Leading the News
March For Science Events Held Across US And Around The World.
There was widespread media coverage of the March for Science, which was held on Saturday. The largest event was held in Washington DC, but additional events were held in hundreds of cities throughout the US and in other countries.
NBC Nightly News (4/22, lead story, 2:30, Diaz-Balart) reported that “hundreds of thousands of people on six continents…came out in support of science.” NBC News reported that the objective of the events “was a nonpartisan endorsement of fact-based research,” but “the reality” was that “many of the marchers criticized the President for proposing budgets cuts to major government research.”
The CBS Weekend News (4/22, lead story, 3:05, Ninan) reported “rallies and marches were held in more than 600 cities, from New York, Chicago, and Washington, to London, Berlin, and Sydney, Australia,” but the main event was held in Washington, DC on the National Mall.
ABC World News Tonight (4/22, story 7, 1:50, Llamas) reported the events were held “to express support for scientific research and opposition, in part, to some of President Trump’s policies.”
USA Today (4/22, Stanglin, Korte) reported hundreds of thousands of people participated in the March for Science in Washington, DC. Participants said science was “under attack” by the White House.
The AP (4/22, Borenstein) reported, “Scientists, students and research advocates rallied on an often soggy Earth Day, conveying a global message about scientific freedom without political interference, the need for adequate spending for future breakthroughs and just the general value of scientific pursuits.” At the events, “scientists said they were anxious about political and public rejection of established science such as climate change and the safety of vaccine immunizations.”
Reuters (4/22, Johnson) reported the events were aimed at reaffirming “the vital role science plays in our democracy,” according to the official website for the events, but “the marches were effectively protests against steep cuts that President Donald Trump has proposed for federal science and research budgets and his administration’s skepticism about climate change and the need to slow global warming.”
The Los Angeles Times (4/22, Willman) reported that Bill Nye, a former TV star and now the chief executive of the Planetary Society, was one of the event’s sponsors. Nye was also one of the speakers at the event in DC, saying in part, “Without scientifically literate citizens, the United States – any country, in fact – cannot compete on the world stage.”
March For Science Organizers Urge Marchers To Remain Active. The Washington Post (4/23, Kaplan) reports in a brief item that in the aftermath of Saturday’s March For Science, organizers are urging marchers “to take part in a ‘week of action,’ a set of coordinated activities that range from signing an environmental voting pledge to participating in a citizen science project.” The Post says such “public engagement is unprecedented for the scientific community…but in the wake of President Trump’s election, and in the face of policy changes and proposed budget cuts that threatened several areas of research, the community is galvanized.”
Education Experts Examine Lack Of College Readiness Among Nevada Students.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal (4/23) reports that in 2015, 53 percent of Nevada high school graduates who enrolled in one of seven degree-granting state higher education institutions were required to enroll in remedial courses. The courses are designed “for students who scored low on the SAT or ACT, or on a placement test administered upon entry into college.” Because the remedial courses do not offer credit hours, the students enrolled in those courses often spend more time and money to earn a college degree. The problem is “not unique to Nevada,” eliciting “a broader question on the higher education and K-12 connection: Armed with a high school diploma, are Nevada students really prepared for the rigors of college?” To increase college readiness, state and national education experts suggested adopting the Common Core State Standards, emphasizing the importance of college entrance exams, and addressing the misalignment between college readiness and high school exit standards.
Hawaiian State Lawmakers Advance Bill To Fund Physician Student Loan Repayment Program.
The Maui (HI) News (4/23) reports Hawaii’s state House-Senate conference committee passed a bill that calls for $250,000 in state funds to help finance the Hawai’i State Loan Repayment plan. The student loan repayment program was established to help doctors who practice in Hawaii’s underserved areas, and is currently funded by Federal money and state medical organizations. State Sen. Josh Green called the “bellwether piece of legislation” necessary to address the state’s doctor shortage “crisis.” On Hawaii’s Big Island, said Green, the doctor shortage is 30 percent worse than on Maui, and 50 percent worse that the statewide shortage. An expected flux of retired doctors renders the shortage “even more worrisome.” In written testimony, physician Dr. Sarah Feenstra wrote, “Loan repayment works. It attracts providers, like myself.” She said after residency, she faced “a daunting $280,000 in debt” that, without the program, would have prevented her from working “with the underserved mentally ill population.”
Research and Development
Detroit To Host Final Year Of Shell Eco-Marathon.
The Detroit Free Press (4/22, Phelan) reports on the Shell Eco-Marathon scheduled to be held in Detroit next weekend, saying “far-out vehicles developed by engineering students from throughout the Western Hemisphere” will be on display. “More than 1,000 students from universities and high schools in North and South America will build and test alternate-fuel vehicles they developed as the Eco-Marathon takes over downtown for the third and final year.” The event is sponsored by Shell Oil, and “students compete to build and run the most energy-efficient vehicles using gasoline and alternative fuels.”
Honda To Build High-Tech Wind Tunnel In Ohio.
The Springfield (OH) News Sun (4/20) reports that Honda is investing $124 million to build a “high-tech wind tunnel” at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio, “the first time the company has invested in a full-scale facility of its kind in the U.S.” The center “provides research and development, crash testing and other functions. The tunnel will be able to produce wind speeds of up to 192 miles per hour.”
Venture Capitalists Invest In Digital Farming.
In the Wall Street Journal (4/21, Pfund, Subscription Publication), Nancy Pfund of San Francisco-based VC DBL Partners writes about Silicon Valley venture capitalist focus on digital farming innovations. Pfund writes about her own experience in agriculture-rich areas around the US and the challenges farmers face amid industry consolidation. In 2014, California-based entrepreneurs founded the Farmers Business Network in order to connect farmers with agriculture technology based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The network recently held a conference in Omaha, Nebraska with sessions such as “The Start Up Founder,” which provided advice on seeds, savings, and online inputs for Midwestern farmers.
Georgia College Student Recreates Out-Of-Production Light Fixture With SolidWorks, 3D Printer.
“About two years ago, thieves took off with an anodized pot metal light fixture before Lexington master gardener Norm DeNeal and crew could hoist it up to one of the two towering lamp posts at the garden,” reported the AP (4/22). Highlands College drafting technology student Jeremy Hankel “spent 36 hours working a SolidWorks computer program designing” a replica of the 20-inch-tall fixture, which was one common but discontinued in 1929 by the manufacturer, Cutter Company. “I had no drawings to work from – just the light fixture itself,” Hankel stated. Hankel used the college’s 3D printer to create a plastic reproduction of the fixture, and DeNeal and his crew “plan to paint it and spruce it up before topping the post.” The AP notes Highlands College, located in Georgia, has about a dozen 3D printers, and all manufacturing students use the technology to “learn transferable design skills that they can use in other industries: engineering, welding, architecture, and construction.”
NYU Engineering Students Develop Chair To Help Limited-Mobility Children Explore.
Engadget (4/20) reported New York University Tandon School of Engineering students Tanaya Bhave and Gang Haiming, alarmed over studies suggesting that “disabled children may have developmental problems” because of their inability to explore, developed the “incredibly intuitive” Tot Bot system. The students’ Tot Bot is a chair specifically designed to increase a child’s mobility and, as a result, restore the child’s ability to thoroughly investigate the surroundings. Instead of the joystick typically found on a traditional wheelchair, Bhave and Haiming installed a touchscreen. The parent can install an app on any mobile device attached to the Tot Bot, and the device’s camera displays “a video of whatever’s in front of the child, who simply taps on the image of whatever they want to examine.” Bhave and Haiming showcased the Tot Bot on Friday at NYU Tandon’s Research Expo.
University Of Michigan To Name New Robotics Laboratory After Ford Motor Company.
Automotive World (4/21) reported the University of Michigan announced on Friday that it will name its new state-of-the-art robotics laboratory the Ford Motor Company Robotics Building. Ford Motor Company’s $15 million contribution is expected to expedite construction on the $75 million building, which is located on the university’s Ann Arbor campus. The university moved up the building’s targeted opening from the winter of 2020 to late-2019. Ford will co-locate more than 100 of its researchers and engineers to the laboratory, “creating the company’s first research lab on a university campus in an effort to accelerate Ford’s development of autonomous vehicles.”
University Of Arizona, Maricopa County Begin Testing Car-To-Infrastructure Connectivity System.
On its website, KJZZ-FM Phoenix (4/20) reported Maricopa County Department of Transportation and University of Arizona Transportation Institute director Larry Head co-developed a system that connects vehicles and traffic signals. “So the idea is the cars are talking to each other, they can also talk to the infrastructure,” Head explained. He continued, “They can talk to the traffic signals and say ‘here I am!’ and the traffic signals can say ‘oh I see you’re there, let me give you a green light and let you go through.’” Currently, MCDOT is testing the system with emergency vehicles. The county is one of only seven in the nation testing such a system.
Researchers Develop Nanotube Structure To Strengthen Thin Films Used In Electronics.
Nanowerk (4/21) reports researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were able to “[synthesize thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.” Sameh Tawfick, an assistant professor of mechanical science and engineering at Illinois explains, “The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including biological and structural health monitoring sensors…Aligned carbon nanotube sheets are suitable for a wide range of application spanning the micro- to the macro-scales including Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), supercapacitor electrodes, electrical cables, artificial muscles, and multi-functional composites.”
Boeing Issues 429 New Layoff Notices In Washington State.
The Seattle Times (4/21, Gates) reported that The Boeing Company issued 429 new layoff notices to union employees in Washington State as part of the company’s continuing cost-cutting drive, according to the workers’ two unions. Non-union employees also likely were issued notices, although Boeing did not provide figures. The layoffs included 217 members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and 277 members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA). A SPEEA spokesman said that affected members included 246 working in the Commercial Airplanes unit and 30 in the company’s defense unit. IAM District 751 President Jon Holden expressed concern that the looming 777 production cut in August will result in many more layoffs.
Obtained Government Filing Reveals Details About Apple Self-Driving Car Testing.
Business Insider (4/21, Leswing) has obtained Apple documents through a public-records request that show a first look of the “Automated System” technology that Apple is constructing for self-driving vehicles. Additionally, Apple “is planning to put staffers through a training program to operate the vehicles ahead of testing on California roads.” Apple has kept quiet about the details after receiving a California permit to test autonomous vehicles, but Business Insider obtained a walk-through of the “Development Platform Specific Training” and “details about an autonomous-vehicle system called the ‘Apple Automated System.’” TechCrunch (4/21, Etherington) reports the system “can control steering, acceleration, deceleration and ‘portions of the dynamic driving task,’ according to forms filled out by Apple officials.” The documents show also “that cars used for testing include steering equipment culled from consumer gaming controller equipment (Logitech wheel and pedals, specifically) to provide them with the means to take over control of the vehicle.” Mashable (4/21, Morse) quotes the documents as stating, “Vehicle will make a sudden maneuver to the right or left turn of a wide straight lane…[the] safety driver should intervene by grabbing the steering wheel and correct the path to stay within the lane.”
According to AppleInsider (4/21, Campbell) reports “Apple’s application incorporates a copy of the testing process it used to certify the six drivers who will pilot three modified 2015 Lexus RX450h SUVs.” The informational packet includes instruction sets, training goals, and diagrams for testing including: “low speed driving, high speed driving, tight U-turns, sudden steering input, sudden acceleration, sudden braking and lane change.” The obtained document also lists the “six Apple employees who passed the company’s autonomous vehicle tests and are thus certified to operate the platform.”
A separate AppleInsider (4/21, Campbell) piece notes that although the document doesn’t provide much insight into the future of Apple’s plans for autonomous driving, the company “has long been rumored to be working on autonomous vehicle technology under its ‘Project Titan’ initiative.” Apple “reportedly abandoned efforts to create a branded car in late 2016 when former project leader Steve Zadesky left Apple and handed the reins over to senior VP of Hardware Engineering Dan Riccio.” Furthermore, Reuters (4/21, Sage) reports the permit doesn’t automatically indicate Apple is building a full vehicle, but that instead could “be designing a self-driving platform that can be integrated into other manufacturer’s cars.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Judge Levies $2.8 Billion In Criminal Fines Against Volkswagen For Emissions Fraud.
The Wall Street Journal (4/21, Rogers, Spector, Subscription Publication) reports US District Judge Sean Cox on Friday order Volkswagen AG to pay $2.8 billion in criminal fines as part of its conviction into rigging diesel-powered vehicles to pass government emissions tests. The auto-maker admitted that for a decade it had decided US officials with the emissions rigging. The judge also ordered that an independent monitor be brought in to investigate the company’s compliance practices for the next three years. The Journal notes that this criminal penalty follows a civil penalty of $1.5 billion.
Indiana Robotics Team Attends World Tournament Despite Funding Challenges, Racial Slurs.
The Washington Post (4/23, Phillips) reports the Pleasant Run Elementary School Panther Bots, a group of five fourth-grade students from a low-income Indianapolis community, “have become the face of a success story about a group of kids who were taunted with racial slurs but were too determined to let that affect their confidence.” At one local robotics competition in early February, the Panther Bots won amid other students’ taunts of “You need to go back to Mexico!” Parents at the event also referred to the robotics team students as Mexicans. The incident prompted “scores of strangers” to show support for the Panther Bots, and more than 200 people raised approximately $12,000 to send the students to VEX IQ world robotics tournament, which began in Louisville, Kentucky on Sunday. “Before joining the robotics team,” writes the Post, “none of the children had expressed an interest in engineering. But they’ve now discovered passions they didn’t have before.”
Idaho Elementary, High School Partner In Food Computer Project.
The AP (4/22, Beck) reported Lowie Watkins, a fourth-grade student at Idaho’s Hemingway Elementary, was inspired by Caleb Harper’s Ted Talk about so-called “food computers,” which can help people efficiently grow their own food with computer-maintained, climate-controlled boxes. Watkins “gave an impassioned speech” that secured his classmates’ desire to make a food computer for their classroom. Their teacher, Lydia Flynn, partnered with Wood River High School teacher Kevin Lupton and his engineering class to make a food computer for both classrooms. The Blaine County Education Foundation donated $1,000, Power Engineers contributed $1,500, and the Hemingway Parent Auxiliary awarded the final $500 needed to purchase the supplies. Webb Nursery donated seeds and dirt, and The Hunger Coalition’s Bloom Garden program agreed to teach the students about gardening. Lupton told the AP that he had never build anything similar to a food computer, but that they would “figure it out” because that “is what engineers do,” they are “programmed to solve problems.”
Investigation Finds Once-Promising Iowa STEM Academy Now “Fast Waning.”
At the request of Des Moines-area resident Eric Kelderman, the Des Moines (IA) Register (4/22) launched an investigation into a planned STEM-centered high school in the small logging town of Clinton, Iowa. The Register discovered Clinton Regional Development Corp. president Mike Kirchhoff, who helped establish the renowned Illinois Math and Science Academy, launched the idea, and Oregon state Rep. Brian Clem agreed to help jump-start the initiative. Soon after, the investor group Clinton Catalyst LLC pledged to turn around and sell the former Ashford College campus, valued at $28 million, to the Asian Education Foundation for only $1.6 million. A press release constituted “big news in an eastern Iowa city struggling to create jobs and opportunity.” Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, both advocates of expanding STEM education in Iowa, told Clem they loved the idea, but could not fund it “in a budget-trimming year.” The initiative is now “fast waning as a possibility for Clinton.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Toyota Tests Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Semi Trucks At Port Of Long Beach.
• George Mason Students Design Prosthetic Arm For 10-Year-Old Violinist.
• Notre Dame Professor Honored For Transitioning Data Software To Marketplace.
• At F8 Conference, Facebook Stresses Commitment To AR Technology.
• People Preparing For March For Science Events Across US.
• Tennessee Robotics Teams Battle In Houston For Championship.