Leading the News
Tech Workers Say H-1B Visa Program Benefits Outsourcing Companies.
The New York Times (2/5, Wakabayashi, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) reports that while tech companies “depend on the 85,000 foreign workers allowed into the United States annually under the H-1B visa program,” and companies “like Microsoft and Google have pressed for increases in the annual quotas, saying there are not enough Americans with the skills they need,” for tech workers, “the program has had very negative consequences.” Critics of the program say “the system provides a way for American companies to turn over technology departments to outsourcing companies” which “are gaming the system to snap up the visas so they can replace American workers with less expensive, temporary staff members.” Supporters of the system, however, “argue that it is an important vehicle to attract top talent to America.”
The Wall Street Journal (2/5, Gallagher, Subscription Publication) reports tech companies may be able to make a strong case for H-1B reform as the rationale for reform is economics.
ASEE Worries Immigration Ban May ‘Dampen’ Education.
Engineering News-Record (2/4) reports colleges with heavy engineering and technology focuses have felt “a significant impact” following the immigration executive order put forth by President Trump. According to the American Society for Engineering Education, “the majority of engineering graduate students are foreign born, as are a significant number of undergraduates and faculty,” highlighting the society’s concern for the “thousands of engineering and engineering technology students and faculty members” who are facing “personal hardship and anxiety.” The group also stated that “an atmosphere of uncertainty for international faculty and students” could create a negative impact on the US’ “ability to attract the best talent.”
Springfield Schools To Narrow Achievement Gap, Increase Minority Enrollment In APs.
The Springfield (IL) State Journal-Register (2/4, Nevel) writes that the Springfield District will take part in a statewide initiative partnered with the nonprofit Equal Opportunity Schools to enroll low-income and minority students in advanced placement courses in order to narrow the achievement gap. Some measures to support the effort include enrolling students in “AP feeder courses” to prepare them, identifying AP courses that align with career interests, dual-credit courses (which do not require students to take a national exam); and encouraging students enrolled in AP classes to actually take the national exams, which can be cost-prohibitive at $93 for each subject.
NYTimes: Student Loan Servicers Eager To See CFPB Brought Down.
The New York Times (2/4, Subscription Publication) editorializes that student loan companies working with the Federal government to collect payments “are eager to see the Trump administration cripple the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has primary authority over the industry.” The Times says if the CFPB is brought down, 42 million Federal student loan borrowers will be “at the mercy of loan servicing companies that are already driving up repayment costs and pushing people toward default.” The Times notes that a lawsuit leveled against loan servicer Navient in Washington and Illinois highlights the scope of this problem.
WPost: Congress, Trump Should Update Higher Education Act.
In an editorial, the Washington Post (2/5) calls on Congress and the Trump Administration to update the Higher Education Act, “lest widespread dissatisfaction with higher-ed — especially with the financial challenges of securing an undergraduate degree — deepen.”
Head Of Kansas BOE Urges Governor To Restore Higher Education Funding.
The AP (2/5) reports Kansas Board of Regents president and chief executive Blake Flanders recently disclosed that over the past three years, regents-governed higher education institutions lost a total $75 million in state funding. The regents have also indicated that general funding for universities dropped from a little over 40 percent of total funding in 1999 to just over 20 percent, but funding from tuition increased from 15 percent to 30 percent. Flanders urged Gov. Sam Brownback to restore state funding for higher education as a “structural way to keep costs down for students and parents.” The AP notes that Flanders’ remarks came as Cowley County Community College announced its plans to develop and offer a $15,000 four-year college degree.
Iowa Community College Launches Virtual Reality Development Academy.
The Washington Times (2/5, Dewitt) reports Eastern Iowa Community Colleges’ launched its EON Innovation Academy this year. Fourteen program participants will receive instruction on virtual and augmented reality content and software application development, which “will ultimately change how employees train, students learn and products are designed.” Eastern Iowa’s workforce and economic development vice chancellor, Ellen Kabat-Lensch, noted that the academy will introduce a new skill set to the predominately-manufacturing Quad Cities region. She predicted the academy to grow into “one of our signature programs” and added that the skills are applicable to nearly every industry. Eastern Iowa’s IT Department coordinator, James Noord, commented, “The Quad-Cities could become the Silicon Prairie” as the virtual market develops. Only three other US cities–Dallas, New York City, and Tulsa–host an EON Innovation Center.
Research and Development
Tech Analyst: Bezel-less Screens, AI Are Phones Of Future.
Digital Trends (2/4, Boxall) tech analyst Andy Boxall said the Xiaomi Mi Mix and the Honor Magic are “two concept-style phones that are way ahead of their time” and are “genuine examples of next-generation phone tech that you can buy today.” Specifically, Boxall noted, the Xiaomi Mi Mix has “a 6.4-inch, almost bezel-less touchscreen inside a phone that’s no bigger than the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus. There’s no speaker and no proximity sensor to breakup the expanse, making it look totally unique….The specially engineered screen curves at the corners, hides a speaker system that is ‘heard’ through the glass itself, and embeds a sonar-like ultrasonic proximity sensor under the glass.” Separately, the Honor Magic is a lozenge-shaped smartphone with highly advanced AI that is integrated within the operating system. Boxall projects the new Apple and Samsung models will incorporate similar features from both concepts.
Boeing Starliner Space Taxi To Use 600 3D-Printed Parts.
Reuters (2/3, Scott) reported that The Boeing Company has contracted Oxford Performance Materials “to make about 600 3D-printed parts for its Starliner space taxis.” The first shipments have already been completed. Part of wider “strategic bets” on printed plastics, the move underscores confidence that they “can perform flawlessly even under the extreme stress of a rocket launch and sub-zero temperatures of space,” and means that “key components in the United States manned space program are being built with additive manufacturing.” Leo Christodoulou, director of structures and materials engineering at Boeing, said that the parts are a “significant fraction of the Starliner,” and that they take “out a lot of cost.” Oxford previously worked with NASA and Northrop Grumman to demonstrate the aerospace applications of its products.
Critics Say Minnesota’s Proposed R&D Tax Credit Expansion Lacks Transparency.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (2/4, Bjorhus) reports that the Minnesota legislature is considering several bills that would expand the state’s research and development incentives for corporations. “The corporate R&D tax credit is popular with executives in the high-tech and medical device industries, who say it helps Minnesota compete with other states. But some leaders in the small-business community say it’s tilted in favor of big corporations and against small entrepreneurs,” the Start Tribune reports. Critics says the credit, which cost the state $64.8 million in revenue last year, lacks transparency, making it impossible to judge the program’s effectiveness.
Use Of Robots Could Revive US Manufacturing.
The CBS Weekend News (2/5, story 6, 2:15, Quijano) reported on the use of robots in US factories. Correspondent Mark Strassmann called their use a “new model that could allow American manufacturing to ride high again.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Decreasing Costs To Push Utilities Into More Solar Power Generation.
The AP (2/4, Dalesio) reports that while “solar power represents just about 1 percent of” US electricity generation, its share “could grow substantially as major electric utilities move into smaller-scale solar farming.” Decreasing costs, combined with the threat of homeowners installing their own solar panels, have pushed utilities to adopt “community solar” models for power generation. According to the Department of Energy, “wind and solar were expected to account for about two-thirds of the new electricity generation capacity added to the nation’s power grid in 2016, outpacing fossil fuel expansion for a third straight year.”
In Los Angeles, Thousands Protest Trump’s Order On Pipelines.
The AP (2/5) reports that demonstrators marched in Los Angeles Sunday to protest President Trump’s “executive order fast-tracking the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines.” According to the Los Angeles Times (2/5, Khan), thousands of people joined the protest which organizers said was “first anti-pipeline protest” in the city since Trump’s executive order.
Businesses, Executives Share Opposition To Trump Immigration Order.
The Wall Street Journal (2/4, Reporter, Subscription Publication) reports Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Saturday tweeted that steered a conversation between President Trump and senior White House executives to the issue of the Administration’s travel restrictions. He wrote , “At my request, the agenda for yesterday’s White House meeting went from not mentioning the travel ban to having it be first and foremost.” The Journal indicates the tweet appears to be an attempt by Musk to justify his attendance at a meeting of the President’s economic advisory council.
The New York Times (2/4, Belson, Subscription Publication) reports Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan on Saturday expressed his opposition to President Trump’s immigration order and indicated “he was heartened on Friday when a federal judge in Seattle temporarily blocked the president’s immigration order.” He said, “The bedrock of this country are immigration and really a great separation between church and state.” The Times notes he is the only Muslim owner of an NFL team and that he came to the US from Pakistan in 1967, earning an engineering degree and going on to start a multibillion-dollar car parts business.
Atlanta Plans To Use UAVs For Airport Expansion Project.
Engadget (2/5, Fingas) reports the city of Atlanta is partnering with UAV manufacturer 3DR, software company Autodesk, and engineering firm Atkins to use UAVs to map Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as part of a proposed expansion project. According to Engadget, the UAVs will be used to capture 2D mosaics and 3D point scans to create maps and models that will help them demolish old locations and aid in the plans for their replacements. Engadget adds that the UAVs were approved by the FAA, who “demanded that the [UAV] operators stay in constant contact with air traffic control and submit to controllers’ authority.”
Prospects For Onshore Wind In Massachusetts.
Jill Terreri writes in a column for the Boston Globe (2/3) that on the prospects for onshore wind in Massachusetts where local acceptance “can be unpredictable.” The fate of onshore turbines can depend on “whether a municipality feels ownership of the initiative and believes the turbines benefit residents” and “whether they work properly and where they are placed in relation to where people live.” Terreri writes that growth in onshore wind in the state has generally slowed, though offshore wind may be boosted by a state renewable energy mandate.
Salt Lake City Unveils Plan To Expand Rooftop Solar.
Drawing form The Deseret News, the AP (2/3) reports that Salt Lake City has unveiled a 10-year plan to continue Utah’s solar energy adoption. “According to the Wasatch Solar Team there were only 76 rooftop solar installations in 2006 in Utah. By 2016, several thousand households were producing an estimated 140 megawatts of solar energy.”
Opinion: US STEM High Schools Need Infrastructure Funding.
Larry Cary, president of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Association, opines in the New York Post (2/4) that if President Trump wants Americans to get the high-tech jobs that are currently going to foreigners, “he needs to invest significant federal dollars to support educational programs in science, technology, engineering and math.” Cary believes US high schools “can and must do a better job of preparing students for the STEM sector, the first step in a pipeline running through college and into industry.” He points to his alma mater, Brooklyn Technical High School, the nation’s largest high school, as an example of a school that has graduated Nobel laureates and other global leaders, but now the school’s 80-year building “has not been kept in good repair.” Cary concludes that the Trump Administration should “devote an appropriate share of its planned infrastructure budget to upgrading STEM high schools and the education they provide.”
Ohio Middle Schoolers Participate In MathCounts Competition.
WLIO-TV Lima, OH (2/4) reported on its website that approximately 70 Ohio middle school students participated in the MathCounts competition Saturday morning. According to the article, the competition “challenges middle schoolers across the country to put their math skills to the test,” but the event Saturday “was just at the local level.” The event has “been put on for the last 34 years by the National Society of Professional Engineers.” Kirk Slusher, MathCounts Coordinator for the Lima Society of Professional Engineers, said, “When we look at what’s going to happen in the future, we’re not a brick-and-mortar society anymore, we’re technology driven and we need to develop our young people to think and understand STEM subjects.”
Statoil Creates Fellowship Program For STEM Educators.
The AP (2/5, Krause) reports that Statoil is partnering with the Northwest North Dakota Community Foundation for a new K-12 program that is designed to help educators continue their investment in STEM fields. Statoil is giving $50,000 to create the Statoil STEM Education Fellowship program, in which educators will receive funds to pursue “self-designed professional learning experiences.” Statoil Bakken Regional Manager Kent Evans said, “It’s been good to work for a company like Statoil that sees STEM as being a large part of sustainability for the oil field but for all industries within the Williston Basin. … Communities are a big part of who Statoil is. We believe investing into educators will pay dividends for students, schools, communities and everyone involved.”
All-Girls Robotics Team Hopes To Win North Texas Lego Competition.
The Plano (TX) Star-Courier (2/4, Samuels) reports that the North Texas FIRST Lego League will host its ninth annual Regional Championship Robotics Tournament Saturday with an “Animal Allies” theme to “inspire minds through nature and science,” said Perot Museum interim vice president of learning and engagement Teresa Lenling. Eight Plano teams will reportedly compete, including an all-girls team, the Robomonkeys, who hope to be the first girls team to win the competition and progress to the World Festival in Houston.
Will County, IL School Launches STEM Club.
According to the Will County (IL) Herald News (2/5), the Elizabeth Eichelberger Elementary School in Plainfield, Illinois launched a STEM club November 28, an opportunity for students in all grades to learn about engineering through age-appropriate activities.
FL Lawmakers Consider Making Coding Count For Foreign Lang. Req.
The Miami (FL) Herald (2/5, Clark) reports that Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow two coding classes to count for two foreign language credits. Some, such as Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Disney, think it will prepare students for in-demand jobs, while others, like multilingual robotics engineer Elizabeth De Zulueta and Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, think each discipline has individual merit. One caveat is that while public Florida universities would begin accepting the credits as equivalent, students applying to private and out-of-state schools may unknowingly reduce their scholarship and admission chances by studying coding and not a foreign language.
Southwest Florida Students Study Weather Patterns, Burritos For Science Fair.
According to the Fort Myers (FL) News-Press (2/4, Dulaney), 700 students from across southwest Florida’s Lee and Charlotte counties displayed their ideas, invention, s and projects at the annual Thomas Alva Edison Kiwanis Science & Inventors Fair at FGCU’s Alico Arena Saturday. Some projects include: a wind-powered cell charger; an ocean trash collector; an air-conditioned suit; a burrito holder; a study on the relationship between wind and temperature shifts; and a hydro energy weight system. Said the fair’s director Gary Nelson, “It’s wonderful to see young minds turned on to new ideas. And they want to not only want help themselves, but help each other, help their families, help the environment.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Universities, Cities To Join $28 Million Project Studying Driverless Technology.
• Alumni Donate $4.5 Million To University Of Detroit Mercy.
• Continuing Coverage: Apple Joins Amazon, Google, Facebook In AI Research Effort.
• Naval Operations Delegation Visits NSWC.
• World’s First 3D-Printed Bridge Unveiled In Madrid.
• Electric Car Growth Could Overwhelm Oil Market.
• US Officials Ask Judge To Lift Hold On Yellowstone Dam.