Leading the News
Musk Hands Over Keys To First 30 Model 3 EVs At Tesla Launch Event.
On Friday, Tesla hosted a launch party for its highly anticipated Model 3 electric vehicle at the company’s Fremont, California factory, where CEO Elon Musk officially presented the first 30 vehicles to expectant owners. Over half a million people have pre-ordered the Model 3, which is billed as Tesla’s first mass-market electric vehicle, replete with many of the same features in the luxury Model S and X versions, but for the starting price of $35,000 before tax incentives. Since Friday’s launch, coverage has generally lauded the Model 3 as an undeniable accomplishment for a niche player like Tesla while acknowledging the considerable production challenges the company now faces, as Tesla currently produces only about 100,000 vehicles per year but claims it can do half a million per year by the end of next year. Over the weekend, there has been very little focus on Musk’s passing reference to autonomous vehicles during the launch event.
The CBS Weekend News (7/29, story 14, 1:50, Quijano) broadcast that before it was even launched the Model 3 was “a hot seller,” but “Musk admits it won’t be easy to meet mass-production demands.” Commenting on the need for Tesla to deliver on its Model 3 promises, Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell said, “Right now, the Model 3 is pretty much everything to Tesla. This is the car that they have to get right to ensure that their business continues.” On the other hand, what Tesla lacks in terms of performance metrics has usually been overshadowed by Musk’s status as “a hero for a lot of folks,” Caldwell said, “and I think the opportunity to buy a car from his company and be a part of his movement is attractive to a lot of people.” CBS News (7/29) also posted a video report online. In another video report, CBS News (7/29) focused on Tesla’s “risky bet that the Model 3 could make electric cars mainstream.”
A Los Angeles Times (7/28, Mitchell) analysis considered scaling up production by several multiples at a company that has never made a profit in its 14-year history and has never produced more than a million vehicles per year despite being valued higher than any other US automaker. The Times said that “whether the company can turn them out by the hundreds of thousands, and keep the investment capital flowing to pay for it, is a question that many Tesla stock investors ask themselves every day.” Before Friday’s launch event, Musk himself warned that Tesla now faces “six months of manufacturing hell,” where issues at any point in its global supply chain could become choke points resulting in months of delays. The story also points out that the $35,000 base model has a range of about 220 miles on a full charge, while the premium model’s range is 310 miles, but “it turns out that options ranging from fancy wheels to self-driving capability could lift the price to $60,000.”
NPR (7/29) reports “the fully loaded version of a Model 3 had comparable handling, amenities of its more expensive siblings the Model X and Model S but, according to Musk, has ‘far fewer bells and whistles.’” NPR mentions that the while Tesla’s launch has been highly anticipated and came during a week of big stories in the renewable energy world, in the United States the best-selling vehicle remains the Ford F-150 truck.
Eversource, UMass Join Together On Campus Energy Efficiency.
The AP (7/30) reports UMass-Amherst is aiming “to save nearly $2 million in annual energy costs under a three-year agreement signed with the utility Eversource.” The “non-binding memorandum of understanding” runs through “the first half of 2020 and includes a tentative list of campus projects in which Eversource will participate as an energy adviser.” It is “the second such agreement between the university and the utility.”
Renault Sport Racing Partners With Infinity Engineering Academy To Offer Engineering Internships.
The New York Times (7/29, Garrett, Subscription Publication) reports Renault Sport Racing “is trying to make the leap from the ranks of the also-rans with unorthodox partnerships, new thinking in hiring and gambles on new technology.” Renault and Infinity Engineering Academy are partnering to offer an internship program “which provides opportunities for engineering students to go straight from undergraduate work to racing’s front lines with a Formula One team.” The internships take place at facilities in the UK and “students split their time between Infiniti’s technology center in Cranfield and the Renault Sport headquarters in Enstone.”
NRC Awards Two Grants To Kansas State University.
The Manhattan (KS) Mercury (7/28) reported that the NRC has awarded two new grants to Kansas State University to help “attract the best students and faculty in nuclear engineering.” The NRC “awarded K-State’s mechanical and nuclear engineering department two grants totaling about $843,000.” The agency “awarded a $450,000 grant to help develop young faculty members’ careers and a $393,820 grant to continue the department’s nuclear research fellowship program for graduate students.” According to William Dunn, department head, both grants are “consistent with the university’s goal to become a Top 50 public research university.”
North Dakota State Students Working On NASA 3D Printing Research.
The AP (7/30) reports that a group of 11 North Dakota State University students are “working with NASA scientists to develop a better technique for 3D printing in space exploration.” The students are working with Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers “on developing a software algorithm, which will reduce the number of support structures required to fill an object.”
The Wahpeton (ND) Daily News (7/21) reports that the point of the research is to make an object lighter “without losing how well it functions.” The piece quotes professor Jeremy Straub saying, “We’re going to have many technical milestones before what we’re doing will ever find its ultimate use. In the short term, we’ll try to print some objects and test to make sure what we’re doing works.”
New Mexico Higher Education Officials Looking At Overhauling College Governance System.
The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (7/30, Dyer) reports that New Mexico Higher Education Department Secretary Barbara Damron is “leading a study to determine whether reorganization or consolidation” would benefit the state’s 31 public colleges and universities, which are currently overseen by “21 different governing boards.” Critics say this system “is inefficient and maybe even ineffective.” Damron “said she aims to deliver recommendations to the Legislature and governor by the end of this year.”
Research and Development
NSF Gives Oregon State $122 Million To Lead Construction Of New Research Vessel.
The AP (7/29) reports that the National Science Foundation has given Oregon State University a $122 million grant as part of the “effort to build the nation’s next class of research vessels to advance ocean science.” The school will “lead construction of the first of three ships for the U.S. Academic Research Fleet” which will “advance research in the coastal regions of the United States and Alaska.”
Three Person Crew Reaches International Space Station.
Reuters (7/28, Klotz) reported that a new crew arrived at the ISS Friday. The new ISS crew members now gives NASA four astronauts, increasing onboard research project capabilities. The three “space flight veterans” were carried by a Russian Soyuz capsule docking at 5:54 PM EDT roughly 250 miles above Germany. The launch was made about six hours prior to docking and the spacecraft contained one NASA astronaut, one cosmonaut from the Russian space agency Rosocomos and an ESA flight veteran from Italy.
Scientists To Study Solar Eclipse In Flight.
SPACE (7/30, Mathewson) reported that Southwest Research Institute scientist Amir Caspi and team will be 50,000 feet above ground in jets fitted with telescopes. The team will fly above Missouri, Tennessee and Illinois to view the solar eclipse through telescopes mounted on the jets’ noses for a clear view to the sun’s atmosphere – called the corona. NASA officials said in a statement that flying at 50,000 feet will allow the solar eclipse to be viewed in darkness that is 20-30 times darker than from the Earth’s surface.
NASA Aeronautical Research To Produce Sonic Booms In August.
The AP (7/30) reports NASA said that beginning on August 21, it will fly an F/A-18 Hornet from Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility “and vault to an altitude of 32,000 feet just off the coast of Cape Canaveral before racing to Mach 1, the speed of sound, to produce sonic booms.” The AP reports that the flights are all part of the agency’s study to “better understand how low-altitude atmospheric turbulence affects sonic booms.” The AP adds that the FAA “currently prohibits supersonic flight over land, but the research could help change that if crossing the threshold becomes a quieter experience.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Court Rejects EPA’s Waiver Of Biofuel Standards.
The Hill (7/28, Henry) reports a Federal court on Friday rejected the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to waive “certain biofuel blending requirements set in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) law seven years prior.” The court ruled that the EPA wasn’t allowed to make that determination.
WPost: California’s Cap-and-trade Program Is A Model For Other States.
The Washington Post (7/29) in an editorial praises California’s move this week to “tighten” the state’s “groundbreaking greenhouse-gas cap-and-trade program.” The Post says the policy “could provide guidance” to other states. The Post adds that California is showing that “emissions can be cut with proper sensitivity to the economic consequences.”
States Improved Bridge Infrastructure In Wake Of 2007 Minneapolis Collapse.
The AP (7/30, Karnowski) runs a report on the legacy of the August 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in downtown Minneapolis, which killed 13 people and injured 145, noting that some leaders saw it “as a wake-up call about the country’s deteriorating infrastructure.” The article describes the event and the causes. The piece reports that in the years since the event, “the American Society of Civil Engineers says the number of structurally deficient bridges nationwide declined from 12 percent in 2007 to 9 percent today.” Former ASCE President Andy Hermann said that “the improvements happened because states stepped up” and that “federal funding has been ‘pretty stagnant,’ but about 20 states raised taxes to increase their bridge spending.”
Congressional Transportation Spending Bills Generally Shrug Aside White House Cuts.
Engineering News-Record (7/29, Ichniowski) reports that so far, “Senate and House appropriators have generally rejected the sharp cuts President Trump proposed for important infrastructure accounts.” Specifically, the THUD reauthorization bills that have passed in committee in each chamber do not slash programs, although the House version does eliminate funding for the TIGER program; it makes up for this with “$1.75 billion for transit capital grants.” Highway funding remains about the same in both bills, but “airport groups were big winners in the Senate committee’s bill,” which allows for airports to raise their passenger facility charges and increase Airport Improvement Program grants. Despite the passage of each of the bills in committee, “with Congress facing a Sept. 30 deadline to enact fiscal 2018 spending bills, another stopgap funding measure is a strong possibility.”
Michigan Transportation Department Donates Experimental Concrete For Bridge Repair.
The Port Huron (MI) Times Herald (7/30, Smith) reports the Michigan Department of Transportation is donating an ultra-high performance concrete (UHPPC) to the St. Clair County Road Commission for use in bridge work to replace “deteriorating concrete beams and joints.” According to Project Manager Dewayen Rogers, the UHPC is waterproof and can better endure the heavy pressure from passing traffic. Rogers also said the concrete was the subject of a $35,000 MDOT Bureau of Field Services research project, which was funded by the Federal Highway Administration.
George Mason Professor: US Needs Larger Clean Energy Research Budget.
In an op-ed in The Hill (7/28, Hart, Contributor), David M. Hart, senior fellow at the nonprofit Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and professor of public policy and director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, calls for increasing federal spending on clean energy innovation. He goes on to detail the goals of an increased budget, and warns that a decreased budget will cause a “brain drain” at the Energy Department, limiting the government’s future “options for dealing with future energy risks and uncertainties will shrink.”
US Wind Farm Construction Up 40% Year Over Year.
The Houston (TX) Chronicle (7/28, Handy) reports wind farm construction in the US is up 40% from the year prior, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The group adds that most of the construction is occurring in Texas, the Midwest, and the West, with Texas boasting over 20,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity.
Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Approves Three Solar Projects.
The AP (7/28) reports the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has approved three solar projects in Waialua, Waiawa, and Mililani. The projects will “power more than 17,900 homes,” and are planned to be operational “no later than 2019.”
Number Of Girls, Minorities Taking AP Computer Science Classes Rises.
The Redlands (CA) Daily Facts (7/30) reports that new data from the College Board show “significant increases in the number of females, Latino and African-American students who took either the Advanced Placement computer science exam or the new computer science principles exam this spring.” The piece reports that the percentage of girls who took the exams rose from 23% to 27% over the previous year, while the number of Latino and African-American students who took the test rose from 15% to 20%. The article quotes Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi saying, “I am over the moon. These numbers are amazing. This is a great reflection on the U.S. public school system. Every American should be proud — the U.S. is really leading the way.”
California District To Open STEM-Focused High School.
The Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram (7/30) reports California’s Paramount Unified School District announced this week that it will open a new, small high school “focused on a particular niche, or educational ‘pathway’: science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum, also known as STEM.” The school will enroll about 150 freshman in the 2018-19 academic year, and serve 600 students “when all grades are attending in four years.” District Assistant Superintendent Ryan D. Smith said the student enrollment process has not yet been determined, but Paramount-area children will have priority. The Press-Telegram says the small, niche-focused high school trend “has also gained steam in the Long Beach area.”
Arizona High School Students, Recent Graduates Participate In STEM Internship.
The Arizona Daily Star (7/30) reports 80 high school students and recent graduates in Arizona participated in the Youth Career Connect program’s Bio-Science Academy. The month-long paid internship offers four career pathways – biotechnology, industrial technology, aviation, and health information technology – and provides “work experience in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – fields while also earning college credits.” The project is part of a regional partnership of four Arizona counties called the Regional Partnership of Innovation Frontier Southwest, and is funded by a four-year, $5.4 million Labor Department grant slated to expire next summer. Some of the students who graduated the camp on Friday interned at Pima County’s Wastewater Reclamation Facility, which treats about 70 percent of Tucson’s liquid waste and all of the city’s solid waste.
Two Arkansas High Schools To Offer Cybersecurity Pilot Program.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (7/30) reports Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s education policy emphasizes computer science courses, and across the state, teachers are encouraging students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM careers. The state already requires a mandatory high school-level computer science course, but through a new pilot program, two high school campuses will offer “Computer Science with Information Security Emphasis.” Teachers at El Dorado and West Memphis High Schools are currently “working through the kinks” to develop statewide frameworks for the program, according to El Dorado teacher Melissa Virdin, who “hopes to collaborate with South Arkansas Community College in El Dorado, particularly to funnel high school participants into the college’s Futures in Technology program.”
Iowa Teachers Spending Summer Working In STEM Externships.
The Des Moines (IA) Register (7/30) reports that 62 Iowa teachers took part in externships over the summer “working with companies and nonprofits across the state to gain real-world experience in STEM fields that they can take back to their classrooms.” The program “is part of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, a public-private partnership launched in 2009 to expand education in science, technology, engineering and math, and better prepare Iowa students for the workforce.” Participating teachers get “a $6,000 stipend for the six-week program that is paid for by the state and the host company.”
Utah Teachers Learn STEM Integration At Water Treatment Facility.
The Provo (UT) Daily Herald (7/30) reports that some 10 teachers took part in a session at the Don A. Christiansen Regional Water Treatment Plant in Orem, Utah, which “opened its doors to teach teachers about the science of water and integrating STEM techniques into their classrooms.” The local water authority has created an accompanying curriculum which “covers grades 9-12, but focuses on the middle school level.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Samsung Ends Intel’s Two-Decade Reign In Microchips.
• NSF Grants To Support Diversity In Engineering At Rowan University.
• Sixteen Research Teams Working On Automated “Box Packing” Robots For Amazon Warehouses.
• Chinese Researchers Display Hack Of Tesla Model X.
• ConEd To Install Smart Meters Across New York Subway System.
• Colorado Governor Signs Bill Allowing STEM Endorsements On High School Diplomas.