Leading the News
Ford To Hire 400 Engineers For Canadian Connected Car Development.
The AP (3/30, Noronha) reports Ford Motor plans to hire around 400 employees from Blackberry as part of significant “new investments in Canada that include a connected-vehicle research center in Ottawa.” Ford said the Ottawa research center will be “part of a $500 million Canadian (US $376 million) investment.” Ford said it will hire about 300 engineers in Canada and an additional 100 hardware and software engineers in the US to support Canadian operations. BlackBerry spokeswoman Sarah McKinney said the move will allow the company to focus on its new strategy, the “pivot from hardware to software.” Additionally, the AFP (3/30) reports Ford also plans to “increase staff at facilities in Windsor and Oakville, Ontario, developing new powertrain technologies, alternative fuels and lightweight materials for use in cars and trucks, as well as technology to capture industrial emissions and convert them into fuels.” According to Ford, reports Reuters (3/30), the new employees, “many of whom are coming from BlackBerry Ltd’s (BB.TO) shuttered handset business, will work on infotainment, in-vehicle modems, gateway modules, handset integration, security, driver assist features and autonomous vehicles.” Bloomberg News (3/30, De Vynck) reports that last October, Blackberry and Ford announced a formal partnership to develop car-related technologies. Though the deal is centered upon “connected-car features, like being able to send software downloads to a vehicle remotely,” there is opportunity “for the two to collaborate on self-driving technology.” BlackBerry’s QNX division, which developed the operating system behind Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment and connectivity platform, will facilitate auto technology, reports Fortune (3/30, Korosec). The piece notes, however, that “no engineers from its Blackberry QNX division were part of the transfer” with Ford. In an emailed statement, a Blackberry spokesperson said, “The BlackBerry QNX engineers continue to develop core technology for the automotive industry…This transfer allows Ford to double its connectivity engineering workforce and accelerate its efforts to build in-house solutions. As for the employees transferred, they have the opportunity to put their expertise to work for a leader in the automotive sector. This is a win-win for both companies as well as employees.”
ED: Student Loan Forgiveness Approval Letters May Not Be Valid.
The New York Times (3/30, Cowley, Subscription Publication) reports that ED submitted a legal filing last week that indicated that some of the over 550,000 people who “signed up for a federal program that promises to repay their remaining student loans after they work 10 years in a public service job” may be on the hook for “thousands of dollars in debt that they thought would be eliminated.” ED’s filing “suggested that borrowers could not rely on the program’s administrator to say accurately whether they qualify for debt forgiveness.”
ED Defends Gainful Employment Rule In Court Filing.
Inside Higher Ed (3/30) reports that a court filing by ED attorneys on behalf of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this week suggests that the department “may not quickly roll back” its gainful employment rule, which is “designed to crack down on programs graduating students unable to pay down high student loan debt loads.” In action related to a February lawsuit by the American Association of Cosmetology Schools seeking to block the rule, ED lawyers argued “that challenges to the rule itself had already been rejected by the courts, that no cosmetology program has yet to have access blocked to Title IV aid, and that the association had failed to provide evidence that underreporting of income was widespread among cosmetology graduates.”
American Enterprise Institute Report: Public Money Skews Gainful Employment Rule Against For-Profit Colleges.
Inside Higher Ed (3/30) reports that according to a new report from the American Enterprise Institute, “state and local funding of public colleges stacks the deck against for-profit institutions under the gainful-employment rule.” The report says “roughly three-quarters of for-profit programs pass the rule, the report said, compared to a relatively small number of nonprofits that are covered under gainful employment,” and cites “direct public funding” as being largely responsible for this disparity.
Campus Carry Laws Expanding Across Country.
Rolling Stone (3/30) runs a 3,600-word article on how “a group of students teamed up with the gun lobby to get firearms in the classroom at over 200 colleges – and counting.” The piece notes that there are now laws in Texas, Tennessee, and Ohio allowing open-carry firearms on campus and “various legal actions have inched versions of campus carry into five others – including Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia.” In most states, the article says, “the public overwhelmingly opposes guns on college campuses (a recent poll in Florida puts opposition at 62 percent), as do a majority of chancellors, university presidents, parents, students, professors and, notably, campus police.” The piece describes the push to broaden campus carry policies, inspired in part by such incidents as the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007.
Illinois Universities See Rise In Applications From Foreign Students.
The Chicago (IL) Tribune (3/30, Rhodes) reports Illinois universities saw an uptick in applications from foreign students this application cycle, in contrast to 40 percent of US universities that reported declines in international student interest. School leaders said the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Western Illinois University, Loyola University, and DePaul University received more applications. UIC Vice Provost of Academic and Enrollment Services said international students “bring a huge impact from an economic standpoint and a diversity standpoint,” but officials worry some may be deterred from ultimately enrolling in fall classes because they wonder whether they will be welcomed.
Study: Late-Arriving Immigrants With Very Different Languages Major In STEM Fields.
NPR (3/30, Kamenetz) reports a study on immigrant career outcomes published in the journal Demography seeks to explain the tendency of immigrant children to excel in STEM fields. It takes a “unique” two-pronged approach to subdividing immigrants: whether they arrived before age 10, and whether their native language is linguistically close to English. Using US Census data, Duke University economist Marcos Rangel and US Naval Postgraduate School’s Marigee Bacolod found that in general, immigrants were more likely to have jobs requiring physical strength, but they were also relatively more likely to choose jobs requiring math and logic or social and emotional skills, as opposed to communication skills. Among those who went to university, those arriving after the age of 10 from more linguistically different places were much more likely to specialize in a STEM field.
Research and Development
Vanderbilt University Research Center Exploring How Robotics Could Help Children With Autism.
On its website, ABC News (3/31, Weinstein) reports researchers at Vanderbilt University’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders have developed a robot named RASL, or “Russell,” to research autism. The research center’s goal “is to explore how robotics and technology could help development in children diagnosed with ASD.” The article mentions that the National Institute of Mental Health has funded research at the center.
Regeneron Co-Founder Criticizes Proposed Cuts To Scientific Research.
Bloomberg News (3/30, Tracer, Chen) reports George Yancopoulos, the co-founder of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, “warned that deep cuts to science budgets proposed by President Donald Trump would jeopardize the health of future generations.” Yancopoulos said, “God forbid, I’ve had situations with my parents, my loved ones, my children, when they have a serious disease, that’s when we pray, and that’s why as a society, we have to make some decisions about what to invest in.” The article notes that the Trump Administration has proposed cutting funding to the National Institutes of Health as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Data Sharing, Safety Rating Upgrade Could Boost Consumers’ Trust In Self-Driving Technologies.
Bloomberg BNA (3/30, Ross) reports that industry and research groups said at a House subcommittee hearing that the sharing of safety data and an update to the NHTSA’s 5-star safety rating program would help increase consumers’ trust in self-driving technologies. One panelist at the hearing, Vice President at Robert Bosch LLC Dr. Kay Steeper, suggested that in addition to updating the 5-star rating system, the NHTSA could also require more information about self-driving systems in the stickers on all new vehicles’ windows. The article also mentions that in 2015, “NHTSA asked for public input on a plan to update its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) and include advanced driver assistance technologies within the program’s 5-star safety rating system.” However, a NHTSA spokesperson “confirmed no further actions have been taken on this initiative.”
Virtual Agent Taught Grammar Similar To How Parents Teach Their Children.
TechCrunch (3/30, Etherington) reports that Baidu’s artificial intelligence research team successfully taught a virtual agent “living” in a 2D environment how to navigate its world “using natural language commands,” a significant milestone according to writer Darrell Etherington. Scientists say that this is a big deal because it means that the AI agent was able to learn basic grammar, and learn in a way that is similar to how parents teach their young kids grammar, according to Etherington.
Former Amazon Executive Hired By Comcast To Lead Engineering Team.
Variety (3/30, Spangler) reports that former global head of live video at Amazon Euan McLeod has been hired by Comcast to serve as its VP of IP video engineering for its cable division. In his new role, McLeod will lead a team of engineer’s responsible for deploying software that delivers internet-based video across multiple platforms. McLeod was at Amazon for a little over a year.
Engineering and Public Policy
H-1B Visa Application To Launch Without Trump’s Changes.
Newsweek (3/30, O’Connor) reports that USCIS will launch the H-1B visa program application on Monday. This prior Wednesday, the agency updated its H-1B webpage with “rules mostly similar to those of last year and quotas remaining the same,” which were “largely absent of President Donald Trump’s proposed policy changes.” Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA head of government relations Russ Harrison said, “There was a window in which the White House could have made serious reforms. … For whatever reason, they decided not to take it.”
Hatch Introduces H-1B Reform Bill. Sen. Orrin Hatch writes in the San Jose (CA) Mercury News (3/30, Hatch) that US employers, particularly those in the tech sector, are facing a shortage of qualified workers. Hatch says that the US has for years had a process of bringing high-skilled foreign workers into the country “to fill jobs for which there is a shortage of American labor.” Hatch adds that these workers are not taking American jobs but “supplement[ing] our workforce with talent from other countries.” However, he also maintains that “the system is out-of-date. Our immigration laws cap the number of high-skilled worker visas – also called H-1B visas – that employers may obtain each year at a number that is far below demand.” He indicates that he has “championed legislation to bring our outmoded high-skilled immigration system into the 21st Century” through the introduction of his bill, the Immigration Innovation Act or “I-Squared.”
Rampell: Spouses Of H-1B Visa Holders Could Soon Lose Ability To Work. Catherine Rampell writes in her Washington Post (3/30, Rampell) column that “come Monday, the Trump administration may quietly revoke the ability of hundreds of thousands of immigrants – almost all women – from legally working in the United States, forcing them to choose between heading back to their kitchens or leaving the country altogether.” They are spouses of H-1B visa holders, who have been permitted to work since 2015. A lawsuit challenged that change, and the new Administration “asked for a 60-day pause to ‘allow incoming leadership personnel adequate time to consider the issues’” – a period that expires on Monday.
March For Science Names Three Co-Chairs For Upcoming Event.
The Washington Post (3/30, Kaplan) reports the March for Science has named three honorary co-chairs for the upcoming event to be held in Washington, DC on April 22: Bill Nye the “Science Guy,” Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, and Lydia Villa-Komaroff. The article reports that Hanna-Attisha is a doctor who helped bring attention to lead poisoning in Flint and Villa-Komaroff is “a molecular biologist who helped develop the technique for making insulin.” The article notes that many scientific researchers are concerned about potential budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health and other agencies.
Professor Calls For Engineers To Consider Morality Of Working On Border Wall.
Darshan Karwat, an assistant professor in Arizona State University’s Polytechnic School and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, writes on Slate (3/30, Karwat) that, in considering working on President Trump’s proposed border wall, “Engineers have a moral responsibility to understand the context of their work.” Regrettably, “much of engineering is focused more on financial incentives than social impact and human welfare.” However, “in today’s political climate, engineers cannot remain passive and allow legislators and politicians to decide what the ‘public good’ is.” Karwat calls for engineers to “evaluate the social, political, and humanitarian implications” of their work. He concludes that, “if engineering is only about making money, then let’s not call it engineering; profiteering would be a more appropriate description.”
Engineering Professor Tells CNN His Study Shows Flint Water Crisis Lead To Legionnaires Outbreak.
CNN (3/30, Ganim) reports Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards, the researcher who originally found lead in Flint, Michigan’s water supply back in 2015, shared unpublished results of his recent study with CNN showing the contaminated Flint water supply was the most likely cause of a deadly Legionnaires disease outbreak in the area. According to Edwards, “What we discovered was that when the Flint River water went into the system it released a lot of iron, and removed the disinfectant from the water. … And in combination, those two factors, the iron as a nutrient and the disinfectant disappearing, allowed legionella to thrive in buildings where it could not do so previously.”
Ohio District Partners With UC Davis Aerospace Engineer On Robot Math Curriculum.
The Cincinnati Enquirer (3/26) reports that middle school students in Ohio’s Northwest Local School District taking part “in a new applied math class that uses robots to teach and reinforce math concepts are showing higher math achievement scores after just one semester of the new applied mathematics curriculum.” The piece reports that the state gave 23 districts Straight A Fund grants, and the Northwest Local School District used its grant to launch “an innovative intervention that uses C-STEM, a combination of computing science technology, engineering and mathematics. The district worked with Harry Cheng, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of California, Davis, and director of the UC Davis Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education.”
Scratch Software Helps Kids Learn Coding.
Bloomberg News (3/30, Gordon) reports that David Siegel, co-chairman of Two Sigma and co-founder of the Scratch Foundation, said his Scratch software “encourages kids to learn coding” as it becomes a bigger part of the finance world. Bloomberg News quoted Siegel saying that “Over the last 30 years, the kinds of people working in finance have moved very strongly to those with more technical and quantitative skills.” Coding has “transformed the job market” and become “the language of our times”, Siegel said, and workers unfamiliar with it are now at “a disadvantage,” Bloomberg News adds.
Heartland Institute Sends 25,000 Science Teachers Classroom Materials Questioning Climate Change.
The Huffington Post (3/30, Visser) reports that the Heartland Institute, “one of America’s most prominent climate-denying groups,” has sent “more than 25,000 science teachers across the country a package of material it hopes they’ll use in the classroom.” The materials contain “a book called Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming and a 10-minute video about using their guidance.” The Post reports that notwithstanding the theme of the materials, “there’s near universal consensus among climate researchers that the planet is warming ― rapidly ― and human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause.”
Teacher Training Key To Implementing CA Science Standards.
EdSource (3/29) reports that the Next Generation Science Standards, adopted by California in 2013, will need to be supported by teacher training to be successful, “according to guidance released by the standards’ creators.” The new standards, focused on “hands-on science projects, critical thinking over rote memorization, and crossover between scientific disciplines,” have been adopted by 19 states and the District of Columbia, EdSource writes. Schools have already begun teaching to the standards, but “the process of recruiting, reviewing and selecting textbooks and other instructional materials begins this spring,” with the CA Board of Education set to make final selections in the fall of 2018, EdSource adds. Teachers working with the new standards say they “require more work because of the emphasis on science projects,” and are more difficult to grade, EdSource writes.
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Administration Asks Court To Delay Ruling On Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
• Trump Calls For Cutting $1.3 Billion From Pell Grants In FY2016.
• UC-San Francisco Working To Advocate For US Research Leadership.
• Amid Opioid Crisis, UBC Students Create Wearable Device That Aims To Save Lives
• Analysis: Smartwatch Industry Will Continue To Decline If Apple, Google Maintain Control.
• House Science Committee Holds Hearing On Climate Science.
• Students Attend Alabama Power Sponsored Career Day.