ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Apple Joins AI Race One Of The Top Takeaways From Early WWDC 2017 Sessions.

The Tuesday news cycle saw extensive continuing coverage of Apple’s WWDC 2017 with a focus on Monday’s presentations. Tech-focused media agreed that the opening session showed “Apple is now playing the artificial intelligence and machine learning game too,” as ZDNet Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(6/6, Dignan) put it. ZDNet writes, “AI has occupied a big chunk of the major developer—Microsoft, Facebook and Google—keynotes in 2017,” according to a Jackdaw Research analysis, and “Apple has now joined the club.” Quartz Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Gershgorn) summed it up with the headline, “Apple Is Finally Serious About Artificial Intelligence.” Wired Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6) reports Apple “finally took Siri out of beta,” though it “billed the features announced Monday at WWDC as the latest in a long line of fantastic improvements.” If “you take the new capabilities, the new device, the new voice, and the new developer tools, it starts to feel like more than mere upgrades and improvements.”

Under the headline “Apple Just Joined Tech’s Great Race To Democratize AI,” Wired Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Simonite) said that “tucked away in the middle” Monday’s presentation “were a short few minutes” where Apple entered the “contest to help developers build the next generation of AI-powered applications.” Bob O’Donnell wrote in a piece originally published at Tech.pinions and featured on Re/code Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6) that although Apple did not mention “differential privacy this year” in regard to AI, it “did highlight that by doing a lot of this AI/machine learning work on the device, it can keep people’s information local and not have to send it up to large cloud-based data centers.” He believes this could be a “big advantage for Apple” for those who care about privacy.

By contrast national mainstream media coverage tapered off after Monday’s news-cycle, where the focus leaned more toward the Apple’s emphasis on the superior audio experience in outlets such as BBC News (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6) and USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/5, Graham). Similarly, the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/5, Tsukayama) wrote on Monday that “the real selling point, as far as Apple is concerned is the HomePod’s sound quality,” adding that it can “provide an alternative to high-end speakers from competitors such as Bose and Sonos as well as the cheaper home hubs from its fellow tech giants.” The Street Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6) observed that Apple downplayed Siri and “focused on using some of its core strengths – its top-notch hardware and chip engineering, and its ability to create fairly seamless user experiences tying together hardware, software and cloud services – to deliver a compelling solution for the connected home audio market.” Still, Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/5, Webb, Gurman) was not alone in pointing out that the HomePod “marks the biggest effort yet from the technology company to use its Siri digital assistant to keep customers wedded to a growing palette of products and services.”

In a piece summarizing pundit Jim Cramer’s bullishness on the new device, CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6) reported he said on “Squawk Box” that the $349 price sticker would not keep people away, “Whatever Apple does people say they’re stupid and then they go buy it,” said Cramer. By contrast, The Verge Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6) said HomePod is “expensive” and may have limited music options besides Apple Music. But, “[e]arly reports of the sound quality are good, and there’s always the option for Apple to add support for other music services or Siri integrations down the line.”

Higher Education

National Academy Of Sciences: Women Mentor Women Effectively In STEM Fields.

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Wood) reports that a study of female STEM students “suggests that female-female mentor pairings bond faster.” The article adds, “An astonishing 100 percent of female engineering students in the study mentored by advanced female students continued on to their second year, a transition point that often sees many choose a different path.” The article also reports that “researchers concluded successful female role models made the difference, stemming the decline in self-confidence seen among those with male mentors or no mentor at all,” and that “the results, published April in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest identity may play a role in effective mentoring, which could inform programs targeting other underrepresented groups.”

State AGs Fault ED For Failing To Relieve Debt For Former Corinthian Students.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Lambert) reports that 20 state attorneys general and regulatory agencies have written to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos lamenting that ED “has left thousands of student-loan borrowers who were defrauded by Corinthian Colleges Inc in limbo by prolonging a process created by the Obama administration that was supposed to speedily cancel their debts.” Near the end of President Obama’s second term, ED “finalized a regulation easing the way for students from struggling for-profit colleges such as Corinthian and ITT Tech to quickly receive debt relief that they were entitled to by law.” The letter expressed concerns “about growing backlogs of applications for the relief and of loans approved for discharge that simply need a sign-off.”

WRC-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Washington (6/6) reports that AGs “from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. joined 17 other states in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos urging the Department of Education to follow through on its promise to erase those debts.” The piece quotes ED Press Secretary Liz Hill saying, “The process for borrowers with claims approved to obtain discharge is underway, and we are working with servicers to get these loans discharged as expeditiously as possible. Some borrowers should expect to obtain discharges within the next few weeks.” The Seattle Medium Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6) and the San Jose (CA) Mercury News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6) also cover this story.

Study: Undergraduate Students May Owe $722 Million In Overdraft Fees.

MarketWatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, LaMagna) reports a NerdWallet analysis Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, El Issa) found “11 million full-time undergraduate college students in the U.S. could be paying a collective $722 million each year in overdraft fees.” NerdWallet personal finance expert Liz Weston said inexperienced consumers, such as college students, are likely to overdraw when they open their first checking accounts. Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also “found dozens of deals between colleges and banks that don’t place any limits on costly account fees, unlike some banks, which have maximum account charges.”

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The ASEE Board of Directors encourages members of the 115th Congress to follow the praiseworthy precedent set with the FY 2017 Omnibus legislation and sustain adequate funding for our nation’s engineering and scientific research efforts. Read the full statement.ASEE Annual Conference Video Highlights
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Research and Development

Advances In Wearable Sensor Technology Promise Groundbreaking Health Applications.

NBC News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Gammon) reports on the development of “a T-shirt that can monitor heart rate and respiration” using “a flexible antenna” made out of fibers and “sewn into” the shirt “at chest level.” The story also highlights new research and applications for smart clothing and fiber optic textiles, saying that “eventually, everyone could be a walking environmental sensor and health data gatherer,” with the data being used to “transform clinical trials, experts hope.”

US Navy Requests No Railgun Integration Funding For FY2018.

The Daily Mail Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6) reports the US Navy did not request funding in its FY2018 budget proposal for the integration of its hypersonic railgun with ships. The $93 million requested for this year will only cover research and development, with a “testable prototype” expected by FY2019. BAE Systems’ railgun model is featured in a video.

New Report Finds Internet Of Things To Keep Growing, Most People Will Stay Connected.

NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Silva) reports that according to a new report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter by the Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, the Internet of things will continue to grow for the next decade, until “human and machine connectivity becomes ubiquitous and unavoidably present.” According to the article, 1,200 participants were asked if security concerns over increasing connectivity would cause significant numbers of people to disconnect. Only 15% said significant numbers would disconnect, while 85% said most people would move deeper into connected life. NPR reports survey highlights included responses that showed people believe unplugging is futile, people “crave” connection and convenience above all else, and the Internet of things may become safer over time.

North Dakota UAS Test Site, NASA Recently Complete Research Initiative.

Prairie Business Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6) reports the North Dakota Department of Commerce announced Tuesday that the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and NASA has recently completed a research initiative to test NASA’s UAS Traffic Management system. Northern Plains UAS Test Site Executive Director Nicholas Flom said, “North Dakota’s partnership with NASA is helping to drive crucial research that will assist the FAA in implementing UTM for all UAS users in the NAS.”

Lyft Partners With Self-Driving Car Startup nuTonomy.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Isaac, Subscription Publication) reports that Lyft has “announced an agreement with nuTonomy, a self-driving car start-up, that will eventually bring thousands of nuTonomy’s autonomous vehicles to Lyft’s ride-hailing network.” Lyft said the partnership “will initially focus on research and development related to the customer experience of summoning an autonomous vehicle.” While Lyft chief executive Logan Green “has long postulated that the future of transportation will be less focused on private car ownership,” Lyft “is behind others in making inroads into that future.”


Uber Fires 20 In Wake Of Sexual Harassment Investigation.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Sadam) reports, “Uber said on Tuesday it fired 20 employees and was improving management training following an investigation by a law firm into sexual harassment allegations and other claims” at the company. Uber fired the staff “following a report by law firm Perkins Coie, which Uber hired to look into claims of harassment, discrimination, bullying and other employee concerns.”

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Cava) reports, “Uber’s corporate culture came under sharp scrutiny after a February blog post by former engineer Susan Fowler, who described her year at the company as being rife with sexual harassment.” The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Lien) reports that Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick in February “condemned the behavior Fowler described, saying that it was ‘abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in.’”

Amazon Robotics Seeking Engineers.

The Puget Sound (WA) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Subscription Publication) reports, “Amazon Robotics is looking for engineers who can use technology from its checkout-free grocery concept in Seattle to streamline human-robot work in warehouses.” The Human Machine Interface team “has three software engineering positions open for candidates using technologies like computer vision, sensor fusion, machine learning and ergonomic design.”

Global Developments

Head-Up Displays Likely To See Increased Demand.

DigiTimes (TWN) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/5, Yang) reports that, according to DigiTimes Research, head-up displays (HUDs) – “navigation information reflected on windshield glass to exempt drivers from watching screens of navigation devices for driving safety” – have “been increasingly adopted for high-end automobile models by Japan- and Germany-based car makers” and the demand for such devices is expected to continue increasing. DigiTimes explains, “HUDs are through reflecting navigation information displayed on LED or TFT-LCD panels onto windshield glass via lenses or flat mirrors.” According to DigiTimes, “there are two types of HUDs based on TFT-LCD panels, one is installed by automotive electronics makers on an OEM basis and the other is added by automotive navigation device makers on an ex-factory basis.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Utah State University Engineers Build Scale Model Of Oroville Dam.

Water Deeply Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/29) reports Utah State University engineering professors and students constructed “a scale model of the damaged spillway at Oroville Dam” to help California water officials plan their repairs. The officials have since March conducted about 50 tests simulating “the hydraulic forces acting on the structure,” with more tests planned over the next few weeks. The California Department of Water Resources contributed $277,000 to fund the model’s construction. Water Deeply explains the model was built “to help avoid a repeat of the disaster that unfolded in February, when massive water releases from the reservoir caused the spillway to break apart, prompting evacuation of nearly 200,000 people downstream as a precaution.”

On its website, KOVR-TV Sacramento (CA) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Sacramento, CA (6/1) reports Erin Mellon, a spokesperson for the Oroville Dam construction project, said the California Department of Natural Resources is hoping “to build an entirely new spillway” by Nov. 1. Utah Water Research Laboratory engineer Michael Johnson said the scale model “removes some of the uncertainty. Some of the unknowns.”

Report Advises Against Storing Flammable Material Under Bridges.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Habersham) says that a new preliminary report from the Greater Atlanta Chapter of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers on the I-85 bridge collapse says that the city may want to reconsider storing flammable material under the highway, following a fire that was started by a homeless man. While the report does not indicate “storing the material under the bridge was a bad idea” and does not draw any conclusions about what started the fire, the piece says the report “lays out some possible guidelines for storing such material.” According to the piece, “state and federal regulations do not prohibit storing construction material under highways,” though the National Transportation Safety Board is reviewing the issue in the wake of the fire.

Bipartisan Bill In North Carolina Would Encourage Further Use Of Renewables.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Dalesio) reports “conservative Southern lawmakers” in North Carolina “moved to extend the growth of renewable energy” in the state on Tuesday with “legislation negotiated between the country’s largest electric company,” Duke Energy, “and renewable energy interests.” The story points out that the bill was introduced “just days after President Donald Trump said the U.S. would exit the Paris climate agreement because curbing fossil fuels would hamper the economy” and shows that renewables are becoming “increasingly mainstream and inexpensive.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6) reports with a list of updates about the bill, noting that Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday his government supports the climate initiatives contained in the Paris agreement. Cooper also “said Trump’s move last week was wrong and North Carolina will remain committed to clean air and a healthy environment.”

Retired Military Brass Say US Must Lead World On Clean Energy.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Gardner) reports that a study released by the CNA Military Advisor Board said that according to a coalition of retired military leaders, the US “must lead in the global transition to clean energy or risk losing influence” in Africa and South Asia. The report, called Advanced Energy and US National Security, makes the case that “energy, whether oil and natural gas, or wind and solar power and advanced batteries, is an important part of the economic power Washington has that can influence developing economies.” Lee Gunn, a retired Navy vice admiral, said, “The transition to advanced energy is underway and will proceed with or without the active participation of the U.S. government, or technology, or in terms of manufacturing.” The Financial Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Crooks, Subscription Publication) also provides coverage.

Under Proposal, North Carolina Homeowners Could Install Rooftop Solar Panels Without Payment Upfront.

The Charlotte (NC) Observer Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, Murawski) reports “homeowners and businesses” in North Carolina “could soon be able to install rooftop solar panels without prohibitive upfront costs under a sweeping energy proposal moving through the state legislature this week.” The legislation would allow “residents lease solar panels on their rooftops rather than owning them outright, a financing arrangement popular in other states but long considered a nonstarter here.” The Observer adds the “leasing arrangement would remove a major financial barrier to solar energy by eliminating the down payment for homeowners – typically ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Texas Education Policymaker: Technology-Driven Future Necessitates Standardized Tests, School Accountability System.

William McKenzie, who served on Texas state Education Commissioner Mike Morath’s accountability policy council, says in commentary for the Dallas Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/6, McKenzie, Email) that the competitive robotics program at Dallas’ Winnetka Elementary School is preparing students to one day make “the forces of automation and globalization work for more people.” McKenzie says elsewhere, parents are unsure whether schools are preparing their children for a future driven by technology. McKenzie argues Texas’ new A-F ranking system gives parents “a better sense of where their child’s district and school standards.” Meanwhile, “we hear plenty of complaints about” STAAR exams; however, McKenzie says, “without the same independent exam given to all students across Texas, the state would have no way of gathering comparable data on schools and districts.” McKenzie concludes that while “Winnetka’s robotics students are being prepared for that fast-coming future,” the extent that other students in Texas “are, too, starts with knowing whether they and their schools are succeeding.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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