Leading the News
Tesla Advances Plans To Test Self-Driving, Electric Semi-Truck.
Reuters (8/9, Vartabedian) reports that Tesla is “developing a long-haul, electric semi-truck that can drive itself and move in ‘platoons’ that automatically follow a lead vehicle, and is getting closer to testing a prototype” in Nevada. Meanwhile, officials in California will also be meeting with Tesla “to talk about Tesla’s efforts with autonomous trucks.” The article said that these plans “show that Tesla is putting self-driving technology into the electric truck it has said it plans to unveil in September, and is advancing toward real-life tests, potentially moving it forward in a highly competitive area of commercial transport also being pursued by Uber Technologies Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Waymo.” The article mentions that UPS’s diesel trucks “can travel up to 500 miles (800 km) on a single tank, according to UPS’s director of maintenance and engineering, international operations, Scott Phillippi.” In contrast, UPS’s electric local package delivery trucks can travel up to 80 miles on a full charge.
Supply Chain Dive (8/9, Patrick) reports that while Tesla’s plans are not new to the industry, the combination of autonomy and sustainability may give the company “a leg up in the brewing competition.” The article highlights DHL as an example of a company that “already uses an entirely hybrid-electric trucking fleet in Manhattan, and plans to be fully electric in the next 30 years.”
University Of Arizona Summer Program Allows Students To Program Driverless Car.
Arizona Public Media (8/8) reports nine students from colleges across the US took part in a summer program at the University of Arizona Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in which “they worked on programming driverless cars. The students spent the past 10 weeks working with faculty and graduate-student mentors on the UA’s ‘cognitive and autonomous test vehicle,’ learning how to program some aspect of the car.”
Some Coding Boot Camps Faltering After Initial Hype.
Reuters (8/9) reports, “The hype is fading for coding ‘boot camps,’” with a growing number of such schools closing. Reuters says the field is “jammed with programs promising to teach students in just weeks the skills needed to get hired as professional coders.” However, “at least eight schools have shut down or announced plans to close in 2017.” The piece reports that such schools have “mushroomed in recent years” amid rising demand for coders, but notes that “San Francisco’s Dev Bootcamp and The Iron Yard of Greenville, South Carolina, announced in July that they are being shut down by their corporate parents.”
Admissions SNAFU Sparks Ire Toward UC System.
The New York Times (8/9, McPhate, Subscription Publication) reports that in the wake of the recent imbroglio at the University of California Irvine in which the school “withdrew admissions offers for nearly 500 students, the outrage spread far beyond the campus community.” The piece reports that the episode is not unique, noting that “since 2015 more than 4,000 applicants to U.C. campuses, aside from Irvine, have had their offers of admission rescinded — the bulk of them over paperwork problems.” The Times explains that colleges “sometimes underestimate how many students will accept their offers of admission, putting them in a bind to create room,” and says critics “say that too often campuses have resorted to looking for any excuse to revoke offers.”
New Law Limits New Jersey Student Loan Amounts.
Philly (PA) (8/9) reports that a new law “will limit the amount New Jersey college students can borrow from the state’s student loan program in an effort to prevent them from burdening themselves with debt.” The law “requires borrowers to exhaust their federal student loan options before taking out an NJCLASS loan” and “caps the amount they can borrow from the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority at $150,000.”
Research and Development
NSF Gives Maine Lab $1.2 Million To Study Ocean Chemistry.
The AP (8/9) reports Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Angus King (I-ME) have announced that the National Science Foundation “is awarding a Maine marine science lab nearly $1.2 million to study the chemistry of the ocean.” The grant “will fund a Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences project about Sub-Antarctic Mode Water, which is an important water mass.”
ONR Gives Rochester Institute Of Technology Researcher Grant For Quantum Sensors.
The Rochester (NY) Business Journal (8/9) reports that the Office of Naval Research has given Rochester Institute of Technology theoretical physicist Mishkat Bhattacharya a $550,000 grant to lead “a three-year study on precision quantum sensing.” Bhattacharya and his team “will test interactions between light and matter at the nanoscale and analyze measurements of weak electromagnetic fields and gravitational forces.”
Royal College Engineering Student Creates Ring To Control AR Displays.
Forbes (8/9, Murnane) reports that a student at the Innovation Design Engineering Program at the Royal College in London has created “a ring to control augmented reality (AR) displays,” calling the device “brilliant.” The piece explains that AR “overlays digital content on the physical world,” but is difficult to control easily and unobtrusively. “The large hand movements that are typical in virtual reality applications may have looked cool in Minority Report,” but are socially awkward, as is voice control. “Nat Martin set himself the problem of designing a control mechanism that can be used unobtrusively to meld AR displays with the user’s real-world environment.”
Toyota’s “Portal Project” To Use Hydrogen Fuel Cells To Achieve Zero-Emissions Freight Transport.
Forbes (8/9, Ewing) offers coverage of Toyota’s “Portal Project” to develop a hydrogen fuel cell “semi-tractor trailer rig capable of pulling 45,000 lbs. of cargo 200 miles” using the Mirai fuel cell fitted into a Kenworth Glider. Toyota Motor North America engineering manager for the Portal Project, Chris Rovik, says, “We took two Mirai vehicles, tore them apart and integrated components into the Kenworth. … The tanks are larger. Battery is larger. Motors are completely different from Mirai. But the two fuel-cell stacks are Mirai production units.” Rovik explains that “the main purpose is to prove scalability of the Mirai system with little change to the rest of the truck.”
Some Manufacturing Leaders See “Technological” Solution To Skills Gap
Engineering (8/9, Wright) reports that “there have been plenty of proposals for strengthening U.S. manufacturing – some point to the importance of improving American manufacturing technology, while others argue that those technological gains won’t matter without a skilled workforce.” The article discusses “another way to address the looming skills gap in manufacturing and elsewhere,” and suggest that “the imminent fourth industrial revolution and its smart factories of the future suggest that the solution may be a technological one.” The article discusses new “instruction software” that can “guide personnel through complex tasks and simultaneously monitor their performance” as an example of new technology that will impact manufacturing.
Chinese Developers File Antitrust Complaint Against Apple.
The Wall Street Journal (8/10, Abkowitz, Subscription Publication) reports a group of nearly 30 Chinese app developers has filed a complaint with the National Development and Reform Commission alleging Apple’s App Store violates antitrust regulations. The group claims Apple engages in monopolistic behavior when it removes apps from its marketplace without offering developers a detailed explanation, asserting also that Apple’s refusal to respond to queries in Chinese puts local developers at a disadvantage. An attorney for the group, Lin Wei, said, “There is a lack of transparency in the App Store operation. At this stage, we think complaining to the Chinese regulators to get them involved is most ideal.” Apple responded with a statement saying, in part, that “most submissions in China are reviewed and approved to be on the store within 48 hours, or less” and assuring developers that App store guidelines apply equally, regardless of country.
Amazon Seeks To Fill Over 1,000 Tech Positions In India.
The Economic Times (IND) (8/9) reports on Amazon’s plans “to hire over 1,000 people, mostly software professionals, in India,” where Amazon needs people to “cater largely to research and development for the company’s divisions, including Amazon.com, Amazon.in, the devices business, and the could-computing division, Amazon Web Services.” Really though, Amazon is hiring “as many as possible,” the only limit being “the availability of talent in the required technologies,” the story says. Amazon India director of software development Dale Vaz says “We’re looking at a fully functional tech organisation in India and are hiring varied skills across several job families” in the cities of Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai.
French Road Paved With Solar Panels.
BBC News (UK) (8/9) reports that “a stretch of road in France has been paved with solar PV (photovoltaic) panels as part of a government-backed initiative for renewable electricity generation.” BBC says “the solar PV panels are coated in crushed glass and resin to make them more durable. But the cost of making the almost half a mile of ‘Wattway’ was an estimated four to six times as much as covering the area with conventional solar panels.” Meanwhile, “the company aims to significantly reduce the cost in the future.”
Ford Sends Investigators To Fix Carbon Monoxide Leak In Police Explorer SUVs.
The Detroit Free Press (8/8, Lawrence) reports Ford has sent five investigative teams to police departments across the country to help “deal with reports of exhaust fumes inside their SUVs.” Engineers for the automaker are “blaming improperly installed or sealed aftermarket modifications, such as added emergency lights, for a rash of carbon monoxide complaints associated with police SUVs.” The SUVs are not part of a recall or investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, though Ford is “working quickly to address concerns that began to emerge last month.”
Ford said it has repaired more than 50 police Explorer SUVs in various municipalities where officers were sickened by fumes while driving, the Detroit News (8/9) reports. In a statement, the company reiterated its intent to pay for repairs related to the carbon monoxide leak.
Additional coverage includes the AP (8/9).
Engineering and Public Policy
Montana Coal Plant Operator Reverses Course, Says It’s Staying.
The AP (8/9) reports “the operator of one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the Western U.S. says it intends to keep running the 2,100-megawatt plant after declaring last year that a new operator would be needed by mid-2018.” Spokesman Todd Martin said “the co-owners of the Colstrip Generating Station have decided Pennsylvania-based Talen Energy will keep running the southeastern Montana plant for the foreseeable future.” The AP says “Martin did not give a reason for the reversal.” The AP says “Montana lawmakers this year approved a measure allowing Talen to borrow up to $10 million annually to keep Colstrip fully operational until 2022” but “David Ewer with the Montana Board of Investments says no loan has been sought.”
West Virginia Governor: Trump Interested In Coal Payments.
Bloomberg News (8/9, Loh) reports that “West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said Donald Trump is ‘really interested’ in his plan to prop up Appalachian mining by giving federal money to power plants that burn the region’s coal.” Justice “announced at a West Virginia rally alongside President Trump last week that he’s becoming a Republican.” Bloomberg says he “has recently spent a ‘goodly amount of time’ meeting one-on-one with Trump and has liked the feedback to his pro-coal proposal.” The report says “the plan calls for the Department of Homeland Security to send $15 to eastern U.S. utilities for every ton of Appalachia coal they burn.” Justice told Bloomberg, “He’s really interested. He likes the idea. … Naturally, he’s trying to vet the whole process. It’s a complicated idea.”
Bloomberg News (8/10, Loh) reports that “critics say such a proposal would be expensive and misguided.” The report says “U.S. power plants burned at least 110 million short tons of Appalachian coal in 2016” and “a payment of $15 for each of those tons would cost at least $1.65 billion.” Justice also “said he’s discussed the plan with, among others, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Vice President Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law.”
California Bill Would Provide Larger Rebates For Electric Cars.
The San Francisco Business Times (8/9, McDermid, Subscription Publication) reports that “California lawmakers are considering a bill that would devote $3 billion to clean car incentives, including bigger rebates for consumer that buy electric cars or plug-in hybrids.” The report says “the bill, which is being sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and has already passed the California Assembly, will boost the incentives the state gives out to owners just as large automakers like General Motors and Tesla start bringing lower-priced electric cars to the mass market.” Ting said, “It’s time to be even more aggressive. … The reason we’re doing this now is there really hasn’t been electric vehicles for the mass market before. Most (electric vehicles) get 80 miles, and even if you live in San Francisco and you’ve got a 30-mile commute, you can get range anxiety pretty quickly.”
Minnesota Increases Wind Energy Capacity.
The AP (8/9) reports that new data from the “Department of Energy shows that Minnesota’s wind energy capacity increased nearly 10 percent last year.” The AP says “wind power accounts for nearly 18 percent of the electricity generated in the state,” putting the state at seventh in the nation for wind energy. The report said “the state has added enough new wind energy last year to power about 150,000 homes.” Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman “says the low cost of wind power is competitive with other forms of electricity generation.”
Solar Power Industry Prepping For Solar Eclipse.
Vox (8/9, Choi) reports that the August 21 total solar eclipse “will significantly diminish that capacity for a couple of hours on August 21, especially in California and North Carolina.” According to Steven Greenlee, spokesperson for the California Independent System Operator, “Our solar plants are going to lose over half of their ability to generate electricity during the two to two and a half hours that the eclipse will be impacting our area.” Vox says the “Energy Information Administration expects 1,900 utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants in all will be affected.” Meanwhile, “the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) says it doesn’t expect the eclipse to create reliability issues for the bulk power system.” Still, according to Vox, “the eclipse will test the reliability of solar generation on a national scale, and challenge the preparedness of operators like CAISO.”
New Nonprofit Aims To Support African American Girls, Women In STEM Fields.
THE Journal (8/9) reports that a new nonprofit science education organization called the Black Girls Drive Foundation “wants more African American girls and young women to explore marine-related research and pursue careers in aquatic-based STEM fields.” The group “operates the STREAMS program, which integrates science, technology, robotics, engineering, the arts and mathematics with scuba diving. The program (open to Baltimore-area girls ages 9 or older through college-age freshmen) focuses on structural, mechanical and electrical technologies, with some exposure to optical, biotechnical, thermal and fluid technologies.”
NSF Gives Indiana Researchers Grant To Study Middle School STEM Engagement.
Inside INdiana Business (8/9) reports that the National Science Foundation has given researchers at Purdue University and Indiana University a three-year $1.1 million grant to study “engagement in STEM activities in middle school science and math classes.” According to a statement form IU, “the researchers ‘will observe collaborative group engagement’ during the classes and ‘develop a theory and measures to help identify when students are effectively engaged in science and math.’”
Students Participate In Engineering Summer Institute.
The Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate (8/9) reports that from June 12 through July 6, 24 students from 15 schools across Kansas, Tennessee, Texas, and Louisiana participated in the Engineering Summer Institute at the Southern University campus in Baton Rouge. Courses in the program are aimed at developing “enrichment and advancement in mathematics; engineering; science; computer applications and programming; communications; critical thinking; ACT preparation; engineering projects and designs; and robotics.” Meanwhile, “Weekly field trips to industrial sites included the ExxonMobil Refinery in Baton Rouge and Chevron in Belle Chasse.”
Classroom Use Of Minecraft Evolves.
The NPR (8/9) “NPR Ed” blog profiles Steven Isaacs, a technology teachers in Baskingridge, New Jersey, who is the co-founder of a new Minecraft festival “that set the Guinness World Record for largest gathering dedicated to a single video game.” The article explores how teachers across the country have embraced the game for classroom use, noting that they use the game “in every imaginable subject, from literature to social studies to math.” The piece explores how teachers aim to keep the game relevant as it becomes more mainstream.
College Students More Likely To Study STEM If High School Peers Enthused About Science.
Stephen Sawchuk writes at the Education Week (8/9) “Curriculum Matters” blog that according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances, “new college students are more likely to say they plan to pursue STEM careers when they were surrounded by other enthusiastic scientists-to-be in high school;—even controlling for factors like interest in science, previous achievement in the field, or parental support for studying science.” Sawchuk explains the study’s methodology and says the researchers “found a clear positive link between reported levels of peer interest in the high school classes and the college students’ likelihood of pursuing a job in a STEM-related career field.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• IBM’s Distributed Deep Learning Code Breaks Accuracy Record For Image Recognition.
• As Male Numbers Decline, Colleges Ramp Up Efforts To Boost Enrollment.
• US Military Grows Closer To Using Laser Weapons, Railguns.
• After Dismissal, Google Memo Author Files NLRB Complaint.
• Concerns Emerge Over Autonomous Cars Living Up To Investment Hype.
• Research Identifies Solar Power Supplier Cyber Vulnerabilities.
• School Districts Around The Country Weigh Benefits, Risk Of Having School On Day Of Solar Eclipse.