Leading the News
NASA Announces Preliminary Winners Of 2017 Student Launch.
NASA (4/11) announced the preliminary award winners for its 2017 Student Launch, with the University of Notre Dame winning “the 2017 Student Launch Altitude Award in the college division with an altitude of 5,286 feet.” NASA explained, “Participating in the Student Launch challenge, student teams demonstrated advanced aerospace and engineering skills as they launched their rockets to an altitude of 1 mile, deployed an automated parachute system and landed the rocket safely for reuse.”
SAE, GM Challenge Eight Universities To Build Self-Driving Chevy Bolts.
Engadget (4/6) reported on the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) AutoDrive Challenge, which was first announced by General Motors “in late 2016, saying that selected school teams would focus on ‘real-world applications of sensing technologies, computing platforms, software design implementation and advanced computation methods.’” Engadget commented, “In other words, GM is counting on these young ones to nail all the really hard stuff.”
MLive (MI) (4/5) reported that “Kettering University is one of eight universities worldwide chosen to participate in” the competition, along with “Michigan State University, Michigan Technical University, North Carolina A&T University, Texas A&M University, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and Virginia Tech.” As part of the program, “Students and faculty are invited to attend technology-specific workshops to help concept refinement and overall autonomous technical understanding.”
Additional coverage was provided by GMAuthority (4/6), Hybrid Cars News (4/8), CBC (CAN) (4/11), Automotive News (4/5), Michigan State University – Today (4/5), MobileSyrup (CAN) (4/7), the Triad (NC) Business Journal (4/11, Subscription Publication), Texas A&M University (4/6), Inhabitat (4/7, Carter), Bryan College Station (TX) Eagle (4/8), Inside EVs (4/6, Blanco), and Roadshow (4/6).
“Embodied Games” Startup At ASU Uses Xbox Kinect To Teach STEM.
The Arizona State University State Press (4/12, Tortorich) reports, Embodied Games, a startup spun out of ASU, “uses Xbox Kinect sensors and virtual reality helmets to create an immersive learning environment that aims to…engage users” in STEM-related subject matter. The article explains “the company currently has 10 games, with more in the works” that “cover a wide variety of STEM subjects like centripetal force, the electric field and nutrition.”
Strauss: List Of Standardized Test-Optional Colleges “Keeps Growing.”
In her “Answer Sheet” blog, Washington Post (4/12) columnist Valerie Strauss writes, “the list of colleges and universities that no longer require scores from” ACT and the SAT college admissions exams “to be submitted with a student application keeps growing.” Strauss notes that the College Board “says that grade point-averages shouldn’t be used as a single measure for college admissions,” but highlights criticism of the standardized tests. For example, ACT and SAT scores are “‘noticeably higher’ in families with higher incomes.”
Fed Scholar Proposes Solution To Wealth Gap For Black College Graduates.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post (4/12, Boshara), St. Louis Federal Reserve Center for Household Financial Stability Director Ray Boshara writes that research by the St. Louis Fed found that between 1992 and 2013, college-educated blacks saw their wealth drop by 55 percent, while the wealth of college-educated whites grew by 86 percent. Based on the findings of a symposium, he proposes four solutions to the four driving factors in this gap. First, “improving pre-college environments” for African Americans to help boost completion rates, STEM degree tallies, and post-college earnings. Second, expanding pools of financial capital for lending circles and matched savings programs could stop downward and help upward economic mobility among those without extended family to provide financial assistance. Third, less debt and more grants as well as homeownership reforms would allow college-educated blacks a more equal footing post-graduation. Finally, “efforts to combat discrimination must endure,” as “the shared experience of historical and ongoing discrimination remains a significant factor.”
Illinois AG Advises Former Corinthian Students To Apply For Loan Discharge.
The Chicago Tribune (4/12, Channick) reports Illinois state Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office sent out a mass mailing Wednesday to students who attended Corinthian College, reminding them to apply for an ED cancellation of federal student loans. Madigan stated, “Students across the country were lured into enrolling in Corinthian schools by company representatives who made false and misleading statements about prospective career opportunities. Every one of the students misled by Corinthian deserves to have their federal loans canceled.”
DeVos Meets With University System Of Georgia Chancellor.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (4/12, Quinn) reports that on Wednesday, University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley met with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos regarding “improvements the Georgia system has made, such as consolidating universities [and] its goals for educating more students.” Wrigley reportedly asserted “the importance of the Pell Grant program,” “the importance of maintaining regional accreditation, and the need to reform the FAFSA.”
AP Offers Tips For Student Loan Debtors Who Can’t Pay Bills.
AP (4/12) business writer Joseph Pisani provides advice for student loan debtors who can’t pay their bills, writing that they should seek help from their student loan servicer, request lower payments, postpone payments, clean up their credit history, and avoid for-profit companies that offer help.
Research and Development
Apple Working On Noninvasive Blood Sugar Monitor.
CNBC (4/12, Farr) reports Apple hired a small team of biomedical engineers as “part of a super secret initiative…to develop sensors that can non-invasively and continuously monitor blood sugar levels to better treat diabetes, “according to three people familiar with the matter. The sources say that the effort has been underway for at least five years and Apple has been conducting feasibility trials.
Article Explores Transport Of Digital Data In Trucks.
Electronic Engineering Journal (4/12, Turley) looks to answer the question, “What’s the Bandwidth of a FedEx Truck?” The article explains that “Amazon (and others) discovered that the quickest way to transport large amounts of digital data is to physically pick it up in a big truck and haul it away, like so much shredded paper.” The article adds that when moving digital data, companies like Amazon Web Services “will happily rent you a Snowmobile 18-wheeler, complete with driver, diesel generator, outboard climate control, 45-foot containerized NAS, connection rack, and a whole bunch of really long fiber-optic cables.”
Researchers Genetically Engineer Mice In Search Of ALS Treatment.
HealthDay (4/12, Preidt) reports that in researchers have “found that suppressing a single protein significantly extended the lives of mice with a form of” amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). For the study, “researchers genetically engineered mice with ALS that were not yet showing symptoms to have either half the normal amount of ataxin 2 or to completely lack the protein,” and “compared to normal mice with ALS, those with half the ataxin 2 survived much longer.” The researchers found, “in one experiment, untreated mice lived no longer than 29 days”; however, “some of the mice with a suppressed ataxin 2 protein were alive for more than 400 days.” The findings were published in Nature.
New NASEM Report Outlines Recommendations For Responding Better To Future Epidemics.
STAT (4/12, Branswell) reports the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine commissioned a report that “attempts to chart a road map for expedited clinical trials for future epidemics, hoping to ensure that the lessons from the devastating Ebola outbreak are not forgotten.” The nearly 300-page report, titled “Integrating Clinical Research into Epidemic Response: The Ebola Experience,” included recommendations “on trying to build up health systems in low-income countries, so that they are better able to spot, respond to, and contribute to research during future disease outbreaks.”
Southeastern Louisiana University Receives $10M Donation To Promote Women In STEM.
AP (4/12) reports Southeastern Louisiana University officials said they received their “largest single donation in the Hammond-based institution’s 92-year history: a $10 million bequest from a 1953 graduate.” SLU VP for Advancement Wendy Lauderdale “said the donation bolsters one of Southeastern’s strategic initiatives – to increase the number of women enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math programs.”
Film “Black Women in Medicine” Promotes Women, People Of Color In STEM.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (4/12, Robinson) reports, “Filmmaker Crystal Emery will air her documentary ‘Black Women in Medicine’ Thursday, April 13, as part of her campaign to attract more people of color and women to careers in science, technology, engineering and medicine.” The article cites how “African-Americans receive 7.6 percent of all STEM degrees in America, and less than one percent of all scientists and engineers are black women.”
Opinion: Proposed Budget Cuts To Scientific Research Could Let China Surpass US In Science.
Deborah Stine, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and Caroline Wagner, who is affiliated with Ohio State University, write in an opinion piece in The Hill (4/12) that the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cuts to the NIH and other agencies are “dangers to scientific and engineering research.” Stine and Wagner argue that the US has been the global leader in science for decades, but the US could lose that spot to China if we don’t continue to invest in scientific research.
China To Recruit Foreign Students To Promote Belt And Road Initiative.
China Daily (4/12, Xiaobo) reports that in September, China University of Petroleum-Beijing plans to recruit the first foreign students to its Karamay campus in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, in a move intended to promote China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The Karamay campus, “which is of geographic importance in the Silk Road Economic Belt, will train high-caliber engineering talents and promote the technological and cultural communication in Central Asia, according to a guideline on the development of the new campus.” According to statistics, “more than 20 large and mid-sized oil companies, including the China National Petroleum Corporation, the China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, had oil and gas investments in countries along the Belt and Road as of the end of 2014.”
AI, Machine Learning Expected To Be A Big Part Of Amazon’s Future.
Bloomberg News (4/12, Soper) reports Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in his annual shareholder letter released Wednesday that the company plans to continue embracing artificial intelligence and machine learning to “deliver goods more quickly, enhance its voice-activated Alexa assistant and create new tools sold to others through its cloud-computing division.” Bezos wrote that machine learning technology has already influenced company projects like UAV delivery, its Echo voice-activated speaker and plans for its new Amazon Go store which was unveiled last year in Seattle. According to Bloomberg, Bezos also wrote that Amazon Web Services plans to offer “affordable tools so clients can incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning into their own operations.”
BMW Executive Predicts Major Changes In The Auto Industry In The Next Decade.
Bloomberg News (4/12) interviewed Ian Robertson, head of sales and marketing of BMW Group, about the company’s actions at the New York International Auto Show. The company reported strong first-quarter earnings and said BMW cut its volume last year in the US in response to “there being a lot of inventory on the ground.” Robertson tells Bloomberg, “What we’re going to see in the next five or seven years will probably be more change than we’ve seen in the past 100,” pointing out that the auto industry itself is about 100 years old. He says, “We are seeing new patterns, new powertrains, new materials. We’re seeing new ways of designing cars.” He also said BMW also aims to sell 100,000 electric cars this year, up from 62,000 last year, “and we’re on target to achieve that.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Congressman Proposes Bill To Establish “Charles Darwin Day.”
The AP (4/12, Haigh) report US Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), “has taken on the role of promoting Darwinism in the House…saying he believes it’s the type of legislation his southwestern Connecticut constituents want him to pursue at a time when skepticism surrounds science.” Himes “took over proposing the perennial longshot legislation commemorating the birth date of Charles Darwin from former New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt, a research physicist who is now chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.”
Tech Companies Oppose Republicans’ Plan To Reverse Net-Neutrality Rules.
The Wall Street Journal (4/12, McKinnon, Subscription Publication) reports the Internet Association, a trade group that lobbies for major tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix, met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday to state their opposition to Republicans’ plans to reverse Obama-era net neutrality rules. Tuesday’s meeting follows Pai telling telecommunications group about proposals to roll back the agency’s 2015 net-neutrality order, which require internet-service providers to treat all internet traffic the same. Pai’s plan is still under development but is expected to keep several parts of net neutrality, such a ban on throttling or blocking, and will shift oversight responsibility from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission.
The Washington Post (4/12, Fung) reports the Internet Association said it maintains its “vigorous support” for the FCC’s current net neutrality policy, “which moved to regulate broadband companies, such as Comcast and Charter, like their predecessors in the legacy telephone business.” If Pai proceeds with his plan, “it would trigger a months-long process to solicit public feedback.” The previous public comment period resulted in a “high-profile campaign by both sides to shape the outcome” that led to the Democratic majority on the FCC taking the “dramatic step of classifying Internet providers as ‘common carriers’ under the agency’s congressional charter, giving the FCC greater authority to impose bans on carriers’ business practices.” Internet providers say the reclassification goes too far and “the rules have slowed the pace at which providers build out their networks and upgrade speeds.”
Continuing Coverage: ED Rescinds Obama Guidance For New Student Loan Servicers.
The Wall Street Journal (4/12, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) reports that in a Tuesday memo, the ED withdrew three Obama Administration memos that set strict rules for new companies managing federal student loans. In the ED memo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the ED would draft a new plan, and suggested that Obama’s proposed rules would have raised costs while providing minimal benefits to student loan borrowers.
Fortune (4/12, Kilpatrick) reports “DeVos said in a press memo that she was rescinding the previous administration’s list of demands to ‘demonstrate sound fiscal stewardship of public dollar’ and limit the cost to taxpayers.” MarketWatch (4/12, Berman) says, “The exact implications of DeVos’s new guidelines remain unclear.” In an online article, NBC News (4/12, Rosenblatt) provides tips for student loan borrowers who encounter servicing issues, and provides a critical analysis of DeVos’ rescission of the Obama-era guidance.
USA Today (4/12, Davidson) reports critics of the move argue that it “will make it tougher for borrowers to make repayments and push many into default.” DeVos is quoted as saying the process of awarding new contracts “has been subjected to a myriad of moving deadlines, changing requirements and a lack of consistent objectives.” DeVos added, “We must create a student loan servicing environment that provides the highest quality customer service and increases accountability and transparency for all borrowers, while also limiting the cost to taxpayers.”
Georgia Legislature Passes Bill That Punishes Colleges That Shield Undocumented Students.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (4/12) reports the Georgia legislature passed House Bill 37, which “would punish campuses that fail to turn over information about students believed to be in the United States illegally.” HB37 “would restrict funds for colleges that violate state and federal law by adopting sanctuary polices.” The Journal-Constitution says the bill is “awaiting the governor’s signature.”
WPost: Administration Should Undertake More Meaningful Reform Of H-1B Visa Program.
In an editorial, the Washington Post (4/12) writes that the Administration’s announcement that enforcement agents would intensify site visits to companies that rely most heavily on the H-1B visa program is a “fine” but “inadequate” measure of reform. The Post says H-1B visa holders should be allowed to change employers once in the country to avoid exploitation. The program should prioritize “genuinely high-skilled labor, not that of entry-level programmers.” Finally, the minimum salary of $60,000 for some programmers and other H-1B applicants should be raised to about $100,000, which is the prevailing wage for comparably skilled American workers, thus stopping companies from using the program to push US employees off the payroll.
Federal Judge Allows Dakota Access Pipeline Developer To Keep Some Information Secret.
The AP (4/12, Nicholson) reports, “A federal judge is allowing the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline to keep secret some but not all pipeline information that the company believes could be useful to vandals and terrorists.” Judge James Boasberg “said in a ruling dated Friday that information such as spill risks at various points along the pipeline should be shielded from public view but that certain details relating to how a spill might be handled don’t warrant such protection.” The Army Corps of Engineers “maintained that only a limited amount of the information should be kept from public view based on analyses by the Transportation Security Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.”
Illinois School District Showcases Digital Learning Pilot Program.
The Lake County (IL) News-Sun (4/13, Olson) reports on Round Lake Area Schools District’s “one-to-one pilot program rolled out this school year, in which iPads, Windows laptops and Chromebooks are used for instruction and learning, including lessons, homework and group projects.” On Tuesday at the high school in Illinois, “families traveled to different classrooms, where 170 students provided a taste of how the technology is used in every subject and after-school activity.” For example, the Google Classroom “platform is used daily by teachers to create lessons, post announcements, distribute homework assignments and even communicate and grade papers in real time with their students.”
Montana HS Physics Students Tasked With Building Catapults.
KXLH-TV Helena, MT (4/12, Riley) reports online that physics students in Montana work “in groups to build catapults and trebuchets that they tested out as part of their final grade.” The article highlights how the project promotes creativity and hands-on learning.
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Apple Allegedly Developing Its Own Battery-Saving Chip.
• Women Earned Just 21 Percent Of Engineering Degrees.
• Singapore Researchers Tout Data Storage Technology Breakthrough.
• Singapore Moving Forward On Self-Driving Buses.
• Continuing Coverage: Boeing Looks To Save Money By Using 3D-Printed Parts For 787.
• Vermont Natural Gas Pipeline Opponents Ask Governor, PHMSA To Investigate Possible Construction Violations.
• Students Win Awards With Turbine Project At Alabama Science And Engineering Fair.