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

Leading the News

Some Automotive Engineers Skeptical Of Hand-Off Between Autonomous And Human Drivers.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Markoff, Subscription Publication) “Bits” reports engineers believe that cars will one day be intelligent enough “to do all the driving, somewhere between five years and a decade from now.” But what passes for autonomous driving “will be a delicate ballet between human and machine: Humans may be required to take the wheel at a moment’s notice when the computer can’t decide what to do.” Many automotive technologists remain skeptical that “the so-called handoff from machine to human can be counted on, because of the challenge of quickly bringing a distracted human back into control of a rapidly moving vehicle.” Notably, “driver inattention was implied in a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation that absolved the Tesla from blame in a 2016 Florida accident in which a Model S sedan drove under a tractor-trailer rig, killing the driver.”

Higher Education

Colleges Working To Address Widening Skills Gap.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Hanc, Subscription Publication) reports that as employers increasingly demand sophisticated skills sets from new hires, US colleges and universities are working on “developing programs to meet the needs of employers in a fast-changing workplace.” The piece reports that some “are doing that better than others,” saying shifting employer needs “may best be met by innovative and often collaborative programs, some of which…are upending traditional approaches and views on higher education.” The piece lists a number of such efforts being utilized at colleges across the country.

San Francisco Program Aims To Diversify Computer Engineering Workforce.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Benner, Subscription Publication) profiles the Holberton School, an “experimental two-year program” in San Francisco that “aims to create a diverse group of engineers and place them in the industry’s top technology companies.” The piece explains that many of the program’s students “did not major in math or computer science in college,” and lack the resources to pay tuition up-front. Some of the program’s students, some of whom had “only a high school degree” when entering, are working at Apple, NASA and LinkedIn, “even though they have not yet graduated.” The Times reports the program is “challenging the long-held wisdom around what types of people are best suited to work in the technology industry.”

Programs Help First-Generation Students Prepare For College.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Zimmerman, Subscription Publication) reports on programs offered to first-generation college students to help address “misconceptions and anxiety about attending college.” Aspire, a free, two-year-program that serves 40 New York City high school juniors, offers classes and workshops throughout the school year on “leadership training, advanced math instruction, assistance with college essay preparation, and discussions about careers, scholarships and college majors.” Rutgers University’s Future Schools program supports “promising” first-generation low-income students in select New Jersey school districts from seventh grade through college. Additionally, Access, an NYU bridge program for first-generation students who have graduated high school but are not yet in college, “prepares them for college by providing academic remediation, tutoring and help with career development and job search skills.”

Student Loan Forgiveness Has Changed Graduates’ Lives.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Dickerson, Subscription Publication) reports that over 550,000 people since 2007 have planned their lives around the federal government’s public service loan forgiveness program, “which helps workers who go into government or nonprofit public service…pay for their educations.” The program has not cost the government anything to do date, but “government estimates show that a quarter of the nation’s workers, with loans adding up to more than $100 billion, could conceivably be eligible.” The program has since become “an easy target for President Trump’s cost-cutting budget, which proposes to scrap the initiative after June 2018, and replace it with a less-generous plan available to graduates regardless of their jobs.” The Times interviews several enrollees in the program about how it has affected their professional lives.

Annual Conference Columbus Highlights
Headed to the ASEE Annual in Columbus? Listen to our short podcast where Prism magazine associate editor Jenn Pocock details some of the city’s higlights.

ASEE Annual Conference Video Highlights
Getting ready for the 2017 ASEE Annual Conference?  Check out ASEE TV 2016 conference highlight videos here.

Research and Development

Former AAS President Warns Of Economic Fallout From Trump STEM Research Cuts.

In commentary for CNN Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Urry), Meg Urry, past president of the American Astronomical Society and the Israel Munson professor of physics and astronomy at Yale University, writes about the value of general scientific research to the economy and industry. Urry writes that the Trump administration has “proposed devastating new cuts in funding for STEM research,” cutting “research dollars by nearly 17% for fiscal year 2018.” She writes that the cuts “would strip $12.6 billion from researchers and research institutions. Let’s be clear: Scientists don’t want or need handouts. Their students and research need support – because America needs the results.”

Malware Uses LED Lights To Steal, Transmit Data.

PC Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Humphries) reports, “Malware comes in many forms, but the xLED malware is one of the most bizarre (and novel) forms of malicious software I’ve ever heard about. It is capable of infecting a router or switch and then stealing data by flashing the LEDs such devices always have.” The malware “was created by a team at the Cyber Security Research Center at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.” PC Magazine advises, “We can’t forget this is just a piece of research and not a real attack vector. But it could be in the future, and by identifying it as a potential weakness in a network, manufacturers can think about ways to counter it.”

Industry News

Google’s DeMichillie Says New Building Will Be Devoted To Cloud.

GeekWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Levy) reports, “At the GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit, Greg DeMichillie, Google’s director of product management, office of the CTO, Google Cloud, said the company’s cloud division is going to anchor that campus.” DeMichillie said, “If you look at the rate at which we are hiring, not just in engineering, our growth here in Seattle is pretty phenomenal. … We’ve now broken ground on a new building in South Lake Union that is going to be basically Google Cloud.” GeekWire Share to FacebookShare
to Twitter (6/7) reports that DeMichillie said that Google “believes it has something competitors like AWS and Microsoft can’t match: ‘Google has been running the world’s largest private cloud for years,’ he said.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Will: Oregon Suppressing Free Speech Through Licensure Requirements For Engineers.

Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7) opinion writer George F. Will describes efforts by the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying to “bully” engineer Mats Jarlstrom into silence, in order to avoid criticism of their decisions. Will suggests that by requiring those who call themselves engineers to obtain a professional-engineer license from the state, the board is suppressing first amendment free speech rights.

Environmental Groups Sue Over Virginia Pipeline Permitting Decision.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7) reports that the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition and several other environmental groups “are suing the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality over part of the permitting process for two proposed natural gas pipelines.” The groups are challenging an approval ranted in April “that allows the US Army Corps of Engineers to conduct the broader of two types of water quality reviews for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines.”

White House Climate Policies Unlikely To Overcome Trends Driving Coal Industry.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Gruver, Brown) reports that long-term energy trends within the coal industry, such as the growing competition from natural gas, wind and solar power, have had “far more of an effect on the fossil fuel industries than climate regulations.” Over the last decade, coal’s share of the U.S. power market fell from 50 percent to about 32 percent, and hundreds of coal-burning power plants are scheduled to retire or shut down soon. The Trump administration, however, is undeterred in its support of coal. During a Wednesday meeting with international energy ministers in Beijing, Energy Secretary Rick Perry “said devising ways to burn coal more cleanly could stimulate economic growth.”

Plan To Close Idaho Power Coal-Fired Plant Approved.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Ridler) reports state officials in Idaho have approved Idaho Power’s “plan to close a coal-fired power plant in Nevada about 10 years ahead of schedule and raise monthly bills for customers to cover depreciation costs.” On Monday, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission announced “a settlement with Idaho Power to close the North Valmy Generating Station near Valmy, Nevada, by 2025.” The company contends that shuttering “the plant early will save customers money because a decrease in market prices for electricity has made the plant uneconomical except when energy demands surge during extremely hot or cold weather.”

ERCOT: Wind Power Expanding Rapidly In Texas.

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Handy) reports that as “more wind-generated power flows into Texas’ electrical grid, operators of nuclear, natural gas and coal-fired power can expect to run their plants less.” Those power sources “are seeing unprecedented competition from wind power, according to a report released last week by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.” The majority “of ERCOT’s fleet of coal-fired power plants were built before 1990, and are reaching the end of their use.” However, “the new additions to ERCOT’s capacity have been dominated by wind farms for the past decade.”

Coalition Fights New South Dakota Wind Setback Rules.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7) reports a “coalition of farm and energy groups” has asked “voters to overturn restrictive wind turbine rules recently passed in southeast South Dakota.” The ordinance which was “passed last month requires turbines to be at least a half mile from homes unless the energy company receives a waiver from the neighboring landowner.” On Tuesday, the coalition met “in Sioux Falls to support a repeal, organizing as a ballot question committee in Lincoln County under the name Farmers and Friends of Wind Energy.’” The AP adds that “supporters of the Dakota Power Community Wind farm say the setbacks reduce hope of renewable energy development in the county.”

Retired Military Brass Say US Should Embrace New Energy Technologies.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Roston) reports that according report by the CNA Military Advisory Board “failure to adopt new energy technologies will hurt America’s chances to help slow climate change” and “it may also jeopardize U.S. global power and security.” Retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Richard Zilmer said, “If we don’t want to necessarily repeat a lot of the tough lessons of the last 40 to 50 years. … Better to plan now and get ahead of that—and control the process—than react to it.” The report found “the quest for cleaner and more efficient energy systems is already forging new trade ties and, consequently, political relationships.” The authors of the report wrote, “Ceding U.S. leadership here has inherent national security risk…including loss of global influence and diplomatic leverage, as well as forgone economic opportunities.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Ohio District Expanding STEM Program To Pre-K Students.

The Wooster (OH) Daily Record Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7) reports Ohio’s Northwestern Local Schools “will open a STEM Preschool this fall for children between the ages of 3 and 5, introducing them to the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The school is an inquiry based/STEM support approach to early learning.”

Washington State Robotics Team Takes Top Honors At Underwater Robotics Competition.

The Port Townsend (WA) Leader Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7) reports that a team of elementary and middle school students from Port Townsend, Washington “held their own in a regional underwater robotics competition May 13. The Pacific Northwest MATE (Marine Advanced Technology Education) competition saw the Port Townsend 4-H STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Club take first place in its category for its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in Federal Way.”

National Science Teachers Association Names Pennsylvania Educator President-Elect.

THE Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7) reports that Dr. Christine Anne Royce, a “longtime educator” from Pennsylvania, has been named president-elect of the National Science Teachers Association. Royce “has worked as a professor in the teacher education department at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania since 2002. She also serves as the co-director for the university’s Master of Arts in Teaching STEM Education program.”

Heartland Institute Sends Book Refuting Climate Change Consensus To Science Teachers.

Business Insider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/7, Weller) reports conservative think tank the Heartland Institute has mailed science books that challenge the scientific consensus on climate change to “tens of thousands of US science teachers,” saying the book “Why Scientists Disagree About Climate Change” “proposes human-driven climate change has been overblown as a threat to global stability in the coming decades.” However, the piece reports, recent surveys “find at least 97% of the scientific community agree the Earth is getting warmer due to the growing presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” The piece reports that four Democratic Senators, Sheldon Whitehouse, Edward Markey, Elizabeth Warren, and Brian Schatz, have written to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “alerting her to the misinformation being spread to the nation’s educators.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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