Leading the News
Autonomous Vehicles Being Tested In More Cities, States.
USA Today (6/25) reports online that as predictions about the future size of the autonomous vehicle industry continue to rise, “in some cities, automakers, suppliers and technology companies are clustering to test their self-driving vehicles,” while elsewhere “governors and mayors are beckoning the industry by changing laws or touting other inducements.” The story examines some of the “different” ways cities are approaching and attracting the autonomous industry.
The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (6/25, Lahman) reports New York had outlawed operating a vehicle without having at least one human hand on the steering wheel at all times since 1971, “but the state budget approved in April included a pilot program to allow testing of driverless vehicles under certain strict conditions.”
The Winston-Salem (NC) Journal (6/24, Daniel) reports with comments about the possibility of autonomous vehicles sharing public roads in South Carolina from an engineer with the state Transportation Department’s Transportation Mobility and Safety Division, Kevin Lacy.
Florida International University Launches Internet Of Things Degree.
The Miami Herald (6/23) reports that Florida international University is launching a degree program to teach students about “all aspects of ‘the internet of things,’” noting that the program is being headed up by computer science professor Kemal Akkaya. The article describes a number of emerging applications related to the Internet of Things, and says that this is the first such degree program in Florida, and possibly in the US.
Proposed EDMC Sale Sparks Concerns Among Accreditors, Regulators.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (6/25, Moore) reports that Education Management Corp.’s plan to “sell the Art Institutes and its other schools to the Dream Center Foundation” is raising concerns from accreditation agencies that have reviewed the deal. Though EDMC has assured regulators that the nonprofit Dream Center “will have students’ best interests at heart” and will “not come in as investors whose only concern is a return on their money,” opponents of the deal “are building their case in public that those involved in the deal have plenty at stake in the profit-seeking education industry.” The piece says that the nonprofit’s ties to the for-profit sector and lack of experience running colleges have drawn attention beyond the norm for such deals, and points out that ED and other regulators must sign off on the deal.
Politico Morning Education (6/23) reports a group of Democrats on Capitol Hill is calling for accreditors to “closely scrutinize” the deal, which would “convert the troubled four-profit schools to non-profit status.” Politico quotes the letter, signed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and others saying, “we are deeply concerned that EDMC may be attempting to skirt federal accountability rules and protections for taxpayers by converting its institutions to non-profit status while maintaining key elements of four-profit governance.”
Experts: More Progress Needed On Increasing Diversity In STEM Fields.
Diverse Education (6/25) reports that the consensus of experts taking part in a panel discussion at the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC on Thursday was that while there has been progress in improving diversity in STEM fields in recent years, “minorities have come far but they are not there; and only by providing the resources, mentoring, and including everyone will the United States become No. 1 in STEM worldwide.” One panelist, American Indian Science and Education Society President Sarah EchoHawk, “said the United States is not fulfilled its promise years later of providing Native Americans and education in exchange for land.”
Research and Development
CBS’s 60 Minutes Examines Potential And Challenges Of AI.
Under the headline “Artificial Intelligence Positioned To Be A Game-changer,” Charlie Rose examined the rise of Artificial Intelligence and where experts see it heading in segment for CBS’ 60 Minutes (6/25). Among those Rose talked to are the team that created IBM’s Watson along with researchers at Carnegie Mellon and Imperial College.
Oberlin Engineering Students Craft High-Tech Cane For Blind Man.
The Wall Street Journal (6/25, Marcus, Subscription Publication) profiles Carmen Papalia, a legally blind man who feels socially isolated by the white cane that he and many other visually impaired people use to navigate city streets. The piece describes how Papalia in 2015 sought the help of professor of design Sara Hendren of Oberlin College, a small engineering school in Needham, Massachusetts. Hendren runs the college’s Adaptation and Ability Group, a research lab that integrates art and engineering and seeks to find innovative ways to accommodate the differences of people with disabilities. Hendren, Papalia, and Oberlin students collaborated on a prototype cane with a microphone, speakers, and other features.
Cal Poly Engineers Design Surfboard For California Teen Recovering From Cancer.
KSBY-TV San Luis Obispo, CA (6/22) reports that a team of engineers at Cal Poly have designed a surf board that supports the body of an area teen who is recovering from brain cancer and unable to walk. The engineers partnered with the non-profit organization Jack’s Helping Hand “to build a specific board based on” the teen’s abilities and disabilities.
ExxonMobil Announces Breakthrough In Biofuel Development.
Bloomberg News (6/24, Dlouhy) reported ExxonMobil and scientist J. Craig Venter have developed “a breakthrough that could enable widespread commercialization of algae-based biofuels.” Their technique uses “advanced cell engineering to more than double the fatty lipids inside a strain of algae,” which are used to produce fuel. However, the piece conceded that “commercialization of this kind of modified algae is decades away.”
IBM Partners With AFRL On Advanced Neural-Network Chips Project.
Military Embedded Systems (6/23, Daigle) reports IBM is working with the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) on a project aimed at testing the capabilities of the neural-network chips known as TrueNorth. Military Embedded Systems reports the tests will consist combing IBM’s TrueNorth chip with the “left-brain” symbol processing capabilities of conventional computer systems. According to Military Embedded Systems, the “large scale of the system will enable both ‘data parallelism,’ where multiple data sources can be run in parallel against the same neural network, and ‘model parallelism,’ where independent neural networks form an ensemble that can be run in parallel on the same data.”
IBM Plans To Develop A More Accurate Weather Modeling System.
USA Today (6/23) reported IBM announced last week that it is partnering with the National Center for Atmospheric Research to “develop a system for modeling weather with unheard of accuracy” to “meet the demands of new technologies like self-driving cars and drone deliveries.” USA Today reports that the system will “predict weather on a scale of individual blocks.”
KSU Polytechnic Campus Receives Permission To Flight UAS At Night.
The AP (6/25) reports the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus said in a news release that its Applied Aviation Research Center has received a waiver from the FAA that will allow them to fly UAS at night. The release said the flight would be used to train students.
Demand For AI For Vehicles Could Reach $14 Billion By 2025.
Venture Beat (6/24, Prescher) reported, “A Tractica market intelligence study forecasts that the demand for automotive AI hardware, software, and services will explode from $404 million in 2016 to $14 billion by 2025.” Semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles “must heavily rely on AI systems,” and so we are “seeing significant AI-related investment for self-driving cars from across the design space, with players including Tesla, Google, and Mercedes-Benz. In February 2017, Ford invested $1 billion – Detroit’s biggest investment yet – in the self-driving car startup Argo AI, which was founded by a partnership between two top engineers from Google and Uber.”
Engineering and Public Policy
WSJournal A1: Shale Revolution Boosts US Petrochemical Production.
The Wall Street Journal (6/25, A1, Matthews, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that the US petrochemical industry is seeing the largest amount of investment in a generation: 2016 expenditure on chemical plants alone accounted for half of all capital investment in US manufacturing, up from 20 percent in 2009, according to the Census Bureau. Companies such as Dow Chemical, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell are taking advantage of the cheap byproducts of the oil and gas from shale drilling, seeking to cater to the world’s growing middle class. Industry analysts say global demand for plastics usually grows 1.5 to two times as fast as global GDP, making petrochemicals one of the safer fossil fuel investments. Economists say new investment will make America a major exporter of plastic and contribute to the reduction of its trade deficit. Dow said it plans to export at least 20 percent of its plastics, with a focus on Latin America’s rising population, expanding middle class, and on-the-go lifestyle.
WSJournal Condemns Reinstatement Of Nevada’s Solar Subsidy.
The Wall Street Journal (6/25, Subscription Publication) editorializes that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s restoration of net metering – which compensates electricity customers at near the retail rate for excess solar power they remit to the grid – is a mistake. Not only does it unfairly shift costs to lower-income customers without rooftop solar panels, but the Journal says the excess generation frequently isn’t needed and can make it more difficult to manage the grid. In fact, net metering tends to benefit the solar rooftop-leasing companies much more than consumers, because the companies install the equipment for free and take all the subsidies. Further, ceasing the subsidy in 2015 didn’t hurt solar growth, as Nevada saw a 71 percent increase in solar energy generation in the past year.
DOE Grid Study Focuses On Reliability, But Ignores Cost-Benefit.
Writing in The Hill, (6/25, Giberson, Hansen) reported that Michael Giberson, professor at Texas Tech University, and Megan Hansen, director of policy at Strata, say that Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s order for a study of electric grid reliability has alarmed industry lobbyists, who are aware that growth in wind and solar energy “over the next decade depends on mandates and subsidies.” They say it is “obvious” that “coal’s loss to wind and solar has been driven by government mandates and subsidies that drive costs higher,” whereas “coal power’s loss to natural gas is mostly market-driven and produces lower electricity prices.” Going forward, they recommend Secretary Perry request a benefit-cost review to evaluate energy policy to determine how federal subsidies for renewables
Lawsuit That Aims To Save 15K Trees In New Jersey From Solar Farm Dismissed By Judge.
The AP (6/23) reports a lawsuit that aims “to block a Six Flags theme park in New Jersey from cutting down nearly 15,000 trees to make way for a solar farm to power the park has been dismissed.” A Superior Court judge ruled last week “that the local governing boards in deciding to approve the project proposed by Six Flags Great Adventure and KDC Solar could weigh the environmental advantage of renewable solar energy against other environmental impacts.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer (6/23, Kummer) reports “the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization, was disappointed.” Chapter director Jeff Tittel said, “We believe Six Flags’ plan is flawed given that there are plenty of alternatives they could take that do not harm the environment, sacrifice wildlife habitat, or add to storm-water runoff.”
Utah Library System Launches Free Summer STEM Program.
The Deseret (UT) News (6/25) reports the Salt Lake County Library system partnered with Utah State University to launch a series of free summer science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, camps at different library branches. The article says the initiative reflects a growing nationwide trend in which children “are flocking to programs sponsored by libraries, schools, organizations, businesses and universities that believe the free time of summer, fun activities and a dose of how-it-works learning can combine to keep kids sharp.” The North American Association for Environmental Education, citing a Carnegie Foundation commission report, found that as early as 2007, “the nation’s capacity to innovate and thrive in the modern workforce depends on a foundation of math and science learning. They conclude that a sustained, vibrant democracy is dependent upon this foundation in STEM.” Salt Lake County Library Services early learning program manager Susan Spicer said implementing STEM into other learning areas may improve academic performance in those areas as well.
Also in the News
“International Women In Engineering Day” Promotes Women In STEM Fields.
NBC News (6/24) reported that “engineers, scientists, students, tech companies and non-profit organizations are just a number of the individuals and groups that celebrated International Women in Engineering Day worldwide for the first time Friday.” NBC News added, “Its widespread effort aims to inspire women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), ultimately diminishing the gender disparity that exists in those fields.” The article also stated that “while more women have expressed interest in studying the STEM fields over the last 10 years, the number of women in engineering has stayed the same since the early 2000s, according to the Society of Women Engineers,” and moreover “just 18 percent of computer science graduates today are women – less than half of what it was in 1984, according to data from Girls Who Code, a non-profit aimed at advancing women in technology fields.”
Air Force Operationalizing Key Elements In New Cybersecurity Plan.
Defense Systems (6/23, Osborn) reported Air Force leaders said that the service is “now operationalizing several key elements in its comprehensive cybersecurity plan, designed to analyze and mitigate attacks while also building cyber resilience into new weapons systems and platforms early in the acquisition process.” Defense Systems adds that the “implementation is multi-faceted” and includes a wide range of initiatives such as engineering hardware capable of quickly integrating “new patches or security fixes as they emerge,” creating cyber squadrons, and “identifying potential cyber vulnerabilities at the beginning of a weapons or technology development effort.”
Sunday’s Lead Stories
• ASEE Kicks Off 2017 Annual Conference In Columbus.
• Colleges Nationwide Pledge To Promote Diversity Of Political Opinions On Campus.
• Minneapolis To Develop Green Housing With DOE Grant.
• Perry Discusses DOE Budget At Senate Hearings.
• Federal Appeals Court Upholds Ruling That DC “Failed” Special-Needs Students.