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

Leading the News

Minor Cultural Changes Can Increase Number Of Woman Computer Science Majors.

NPR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter’s (8/10, Sydell) “All Tech Considered” reports top computer science schools have shown that “a few cultural changes can increase the number of women in the field,” despite what a controversial memo from a Google engineer may have argued this week. When she arrived as president of Harvey Mudd College, Maria Klawe, a computer scientist herself, “joined in an effort to change the curriculum,” including changing the name of the intro course and adding a second intro course for students who had no previous experience programming. She said this second class took away the “intimidation” that comes with taking “a class where you’ve had no prior experience and somebody else has been programming since they were eight.” Since these changes were made, the number of women in computer science majors at Harvey Mudd jumped from 10 percent in any given year to between 40 to 50 percent.

Higher Education

NSF Gives West Virginia University $2 Million To Support Diversity In STEM Programs.

The Clarksburg (WV) Exponent-Telegram Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10) reports that the National Science Foundation has given researchers at West Virginia University a $2 million grant “to improve classroom experiences for engineering and computer science students.” The effort “aims to continue an initiative that fosters inclusion among engineers and computer scientists” and is “a collaboration including scholars from the College of Education and Human Services, the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, the College of Creative Arts and the WVU ADVANCE Center.”

Boeing Partners With WUSTL To Increase Diversity In STEM Fields.

Diverse Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/9) reports that National Science Foundation COO Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy is praising “a longstanding partnership between The Boeing Company and Washington University in St. Louis…as a potential model for how to diversify STEM fields in general and America’s aerospace industry in particular.” The piece quotes Ferrini-Mundy saying, “We’re really watching this one with great interest because I think it’s a model that we could use later.”

Purdue Closer To Deal To Take Over Kaplan University.

The Chronicle of Higher Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10) reports that state regulators have given Purdue University approval to acquire Kaplan University. However, Century Foundation senior fellow Robert M. Shireman is calling on ED to reject the school’s change of control request “because, he argues, control isn’t really changing. He also argues that by approving Kaplan’s application, the department would be agreeing with Purdue’s implicit request to treat the new venture as if it were a public university, even though Purdue actually plans to create a private entity to run it and proposes other actions that raise questions as to how public it really will be.”

The South Bend (IN) Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10) reports the Indiana Commission for Higher Education “voted unanimously to grant necessary approvals that will allow Purdue University to launch and oversee NewU, its new affiliated institution.” In April, Purdue announced the bid to purchase Kaplan “and create a new public university designed to expand access to higher education. Kaplan is primarily a distance learning institution that also has 15 physical locations across the country, including an Indianapolis campus.” This piece notes that ED and the Higher Learning Commission accreditation agency must still approve the plan.

The Lafayette (IN) Journal and Courier Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10) reports that ED “is expected to vote on the proposed university in early September, while the Higher Learning Commission may take up the matter at either its November or February meeting.” Said Purdue President Mitch Daniels, “This is a crucial step toward enabling us to meet our obligation – particularly to Hoosier families – of increasing access to education and improving lives.”

Program Allows College Students To Intern As Chicago Public Schools Tech Support.

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Jackson) reports on a program that allows Chicago Public Schools graduates who are currently in college to work in “paid internships as tech support at schools across the district.” The Tribune reports that the program is popular with administrators, and “gives students extra training and job experience as junior technology coordinators, while providing the schools with on-site support for their IT needs.”

Paper Criticizes CSU Move To Remove Remedial Classes.

An editorial in the Orange County (CA) Register Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10) takes issue with the California State University system for eliminating mandatory math and English placement exams and remedial courses, a move “intended to improve graduation rates and college affordability, since remedial courses do not count toward graduation requirements.” The paper questions whether it is a significant “imposition to require up to three remediation classes during a student’s first year, particularly if their skills are subpar.” The paper suggests that improving college readiness is a better approach.

Norman Fortenberry Letter in Washington Post
ASEE’s ED challenged the Post (and other media outlets) to properly distinguish between engineers and scientists when appropriate.

ASEE Annual Conference Video Highlights
Good Day Columbus broadcast LIVE from our exhibit hall. (Click the picture to play the video)

Interview with NSF Director France Córdova.

The Conference “Living Wall.”

Members on the next big thing in engineering education.

Research and Development

AI Robots Searching For Drugs That Could Treat ALS.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Hirschler) reports Dr. Richard Mead of the Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience and his team are using AI-powered robots to search for drugs that could treat ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The robots “analyze huge chemical, biological and medical databases, alongside reams of scientific papers, far quicker than humanly possible, throwing up new biological targets and potential drugs.” Reuters notes that Mead and “his team in northern England are not the only ones waking up to the ability of AI to elucidate the complexities of ALS,” citing reports of Arizona-based Barrow Neurological Institute using IBM Watson to discover five new genes linked to ALS last December.

Toyota Patents Automatic Neutral Engagement System For Manual Transmission Vehicles.

Road and Track Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Sorokanich) reports on a new Toyota “patent vaguely titled ‘Controller For Vehicle And Control Method For Vehicle,’” revealed by Roadshow reporter Andrew Krok, for a device that “would allow traditional manual-transmission vehicles to automatically slip into neutral to coast down hills, without driver input” and also prevent drivers from switching to too low of a gear while going down a hill. The story says this “automatic neutral engagement could go a long way toward keeping manual transmissions around in future vehicles” while complying with stricter emissions rules, as “engineers could incorporate the auto-stop-start systems currently found in many automatic vehicles,” as well as “autonomous braking systems” that shift the car into neutral during “a panic stop, thereby not stalling out.” The story further compares Toyota’s system with its technological predecessors used in “old 1960s Saabs” and “other cars as far back as the 1930s.”

Bioactive Tissue Paper May Eventually Be Used For Transplants.

MedIndia Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Paknikar) reports a bioactive tissue paper has been produced, by accident, that can by printed with 3D printers and produce “synthetic tissues and even entire organs that can be used for transplantation.” The paper is made “from organs like ovary, uterus, heart, liver and muscle obtained from pigs or cows.” The article says, “Though the tissue appears to have favorable properties, it will be still some time before it can be used in humans. The scientists feel that it has the potential to be used in various fields like tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, drug discovery and therapeutics.”

Researchers Develop Non-Invasive, Ultrasound-Triggered Pain Relief System.

Mass Device Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Faulkner) reports that researchers “have developed a technology to non-invasively trigger the release of nerve-blocking agents, helping to provide targeted pain-relief to patients as an alternative to addictive opioids.” They “created liposomes that are laden with sono-sensitizers – agents that sensitive to ultrasound – and filled the artificial sacs with a nerve-blocking drug.” The liposomes are injected and ultrasound is applied to open them and release the nerve-blocking drug into the local tissue to reduce pain. The findings Share to FacebookShare to Twitter were published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.


Some Manufacturing Leaders See “Technological” Solution To Skills Gap

Engineering Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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.

Google CEO Holds All-Hands Meeting To Discuss Memo Controversy.

The New York Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Perez) reports that Google CEO Sundar Pichai planned “an all-hands meeting” on Thursday to discuss the firing of James Damore, the engineer who sent out a memo blaming “biological causes” for the lack of achievements by women in the tech world. The article describes the meeting as “Pichai’s first major chance to try and unite a diverse workforce that’s become divided over Damore’s termination earlier this week.”

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Petrecca) reports that the memo at Google “inflamed an already-contentious debate on the topic.” The article adds that the Google incident is “just one in a string high-profile gender bias and harassment incidents at major companies of late, and comes as some firms ramp up their inclusion initiatives and work to eradicate an exclusionary, male-centric atmosphere.”

Industry News

Automakers Concerned Autonomous Cars May Erode Driving Skills.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Naughton) reports that automakers are increasingly concerned that technologies designed to assist drivers to avoid accidents and improve safety “are having an unintended consequence: They’re degrading driving skills.” Insurance Institute for Highway Safety President Adrian Lund said, “There are lots of concerns about people checking out and we are trying to monitor that now. … Everything we do that makes the driving task a little easier means that people are going to pay a little bit less attention when they’re driving.” Bloomberg says the stakes are high in seeking to address “deteriorating driver skills,” given that roadway deaths “jumped 14 percent over the last two years, with more than 40,000 people dying in crashes in 2016.”

Bosch Struggles To Shake Dieselgate Scandal As It Focuses On Future Transportation Technologies.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Lawrence, Mehrotra, Rauwald, Behrmann, Beene) reports Bosch’s engineering “prowess” as the world’s largest auto supplier “has convinced management that the company can transform itself into a broader global technology giant in line with the Googles of the world,” but even as the company shifts more and more resources toward IoT and semiconductors its “past is catching up to it in a cascade of new claims that the supplier was at the heart of the diesel emissions cheating scandal, one of the biggest product fraud cases ever.” The story says Bosch’s “legal woes are far from over.”

Report: Electric Cars Will Have 21% Market Share By 2035.

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Osborne) reports that “electric cars will be a regular feature of global roadways within the next two decade, far faster than many government forecasts predict, according to a study by the research firm Wood Mackenzie.” The study found “that by 2035 there will be 350 million electric cars on the road – representing 21 percent of the total vehicles – as world governments seek to reduce carbon emissions to combat climate change.” The Chronicle says “that is a far more bullish outlook than held by the U.S. government, which predicts that by 2040 electric vehicles will only represent 10 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales – sales mind you, not vehicles on the road.”

Engineering and Public Policy

West Virginia Governor: Trump Likes Coal Subsidy Idea.

In continuing coverage, the Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Siciliano) reports that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice “of West Virginia is pitching the idea of federal coal subsidies to President Trump, in which the federal government pays power plants to buy Appalachian coal.” Justice said Trump is “really interested” in the idea. He said, “He’s really interested. He likes the idea. … Naturally, he’s trying to vet the whole process. It’s a complicated idea.” The Examiner says “a federal subsidy program would require congressional approval, as well as survive the ire of some conservative groups who oppose federal subsidies.”

The New York Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Moore) reports that “Justice, who said he’s also talked about the proposal with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Vice President Pence and Trump adviser Jared Kushner, warned that the US is too dependent on natural gas to generate power.”

Newsmax Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Fitzgerald) reports that Justice “Thursday defended a $4.5 billion request he’s made to save the coal industry in his state and elsewhere in the eastern part of the United States, saying the measure is needed for national security.” On Fox News, he denied that it’s a bailout. “I mean, just think for just one second,” said Justice. “We came really close to completely losing our eastern coal fields in the past probably four years. Fifty-five companies took bankruptcy. Now at the end of the day, we better awaken to one thing, and that’s for sure: We can’t afford today to do without coal in the east.” He continued, “It’s just a matter of national security. … Think about if you awaken to the fact the eastern coal fields are gone and there is a disruption. There is a bomb at a gas junction or at a bridge or two that is bringing western coal. What are we going to do?”

Microgrids Could Pay Big Dividends Across US.

TIME Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Worland) reports that “microgrids have become increasingly popular across the U.S. in recent years, embraced by everyone from community developers to military officials.” Time says “the reason is as simple as the bottom line: the technology offers a way for communities to collect, store and use their own energy, rather than pay for it to be shipped from miles away.” According to GTM Research, “microgrid capacity is expected to double by 2020, totaling 4.3 gigawatts in microgrid potential.” Time points out that “the promise of both resiliency and frugality has made the U.S. military one of the biggest boosters of microgrids.”

Solar Operators Prepare For Eclipse.

WLS-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Chicago (8/10) reports that “while many are eagerly awaiting the August 21 solar eclipse, solar energy plants are preparing for that brief moment.” According to John Moura, director of reliability assessment and system analysis for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC),”where the sun disappears on Aug. 21, the supply of electricity from solar generation will go with it” and “when the sun comes back, there will quickly be a lot of supply added.” He said, “After working with NASA and getting the lines all mapped out, even Southern California is going to receive up to a 60 percent obscuration of the sun. … That’s directly correlated with solar – electricity generation – output.” WLS says “what we learn from this eclipse will help us better understand how the grid will have to change to make that new influx of solar electricity work – both on an everyday basis and during extreme events.”

Map Shows Growth Of Wind Farms Across US.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Rogers) reports that a new map released Thursday shows the wind power “industry is spreading rapidly across the United States, with more than 52,000 large-scale turbines now operating in 41 states.” The report says “a time lapse feature on the map, built by the American Wind Energy Association, shows the growth over time, from one lonely wind farm at Altamont Pass in Northern California to hundreds of wind farms that construction crews are building all across the remote fields and ranches of Great Plains – from Texas to North Dakota – and most recently, in the ocean, with America’s first offshore wind farm opening last year off Rhode Island.” The Mercury News says that “through the second quarter of 2017, the U.S. now has 84,405 megawatts of installed wind power capacity, enough to power 25 million households, and twice as much as it had in 2010.”

Solar Backers Speak Against Utah Power Company’s Rate Change Proposal.

In continuing coverage, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10) reports that “Utah regulators have heard testimony about a proposed electricity rate change for people with home solar panels that power company officials argue they need to maintain the state’s grid but solar advocates claim would cause bills to skyrocket.” The AP says “dozens of people lined up Wednesday to speak with state regulators considering the plan from Rocky Mountain Power.” Meanwhile, “the Utah Public Service Commission is set to continue hearings on the issue next week, though two sides have also been working…to find a compromise.” Rocky Mountain power spokesman Jon Cox “said solar customers are not covering their fair share of power production costs because the company now pays full retail price to buy extra power from homes with solar panels, rather than the wholesale price.” But, according to the AP, “solar advocates argue the company’s plan would unfairly drive prices up for people investing in a clean source of energy.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

California High School Students Working Toward CubeSat Launch.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Chan) reports that over 100 high school students in Irvine, California have spent the past year working on “a mission to engineer and launch a nano-satellite into orbit.” The students have “entered the project’s final phase at Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc. in Irvine, which involved integrating their satellite, known as the CubeSat, into a dispenser that will attach to a launch vehicle and send the device into space.” If successful, the project will culminate in “the first successful high school-based CubeSat launch on the West Coast.”

Study: Rural Students’ Access To AP STEM Courses Improving.

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10) reports that, according to a new study from the College Board and the Education Commission of the States, while rural students’ access to Advanced Placement courses continues to lag that of urban and suburban students, that gap is narrowing. In 2001, only 56% of rural students had access to AP courses, but that number has risen to 73%. Moreover, the “percentage of students with access to an AP course in a STEM subject” rose from 42% to 62% over the same period.

West Virginia Making New Investment In CTE.

In a 1,400-word feature article, The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Goldstein, Subscription Publication) reports that West Virginia is attempting an educational “transformation,” as the traditionally poor state is “turning vocational education from a Plan B for underachieving students into what policy makers hope will be a fuel source for the state’s economic revival.” The Times writes that “simulated workplaces, overseen by teachers newly trained in important state industries like health, coal and even fracking, are now operating in schools across the state.” The article states that “West Virginia’s heavy push on vocational education comes as leaders of both parties have talked about making it a priority.” However, it also notes that the US lags behind other industrialized nations in the vocational training it offers. “Only 6 percent of American high school students were enrolled in a vocational course of study, according to a 2013 Department of Education report,” the Times writes, while “in the United Kingdom, 42 percent were on the vocational track; in Germany, it was 59 percent; in the Netherlands, 67 percent; and in Japan, 25 percent.” The article quotes former Education and Labor Department Official Mary Alice McCarthy saying, “We are so focused on academic routes as opposed to other routes that can be high quality. There’s a desperate need.”

Massachusetts Teachers Learn How To Use 3D Printers, Laser Cutters.

The Wareham (MA) Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (8/10, Hilsman) reports lab with 3D printers, circuits, and electronic kits was “set up on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus on Aug. 9 for teachers participating in the South Coast STEM Education grant program.” Teachers attending the event “designed nameplates on the computer, which they then brought to life with the laser cutter.” Dr. Stephen Witzig from the university’s Department of STEM Education & Teacher Development, explained, “It was a simple project to introduce them to the technology, and then they can extrapolate how they would use that in their math and science classes.” The program is “funded by a $2.86 million grant from the National Science Foundation/ Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program.” It also “requires a five-year commitment from its participants in return for graduate coursework and professional development, according to the UMass Dartmouth website.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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