Leading the News
Ford Plans To Bring Electric Vehicles To China.
The Wall Street Journal (4/6, Moss, Subscription Publication) reports Ford will begin manufacturing electric vehicles in China, to take advantage of the country’s growing green-energy vehicle market. The company will first introduce a plug-in hybrid, the Mondeo Energi, next year, followed by an electric SUV within five years. Changan Ford, the company’s Chinese arm, will begin building electric powertrains by 2020, with all its vehicles supporting an EV platform by 2025.
Reuters (4/6) reports Beijing has been pressing automakers to “to sell more electric vehicles, laying out strict fuel economy targets and subsidizing certain new energy vehicle models, in a bid to cut air pollution and promote technological innovation,” which has prompted Ford CEO Mark Fields to suggest “The time is right for Ford to expand our EV (electric vehicle) lineup and investments in China.”
TechCrunch (4/6, Etherington) reports that China’s change to policy in January, which included “tighter restrictions on electric vehicles and new-energy cars,” could help Ford as it aims “to discourage startups and other smaller companies from venturing into the market in search of subsidies when they couldn’t deliver actual quality vehicles,” potentially thinning the market for the American automaker.
Howvever, the Wall Street Journal (4/6, Trivedi, Subscription Publication) reports in a separate article the move may not be as beneficial as Ford hopes as China’s automotive market has begun to slow, and the country’s government has begun winding down some subsidies.
NYTimes Criticizes DeVos For Ending Ban On High Student Loan Fees.
The New York Times (4/6, Subscription Publication) editorializes that the “Obama administration made the right call in 2015 when it barred debt collectors from gouging borrowers who default on student loans and then agree to payment plans,” and says that in rolling back the ban, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos showed “more concern for the lending industry — which is essentially on the federal dole — than the borrowers the industry ought to serve.” The Times laments that the companies will be able to “charge a predatory 16 percent fee on the debt” and stresses the negative impact on the overall economy from student loan defaults.
University of Utah To Offer Varsity Esports Scholarships.
The Washington Post (4/6, Kareem Copeland |, Ap) reports that the University of Utah “will begin awarding scholarships to those who make its varsity esports team for the 2017-18 school year,” making it “the first esports scholarship program at a Power 5 university.” The school’s Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program will offer “scholarships worth $1,000, or $500 per semester” to those who pass its tryouts, the Post writes.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Files Lawsuit Against Student Loan Provider.
NBC News (4/6, News) reports, Navient, one of the largest suppliers of student loans is being sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as the Attorneys General of Illinois and Washington states. CFPB argues that Navient costs borrowers billions by “withholding information about income-based repayment programs.” A broad array of experts say the Navient abandoning its fiduciary responsibility by telling borrowers they can be trusted, and subsequently arguing in the courts that borrowers should not “reasonably be relying on them” in the repayment process. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that Navient has decided that it is less expensive for their company to “put somebody into forbearance” as opposed to providing debt repayment counseling
NYTimes Explores Why Only 41 Percent Of Students Graduate Four-Year Colleges On Time.
The New York Times (4/6, Kolodner, Subscription Publication) reports on six reasons why only 41 percent of students manage to graduate from a four-year college in four years. These reasons include working too many hours to cover tuition instead of taking on debt; taking 12 credits on average instead of 15 per semester; the difficulty of transfering credits from another university or community college; being ill informed on when and which classes to take to graduate on time; lack of emotional support to counter social isolation and depression; and poor time management.
Research and Development
Virginia Tech Engineer Studies Precision Movement In Bat Echolocation.
Scienmag (4/5) reports that bats have over 20 muscles joining their ears to their heads, enabling them “to execute a precise series of wiggles, swivels, and twitches.” The piece quotes Virginia Tech associate professor of mechanical engineering Rolf Mueller saying, “In one-tenth of a second, three times as fast as you can blink your eyes, the bats can change the shape of their ears.” Physical Review Letters has published research from Mueller “demonstrating that these quick, precise movements underlie the bats’ ability to wend their way through their world.”
IUSM Professor Helps With Purdue, IU Collaboration On Improving Cancer Diagnosis Technology.
Purdue (IN) Exponent Online (4/6, Winn) reports Purdue University and Indiana University are collaborating to create “a less invasive way of detecting prostate cancer,” through a program called the Walther Oncology, Physical Sciences and Engineering Research Embedding Program. Through the program, a Purdue student or postdoctoral trainee studying physical/chemical sciences or engineering is put in the IU Simon Cancer Center. Tim Masterson, an associate professor of urology at the IU School of Medicine and a researcher at the IU Simon Cancer Center, is involved the program and “appreciated the opportunity to combine clinical expertise at IU with the innovations at Purdue.” He said, “For the researchers and students participating in the program, this affords them the opportunity to identify gaps in diagnostics and therapeutics present in cancer care, then develop the solution from the ground up.”
NASA To Break Ground On New Langley Laboratory Next Week.
In a press release carried by Yahoo! News (4/6), NASA announced that the groundbreaking for the new $96 million laboratory at NASA Langley Research Center is scheduled for April 11, with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and US Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) among those slated to attend.
J.D. Power Rankings Show Microsoft Beat Out Apple, Samsung For Highest Overall Tablet Satisfaction.
9 to 5 Mac (4/6, Potluck) reports new research released Thursday from J.D. Power indicates that Microsoft has beat out Samsung and Apple for the “highest overall tablet satisfaction” for the first time ever. Based on a 1,000-point rating scale, Microsoft scored 855, while Apple and Samsung scored 849 and 847, respectively. According to J.D. Power VP Jeff Conklin, the main contributor to Microsoft’s success is the versatility of its Surface platform, which is the highest performer in three areas: “variety of pre-loaded applications; internet connectivity; and availability of manufacturer-supported accessories.”
However, AppleInsider (4/6, Dilger) provides a more critical review of the J.D. Power research, reporting that Microsoft itself measures the Surface Pro 4 against Apple’s MacBooks, as opposed to the iPad Pro. AI says, “Comparisons between Surface Pro 4 and Apple’s iPad Pro are not flattering.” AI mentions that the J.D. Power ranking focused on screen size, giving the Microsoft Surface the highest score; however, AI says, “the cost of a larger screen is not reflected in the single score assigned to each vendor.” Notably, AI reports Apple “makes three sizes of iPad, with only its largest iPad Pro compatible to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4.”
Udacity Spinning Off Self-driving Taxi Developer.
Reuters (4/6) reports education start-up Udacity “is spinning out its school for driverless car engineers to develop self-driving taxis” into a company called Voyage Auto. The new company will retrofit existing vehicles. The San Francisco Chronicle (4/6) reports Voyage “is being spun off from Udacity, the online learning company that offers a course in programming autonomous cars.” The new firm “will be led by Oliver Cameron, Udacity’s vice president of engineering,” and the Chronicle quotes him saying, “We’re deploying autonomous taxis to real users very, very soon.”
Analysis: Apple’s AirPods Sales Continue Rising, Likely To Become “Ubiquitous.”
Mashable (4/6, Pachal) tech writer Pete Pachal says he was reluctant when Apple launched its AirPods last September, pointing out that the wireless headphones are more likely to fall out your ear (and get lost) and require daily recharging. However, Pachal acknowledges AirPod sales, as well as other wireless headphones, are on the rise. According to Pachal, “The rapid rise of AirPods are a testament to Apple and the product it’s built, but there’s more at play here than a feat of engineering and design. Headphones are now irreversibly intertwined with the smartphone.” As such, Paschal says AirPods are likely to become “ubiquitous,” noting that a number of other manufacturers are removing the headphone jack in favor of wireless headphone setups.
Engineering and Public Policy
Plan To Crack Down On Visa Abuse Receives “Mixed Reviews.”
Congressional Quarterly (4/6, Subscription Publication) reports the DHS plan to “investigate technology companies suspected of abusing a visa program in order to replace American workers with foreigners who are paid less has received mixed reviews.” CQ says some “key lawmakers praise[d] the Trump administration’s steps, [but] others are waiting for results.” Sens. Charles E. Grassley and Richard J. Durbin called the plan a “welcomed first step toward preventing the firing of skilled American workers.”
Report: Other Nations Stand To Benefit From US Crackdown On H-1B Visas. A new report from HackerRank says a number of countries stand to benefit from the “increasingly tough measures facing applicants to the U.S.’s coveted pool” of H-1B visas, USA Today (4/6, Swartz) reports. According to the report, Singapore, Poland, Taiwan, and Finland, among other countries, “are poised to benefit most in drawing engineering talent.” The study “assessed the attractiveness of countries based on local talent, salaries, cost of living, Internet speed, time zone, government corruption and skill levels of developers in each country.”
Tech Companies Warn Visa Crackdown Could Create National Security Risk. Bloomberg Politics (4/6, Syeed) reports that McAfee LLC executive Steve Grobman warned that the crackdown on foreign worker visas by the Trump Administration “could create a national security risk if technology companies aren’t able to bring in the talent they need to build rapidly evolving cyber defenses.” Bloomberg says that many tech companies have welcomed the White House’s focus on cybersecurity, but have also raised concerns over “onerous restrictions” that could make it harder to obtain H-1B workers they depend on.
Indian IT Companies Facing Increased Cost With New H-1B Guidelines. American Bazaar (4/6) reports on the anxiety felt by Indian IT companies over new restrictions on the H-1B visa program. According to the article, the new visa guidelines” will make the Indian IT companies spend more money on hiring US nationals for the entry-level computer programming (Level 1) jobs.” Accordingly, companies are going to “bear more financial burden on H-1B workers,” which it says could “eventually hurt their growth rate.”
Pennsylvania Regulator Launches Comprehensive Review Of Low-income Utility Programs.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (4/6) reports the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is starting “a comprehensive review of programs to support low-income utility customers, a sensitive issue because the costs of such ‘universal services’ programs are inevitably borne by all customers.” On Thursday, the PUC voted “to launch the review, which is to include a report from the commission’s Law Bureau and suggestions from ‘stakeholders representing all interests, from low-income customers to consumer interest advocates to utilities, to ensure any outcomes are cost-effective and in the public interest.’”
Falling Price Of Renewables Means Green Energy Investments Went Further In 2016.
Reuters (4/6, Eckert) reports that despite a 23 percent decline in green energy investments, “record levels of renewable energy capacity were added across the world in 2016,” according to United Nations-backed research. Experts explained that investors have not become less enthusiastic about clean energy investments, instead, they received “more capacity for less money.” According to Ulf Moslener, professor for sustainable energy finance at the Frankfurt School of Finance, investments in new renewables capacity was nearly double that in fossil fuel generation.
Bloomberg News (4/6, Chediak) reports that “In an increasing number of places, wind and solar may be the cheapest option,” according to Angus McCrone, chief editor at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Furthermore, Michael Liebreich, founder of New Energy Finance, said that as renewables gain cost-effectiveness, governments may have to subsidize natural gas plants to help them provide grid reliability.
The AP (4/6, Jordans) describes global investment in renewable energy, noting that Chinese investments dropped for the first time in over a decade, while spending on renewables in Europe “increased slightly to $59.8 billion, driven by big wind power projects in Britain and Germany.”
Kentucky Coal Museum Making Switch To Solar Power.
CNN (4/6, Larkin) reports the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum, which is owned by Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, “is switching to solar power to save money.” Communications director Brandon Robinson told a CNN affiliate that the project “will help save at least eight to ten thousand dollars, off the energy costs on this building alone.” The project is made up of “20 solar panels installed by Bluegrass Solar.” Robinson added, “It is a little ironic. … But you know, coal and solar and all the different energy sources work hand-in-hand. And, of course, coal is still king around here.” The AP (4/6, Beam) reports he museum is located in Benham, “once a coal camp town whose population peaked at about 3,000, according to 85-year-old Mayor Wanda Humphrey.”
Columbia, Missouri Plans Possible STEAM School.
The Columbia (MO) Missourian (4/6) reports that Columbia district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said that initial explorations for introducing a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) curriculum school may point to Jefferson Middle School in north-central Columbia “after the district opens a seventh middle school in 2020.” The Missourian reports that “a STEAM middle school, wherever it would be located, would take students from its attendance area as well as those from Benton, Lee and Ridgeway.” In the meantime, the district has invested in “rolling professional development” for the STEAM curriculum, with a teacher taking STEAM-inspired activities to schools in the district.
Air Force Academy Hosts Local Events To Promote STEM For Young Students.
Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette (4/6) reports the US Air Force Academy hosted the annual “Physics is Phun” event at a local Colorado middle school as the academy tours the Colorado Springs Area keeping students interested in science and math. Students have hands-on interactions with science projects in a full day dedicated “interactive lessons” in STEM. Maj. Jake Harley professor of physics at the Air Force Academy said that this event “makes a conceptual idea, something that students can be a part of.”
Northwest Georgia High School Robotics Team To Compete In Championship.
Dalton (GA) Daily Citizen (4/6) reports that the Career Blazers of Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy are headed to the state robotics championship for the second year in a row. Robotics teams are typically comprised of high school students, and are given six weeks to build and program a robot that competes on a special playing field. According to team sponsors, students gain skills in programming, computers, and manufacturing robot pieces. Robotics teams compete in events organized by the worldwide organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). The championship will be held in Atlanta on Saturday.
States Discuss Reforming Teacher Licensing To Attract More CTE Instructors.
Stateline (4/6, Quinton) reports two-thirds of states report a shortage of CTE teachers in at least one specialty, according to an analysis of federal data. Minnesota and South Dakota are among several states that have had a shortage of CTE teachers for a decade, while other states, including Maine, Maryland, and New York, have had a teacher shortage for nearly 20 years. Legislators in Minnesota and other states “have pursued changes to teacher licensing that would make it easier for people who work in the industry to transition into teaching, or to teach part-time.” A proposal by Minnesota lawmakers would revamp the teacher licensing system to allow someone “with an associate degree, an industry credential or at least five years’ work experience to get a one-year license to teach CTE.” Other reasons for the teacher shortage include low salaries to compete with salaries in technical fields and a lack of young people specializing in CTE in college. It is also tough “to attract teachers to isolated schools in rural areas.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Power Companies Don’t Plan To Reinvest In Coal.
• Student Loan Borrowers Concerned About Fate Of Debt Forgiveness.
• Boeing, JetBlue Invest In Start-up Developing Electric Aircraft.
• New Report Analyzes Global Military UAS Market.
• Major Companies Continue To Dominate Cloud Market, As Smaller Companies Exit.
• Trump Says He May Speed Introduction Of Infrastructure Bill.
• Girls In Tech And S&P Global Team Up For Tech Online Education Course.