Leading the News
GM Announces 1,100 Jobs, $14 Million Investment In California Self-Driving R&D Facility.
The Detroit Free Press (4/13, Lawrence) reports General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra announced today that the automaker will add 1,100 jobs over the next five years and invest more than $14 million in a new research and development facility for its San Francisco-based self-driving technology company, more than doubling Cruise Automation’s space. Barra said the plans are “another important step in our work to redefine the future of personal mobility,” and they have the potential to increase safety and access to transportation. The project will receive an $8 million tax credit for the project from California’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
University Of Michigan Engineers Unveil 1,500-Pound Rubik’s Cube.
The AP (4/13, Householder) reports that at a Thursday ceremony, seven current and former University of Michigan mechanical engineering “students unveiled a 1,500-pound Rubik’s Cube” that is meant for students at the campus to play with and solve. The Detroit Free Press (4/13, Jesse) says the challenge the students faced in constructing the massive cube was figuring “out a movement mechanism that would allow people to spin the sides.”
UB Advanced Manufacturing Online Courses Draw Students From 26 Countries.
Buffalo (NY) Business First (4/12, Subscription Publication) reports behind a paywall that the University of Buffalo’s Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have pulled “in 180 students from 26 countries.” The MOOCs “offers 10 courses in digital manufacturing and design technology.”
Scholarships Offered To Potential Teachers To Address National Shortage.
According to U.S. News & World Report (4/13, Murray), there are numerous scholarships available for undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursing a career in education. According to a 2016 Learning Policy Institute report, almost every state has reported a shortage of teachers to the US Department of Education, and one way to encourage more students to choose a career in education is to offer scholarships to prospective teachers. The article details numerous scholarships and reminds potential educators that loan forgiveness programs exist if they do not qualify for scholarships.
Rampell: College Students Being Awarded Fewer Humanities, More STEM Degrees.
Washington (DC) Post (4/13, Rampell) columnist Catherine Rampell writes in her “Rampage” blog to rebut the notion that a higher percentage of young students are choosing “less practical” degrees such as women’s studies or art history. Rampell argues that when comparing degrees awarded between 1970-1971 and 2013-2014, there are actually fewer students studying humanities now than there were five decades ago. Furthermore, Rampell argues, the percent of education degrees awarded has seen the biggest decrease when comparing the same two time periods, while computer-science, engineering, and other professional degrees have seen the biggest increase.
MSU Error Suspends Upward Bound Program.
The Detroit Free Press (4/13, Wolcott) reports that Michigan State University (MSU) staff failed to include a program description in its renewal request for the $480,000 “Upward Bound” college preparation program, causing federal officials to reject the request. The Free Press writes that “MSU was not allowed to appeal or amend its request, leaving a shortfall equal to 80% of the Upward Bound office’s budget of about $600,000.” The program “is one of eight TRIO programs created in the 1960s to give low-income, first-generation college students or individuals with disabilities opportunities to further their education.”
Research and Development
MIT Scientists Engineer Rubber Gloves With Potential Diagnostic Properties.
STAT (4/13, Boodman) reports on a process engineered by Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists that makes “living sensors” out of rubber gloves that light up neon green when they detect some chemicals. Mechanical engineering PhD student Xinyue Liu explained the process she and her team devised to create channels that become “a home for cells” such as E. coli that would otherwise die outside a Petri dish. With refinements, STAT says such bacteria, “instead of getting you sick, might hone in on a diagnosis by emitting an otherworldly glow.” The process was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists.
Scientists Developing Vaccine For Chagas Disease.
Reuters (4/13, Hares) reports scientists are working to develop a vaccine for Chagas disease, a life-threatening condition transmitted by “kissing bugs” in Latin America. Emilio Malchiodi, a professor of immunology at the University of Buenos Aires, “said a molecule engineered to contain three antigens had been shown in mice to reduce the number of Trypanosoma cruzi parasites that cause Chagas, as well as the amount of tissue damage they inflict.” The article reports that the work of Malchiodi and his colleagues was published online in Nature’s NPJ Vaccines journal.
Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs Chooses Four More Startups For Grants.
STAT (4/13, Keshavan) reports on four startups that have received early grant money from Breakout Labs – part of Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel’s foundation – including a company “that’s developing non-electronic, shape-shifting temporary tattoos that convey health information.” The Labs’ grants go toward “mildly wacky, but fairly awesome ideas,” STAT says, detailing the investments in LogicInk’s temporary tattoos, SciBac’s plan to develop a stronger microbiome, Envisagenics’ SpliceCore software that uses machine learning to analyze data to speed up work for drug makers, and Gel4Med, which engineers “tissue regeneration scaffolding.”
Researchers Demonstrate Balloon-Borne Infrasound Detection.
R&D Magazine (4/13) reports that “experiments conducted high in the skies over New Mexico suggest that balloon-borne sensors could be useful in detecting the infrasound signals generated by small, extraterrestrial debris entering Earth’s atmosphere, according to a report at the 2017 Seismological Society of America’s(SSA) Annual Meeting.” The report says “ground sensors can detect these signals, but very small infrasound signals can be swamped out by wind and other ambient noises gathered by these devices.” Therefore, “researchers including Eliot Young of the Southwest Research Institute and Daniel Bowman of Sandia National Laboratories are looking for quieter places to position these sensors– in this case tethering them to high-altitude balloons.”
Science Daily (4/13) carries a similar report.
Robotics Team’s World Championship Berth Recognized.
La Prensa Excelsior (4/6) reports on Hemet’s Western Center Academy student team, The Ducks, that will represent the region April 19-22 in the FIRST Robotics Competition in Houston. The story mentions that the team “was crowned one of the best of the west in the FTC West Super-Regional Championship that took place in Tacoma, Washington” last month. Edison International supported the robot doctor station- where engineers help students troubleshoot problems – at the Tacoma competition.
Analysis: Tech Companies “Balk At Transparency” Of Gender Pay Data.
A Bloomberg News (4/13, Colby) analysis says, “Though many companies, including Facebook, say they pay men and women equally, they are loath to share the data, even when pressed by investors, employees and government regulators.” For example, a Labor Department “official said in court on Friday that it has found ‘systemic compensation disparities’ against women at” Google. The company also “blocked an investor request to report on any gender pay gaps at its annual meeting last year.”
Walmart Hires High-Paid Software Engineers.
Forbes (4/13, Mourdoukoutas) reports that average salaries for Walmart software development engineers can reach $151,666. The high salaries place “Walmart in the list of the 25 highest paying companies in America in 2017, close to its on-line competitor, Amazon.com, which pays $131,885 for software engineers.” Forbes reports that Walmart’s “on-line sales have been growing rapidly in recent quarters, heating up the battle against on-line giant Amazon.com.”
Infosys Says It Expects Lower Revenue Due To H-1B Visa Scrutiny.
The Wall Street Journal (4/13, Purnell, Subscription Publication) reports that on Thursday, Infosys revised downward its estimates for revenue growth for the current fiscal year, citing heightened scrutiny of the H-1B visa program that allows it to send employees to the US. Quartz (4/13, Karnik) also covers comments by Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka, noting they “come at a time when the Donald Trump administration is making aggressive moves to clamp down on H-1B visas, which enable Indian companies to send cheap techies to the US.”
Cisco’s Vulnerabilities Highlight Concerns With Government Cybersecurity.
Reuters (4/13) reports that Cisco Systems engineers “swung into action” when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange disclosed the receipt of CIA hacking tools that exploited “flaws in Cisco’s widely used Internet switches…to enable eavesdropping.” Reuters says, “Senior Cisco managers immediately reassigned staff from other projects to figure out how the CIA hacking tricks worked, so they could help customers patch their systems and prevent criminal hackers or spies from using the same methods, three employees told Reuters on condition of anonymity.” Reuters adds, “That a major U.S. company had to rely on WikiLeaks to learn about security problems well-known to U.S. intelligence agencies underscores concerns expressed by dozens of current and former U.S. intelligence and security officials about the government’s approach to cybersecurity.”
Engineering and Public Policy
AAAS CEO Warns Against Trump’s Proposed Funding Cuts To NIH, FDA.
G2 Intelligence (4/13) reports on harsh criticism of cuts to science and medical research in President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) CEO Rush Holt said in a statement, “The Trump administration’s proposed budget would cripple the science and technology enterprise through short-sighted cuts to discovery science programs and critical mission agencies alike. Investments in federal research and development make significant contributions to economic growth and public well-being. The administration’s proposed cuts would threaten our nation’s ability to advance cures for disease, maintain our technological leadership, ensure a more prosperous energy future, and train the next generation of scientists and innovators.”
March For Science Set For April 22.
LiveScience (4/13, Kahn) reports in anticipation of the March for Science rally planned for April 22, for which “scientists and science advocates are planning to flood the streets of 480 cities around the globe.” LiveScience notes the list of groups endorsing the social movement “includes heavyweights like the American Association for the Advancement of Science and American Geophysical Union and smaller groups like the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.”
Analysis: Decreased State, Local Higher Education Funding Raises Student Costs.
U.S. News & World Report (4/13, Galvin) reports that according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, “states spent an average of $6,966 per full-time college student in 2015,” which represents a 5.2 increase over 2014, but 15.3 percent less than 2008. The article says that in 22 states, “public colleges and universities now receive more revenue per student from tuition than from state appropriations.” The article says that “in 1990, students and families bore about 25 percent of the cost of public higher education,” but that figure rose to 50 percent by 2015. US News adds that “just under 70 percent of students graduated with college debt in 2014,” and “states that do invest a lot of money in higher education tend to have more affordable tuition and lower student debt rates.”
Company’s Lawyers Argue Trump Executive Order Would Negate Case Against It.
Fox News (4/13, O’Reilly) reports HVI Cat Canyon which has been sued by the Environmental Protection Agency is arguing that the EPA attorneys are “defying” an executive order from President Trump that “would essentially kill” the suit. The suit alleges violations of the Clean Water and Pollution Act including spilling oil into drainage ditches, classified as “navigable waters” under the “Waters of the United States” rule. Since taking office, President Trump has signed an executive order “directing the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to review Obama’s expanded definition of navigable waters with a view to rescinding it.” As a result HVI attorneys are arguing that the case against them should be dropped or suspended until new rules are approved.
NY High School Students Start Kinet-X Summer Technology Camp.
The Wall Street Journal (4/13, Brody, Subscription Publication) profiles Kinet-X, a company started by three Stuyvesant High School robotics team members that teaches computer science and engineering to middle schoolers. In 2016, 15 students attended their summer technology camp, which drew $20,000 in revenues. Their curriculum prioritizes hands-on learning.
Sanford Research Facility In ND Brings Students Underground To Learn Science.
The AP (4/13) reports on the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, North Dakota, which “has a Dakota Digital Network connection so researchers and others can connect with classrooms from deep beneath the earth’s surface.” The AP explains “the Sanford lab is a former gold mine that closed in 2001,” which was donated “to the state for use as an underground laboratory.” According to the Aberdeen (SD) News (4/14, Grandstrand), “Through the facility’s education and outreach program and the lab’s digital connection, educators are able to take students to rooms where experiments are being conducted in a way that wouldn’t be possible if a whole classroom was physically on site.”
Math And Science Institute In Texas To Become A STEM Academy.
KOSA-TV Odessa, TX (4/12, Lopez) reports online that the Washington Math and Science Institute in Midland, Texas adopted a STEM program. KOSA says, “From coding to developing their own apps, students will be given the opportunity to dive into the world of engineering and technology.” KOSA adds, “In addition to the STEM program, the elementary will be making robotics a part of the classroom instruction, instead of an after school activity.”
Michigan Elementary School Uses Minecraft To Teach Collaboration, Math.
The Petoskey (MI) News-Review (4/13, Fellows) reports that Central Elementary School in Petoskey, Michigan is using the video game Minecraft in the classroom to teach students collaboration, math, and social studies. On teacher “said the students are learning above grade level skills as they build their zoos.”
Marina High School Senior Awarded $40,000 Scholarship By Edison.
The Huntington Beach (CA) News (4/13, Jeun) reports Marina High School senior Evan Corriere has received a $40,000 scholarship from Edison International as part of the $1.2 million Edison Scholars Program. Thirty scholars were selected for the program this year. Edison International President and CEO Pedro Pizarro said, “Edison International congratulates this year’s outstanding scholars. … Through their pursuit of science, technology, engineering and math, we believe these students will make important contributions to our communities and society. We are proud to support them.”
Student Wins AIAA Award At Silicon Valley Science Fair.
The Morgan Hill (CA) Times (4/13) reports that local eighth grader Molly Waddington and another student received Honorable Mention awards at the 2017 Synopsys Silicon Valley Science and Technology Championship. For her “Robo Garden” project, Waddington “was recognized with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Intelligent Systems Award in the Physical Science and Engineering Category.”
Also in the News
Susan Fowler Will Be Editor In Chief Of Increment, Stripe’s New Publication For Engineers.
Re/code (4/13, Swisher) reports Susan Fowler, “the engineer who became famous in Silicon Valley for her devastating blog post that chronicled pervasive sexism and sexual harassment at Uber,” has been named editor-in-chief of a new quarterly publication backed by Stripe. The publication will be aimed at coders and programmers, and will be “chock full” of writing “that unearths how the most secretive and highest-performing engineering teams build and operate software systems at scale.” The publication will reportedly be called “Increment.”
TechCrunch (4/13) reports Increment will focus on a particular theme in each issue. This quarter, the publication is all about how software teams deal with on-call and incident response.
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• NASA Announces Preliminary Winners Of 2017 Student Launch.
• SAE, GM Challenge Eight Universities To Build Self-Driving Chevy Bolts.
• Apple Working On Noninvasive Blood Sugar Monitor.
• Southeastern Louisiana University Receives $10M Donation To Promote Women In STEM.
• Opinion: Proposed Budget Cuts To Scientific Research Could Let China Surpass US In Science.
• AI, Machine Learning Expected To Be A Big Part Of Amazon’s Future.
• Congressman Proposes Bill To Establish “Charles Darwin Day.”