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Leading the News

Ivanka Trump, DeVos Promote Girls In STEM At “Hidden Figures” Screening.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Heil) reports that Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos attended an event at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum to promote STEM education for girls. They introduced a screening of “Hidden Figures,” a movie “about three African American women who were NASA mathematicians in the early years of the space program.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Danilova) reports Trump and DeVos “on Tuesday exhorted young girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, saying those fields will provide the jobs and innovation for the future.” The AP notes that the event with local middle school students “came as the Trump administration proposed further cuts to education and science, drawing harsh criticism from teachers’ unions and others.” Trump “lamented that women make up 48 percent of America’s work force but only 24 percent of STEM professionals,” challenging girls at the event to reverse that trend.

Madeline Will writes at the Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28) “Curriculum Matters” blog that DeVos and Trump, surrounded by “eager students,” “touched moon rocks and examined an astronaut’s spacesuit” at the event. The pair was “here to talk to the mostly African-American, mostly female students from both district and charter schools in Washington and surrounding areas, as part of the museum’s Women’s History Month effort to get girls excited about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” This piece quotes DeVos saying, “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a boy or a girl, whether you’re black or white, you can be great at whatever you do, so long as you believe in yourself, you work hard, and you stay true to your convictions.” DeVos told attendees “she mentors a teenage girl in her hometown, and asked the students to consider mentoring a younger sibling or relative.” The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Firozi) reports the pair “teamed up to urge young girls to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) during a trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on Tuesday.” Other news outlets covering this story include U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Mirza), the Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Terkel), WTKR-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Norfolk, VA (3/28), CNN Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Klein),

Strauss: Event Comes As Trump Budget Proposal Would Defund NASA Education Office. Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28) “Answer Sheet” blog that the event “came just a short time after President Trump, Ivanka’s father, advanced his first federal budget, which…seeks to wipe out NASA’s education office, which oversees efforts to support women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, operates camps and enrichment programs, and provides internships and scholarships for young scientists.” Strauss notes that the event “drew some sharp criticism from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said in a statement: ‘Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump are feigning an interest in STEM careers with a photo op at the National Air and Space Museum while eliminating all funding for NASA’s education programs.’”

Higher Education

Google, Howard University Launch Efforts To Introduce Black Students To Tech Careers.

In its “NPR Ed,” NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Kim) reports black employees represent only two percent of Google’s workforce. Google conceded it fell short of its diversity goals, and to remedy its “diversity problem,” invited 25 students from the historically black Howard University to train at its headquarters this summer. Through “Howard West,” Google engineers will mentor the students and Howard professors will provide regular classroom instruction. Google and Howard hope to train 750 students over the next five years, and expand the program to all historically black colleges and universities. Google global partnerships vice president Bonita Stewart called the program an opportunity to “to build a qualified pipeline of talent across the black community.” NPR notes the so-called “pipeline program” is Silicon Valley’s concept “that there just aren’t enough blacks, Latinos and women with computer programming skills to fill jobs.” NPR also notes blacks and Latinos represent 18 percent of computer science majors, but only five percent of America’s technology workforce.

Florida, Wisconsin Professors Launch Pilot Program To Address Lack Of STEM Field Diversity.

The Independent Florida Alligator Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/27) reports the University of Florida’s Banks Preeminence Chair in Engineering, Juan Gilbert, partnered with University of Wisconsin, Madison chief research scientist Jerlando Jackson to develop a pilot program aimed at increasing diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, fields. With the National Science Foundation’s support, Gilbert and Jackson will study practices from the Florida McKnight Doctoral Fellowship, Southern Regional Boards Doctoral Scholar Program, and national GEM Fellowships program, and why those three doctoral programs’ strategies are successful for minority students. Gilbert explained the nation’s diversity is not reflected in the STEM fields, and said he hopes his research will unveil strategies that can be adopted nationwide. He said the ultimate goal is “to make this environment more inviting, successful in the path to the Ph.D.”

Georgia Passes Bill Denying Funding To Campuses Not Cooperating With Immigration Authorities.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28) reports the Georgia legislature passed a bill that would remove state funding for scholarships and research to private colleges that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities. No school in the state has “embraced policies connected to the ‘sanctuary campus’ label.”

Student Loan Complaints Increase 429 Percent In Past Year.

Yahoo! News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Kieler) reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its monthly snapshot and it showed a 429 percent increase in student loan complaints received in a year-to-year comparison of just three months. The CFPB adds that the increase in complaints is likely due to increased awareness of student loan servicing issues, the fact that the CFPB modernized its intake form for complaints, and the fact that the Bureau, along with two states, sued Navient on allegations the company cheated borrowers out of repayment rights. The release of the report caused one former CFPB official to call the student loan market “broken”, while another individual used the release of the report to support the need for consumer watchdogs like the CFPB.

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Research and Development

Immigration Order Could Hurt US University Science Programs.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/29, Binkley) reports, “The uncertainty surrounding President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban” could hurt “research projects and leav[e] some science programs scrambling to find new students” as “hundreds of Iranian students already accepted into U.S. graduate programs may not be able to” enter the country. Officials at some schools say the uncertainty already has some students turning “to other nations that compete with the U.S. for top students, including Canada, Australia and Japan.” Experts say that because “Americans who study engineering as undergraduates often opt for the job market instead of graduate school,” universities “rely heavily on international students.”

Moody’s Warns Proposed Budget Cuts Could Hurt Research Universities. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Douglas-Gabriel) reports President Trump’s proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health and other agencies “could hurt the bottom line of colleges and universities that rely on those government dollars,” according to Moody’s Investors Service. The article points out that around 80% of NIH’s budget goes towards “grants to 300,000 researchers at universities across the country.”

ExxonMobil Using Supercomputers For Better Reservoir Simulations.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Castellanos) reports the supercomputing record that ExxonMobil claimed earlier this year has the potential to revolutionize the way the company models and predicts production over the lifespan of a producing asset. Carol Lloyd, engineering vice president for upstream research, said that the computing allows for reservoir simulations that take a few minute or hours, rather than days.

Paralyzed Man Able To Move Arm With System Bypassing Injured Spinal Cord.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Cheng) reports on a study Share to FacebookShare to Twitter published in the Lancet describing how physicians “implanted sensors” in the brain of Bill Kochevar, 56, who had been paralyzed in a bicycling accident in 2006, which were in turn connected through a computer to “electrodes in his arm and hand muscles.” As a result, he “was able to feed himself for the first time” since the accident. He began by “practicing with virtual reality,” and then could “drink coffee through a straw and eat forkfuls of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese on his own.” The physicians found that his “shoulder wasn’t strong enough to lift his arm” so an auxiliary “robotic arm support” was added to the system. Senior author Bob Kirsch of Case Western Reserve University explained that with the system “we have effectively bridged” the damaged spinal cord to link the brain and muscles. Reuters Share to FacebookShare
to Twitter (3/28, Steenhuysen) reports the project is “the latest from BrainGate, a consortium of researchers testing brain-computer interface technology” that is supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Ferris) reports the successful effort is the first to allow a paralyzed man “to both reach with the arm and grasp with the hand.” To do that required “about four months training the system” so that it could “recognize” the meaning of different “signals” Kochevar gave with his brain. The researchers said a wireless system is being worked on as well as improvements to make movements smoother. TIME Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Kluger) reports Kochevar said, “it feels exactly the same as it did before, except there is a little delay.” To determine where to place the sensors, the researchers had to “map his brain” using a functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI) “while he imagined moving different parts of his body.” To move his arm involved two sensors in the brain and “an array of 36 electrodes…implanted in his right upper arm, forearm and hand.” Still, the system “is nowhere near ready for practical use.” The Telegraph (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Knapton) reports Kochevar said, “I’m making it move without having to really concentrate hard at it. I just think ‘out’ and it goes.” He is able to “move each joint in his right arm independently just by thinking.” HealthDay Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Preidt) reports the sensors in the brain are “about the size of a baby aspirin.”

CNN Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Scutti) calls it “early stage research” in that it “has been tested in a lab with just one patient so far,” though lead author Abidemi Bolu Ajiboye, assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University, said that it could “change the lives of many with spinal cord injuries.” He said that could happen within five to 10 years, stating, “There are no significant novel discoveries we need to make for the system.”


Uber Releases First Workplace Diversity Report.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Ortutay) reports Uber recently released its first report on employee diversity. According to the report, women account for only 36 percent of Uber’s non-driving workforce, compared to 31 percent at Google and 32 percent at Apple. Women accounted for only 15 percent of the company’s technological positions, compared to 19 percent at Google and 23 percent at Apple. Like other Silicon Valley companies, Uber is attempting to address its lack of workplace diversity, and 41 percent of its new hires are women. Meanwhile, the report revealed, black and Hispanic employees represented nearly nine percent and six percent of Uber’s workforce, respectively. Fifteen percent also held work visas and hailed from 71 nations.

Global Developments

Uber, Nissan To Bring 100 EVs And Charging Network To London.

CNET News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28) reports Uber and Nissan partnered to deliver an additional 100 battery-electric Leaf vehicles to the streets of London next week. Uber said “the rental rate will be ‘competitive with most popular hybrid cars.’” Nissan Leaf EVs only have a range of about 100 miles, so Uber is “also rolling out a network of 50-kW fast chargers in the center of the city.” Initially, the chargers will be limited “to drivers using the Uber app, in order to prevent drivers from arriving at a charger that some random person has occupied.” An Uber spokeswoman said the charging network is still in early stages, but the company is looking “to have its network up and running ‘in the coming months.’”

Engadget Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Brian) reports although Uber dealt with the logistics, the Energy Saving Trust (EST) “conducted a three-month study into the EV [program] to assess whether it was beneficial for all involved.” Early figures from the report, to be published Wednesday, “show that 35,000 riders took a trip in a fully electric car, saving half a metric tonne of nitrous oxide and 22 metric tonnes of CO2 compared to a hybrid car.” The report also noted some problems with London’s existing EV infrastructure. But Uber assures its charging network will alleviate any issues.

Persistence Market Research: Global Autonomous Mobile Robotics Market To Develop Quickly By 2024.

NewsMaker (AUS) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28) summarizes a Persistence Market Research report that estimates autonomous mobile robots will develop rapidly by 2024, with applications in “entertainment industry, military service, mining and metals, electronics and electrical sector, oil and gas, automotives, buildings and medical sector among others.” According to Newsmaker, key players in the autonomous mobile robotics market include AAI Corporation, Honeywell Aerospace, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Cobham Plc, Cassidian, BAE Systems Plc, Vecna Technologies, Kiva Systems LLC, Bluebotics SA and iRobot Corporation among others.

Industry News

Tesla Car On Autopilot Hits Police Motorcycle In Phoenix.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Cassidy) reports that a Tesla Model X running on autopilot hit a police motorcycle in Phoenix, Arizona last week, “a few days before an accident involving an automated Uber vehicle in Tempe, Ariz.” The vehicles were stopped at a traffic light. Because the incident was minor, police do not intend to conduct any further investigation. Tesla “executives declined to comment on the record.”

Tucson News Now (AZ) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/27) reports that University of Arizona John M. Leonis Distinguished Associate Professor Jonathan Sprinkle, who runs a summer program “with engineering and computer science students from across the county,” says “there could be other crashes involving driver-less cars.” The piece quotes Sprinkle saying, “As we see more and more self-driving cars on the road, there’s a higher likelihood of a crash.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Report: Local Rules Often Conflict With FAA UAV Regulations.

In spite of FAA regulations governing UAV operations, Fortune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Vanian) advises that operators should exercise caution when traveling because “numerous states and local governments have been enacting their own drone rules,” which in some instances “conflict with the FAA’s drone rules.” The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College published new research Tuesday which “discovered that 135 localities in 31 states have passed drone rules that impact over 30 million people living in those areas,” with 24 localities listing “‘jail time as a possible punishment’ for violating their drone laws,” even in cases in which the FAA believes that rules are preempted by Federal law. Center co-director Arthur Holland Michel warned, “The proliferation of these rules could have a destabilizing affect on the integration process. It will be very hard to maintain a coordinated national airspace system with what the FAA describes as a patchwork quilt of local regulations.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Computer Coding Begins Phase-In Process To Virginia District Curriculum.

According to the Keyser (WV) Mineral Daily News Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/27), CodeVA, the nonprofit organization responsible for making computer coding part of the Virginia state curriculum has provided teacher training, funding, and hardware to Petersburg, Virginia schools. K-5 students use the software CodeStudio to learn to create basic computer games. Chris Dovi, the Code VA Executive Director, said at this age, the goal is to create the “building blocks of computer science” Superintendent of Petersburg Public Schools, Marcus Newsome, said incorporating coding into the curriculum has “engaged students.” Virginia is among one of the first states to add computer coding to its state curriculum.

Parrot Drones Teach Detroit Students Programming.

WXYZ-TV Detroit (MI) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Detroit (3/28) reports that students in Detroit are keeping entertained and learning to code through the use of programmable Parrot drones. Parrot drones are reportedly used at “over 500 schools” throughout the US in the school curriculum. According to one Detroit teacher, Parrot drones are teaching students “programming and problem solving skills” that she hopes will better prepare student for “the job world.” A student who regularly uses the technology said that learning to program on the app is easy, and the Parrot drone has inspired him to pursue engineering in the future.

Ohio Technical Career Programs Offer Multiple Paths To Careers For Students.

The Canton (OH) Repository Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (3/28, Weir) reports on the “dental assisting program at R. G. Drage Career Technical Center” in Massillon, Ohio, which offers certification in various programs. The story highlights the varieties in “how each student plans to use those skills” and certifications as a way of “illustrat[ing] how far career technical education has evolved over its 100-year history.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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