Leading the News
Popularity Of Programming Courses Soars.
The New York Times (4/4, Lohr, Subscription Publication) reports that with computer code being “the lingua franca of the modern economy,” all manner of people, from law school students to mid-career professionals, are taking up learning “practical technology knowledge and skills, including writing some code.” The story reports that courses teaching such skills are everywhere, “in college classes, online courses and boot camps,” with demand so high “that many schools now restrict enrollment by nonmajors.” The story reviews some of the options out there for students of all ages to learn programming.
Another story for the New York Times (4/4, Pappano, Subscription Publication) reports “it’s suddenly not enough to be a fluent user of software interfaces.” More important in the 21st century is an “understanding” of how computers operate, and “in particular, ‘computational thinking’ is captivating educators, from kindergarten teachers to college professors, offering a new language and orientation to tackle problems in other areas of life.” Compared to the other story, the second Times article focuses on students at elite universities pursuing programming skills in some way to ground or complement other fields of study.
Education Week (4/4, Loewus) reports data from the National Center for Education Statistics analyzed by Code.org show the number of computer science majors hit a record high in 2015, passing its previous high point in 2003. That being said, there continue to be underrepresented groups in the growing number of computer science majors.
University Of Hawaii Awarded $1.4 Million Grant To Help Minority Students Pursue STEM Fields.
On its website, KFVE-TV Honolulu (4/4) reports Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii announced on Monday that the National Science Foundation awarded the University of Hawaii with a $1.4 million grant to encourage minority students, particularly Native Hawaiians, to pursue the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. UH will use the funds to help students enrolled at its seven community colleges accelerate their transfers to four-year degree programs. In a statement, Hirono asserted, “Minority students face persistent barriers to pursuing STEM careers. This grant will help UH expand the number of Native Hawaiian and other historically underrepresented students pursuing STEM degrees over the next three years.”
ED Announces Reset Of Pell Eligibility For Students Of Collapsed Schools.
The Wall Street Journal (4/4, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that ED has announced that students who attended such collapsed colleges as ITT Technical Institute but did not graduate will now be eligible for more Pell grants for studies at other schools. The move has bipartisan support, and essentially resets students’ lifetime eligibility for the grants.
Education Department Starts Correcting Pell Grant Eligibility For Students Of Closed For-Profit Universities.The Washington Post (4/4, Douglas-Gabriel) reports on the Education Department’s announcement Monday that it will start the process of letting thousands of people reapply for Pell grants if they went to a for-profit college that closed before they could complete their programs. On Monday, an official with Federal Student Aid, John Kane, said “We will adjust those students’ Pell Grant ‘lifetime eligibility used’ amount to remove the portion attributable to the students’ attendance at a closed school.” The story also mentions that while the Pell Grant program “is running a $10 billion surplus that higher education experts say should be used to provide awards throughout the school year,” President Trump “wants to use more than half of that reserve to increase defense spending and reduce the Education Department’s overall budget.”
ED’s Filing In Public Service Loan Forgiveness Case Raises Concerns.
NPR’s All Things Considered (4/4) aired a segment on a legal filing by ED last week that “calls into question the future of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which allowed student loan borrowers to have their loans forgiven after 10 years of work in the public sector.” The piece explains that over a half million US teachers, social workers, firefighters and other public service workers have taken part on the program over the past ten years “to have their federal student loan debt forgiven after 10 years of work in public service.” NPR correspondent Anya Kamenetz reports that ED “argued in a recent legal filing that letters sent out certifying people for this program may not in fact be binding.” Though the filing was issued in a specific lawsuit, ED’s statement “was phrased pretty broadly, saying these letters are not final. And so that’s making people kind of jumpy. And some people are worried that the new administration may be looking at a way to back up on a program that could be extremely costly.”
Percentage of Women Majoring In Engineering Growing, But Still Low In Workforce.
The Charlotte (NC) Observer (4/4, Carballo) reports on the various struggles, and moments of growth, female engineers at all levels currently face in the male-dominated profession. The Observer highlights a range of women, from young female college students majoring in engineering, all the way to Marquette University’s first female dean of engineering. The Observer adds that according to a 2016 report by the National Science Foundation, the national average of women majoring in engineering is close to 20 percent, with that number falling to 15 percent in regards to the percentage of college-educated women working in the engineering industry.
Foreign Students’ Applications To UC Drop After Trump’s Election.
The San Francisco Business Times (4/4, McDermid, Subscription Publication) continues coverage of Monday’s AP report that indicated “applications from foreign students to the University of California have plunged for the first time in over a decade, with applications from Mexico alone dropping 30 percent this year from the same time period in 2015.” The article cites the AP in reporting “the uncertainty surrounding the immigration and travel policies of the Trump administration coincided exactly with the application time period for next fall’s admitted UC class.” The San Francisco Chronicle (4/1, Aleaziz, Asimov) carried interview statements from American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers Deputy Director Melanie Gottlieb, who said “admissions officers since that time have been frequently dealing with applicants worried about ‘negative rhetoric around the Muslim faith, and immigration changes.’”
Research and Development
University Of California At Riverside Researchers Develop Self-Healing Cellphone Screen.
Business Insider (4/4, Garfield) reports University of California at Riverside chemists developed a self-healing cellphone screen out of material comprised of stretchable polymer and ionic salt, and an ion-dipole interaction bond. The properties enable the screen to repair itself if scratched or torn. The self-healing material’s electricity conducting property was a key factor in its ability to be used in cellphone screens and batteries. Leading researcher Chao Wang said that after tearing the material in half, it successfully stitched itself together in less than 24 hours. Wang predicted that the self-healing material will be ready for use in cellphone screens and batteries by 2020. On Tuesday, Wang and his team will present their research to the American Chemical Society.
VA Program Increases Wounded Veterans’ Independence Through Assistive Technology.
In its “Tech Enabled” series, CNET News (4/4) reports that under the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals With Disabilities Act of 1988, an assistive technology, or AT, device is broadly defined. The broad definition enables the VA’s five regional, Federally-funded AT programs to work directly with veterans and active-duty service members in finding the right devices to maximize their independence. At McGuire VA Hospital’s Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Virginia, an in-house AT department offers both consumer-market products, like Amazon Echo, and specialty devices, like customized wheelchairs. Former Defense Department missile constructor Brian Burkhardt, now a rehab engineer, said one of his main goals is establishing working relationships between consumer electronics companies and the patients he treats. “If we can get these companies like Control4 and Amazon really on board with working with this population, and through feedback from these guys [the VA’s AT patients], we could just come up with awesome stuff,” Burkhardt explained.
UC Riverside Team Develops Self-Healing Material With Smartphone Applications.
Business Insider (4/4, Garfield) reports scientists at UC Riverside had developed a “phone screen material that can heal itself.” Business Insider notes that the team tested the material in several ways, and found they could even tear it in half and “it automatically stitched itself back together in under 24 hours,” according to team member Chao Wang. The material can also be made to “stretch to 50 time sits original size” and is made from “a stretchable polymer and an ionic salt,” with “a special type of bond called an ion-dipole interaction, which is a force between charged ions and polar molecules.” Business Insider notes the material can conduct electricity so it would be “especially useful for use for cell phone screens and batteries.”
Facebook Partners With South Korea To Support AR, VR Startups.
The Korea Herald (4/4) reports Facebook “signed an agreement with Korea Innovation Center of the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and Institute for Information & Communications Technology Promotion to support AR and VR startups at Facebook Korea Office in southern Seoul.” They will send employees from the country’s 10 most promising AR and VR firms on a 10 week trip to California during which Oculus VR engineers will teach “about related technologies and business development.” Alex Stamos, chief security officer of Facebook, said, “We are extremely excited to partner with both large and small Korean enterprises as we work to bring VR and AR to the world.”
Samsung May Hold Off On A Foldable Phone Because Bezel-Less Display Sales Are Strong.
PC Magazine (4/4, Brant) reports in continuing coverage that Samsung Display engineer Kim Tae-woong alluded to an altered timeline on foldable displays from the company, saying that as “the bezel-free display currently sells well, we still have enough time to develop [a] foldable display.” Kim added that foldable technology will “mature around 2019,” as there are engineering problems to be overcome on the design. PC Magazine notes a foldable-display phone had earlier been “rumored to hit the market this year.”
Mashable (4/4, Wong) reports the report originated in the Korea Herald , which had previously said the company would have a limited release of “fold-out devices” later this year. Mashable notes the report indicates two reasons for the delay: that bezel-less phones are selling well, and that “existing foldable screen technology isn’t ready yet.” Mashable adds that though “Samsung has a tendency to rush” new products, the company seems to feel “no need to rush out with a foldable phone.”
CNBC (4/4, Haselton) reports that Samsung could also be dragging its feet because it is “currently leading the market in bendable displays,” which have been “used to minimize the bezels on the front of a smartphone.”
BGR (4/4) reports Samsung is working on the development of a “single foldable phone” first, before designing “multi-foldable devices that can be folded from both sides.” BGR quotes analyst Chung Won-seok on the company’s emphasis on bezel-less phones, saying “Samsung Display is expected to commercialize foldable phones in 2019 because the company does not need to sell the new hardware because it is already enjoying 20 percent of operating profits with bezel-free display.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Coal Companies Want US To Remain In Paris Climate Agreement.
Reuters (4/4, Volcovici) reports that major coal companies including Cloud Peak Energy and Peabody Energy have advised the Trump Administration not to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, “arguing that the accord could provide their best forum for protecting their global interests.” One US official speaking on condition of anonymity said “The future is foreign markets, so the last thing you want to do if you are a coal company is to give up a US seat in the international climate discussions and let the Europeans control the agenda. They can’t afford for the most powerful advocate for fossil fuels to be away from the table.”
Three Leading House Democrats Ask Teachers To Throw Away Book On Climate Change Doubt. The Washington Times (4/4, Richardson) reports that Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva, Eddie Bernice Johnson, and Bobby Scott – the ranking members of the House Natural Resources Committee, Science Committee, and Education and the Workforce Committee, respectively – have asked teachers to throw away free copies of the 2015 book “Why Climate Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” which the Heartland Institute sent to about 200,000 K-12 science teachers last month. They say “the nation’s schools are ‘inappropriate’ forums for such a discussion.”
FAA Tech Chief Says Agency Is “Working Hard” On Ways To Ingrate UAVs Safely Into Airspace.
Philly (PA) (4/4, Rosenberg) reports in its “Downashore” blog that FAA Technical Center Director Shelley Yak, while serving on a panel whose members also include Amazon Prime Air’s Sean Cassidy, told members of the US House Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation during Tuesday’s hearing that the agency is research and testing concepts that will help “form the basis of a new 21st-century aviation infrastructure, including an” UAV “traffic management system.” Yak said, “The FAA is looking at everything involved in integrating drones in a safe way into our airspace.” Yak added that the agency is “working hard with rulings we’ve just put out, and working with industry to develop concepts and operations.” Philly mentions Amazon Prime Air’s Sean Cassidy was on the panel with Yak.
Industry Leaders Warn Senate Committee Of Cyber Threats To Power Grid.
Fuel Fix (TX) (4/4, Osborne) reports that utility industry leaders warned that the potential for a major cyber attack against the nation’s power grid is at “an all time high” during a Senate hearing Tuesday. Gerry Cauley, president of the grid operators group North American Electric Reliability Corporation noted the 2015 cyber attack in Ukraine that knocked out power to 225,000 customers, emphasizing that “the risk is very real.” Patricia Hoffamn, acting assistant secretary at the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Reliability said the agency continues to work on an “ecosystem of resilience” by “developing security standards and improve information sharing between government officials and the companies that operate the grid.” Hoffman said resiliency is “one of the secretary’s top priorities.”
Democrats Voice Concerns About Proposed Cuts To DOE Office That Helps Protect US Electric Grid From Cyberattacks.
The Hill (4/4, Chalfant) reports, “Democrats are raising concerns about the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to” the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, “a Department of Energy office that plays a role in protecting the U.S. electric grid from cyberattacks.” The Hill says, “The proposed cuts led Democratic senators to raise concerns on Tuesday over the potential effects to the cybersecurity of the energy sector.” Acting assistant secretary for the office Patricia Hoffman “told lawmakers on Tuesday that the details of the new budget would be worked out before the administration’s full budget proposal is released in May. She avoided explaining any potential negative impacts of the budget reductions.”
Cost Of Historic Outage In Michigan Continues To Add Up.
The Detroit Free Press (4/4) reports a “record-setting power outage” in Michigan has left a “huge tab” that is “still mounting.” Last month, “well over a million Michiganders suffered losses…seen in stacks of hotel and restaurant bills, home freezers of spoiled food, even tanks of dead tropical fish.” Factories and stores also had to close. Officials with DTE Energy indicated yesterday “they’re not even half done repairing the damage.” The Free Press adds “calling it the worst storm-caused outage in DTE Energy’s 150-year history,” officials with the company “stood watching linemen work in a Detroit neighborhood” yesterday “to call attention to their massive, ongoing program of repairs and upgrades to an electric system that serves roughly half of all Michiganders.”
San Diego Ranked Top City In The Nation For Solar Installations.
The San Diego Union-Tribune (4/3, Nikolewski) reports San Diego ranks first “in the nation as the city with the most installed solar power” according to the Shining Cities report put together by the Environment California Research and Policy Center. In 2016, “solar power increased 60 percent in San Diego…reaching 303 megawatts of installed photo-voltaic capacity, finishing 36 megawatts ahead of Los Angeles and almost 60 percent higher than Honolulu and San Jose, which finished third and fourth.” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said, “It’s great to be No. 1. … It just validates all the work we’ve been trying to do as a city and as a region on sustainability and a clean energy future.”
Tampa Ranks In Middle Of Pack. The Tampa Bay (FL) Times (4/4) reports Tampa is ranked “in the middle of the pack, ranking 32 out of 66 cities in terms of overall solar capabilities according to this year’s ‘Shining Cities’ report.” The report “noted that Tampa is one of several cities that is installing solar systems on city buildings.”
Solar Power In Houston Lags Behind Other Texas Cities. Fuel Fix (TX) (4/4) reports Houston is lagging behind other major cities in Texas “when it comes to solar power, but the city is making steady gains, according to report released Tuesday by Environment Texas, an environmental non-profit.” Houston boosted “its solar capacity from 6 megawatts in 2015 to 8 megawatts in 2016.” But most of the state’s “non-utility scale solar power is in San Antonio, which has 117 megawatts. Houston’s solar capacity also ranks below Austin’s, with 31 megawatts, and Dallas’, with 12 megawatts, according to the report.”
Ivanka Trump Stresses Importance Of Introducing Girls To STEM Fields.
In a Washington Post (4/4) online video, White House adviser Ivanka Trump asserted that women hold only 24 percent of science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, careers. “When you think about where the jobs of the future are coming from, that’s a very frightening statistic,” Trump stated, “And we’re moving in the wrong direction.” She stressed the importance of introducing girls to STEM fields in the school system and “making sure that they’re really participating in these fields.”
Op-Ed: STEM Education Prepares Kids For Global Economy.
In an Op-Ed for The Hill (4/4, Evans, Milgrom-Elcott, Contributors) leaders of the National Science Teachers Association and the STEM teacher training initiative 100Kin10 argue that “one of the most effective ways to set our children up for success is to ensure they receive excellent STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.” The authors point out that “ten of the top 14 fastest-growing industries require STEM training.” They argue that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) “provides states with the flexibility to set new policy and funding priorities” and requires that states “develop their own education plans.” The authors believe that the key for the next generation of students “depends on these state plans supporting and promoting STEM education.” The two organizations the writers lead are focused on “recruiting, training and supporting STEM teachers”, and they call for “initiatives in every state” supporting STEM education.
Texas High School Qualifies For Robotics World Championship.
The Houston Chronicle (4/4, Report) reports that Cinco Ranch High School Robotics Team 624 (CRyptonite) won the “Regional Chairman’s Award” at a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) qualifying tournament, setting them up to compete in the FIRST World Championship. It is the “most prestigious award at FIRST”, and honors the team “that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST,” the Chronicle adds.
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• US To Crack Down On Visa Abuse As H-1B Application Process Opens.
• Oklahoma University Features Female Racing Team At Women In Engineering Week.
• Samsung Display Expects Foldable Phones Won’t Be Commercialized Until 2019.
• SAE International To Hold Annual Event In Detroit This Week.
• NASA Engineer Campaigns For Congress.
• FIRST Competition Introduces Kids to Robotics.