Leading the News
Foxconn To Build R&D Center In Michigan.
Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group announced last week plans for a $10 billion LCD display plant in Wisconsin as state legislators debated a proposed $3 billion in tax breaks for the company in exchange for the investment. A more recent announcement has brought news that the company will also build an R&D center in Michigan as other states continue vying for a part of Foxconn’s expanding investments in facilities around the US.
Citing China Daily, the Detroit Free Press (8/6, Gray) reports Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou is planning to build a research and development center in Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder met Saturday with Gou “during his trade mission to China,” and Foxconn officials “have visited Michigan at least three times and have looked at sites in Romulus and South Lyon.” The Daily Caller (8/6, Goodman) reports that the multibillion dollar investment will focus on technology for automated vehicles. Snyder spokesperson Anna Heaton said of the governor’s meeting with Gou, “They had a great visit and very productive dialogue, but we don’t have any official announcements to make at this time.”
The South China Morning Post (HKG) (8/5, Chen) reported Gou said of the Michigan investment’s automated car-focused investment, “Automotive development in the US is still more advanced than China. Besides self-driving technology, I’m also interested in artificial intelligence and deep learning technology.” Additionally, he said of his company’s US investment, “The amount of investment has not been confirmed.” Gou reportedly also “said he prefers the middle states and western territories” for the company’s investment locations.
However, the Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette (8/4, Belko) reported Pennsylvania is also in the running for an investment from Foxconn. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said Thursday, “I think they are interested in not just the Wisconsin location but in looking at other areas across the U.S. Pennsylvania is well positioned to be competitive in that process.” The Post-Gazette says that four years ago Foxconn had announced a $30 million plant would be built in Harrisburg, but the project never came to fruition with the company citing the reason as a lack of support from the state that would make the investment “economically viable.” However, in announcing the Wisconsin facility, Foxconn had reportedly said that would only be the first in multiple investments in US locations and in an interview with CNN, “the company maintained that its interest in Pennsylvania remained strong.”
West Texas A&M Launches STEM Scholarship Program.
The Amarillo (TX) Globe News (8/6) reports that West Texas A&M University is launching Teaming Engineering and Mathematics Students for the Future, a National Science Foundation-funded program that will spend $1 million “to help support economically disadvantaged and first-generation students pursuing degrees in STEM fields.” The program “will distribute 100 scholarships to freshman enrolling as engineering or mathematics students” and “provides academic and social support to help students graduate and enter science, technology, engineering and math careers.”
Student Team To Present Project At AIAA SPACE Forum.
The Fredericksburg (VA) Free Lance-Star (8/5) reported that NASA and National Institute of Aerospace have solicited design concepts from student in the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts—Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition for years. This year, a student team from the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at Virginia Tech took won the competition and “will present the project at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SPACE forum in Orlando.”
Michigan State University Summer Course Immerses Engineering Interns In Community.
The AP (8/5) reported the Michigan State University College of Engineering is offering a 10-week, one-credit co-op class that will immerse about 25 engineering interns in and around Grand Rapids. The Center for Spartan Engineering’s co-op and internship coordinator, Kyle Liechty, “said school leaders decided to begin the program in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Jackson after it saw success in Detroit over the last three years.”
Research and Development
Clemson, Other South Carolina Schools To Study Sun’s Corona During Eclipse.
The Charleston (SC) Post and Courier (8/6) reports that researchers from Clemson University and other South Carolina colleges will study “one of the biggest puzzles surrounding the sun” during the August 21 eclipse, exploring why the sun’s corona is “so much hotter than its core.” Researchers will use telescopes to take “high-resolution images that will be used in research for years.” The article explains that the research could help to under stand solar flares, which “can create power surges that would wreak havoc on the electric power grid, disable communication systems and satellites, among other damage.”
AIAA Publishing Textbook On Flight Control Technology.
Rotor & Wing Magazine (8/4, McKenna) reported that six researchers are creating a textbook, published by AIAA, aimed at advancing “the state of the art of flight control technology for both engineering students and professional engineers.” The textbook is called, Practical Methods for Aircraft and Rotorcraft Flight Control Design: An Optimization-Based Approach and its lead author is Mark Tischler – a US Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) senior aviation technologist. AIAA offered “short courses” and “hands-on software training” at its 2017 Aviation Conference in June and plans to provide similar courses and training at a 2018 event in Atlanta.
Google Executives Denounce Memo Attributing Gender Inequality To Biological Differences.
Reuters (8/6, Forgione) reports that executives at Google “rushed to denounce an engineer’s memo that ascribed gender inequality in the technology industry to biological differences.” Google’s vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, Danielle Brown, sent a memo saying the engineer’s essay “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.” Google’s engineering vice president Aristotle Balogh also wrote a memo criticizing the essay, saying “stereotyping and harmful assumptions” could not be a part of the Google’s culture. A spokesperson for Google told Reuters that Brown and Balogh’s statements were official responses from the company.
The Washington Post (8/6, Wootson) reports that the engineer’s “screed,” titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” “blasted the company’s efforts to increase the number of minorities and women in its ranks and leadership positions.” Critics of the essay lament that the “sentiments reflect a tech company culture that’s unwelcoming or even hostile to women and minorities” and “reflect the unspoken thoughts of many others in an industry dominated by white men.”
USA Today (8/6, Weise, Swartz) reports the essay “strongly” suggested the company favors “ideological” diversity over gender diversity. In the memo, which “had gone viral” by early Sunday, the author argued “women don’t make up 50% of the company’s tech and leadership positions because of differences in their preferences and abilities, not sexism.” USA Today says the author’s sentiment underscored the “views of many at tech companies who don’t agree with the diversity mandate adopted by their employers,” and reflected “a simmering resentment that few have discussed openly – and that puts pressure on tech leaders to address.”
Fortune (8/5) reports that many employees “expressed outrage” over the essay, which surfaced as the company is “under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor for paying women less than men.”
WPost A1: Transformation Underway As American Factories Turn To Robots.
A more than 4,000-word front-page Washington Post (8/5, A1, Harlan) analysis reports, “In factory after American factory, the surrender of the industrial age to the age of automation continues at a record pace.” The Post says that transformation has been decades in the making as American factories search for ways to cut costs and increase efficiency. One Washington-based factory, however, is showing that “the forces driving automation can evolve — for reasons having to do with the condition of the American workforce.” Robots here have been employed given a shortage of human labor. As robots become more affordable, companies are now able to respond to such labor shortages. According to the Post, companies can “pick between two versions of the American worker — humans and robots.”
More Police Departments Report Ford SUV Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
Tap Into New Jersey (8/4, Benno) cites an NBC news story which states that police nationwide are reporting their Ford Explorer SUVs are causing carbon monoxide poisoning. Ford expressed its commitment to safety in a statement and said, “When a police or fire department routinely installs customized emergency lighting, radios and other equipment, they have to drill wiring access holes into the rear of the vehicle. If the holes are not properly sealed, it creates an opening where exhaust could enter the cabin.”
The Springfield (MA) Republican (8/6, Croteau) reports that the problems encountered by local police should now be fixed, since “Ford engineers worked with” the Auburn, Massachusetts Police Department “to seal tail light wiring areas and replace rear spoiler clips.” The department said in a post to its Facebook page, “The Auburn Police Department is happy to report that we believe the carbon monoxide issue we have recently experienced with our Ford police cruisers is believed to have been corrected by Ford engineers and mechanics from the Auburn DPW.”
Additional coverage includes the Russellville (AR) Courier (8/6, Ingram).
Providence Police Officer Treated After Monitor Detects CO. The Associated Press (8/7) reports a Providence police officer was treated for carbon monoxide poisoning after the carbon monoxide detector “warned him of a carbon monoxide buildup in his cruiser.” Providence Police Commander Thomas Verdi “said low levels of carbon monoxide were found in his blood.” The AP reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “has said its investigation suggests the vehicles are experiencing exhaust manifold cracks that are hard to detect and may explain exhaust odors.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Former VW Exec Pleads Guilty To Federal Fraud Charges In Diesel Emissions Case.
The New York Times (8/4, Vlasic, Subscription Publication) reports former Volkswagen chief of US regulatory compliance, Oliver Schmidt, pleaded guilty Friday to charges of fraud and Clean Air Act violations, although on Thursday federal prosecutors dropped the wire fraud charge against Schmidt. According to the story, “Schmidt was a key player in Volkswagen’s efforts to deceive regulators in the United States about the company’s compliance with federal emissions rules,” having “acted as a liaison to federal and California regulators during a period when, according to the authorities, Volkswagen was engaged in an orchestrated attempt to conceal the emissions fraud.” The Wall Street Journal (8/4, Spector, Colias, Subscription Publication) says the federal investigation of Volkswagen resulted in charges against eight Volkswagen executives, although most of the individuals are safely in Germany, which is unlikely to extradite them.
Trump Administration Encouraging Coal Mining On Federal Lands.
The New York Times (8/6, A1, Lipton, Meier, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that the Trump Administration is “encouraging more coal mining on lands owned by the federal government – part of an aggressive push to both invigorate the struggling American coal industry and more broadly exploit commercial opportunities on public lands.” The Times adds that “companies and individuals with economic interests in the lands, mining companies among them,” have not “held such a strong upper hand” since “the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion during the Reagan administration.” The Obama era Interior Department “temporarily banned new coal leases on public lands as it examined the consequences for the environment,” but President Trump “has moved quickly to wipe out those measures with the support of coal companies and other commercial interests.”
Infrastructure Borrowing Down As State, Local Governments Await Federal Plan.
Reuters (8/6, Respaut, Russ) says that while President Trump took office “having promised a bold $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan over 10 years,” the Administration “has produced few details on the future of federal infrastructure funding, one reason why state and municipal governments have issued fewer bonds to improve roads, water systems and other projects so far in 2017.” According to James Grabovac, a managing director at McDonnell Investment Management, “state and local governments may be ‘reluctant to engage in long-term infrastructure financing given that there’s a promise of a trillion-dollar federal investment program somewhere on the horizon.’” Reuters adds that the lack of “infrastructure-related bond issuance has left a ‘bond picker’s market,’ with more buyers than sellers.”
WTimes Analysis: Trump Facing “All-Out War” With Vegas Over Yucca Mountain Plan.
The Washington Times (8/6, Wolfgang) reports that the President is facing “an all-out war with Las Vegas, as powerful casino owners and city economic leaders vow to fight the administration tooth and nail over” the White House’s “plan to revive a nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.” The proposal, included in the 2018 budget plan, for “$120 million to restart licensing procedures for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository,” will “face stiff resistance in Congress, especially from lawmakers representing Nevada,” the “toughest opposition” may come from “some of the same figures with whom Mr. Trump worked while building his businesses in Las Vegas.” The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce “will be in Washington this fall and plans to raise its concerns over the Yucca Mountain proposal with administration and congressional officials.” Likewise, the casino industry “has made no secret of its plan to do everything in its power to stop the repository…from becoming a reality.”
Pruitt: Obama EPA “Failed” To Protect Environment After Gold King Mine Spill.
During a visit to the site of the Gold King Mine spill in Colorado, EPA Administrator Pruitt said former President Obama’s EPA “‘failed’ at its mission to protect the environment,” Breitbart (8/6, Starr) reports. Pruitt said, “EPA should be held to the same standard as those we regulate. … The previous administration failed those who counted on them to protect the environment.” Pruitt added, “I think it’s safe to say if this had been any other company, a BP-type of a situation, there would have been an investigation that would ensue by the agency and there would have been accountability. … That didn’t take place here. The federal government should not be able to hide behind sovereign immunity when the facts don’t meet the protections. … In my estimation, the EPA walked away from those folks and left them in a position of incurring damages without taking accountability.”
Professors: Subsidies Bringing Cost Of Wind Power Down.
Eric Williams, an Associate Professor of Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology, and Eric Hittinger, an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Rochester Institute of Technology, write at the Conversation (UK) (8/6, Williams, Hittinger) that “Rick Perry’s Department of Energy is currently working on a grid reliability report that many expect to argue that wind and solar cause reliability problems because they don’t supply power continually.” They say this could “be used to justify removal of government subsidies or regulations favoring other sources of energy.” They say “wind is on track to become cheaper than fossil fuels as a source of electricity” but “technologies and fuel prices can go in unpredictable directions.” They conclude that “support policies, such as the current Production Tax Credit, are contributing to lowering wind costs. As such, continued subsidies are expected to enable a smoother and cheaper transition to a sustainable energy system.”
Eclipse Will Blot Out Solar Panels.
The Denver Post (8/4, Jaffe) reports that the August 21 solar eclipse “will cast a 70-mile-wide shadow across the country knocking out photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays from Oregon to South Carolina, briefly turning off as much as 9,000 megawatts (MW) of generation.” According to Brett Wangen, director of engineering at Peak Reliability, “the West alone could see the loss of as much as 7,000 MW spread over time.” Wangen “said the ‘biggest risk’ is in California, where 80 percent of the state is served by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO).” According to Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for the agency, “We’ve been preparing for several months, and the best tool in our toolbox has been pre-planning, talking to all the market participants.”
Commentary Outlines Initiatives Launched By Detroit’s Operating Engineers 324.
Operating Engineers 324 business manager Douglas Stockwell, in a Detroit News (8/6) column, points to Detroit’s “comeback” as the reason why his organization “is working harder than ever to make the city and metro area a better place for residents, and invite them to explore the careers in the building trades.” Recently, Operating Engineers 324 launched “a state-of-the-art training facility in the city, the Stationary Engineer Career Center,” at which classes are offered year-round “to educate and train the stationary engineers of tomorrow in boiler maintenance, HVAC systems and heating and cooling systems.” These skills, argues Stockwell, “lead to good paying careers – many of them right in the city.” Stockwell adds that his group has “been working with programs,” such as the Detroit Public Schools Community District’s Randolph Career and Technical School and Detroit Construction Science Expo, for years “to provide sustainable construction careers for residents of Detroit.”
Rising Numbers Of CTE Students Continuing Studies After High School.
AP (8/5, Boccella) reports on “an under-the-radar movement in vo-tech education that readies students for more than traditional blue-collar jobs.” The movement introduces “programs in engineering, computer technology, and health care” to “teens who once seemed to have carpentry and clogged kitchen sinks in their futures.” The article relates the stories of students in CTE high schools getting “acceptance letters from such higher-ed bastions as Columbia University, Brown University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie-Mellon University, New York University, and the Honors College of Rutgers.” The piece cites ED data showing that “nationwide, the portion of vo-tech graduates who continue their education has risen steadily over the last generation to more than 90 percent.”
STEAM Learning Program In Michigan Receives $3 Million Grant.
The AP (8/6) reports the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation contributed $3 million in funding to YouthQuest, an afterschool and summer learning program that “delivers educational, enrichment and physical fitness opportunities to more than 2,000 students” in the Flint, Michigan area. The free program offers activities that both promote youth leadership and “reinforce science, technology, engineering, the arts and math.”
Tennessee Districts To Receive $15 Million In State Funding For CTE Equipment Purchases.
The Morristown (TN) Citizen Tribune (8/6) reports Tennessee state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Sunday that the state is awarding a combined $15 million in grants to nearly 94 percent of school districts for Career and Technical Education program equipment purchases. McQueen stated, “As we seek to prepare more students for college and careers – especially in high growth industries, such as advanced manufacturing, health care, and information technology – we must resource our schools to best serve students.” Also on Sunday, McQueen announced the development of a new “College, Career and Technical Education (CCTE) Transition Advisory Council to provide immediate insight and direction as the state welcomes new leadership to guide our work in postsecondary and career readiness.” The council will gather together “a broad spectrum of members from industry, career and technical education, and government” who will “provide feedback on current CCTE work, specificity focusing on the challenges, desires, and barriers to successful implementation.”
Rural Students Gather At University Of Wisconsin For Summer Science Camp.
The AP (8/5, Schneider) reported that last week, rural Wisconsin high school students attended the Summer Science Class hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Institutes for Discovery. The free rural summer camp was introduced 11 years ago, and it has since “brought more than 400 students from more than 70 high schools to the UW-Madison campus for a taste of what studying – and maybe, someday, working –in a university laboratory would be like.” The camp “is supported by several grants, including an endowment established by the family of Kathleen Smith, a former trustee of both the Morgridge Institute and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Trump Administration To Reject Icahn-Backed Overhaul To Biofuel Program.
• Asian Americans Divided On Administration’s Affirmative Action Move.
• New Mexico State Leads Nation In Engineering Funding For Minority-Serving Institutions.
• Women In Tech Fields Face Sexism In Workplace, College.
• Toyota “Anything But Subtle” In Recruiting Tech Talent.
• Ford Sends Engineers To Help Police Departments Around US Inspect Cruiser Vehicles.
• Economics Of New Nuclear Power May Prevent It From Helping To Reduce Emissions.