of the iPhone 7 boosted total iPhone shipments five percent higher to reach a fiscal 1Q record. According to the Journal, iPhones account for about two-thirds of Apple’s sales, and the successful quarter helped increase total revenue 3 percent to a record $78.4 billion. Apple also benefited from increased demand for the iPhone 7 Plus, which boosted the iPhone’s average-selling price to $695 from $691 a year ago. The company’s service businesses, which consists of App Store sales plus its music and payments services, were up 18 percent from a year prior to $7.2 billion.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Webb) reports Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said Tuesday in a telephone interview, “We were surprised by the strength of iPhone 7 Plus where we were actually short of supply throughout the quarter. We’ve been able to come into supply-demand balance in January.” The 78.3 million iPhones sold in the quarter generated $54.4 billion in revenue in the period.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Swartz) reports Apple’s first-quarter earnings rose to $3.35 percent per share, beating analysts’ forecast of $3.22 per share, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Apple shares were up 3.5 percent in after-hours trading. The company’s “rally could be short-lived, however: Apple gave ho-hum guidance of revenue of $51.5 million to $53.5 million in its current quarter.” Thomas Husson, a principal analyst at market researcher Forrester, said Apple’s revenue will likely continue to depend on iPhone sales in the future.

Higher Education

DeVos Expresses Willingness To Discuss Changes To Student Loan Forgiveness Program.

MarketWatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Berman) reports that in her written responses to Sen. Patty Murray’s questions on education policy-related issues, Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos “didn’t commit to defending the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF),” but her response hinted that she “may be open to changing PSLF as part of the process to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.” DeVos wrote, “If confirmed I will faithfully implement the Higher Education Act and will look forward to discussing these issues with you as Congress considers its reauthorization.” Under the current program, ED “appeared to change the rules about who qualifies for the program,” which left borrowers with “the rug pulled out from under them.” Congress is expected to address the program this year, but some analysts cautioned that even if it undergoes changes, “many of the teachers and social workers who qualify for it may struggle to get the forgiveness they’re counting on.”

Hundreds Of Colleges Vow To Appeal Gainful Employment Data.

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31) reports that over 200 “colleges have indicated they intend to appeal the Education Department’s determination that one or more of each school’s programs has failed — or is close to failing — the ‘gainful employment’ rule.” The piece reports that most are for-profit colleges.

Estimate Says US Colleges Could Lose $700 Million Due To Trump’s Immigration Order.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Nasiripour, Lambert) reports that the higher education research website College Factual estimates that US colleges could “lose as much as $700 million in annual revenue if Trump’s ban on visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen becomes permanent.” That figure “is based on government visa figures and assumes that foreign students don’t get tuition breaks and pay full undergraduate tuition, fees, and room and board.” Bloomberg says university presidents fear Trump’s policy could “imperil the US’s standing as the top destination for the world’s smartest students,” hurting “university bottom lines” and “disrupting the talent pipeline in such a way could curb economic growth.”

Colleges Emphasize Rural Student Applications.

A new appreciation for rural students has attracted the attention of university admissions counselors, the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Pappano, Subscription Publication) reports. Scott McDonald, director of admissions at Texas A&M, offers bus trips for rural students who bring ‘a unique perspective,’ whom Penn State Center on Rural Education and Communities director Kai A. Schafft says have been ‘pretty systematically ignored, dismissed or passed over.’ According to federal statistics, 14 percent of the US population lives in rural areas, and to many colleges, these students “have become the new underrepresented minority.” Programs such as the Clemson University Emerging Scholars Program target rural high school students, who typically “perform at or above other students on the National Assessment for Educational Progress” but only enroll in higher education programs at a rate of 29 percent among all 18- to 24-year-olds.

ASEE’s New Position Statement on Support for Engineering Education
As a new administration and Congress assume office, ASEE urges that bipartisan support for engineering education and research continue and, if possible, increase. Read the full statement here.

Webinar:  Building Strategic Networks – Mentors and More
For students and new engineering professionals, strategic relationships are an invaluable resource to career development and growth. Tune in on February 15 to discover how to establish and build these relationships to help you succeed. This webinar is only $5 for ASEE student members! Register here.

Webinar: Beyond Doom and Gloom
Are you or your students worried about climate change impacts and not sure how to help create significant improvements? This free March 1 webinar, offered as part of ASEE’s relationship with the Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability, focuses on expert curricular materials to engage students in current and future solutions that can be used in any course and in any discipline. Register here.

Research and Development

NASA Simulates Orion-SLS Launch’s Impact On Crew Members.

SPACE Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Lunsford) reports that earlier this month, NASA engineers for the first time simulated how a launch of the Orion spacecraft on the Space Launch System (SLS) as currently designed would affect crew members. At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, “test subjects, modified advanced crew escape suits and the most current seat design for the crew impact attenuation system underwent simultaneous testing so the human factors engineers can begin understanding” the affect on astronauts. NASA officials, in an image description, explained, “This was the first time this key hardware was brought together to evaluate how launch vibrations may impact the astronaut’s ability to view the displays and controls.” The agency plans to launch the first manned missions of the spacecraft as early as 2021, while the first unmanned missions are scheduled for late next year.

Utah Scientists Develop Auto-adjusting “Liquid Lenses.”

Med Device Online Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Hodsden) reports that scientists at the University of Utah are developing novel eyeglass technology that can adjust focus based on where the wearer is looking. The “liquid lenses” can also be customized to individual corrective lens prescriptions wirelessly via a smartphone app. Carlos Mastrangelo, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Utah, is quoted saying: “Most people who get reading glasses have to put them on and take them off all the time. … You don’t have to do that anymore. You put these on, and it’s always clear.”

Marines Research Wide Range Of Methods To Defeat Enemy Drones.

The Marine Corps Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Schogol) reports on the US Marine Corps’ development of drone countermeasures, saying that ISIL fighters are already using drones to drop bombs in Iraq. Lt. Col. Dave Sousa of Marine Corps Combat Development Command said in an interview last week that “the goal is to find ways to disrupt the link between the operator and drone…or blasting drones out of the sky,” using “everything from shotguns to water cannons to other kinetic means.”

SpaceX Hyperloop Trials Grounded Before Testing Began.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Chan) reports SpaceX’s program at creating a feasible Hyperloop transport system is facing difficulty. During a weekend competition at SpaceX Headquarters, the one mile test track had to be shut down before students were able to conduct test runs on the track. Three teams scored high enough on initial tests to run their pods on the track– Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Delft University in the Netherlands and Technical University of Munich, Germany.

Virginia Tech Finishes Fourth In Hyperloop Competition.

The Roanoke (VA) Star-Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/30) reported Virginia Tech’s Hyperloop team placed fourth out of 27 in the international SpaceX Hyperloop I Competition. The team was the highest placing team of undergrads. “Just having the opportunity to put a pod in a Hyperloop tube and see what happens in a real environment allows us to take home a lot of data that will be beneficial as we modify our pod for the next competition,” said Shayan Malik, the team lead.


US Tech Companies Worry About H-1B Changes.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, JESDANUN) reports US tech companies are worried the new H-1B visa bill will impact their ability to bring in “programmers and other specialized workers from other countries” but says that critics have alleged the program “mostly benefits consulting firms that let tech companies contract out their jobs to save money.” The article examines the H-1B program and how the changes will impact large consulting firms.

Global Developments

New H-1B Bill Raises Concerns In India.

BBC News (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31) reports on rising concerns in India of the impact of a new US bill that would double the minimum salary of H-1B workers on the country’s IT industry. The bill raises the minimum salary from $60,000 to $130,000. In a statement, India’s foreign ministry said, “India’s interests and concerns have been conveyed both to the US administration and the US Congress at senior levels.” An Indian IT official, Shivendra Singh, also said, “The new bill does not treat all IT companies with H-1B visa holders equally.”

Industry News

Air Force Considering Use Of Commercial Technology For Satellites.

Defense Systems Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Osborn) reports that with the Air Force’s current generation of Wideband Global Satellites (WGS) set to end their service life in coming decades, the service “has embarked upon a formal Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) to determine a path” for the program, which, according to officials, “could result in wider use of existing commercial technologies or an effort to engineer and build a new dedicated constellation of satellites.” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Annmarie Annicelli said, “We look forward to working with our industry and international partners over the course of the AoA to determine the best mix of military and commercial SATCOM.” Annicilli noted that part of the Air Force’s deliberations center on addressing the increasing prevalence of anti-satellite technology developed by countries like China.

Engineering and Public Policy

Lawmakers: Army Corps To Grant Dakota Access Pipeline Easement Permit.

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Snider) reports Rep. Kevin Cramer and Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota said yesterday the Administration was preparing to act on an executive order President Trump signed last week ordering the Army to swiftly “review and approve” permits necessary for the Dakota Access oil pipeline’s completion. In his statement, Cramer announced the Pentagon would soon alert Congress that the Army Corps of Engineers was granting an easement to allow the pipeline’s passage below Lake Oahe. Hoeven, similarly said the Army Corps of Engineers was directed “to proceed with the easement.”

Hoeven also said that in a prior conversation with acting Army Secretary Robert Speer, who directed the easement’s approval, he learned the Army Corps of Engineers was expected to grant the easement permit “in days, not weeks,” Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (2/1, Natter) reports. Cramer, meanwhile, praised Trump for having “proven to be a man of action,” adding that he is “grateful for his commitment to this.” The delay of the permit’s approval was the final obstacle preventing Energy Transfer Partners LP from finishing construction on the $3.8 billion crude line, and follows “months of protests” by environmental activists and local Native Americans.

US Must Allocate New Funds To Infrastructure Repairs, Research Says.

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Schoen) reports that the American Society of Civil Engineers’ latest “report card” on US infrastructure found that “over the next decade, it would cost more than $3.3 trillion to keep up with repairs and replacements” for the country’s entire infrastructure system. However, the group found that “based on current funding levels, the nation will come up more than $1.4 trillion short…unless new funds are allocated.” The article also notes that “an analysis by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program” indicates that “aside from heading off the economic impact of crumbling infrastructure, public investment in new roads and other public projects has helped support creation of relatively well-paying jobs.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Texas Committee Will Vote On Controversial Science Texts.

High school science curriculum that may be “dumbing down” students was debated in a public forum held by the State Board of Education Tuesday, the Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Swaby) reports. Amid efforts to streamline standards were “controversial recommendations” to question evolutionary science, one of which committee member and teacher Ray Bohlin said would not require teachers to include information that challenges evolutionary theory. Board members were encouraged by educators to consider the committee’s stance on amendments before the final vote in April. The Tulsa (OK) World Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, AP) reports the Board of Education will review the requirement that encourages high school students to “scrutinize” all aspects of scientific theory. Some educators at the public hearing state the requirement “water[s] down lessons on evolution” and “leave[s] students wondering whether God created the universe,” while others told the board that amending the regulations could detract from independent thought.

Illinois District To Build Greenhouse For “Real-World” STEM Experience Thanks To Grants.

According to the Quincy (IL) Herald-Whig Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Husar), the Payson School District will begin construction on a greenhouse within a month, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund-sponsored America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education that precipitated a matching grant from area agribusinesses. The project will fulfill Payson agriculture teacher Brandon Smith’s five-year goal two years ahead of schedule and allow the districts’ students to gain “real-world experience” in STEM classes. Future fundraising initiatives are planned.

BMW STEM Grant Is “Game-Changer” To South Carolina Middle Schools.

BMW Manufacturing will supply Cherokee County middle schools with $300,000 to fund the Project Lead the Way career training initiative, Columbia (SC) State Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31, Fox) reports. Cherokee County will join two other counties which already provide the ‘ transformative’ STEM program, as Superintendent Quincie Moore called it, through BMW and Boeing partnerships. BMW Manufacturing communications manager Sky Foster explained the need for programs in middle schools as ‘the place where students begin to develop a passion for determining career aspirations.’ Moore dubbed the program a ‘game-changer for economic development’ in the community.

STEM Games Get Students “Thinking Outside The Box.”

A class STEM project produced by Johnston Elementary School fourth-grade students featured a teamwork-based engineering and technology game to get students ‘thinking outside the box,’ teacher Terri Downing told WLOS-TV Share
to FacebookShare to Twitter Asheville, NC (1/31, Watford).

Kids’ STEM Exhibition Features Environment, Lego Robotics.

The Chicago Daily Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/31) reports a partnership between Fox Valley Robotics/Batavia Robotics, Fermilab and For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) will launch its fifth annual FIRST LEGO League Jr season. Teams of children aged six to 10 can compete in the “Creature Craze”-themed exhibition by submitting posters and projects to showcase their research on how bees impact their habitats. The FIRST Lego League Jr will introduce children to “basic design skills and a hands-on approach to science and technology” through LEGO building projects. Both events take place on Saturday, February 4, and are hosted by the nonprofits Batavia Robotics and Fox Valley Robotics.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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