Leading the News
Xiaomi Unveils First In-House Developed Chip.
Reuters (2/28) reports Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi has debuted “its first in-house designed chipset,” the Surge S1, from wholly-owned subsidiary Beijing Pinecone Electronics, “as it works to streamline production, lower prices, and gain greater control over handset design to counter the impact of slowing sales.” Reuters reports Xiaomi hopes the self-made chipset, and “a number of projects,” will attract customers to its ecosystem of offerings. Xiaomi also says “its tests showed the Surge S1 outperformed Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625, a chipset used in a wide range of smartphones including Xiaomi’s Redmi series.”
CNET News (2/28, Low) reports that the chip could indeed “cut product costs in the long run as well as intrigue customers who want something different.” The article notes that the move brings Xiaomi into a “small but noteworthy group” of companies that build their own chips, consisting of Samsung, Apple, and Huawei. The Surge 1 will make its debut in the Xiaomi Mi 5C smartphone, but the chip also has “the potential at some point to factor into the company’s broader efforts in the internet of things,” according to Bryan Ma, vice president of client devices research at IDC.
A headline from Fortune (2/28, cendrowski) asserts that Xiaomi’s move to self-manufacture its chipsets “Won’t Save the Company,” which the article explains would “be at a far lower valuation” today than its 2014 $45 billion dollar valuation as the company faced “flat” revenue in 2015 and smartphone shipments in 2016 that “were so disappointing the company chose not to release figures about them.” Fortune also says the company’s drive into smart home products “looks disappointing if not doomed.” The recent departure of “one of its best-known employees, Hugo Barra, for Facebook” is also noted. The article says that despite the benefits of strong processors and self-manufacturing them, “they don’t by themselves drive sales of smartphones.” It’s also suggested that “In releasing its processor now, Xiaomi may be too late to win over new fans with the better performance of its smartphones,” especially after the 42% decline of its share in China’s market in the third quarter, which knocked the company to “fourth overall, behind Oppo, Vivo, and Huawei.”
Florida Atlantic University Receives Grant To Encourage STEM Graduate Study Enrollment.
The South Florida Business Journal (2/28, Subscription Publication) reports the National Science Foundation granted Florida Atlantic University’s Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering, or I-SENSE, with a $339,984 grant. I-SENSE will use the award to fund “meaningful research activities” in its “Research Experience for Graduates” initiative, through which it encourages undergraduate students to pursue graduate studies in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
University Of Hawaii Invites Undergraduate Students To Apply For S-STEM Program.
Hawaii 24/7 (2/28) publishes a press release issued by the University of Hawai`i at Hilo in which the institution announced it is accepting applications for its Scholarships for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or S-STEM, program for the 2017-18 academic year. The National Science Foundation-supported S-STEM program “provides support to students from economically disadvantaged families who are academically talented and motivated to complete STEM degrees.” Undergraduate students admitted to the program will receive up to $5,000 per year, or up to $20,000 for four years, in scholarships.
University Of Utah Researchers Rely On Federal Grants, Worry Trump May Cut Them.
The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (2/28, Stuckey) reports researchers at the University of Utah rely on the National Institutes of Health for much of their funding, and some are concerned that the level of NIH funding received by university researchers could decline under the Trump Administration. The article points out that the NIH has awarded about $744 million in funding to the University of Utah for various scientific research projects over the past five years.
Trump Signs Executive Order Shifting Assistance For HBCUs To White House.
The AP (2/28, Whack) reports that President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday “aimed at signaling his commitment to historically black colleges and universities, saying that those schools will be ‘an absolute priority for this White House.’” HBCU leaders “are hoping Congress will bolster Trump’s actions to strengthen the schools with dramatically increased funding in the upcoming federal budget,” and are “calling for $25 billion for infrastructure, college readiness, financial aid and other priorities.”
Explaining that the order moves the White House Initiative on Historically Black Universities and Colleges from ED to the White House, the Washington Post (2/28, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that “HBCU leaders said they were cautiously optimistic about the shift. They are eager for the government to raise its investment in their schools but wary of promises devoid of action.” Trump’s order does not contain “any commitment of federal dollars to bolster support for HBCUs.” USA Today (2/28, Toppo) reports that the order “moves assistance to the 100 schools from the US Education Department to the White House.” The Washington Times (2/28, Boyer) also has a report.
Automakers Seeking Fresh Talent To Work On Technological Issues.
The Detroit News (2/28, Thibodeau) reports that automakers like Ford are seeking “fresh ideas as they expand into the technology and mobility fields in their pursuit of driverless cars,” and this means that “they’ve had to look for talent in new places.” There is a trend towards hiring “engineers with strong backgrounds in technology” rather than “the electrical and mechanical specialists who have dominated the automotive industry.” Talascend President Jason Dawson, whose recruiting company “works closely with General Motors,” says the auto industry today is looking for “new, innovative thinking.”
Mumbai UAV Ban Impeding Engineering Students’ Projects.
The Times of India (3/1) reports that Mumbai’s “strict ban” on UAV flight has stalled multiple UAV projects developed by engineering students at the city’s leading institutes. Some colleges have petitioned the Indian Academy of Model Aeronautics (IAMA) to intervene on behalf of the students, who “are in a bind” trying to prepare for competitions. For example, students from Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute “hope to participate” in a competition organized by AIAA to be held in Arizona in April, and “said the curbs were a hindrance to their chances.”
Mumbai Start-Up Uses Solar Energy To Preserve Seasonal Produce, Tackle Undernourishment.
The Hindustan Times (IND) (3/1) reports that S4S Technologies (Science for Society) “provided solar conduction dryers, which dehydrate vegetables and fruits, to 230 rural women in 17 of Maharashtra’s villages.” Another group “comprising 200 women from villages in Thane and Aurangabad – called the control group – were not provided with the dryers.” Investigators eventually learned that vegetables “ready to be consumed during the lean season increased the Dietary Diversity Score…in the experimental group by 37% more than the control group.” The “two-year project” was “supported by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (Department of Biotechnology), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID.”
Female Engineer Accuses Tesla Of Ignoring Complaints Of “Pervasive Harassment.”
Silicon Beat (CA) (2/28) reports AJ Vandermeyden, a female engineer at Tesla, filed a sexual-discrimination lawsuit against her employer last fall. She accused Tesla of ignoring her complaints of “pervasive harassment” that included “inappropriate language, whistling and catcalls” on the factory floor. She also accused the company of retaliating against her for reporting the sexual harassment allegations, denying her overtime pay, rest, and meal breaks, and of again retaliating when she voiced concerns about the sale of products she believed were in “a defective state.” Vandermeyden publicly disclosed her lawsuit against Tesla in an interview with The Guardian (2/28, Levin, California).
Mashable (2/28) reports Vandermeyden’s decision to publicly discuss her allegations came soon after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti disclosed similar allegations against her own employer. Rigetti’s account of workplace sexism prompted “action from Uber” and encouraged “more women in Silicon Valley to share their own stories.” Vandermeyden, meanwhile, told The Guardian, “Until somebody stands up, nothing is going to change.” On Monday, a separate Tesla employer told Mashable, “There’s definitely more of a culture of fear here,” and “just comparing to what I know and hear versus Google, Facebook, Uber, we seem less transparent.”
Airbus Names New Head Of Engineering For Commercial Aircraft.
Reuters (2/28) reports that on Tuesday, Airbus announced that Jean-Brice Dumont will replace Charles Champion as head of engineering for the company’s commercial aircraft division at the end of the year. Dumont is currently head of engineering at Airbus Helicopters, and will assume the new position – “one of the key posts” within the company – in December when Champion retires. While Champion had already announced his retirement, “industry sources have said he had clashed” with Airbus CTO Paul Eremenko, and “there were doubts over how long Champion would stay…after Eremenko’s arrival.” Aviation Week (2/28) reports that the “appointment sets in motion a series of management changes that require Airbus to find a new head of the A380 program,” as current chief Alain Flourens has been named to succeed Dumont.
Engineering and Public Policy
Trump Reverses Obama-Era Water Protection Rule.
The Los Angeles Times (2/28, Halper) reports that President Trump “stepped up his attack on federal environmental protections” with an order “directing his administration to begin the long process of rolling back sweeping clean water rules that were enacted by his predecessor.” The order “takes aim at one of President Obama’s signature environmental legacies, a far-reaching anti-pollution effort that expanded the authority of regulators over the nation’s waterways.”
The Washington Times (2/28, Wolfgang) adopts a softer tone, saying the rule, which “gave the federal government wide authority over small bodies of water” across the US, “was highly controversial when it was unveiled in May 2015,” with critics calling it a “power grab” – a phrase the President used in signing the order on Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal (2/28, Subscription Publication) says in an editorial that the Obama-era rule was illegal, and that Trump was right to reverse it.
Trump Administration Expected To Sign Executive Order Rolling Back Clean Power Plan.
Bloomberg BNA (3/1, Childers) reports that President Trump is expected to sign an executive order this week directing the EPA to “walk back” the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Efforts to repeal the plan are sure to invite legal challenges, however, it is a “first shot in a broader effort to undo the Obama administration’s efforts to address climate change.” Attorneys say that Pruitt’s EPA could embrace “less onerous carbon dioxide standards on the power industry” to help stymie environmentalists’ legal challenges to any attempted rollback.
Crews Working To Bring Oroville Dam’s Power Plant Back Online By Thursday.
The Sacramento (CA) Bee (2/28, Sabalo) reports workers have begun clearing debris from the Oroville Dam’s fractured spillway on Monday to allow engineers to begin bringing the dam’s power plant back online. Debris at the base of the damaged spillway had “raised the channel levels to the point that the dam’s hydroelectric plant can’t function.” Crews are reattaching transmission lines and could bring at least one turbine back online by Thursday. When fully operational, the plant’s outflow can offset the inflow expected when snowpack begins melting in the next few weeks.
Climate Change Likely To Bring More Flooding To California. NPR (2/28) reports that the Oroville Dam incident is, for some, “a wake-up call” as climate change could bring more flooding to California. Follow drought, winter storms “have stressed thousands of miles of rivers and levees,” and Stanford University’s Noah Diffenbaugh says the state is likely to see more extreme flooding with climate change. Diffenbaugh says, “Our water system was really built in an old climate,” that is “no longer the climate of California.” NPR noes that California is “experimenting with spreading floodwater onto fields where it can seep into the groundwater.”
The New York Times (2/28, Fountain, Subscription Publication) reports similarly that Oroville Dam episode was a reminder of the pressures on the state’s 1,400 dams of various sizes. Dam operators follow specific state and federal rules on releasing water, which require leaving room for anticipated storms. but “critics say the system is not flexible enough.” FERC sets rules on water releases for hydroelectric dams for several decades as part of licensing requirements, and “even nonhydropower dams have rules that are based on more static conditions.”
Construction Begins On Oregon’s Largest Solar Plant.
CNBC (2/28) reports construction has commenced on SunPower’s 56-megawatt Gala Solar Power Plant in Oregon, “expected to be the largest operating facility in the state.” SunPower’s Ty Daul said Monday, “We’re pleased to contribute to economic development in Oregon with the construction of this milestone project.” Gov. Kate Brown backs the project.
Maryland House Approves Extension Of Energy-Efficiency Program.
The Baltimore Sun (2/28, Wood) reports that the Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill Tuesday that would extend the state’s 2008 energy efficiency program to continue past 2015 after meeting a 10 percent target. Maryland’s Public Service Commission has asked utilities to lay out plans to invest more in energy efficiency and the bill before the General Assembly would put the PSC’s order into law, ensuring the efficiency program will continue. The state Senate has not yet voted on the measure.
New Mexico Senate Panel Advances Renewable Energy Mandate.
The AP (2/28) reports Democrats on the New Mexico Senate Conservation Committee on Tuesday endorsed a proposal to increase renewable energy quotas for utilities and electric co-ops. Approved in a party-line vote, the measure aims to boost renewables in local power supplies to 80 percent by 2040 for most utilities, and 70 percent for cooperatives.
New Mexico Senate Backs Solar Projects For State Buildings. The AP (2/28) reports the New Mexico state Senate on Monday voted to direct the General Services Department to “pursue contracts with solar providers that save the state money on electricity costs over time with no up-front public investment.” The General Services Department oversees 750 buildings.
Atlanta-Area Nonprofit Introduces Underprivileged Students To STEAM Education.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2/28) reports about 90 underprivileged students from Atlanta-area schools participate in after-school and summer camp programs offered by The Study Hall, which “promotes science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) education to Kindergarten through fifth grade students.” The Study Hall was founded in 1990, and grants from Georgia State University, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, and other organizations largely contributed to its continuous operation. The Study Hall offers tutoring, transportation services, supplemental lessons, and even dinner “all at no charge” to participating students. The curriculum focuses on tangible learning experiences, such as hands-on instruction and field trips, and encourages students to work at their own pace. The Study Hall executive director Jacquetta Watkins said the program includes an arts component because “many of the schools have reduced, if not eliminated, some of the arts access. We want to make sure that arts continue to be a part of their activity.”
All-Girl Group Participates In Minnesota Robotics Expo.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (2/28) reports the Robotics Alley Conference and Expo hosted its “March of the Robots” event on Tuesday evening in downtown Minneapolis. The annual expo is focused on encouraging public and private partnerships in the robotics and automation industries. The St. Paul-based “Rubies and the Ponytail Posse” was “the only lady-centric” team to participate in the “March of Robots” event for teenagers. The girls showcased their 18-cubic-inch robot, dubbed “Stacy,” and “proudly showed how they had used part of a standard dresser drawer to help their mechanical teammate make up-and-down movements.” Minnesota state Sen. Amy Klobuchar told attendees via video conference that robotics technology is expected to transform the economy and workforce, which “resonated as industry professionals spoke about cybersecurity, 3-D printing of the human body, the future of agriculture and self-driving vehicles.”
Lego Announces “Women Of NASA” Minifigures Set.
ABC News (2/28) reports on its website that Lego announced it will introduce a Women of NASA Minifigures set. The set will feature depictions of Katherine Johnson, Sally Ride, Margaret Hamilton, Nancy Grace Roman, and Mae Jemison. A Lego representative said the company hopes the Women of NASA set will motivate girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. The set was inspired by science writer and editor Maia Weinstock, who petitioned Lego to highlight the efforts of prominent women.
Mashable (2/28) reports that in a description of the forthcoming set, Weinstock wrote, “Women have played critical roles throughout the history of the U.S. space program,” but “in many cases, their contributions are unknown or under-appreciated — especially as women have historically struggled to gain acceptance in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” Lego expects to unveil its Women of NASA set in stores at the end of this year.
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Facebook Announces Telecom Partnerships To Expand Connectivity In Africa.
• White House Reaching Out To HBCUs.
• New Mexico State University Launching TechSprint Accelerator.
• Nissan Conducts First Test Of Autonomous Car In Europe.
• Firms Aiming To Profit From Tracking Orbital Debris.
• Amid Planned Science March, Role Of Scientists In Public Policy Debated.
• Columnist Praises Las Vegas’ Increased Focus On CTE Programs.