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

Leading the News

ARM Debuts New Chip Design Aimed At Self-Driving Cars, AI.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Kahn) reports UK-based semiconductor design firm ARM debuted a new chip, dubbed DynamIQ, aimed “at markets ranging from self-driving cars to artificial intelligence.” Softbank-owned ARM hopes the upgrade will help it “compete with chips engineered for neural networks, a promising type of artificial intelligence software,” from rivals including Intel and IBM. The company’s new chip design “is aimed at higher-end IoT applications” requiring “complex computing tasks, such as running AI software, locally while communicating with other devices and remote servers.” According to Bloomberg, DynamIQ chips “can handle up to eight processor cores of varying size on a single chip in almost any configuration” and, “when coupled with special ARM software,” can “perform as much as 50 times better on AI tasks than the existing chips within three to five years.”

According to PC Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Brant), ARM General Manager Nandan Nayampally said during a press briefing Monday, “As systems get more complex, we need to redefine how multiprocessing works. You will not be able to do this purely in the cloud.” PC Magazine offers the following example to illustrate the importance of fast processors as technology advances: conducting “a marathon virtual reality gaming session with [a] Samsung Gear VR” may cause the phone to “overheat and shut down.” While “that equivalent of the blue screen of death might be little more than an inconvenience for gamers,” PC Mag says such a shutdown occurring to a self driving car could have “far more dire” consequences.

Higher Education

Student Loan Servicer Vows Not To Charge Higher Fees Despite ED’s Lifting Of Restrictions.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that Great Lakes Higher Education Corp. announced this week that “its guarantee agency, United Student Aid Funds, will not charge people with past-due student loans high collection fees if they agree to make good on the debt.” The piece notes that the Trump administration last week rescinded guidance from the Obama administration that restricted such fees.

College Leaders, Teachers Push Trump To Keep DACA.

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21) reports that a group of “more than 500 college leaders and 1,200 teachers” have written to President Trump calling on him to say “whether or not he’ll preserve an Obama administration program that protects more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation.” The piece explains that Trump “has apparently softened his stance on repealing Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that protects people brought to the country as children, saying it’s one of the most difficult issues he’s faced in office.”

Finance Sector Offers Graduate Engineering Students Lucrative Career Option.

U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Cates) reports quantitative analysis jobs are expected to grow 12 percent over the next few years in response to increasingly-complex investment portfolios and securities, and the ever-increasing influence of big data on the financial sector. The positions typically “command high salaries” because they demand master’s degrees and a combination of math, computer, and finance skills. Thus, engineering graduate students are uniquely qualified for qualitative analyst positions at banks, hedge funds, and financial technology companies.

Policy Scholar Rejects Community Colleges’ “Second-Class” Reputation.

In guest commentary for Forbes Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Anymore), Nexus Research and Policy Center visiting scholar Dr. Ronald L. Trowbridge recalls that as a University of Michigan student, “the general view was that community colleges were second-class academic institutions, students going there couldn’t get into four-year schools.” University tuition has since skyrocketed and “poor kids just don’t have the money to attend universities,” so they are flocking to community colleges. Trowbridge says he taught freshman English at both the University of Michigan and Lone Star College, a community college, and discovered students’ academic talents were indistinguishable in nearly all aspects. He also reiterates that “excellent professors are ubiquitous throughout the land,” not just “at elite universities.” Trowbridge reiterates that student motivation is the most important aspect, and ambitious “students will excel later in the marketplace wherever they attended college.” He encourages students to take introductory courses at community colleges and then transfer to a university to declare a major.

Prism Podcast
One faculty member has a method for dealing with engineering education’s “dirty” words.

Webinar – Landing a Job in Academia and Industry
Part of ASEE’s early career webinar series, topics include seeking and securing positions in academia and industry. Nadia Kellam (Arizona State University) and Katy Arenschield (Ohio State University) offer tips and techniques to 1) craft resumes and application packages, 2) impress recruiters and interviewers, 3) negotiate with tact, and more! This March 22 webinar is only $5 for ASEE student members. Learn more and register today.

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Research and Development

Clemson Professor Developing Algorithm To Make Clinical Trials Cheaper And More Productive.

The Greenville (SC) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Osby) says Clemson Prof. Amin Khademi is working on an “algorithm that uses an adaptive approach to make trials safer and less costly.” Currently, there are nearly a quarter of a million clinical studies worldwide. Khademi’s goal is to minimize the potential adverse affects of a drug in a trial while maintaining the integrity of the trial itself as well as maximizing the probability of a positive outcome for as many patients as possible. By developing this algorithm, it will be easier to identify which drugs in a trial are likely to be more effective and reducing the chances of ineffective or even harmful treatments.

Pennsylvania Doctor Finalist In XPrize Competition For $9 Million Prize.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Heller) reports Dr. Basil Harris, along with three siblings and three friends, is one of two finalists in the XPrize Competition to design device under five pounds that can properly diagnose whether a person has one of 12 conditions. The device, known as a tricorder, is a inspired by the old television series, “Star Trek” and was used by Dr. Bones McCoy to scan a body. The competition is sponsored by the Qualcomm Foundation and the hope is that the devices can help properly diagnose diseases in underserved areas. Harris’ competition is led by Harvard Medical School Professor C.K. Peng along with 50 other professionals and backed by HTC and the Taiwanese government. In order to ensure that money does not become an issue, the Foundation has already dispersed $1 million to contestant. The winner will be announced on April 12 and has the potential of receiving up to $9 million.

Researchers Test Oil Spill Cleanup Invention Off Alabama Coast.

NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Elliott) reports Worcester Polytechnic Institute researchers conducted the first test of the Flame Refluxer, which is designed to clean oil spills from water, at the US Coast Guard’s Joint Maritime Test Facility on Little Sand Island in Alabama’s Mobile Bay. Fire Protection Engineering Professor Ali Rangwala described the “very simple” invention as a giant Brillo pad of cooper wool in between layers of copper screen, with copper coils on top. Researchers hope the technology makes a hotter, faster, and more complete burn of the spilled oil that results in less pollution than existing methods. NPR says the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has spent $1.5 million to develop the Flame Refluxer.

Fraunhofer Institute Develops Prototype Quad-Sensor Smartphone Camera Module.

Phone Arena Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Nathan) reports the Fraunhofer Institute – which developed the .MP3 format – created a prototype “slide-out camera module that’s thin enough to be included in a reasonably slim smartphone,” while also providing high-quality photos. The prototype includes four image sensors, which are “rotated 90 degrees so they point out of the side of the phone,” and a set of minuscule “mirrors in front of the sensors reflects the image from the front or rear of the phone.” The prototype features auto-focus and optical image stabilization, capturing images at a 20MP resolution. Phone Arena explains that “selling this module to smartphone makers as-is could prove problematic” because it is “very different to what’s currently in use, it requires unorthodox engineering, and it’s probably as power-hungry as four cameras firing at once can be.”

Study Finds Urge To Socialize Dissipates After Limited Interaction With Human-Like Assistants.

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Bowen) yesterday discussed the possibility people will replace relationships with digital devices with new assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant taking off in popularity. One takeaway from the research study found people’s need to socialize or maintain human relationships dissipated after just a few minutes engaging with products featuring “humanlike characteristics.” Mourey noted, “It’s as if the phone replaces the human interaction.” Whether that means that AIs can be a replacement for human-based engagement is less clear. Mourey points out that once individuals were reminded the products were inanimate projects, the isolation feeling returned – suggesting that in the long term, AIs won’t totally supplant the need for social interaction. “It does not mean that you’re replacing your friend Sandy with Siri,” said Mourey.

SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule Returns Two Tons Of ISS Experiment Equipment.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21) reports that on Monday, ISS equipment returned to Earth on Sunday by a SpaceX Dragon capsule was flown from Long Beach to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The cargo contains two tons of equipment for scientific experiments, which will be sent to researchers across the company. Cynthia Bouthot, director of commercial innovation and sponsored programs for the Center of Advancement of Science in Space, which manages the U.S. National Laboratory aboard the ISS, said the variety of experiments “showcases a variety of inquiry that really highlight microgravity and the extreme conditions of space.”

New Paper Reports First-Ever Observation Of Landslide On Comet.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Kaplan) reports that in a paper published Tuesday in the journal Nature Astronomy, researchers detail the first-ever observation of a landslide on a comet, captured by the Rosetta spacecraft in 2015. Astronomer Maurizio Pajola of NASA’s Ames Research Center – who studies Rosetta in his spare time – noticed a glint on an image of the asteroid, which was later determined to be “pristine water ice” revealed by the collapse of dark organic material on a cliff face. In a second paper published in the journal Science, the research team discusses how the comet’s surface changes more dramatically on its closest approaches to the sun.

Engineering and Public Policy

Trump Signs NASA Spending Bill.

President Trump on Tuesday “signed a $19.5 billion bill…to fund NASA programs,” USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Jackson) reports. Trump reaffirmed “what he called a ‘national commitment’ to ‘human space exploration.’” His comments came after his team last week “proposed a budget that would reduce NASA to $19.1 billion for the year after that.” The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Miller) says Trump “put NASA on course for deep space exploration Tuesday, signing a bill that authorizes $19.5 billion in funding to revive the agency’s manned-space flight program and plan missions to Mars and beyond.”

According to the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Kaplan), the bill, which is “the first such authorization bill for the space agency in seven years.,” is “more or less” in alignment “with the budget blueprint Trump laid out last week.”

Shah: Federal R&D Responsible For Significant Achievements In Energy-Saving Innovations.

In an op-ed in Fortune, Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Shah) Tarak Shah former chief of staff for science and energy at US Department of Energy from 2014 to 2017, discusses the achievements in innovation that are a result of federally funded research and development. “Every major appliance in your house, the vehicle in your garage, and the widgets in factories across the country are more energy efficient because of DOE-funded work at the National Labs, universities, and in the private sector,” according to Shah. Moreover, through improvements in energy efficiency and renewable energy use, “the DOE is generating huge taxpayer savings on our energy bills.” For example, Shah notes that federal research and developments efforts created LED light bulbs, which now “cost $2 and use 10 times less energy and last 20 times longer than a standard 60-watt bulb,” and that “the savings to consumers from just this one technology – $24 billion – dwarfs the amount spent on all R&D at DOE.” Shah concludes by urging Congress to support energy innovation by protecting federal research and development from the Trump budget cuts.

Clean Line Energy Makes Second Bid For Grain Belt Express Approval.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Subscription Publication) reports that “for the second time in three years,” Clean Line Energy Partners is attempting to gain approval from Missouri regulators for its $2.8 billion Grain Belt Express transmission line. The Missouri Public Service Commission previously voted 3-2 to deny the project, “saying the company hadn’t established a need for it,” despite the fact that several other states had already approved the project. Mark Lawlor, director of development for the Grain Belt Express project, said the group has addressed “every single one of the issues they raised,” but that if PSC denies the project again, it will probably be the group’s last application to the commission.

Montana Lawmakers Scrambling To Save Colstrip Coal Plant From Early Closure.

ClimateWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Subscription Publication) reports that Montana lawmakers are scrambling to react threats from the owners of the Colstrip Generating Station to pull out of Units 1 and 2 before the 2022 retirement. The owner, Talen Energy Corp., says it is losing “tens of millions” by staying online. Meanwhile, Montana lawmakers say that closing the coal-fired plant could cost jobs and send electric bills soaring. There are now 12 bills being considered by lawmakers in Helena regarding the fate of the plant, including one proposal requiring the plant’s owners to “pick up the tab on declining property values, municipal revenues and workforce training.” A proposal put forth by House Speaker Austin Knudsen (R) would loan one of the plant’s owners up to $10 million annually for the next five years from the state’s $1 billion coal tax trust fund. Knudsen said keeping the plant open is critical, as, “This is an extraordinary circumstance. We’ve got a town that is literally on the brink here.”

Major Companies Join With Green Advocates In Plea To Save Energy Star Program.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Cama) reports that “dozens of companies and organizations,” including big names such as 3M, Johnson Controls Inc., Philips Lighting and Intel, have joined with environmental organizations to ask Congress to save the Energy Star program from President Trump’s proposed budget cuts. “This voluntary partnership program…helps businesses, state and local governments, non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, homeowners, and consumers save money by investing in energy efficiency,” the companies wrote in a letter to congressional appropriators on Tuesday. The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Siciliano) reports that proponents of the Energy Star program say it has “saved Americans $430 billion since it was created 25 years ago, while having an operating budget of $50 million per year.”

US Solar Policy Must Adjust To Global Realities To Succeed.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21, Ball, Reicher, Subscription Publication) Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford, and Jeffrey Ball, scholar in residence, write that “the time has arrived” for the United States to adopt a “more-enlightened” policy approach to solar energy which would seek to “continue slashing solar power’s costs — not to prop up types of American solar manufacturing that can’t compete globally.” Referring to U.S. competition with China in the solar energy industry, the authors urge the U.S. to “focus American solar subsidies more on research and development and deployment,” while acknowledging China has a comparative advantage in manufacturing.

Maine Solar Rules Challenged By Environmental, Pro-solar Groups.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/21) reports “pro-solar groups and businesses have filed a petition” asking Maine’s “utility regulators to reconsider new solar rules.” This year the Maine Public Utilities Commission “tweaked its ‘net metering’ policies that give homeowners electricity bill credits for excess solar energy produced.” The commission “approved gradually reducing some credits for homeowners who install solar systems in 2018 or later.” The AP adds “residents who have solar panels before 2018 will receive credits at the full retail rate for 15 years.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Federal, State Officials Increase Focus On K-12 Cybersecurity Education.

Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/22, Herold) reports “a stead drumbeat of reports” addressing cybersecurity issues prompted “new attention for nascent efforts to support cybersecurity education, including in K-12 schools.” President Trump was expected to sign an executive order that would direct several Federal agencies to review the nation’s cybersecurity education endeavors and recommend improvements, but he placed the order on hold. A later draft of the order “eliminated altogether the provision related to education and workforce development.” ED and several other departments support cybersecurity education and workforce-training initiatives, and leaders at the state level “have also pushed forward their own cybersecurity initiatives.” Meanwhile, the Cyber Innovation Center launched in 2007, and its founders established the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center because they “quickly realized” that their efforts to prepare a cybersecurity workforce “would ultimately depend on K-12 schools.” Seventeen states have thus far approved the center’s curricular materials; however, “the scale and quality of K-12 cybersecurity education remains spotty.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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