Leading the News
Ohio State University Sets Unofficial Drone Speed Record.
The Dayton (OH) Daily News (9/1) reported that on Wednesday, the Ohio State University Aerospace Research Center “set an unofficial world speed record for an unmanned aerial vehicle, the university announced.” An “official record is pending review and certification by the National Aeronautic Association and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.” The Daily News noted an official NAA representative was present for the drone’s take-off and landing. The 70-pound “drone flew with sustained average speeds of 147 miles per hour over an out-and-back course approximately 28 miles long, which also set a record for the longest UAV flight over an out-and-back course, according to OSU.”
Xinhua News Agency (CHN) (9/2) reported that the drone was equipped “with custom-built flight controller, long-range fuel tanks, redundant radio control links, control via satellite communications link, and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, or ADS-B, transponder technology for avoiding collisions with other aircraft.” Engineering professor and project lead Jim Gregory commented, “Setting a world speed record is a fantastic way to push technology forward.” He added, “Aviation records have a rich legacy going all the way back to the Wright brothers, and we’re building on that tradition. We’re hoping to spearhead a competitive technology push for higher speed, longer range, and enhanced safety for UAVs.”
NSF Awards Grant To Delaware State University’s Student Success Initiative.
The Dover (DE) Post (9/5) reports the National Science Foundation awarded a five-year, $1.8 million HBCU-UP grant to Delaware State University in support of its Transforming Education through Active Learning, or TEAL, initiative. The student success initiative seeks to “transform first- and second-year laboratory courses by introducing students to research through authentic inquiry activities,” and the NSF grant will help finance a “redesign of traditional laboratory exercises to connect the research to real-world problems.” Former College of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology interim dean Clytrice Watson was the original principal investigator for the grant, but “she recently assumed a temporary position at the NSF,” so her successor, Biological Sciences department chair Charlie Wilson, “has taken over as the principal investigator.”
How Online Graduate Programs Convey Degrees At Significantly Lower Costs.
PBS NewsHour (9/5) shares an online video segment continuing its “special series on Rethinking College with a look at graduate students who pay little or even nothing for a top 10 master’s degree program.” The segment considers how online graduate degree programs can be both more accessible and more affordable. According to Georgia Tech College of Computing senior associate dean Charles Isbell, the on-campus degree program costs “somewhere north of $42,000 a year” but the online degree costs “$6,600 for the entire degree.” Isbell explained that savings stem from the fact that online students don’t utilize physical resources such as buildings, but said “the really big difference is scale” – explaining that the school has “about 4,500 students in the program, compared to the 400 or so that we have on campus.”
Free Tuition Movement Continues Gaining Traction In California.
The Sacramento (CA) Bee (9/5, Koseff) reports the free tuition movement in California is gaining traction as “lawmakers, gubernatorial candidates and education advocates” actively search fro ways to reduce fees for some students. According to the Bee, the drive’s supporters say “free college could reopen access to a path toward economic stability that is increasingly out of reach for many Americans,” while opponents argue “that removing students’ financial responsibility for their education could diminish their incentive to graduate in a timely manner.” The article explores several legislative proposals set forth in California and nationwide this year, including Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman’s proposal to offer universal access by levying “a 1 percent tax on annual California household incomes of $1 million or more that could be combined with existing federal and state financial aid to eliminate tuition and fees for all Californians studying at UC, CSU or community colleges in the state.”
Colleges Experience International Student Enrollment Declines.
Inside Higher Ed (9/5) says its “interviews with officials at about two dozen universities” unveiled “no consistent, unifying trends emerge, but some are reporting a slowdown in the flow of students from China and declines in graduate students from India, two countries that together account for nearly half of all international students.” International enrollment declines “not only detract from the educational experience, they also impact the bottom line,” because at “many colleges, most or all international students pay full price for tuition.” While many variables can shift international student numbers, many schools “reported hearing increased concerns from prospective students this year about their personal safety and whether they will feel welcome.” School officials “also fielded concerns from prospective students about their ability to get a visa and whether there could be changes to the optional practical training (OPT) and H-1B visa programs.” Notably, Indiana State University and the University of Florida experienced a 50 percent and 30 percent drop, respectively, in new international student enrollments.
Research and Development
PNNL Research May Help Reduce Bird, Bat Deaths By Wind Turbines.
Greenwire (9/5, Subscription Publication) reports “the prospect of turbines killing birds is one of the chief attacks made on the wind industry by President Trump and other critics.” Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers “say they may have a solution to the problem, with help from technology typically used in night-vision goggles.” PNNL “developed software that analyzes images from special thermal cameras to automatically identify birds and bats and track their flight patterns around the clock, including in bad weather.” The purpose “is to determine if a given area is a bird hot spot, and avoid siting offshore turbines in those places or adjust operations at existing wind farms.” PNNL engineer Shari Matzner said, “To the best of my knowledge, there is no commercial system out there now to automatically detect birds and bats and record their flight tracks. … This technology is needed to support long-term monitoring around wind turbines, especially offshore.”
German Startup Aims To Build Electric “Flying Taxi.”
Reuters (9/5, Auchard) reports that the German startup Lilium, which aims to develop a so-called “flying taxi” able to ferry five passengers, completed its second funding round and is becoming “one of Europe’s hottest start-ups for attempting to solve hard physics problems for a new category of aircraft capable of vertical take-off and electric powered jet flight.” Lilium is a standout among Germany’s mostly e-commerce-centered startups, as most of the country’s small engineering firms are self-funded, and Lilium intends to “scale up” its “hiring of aeronautical engineers, physicists, computer science and electric propulsion experts rapidly.”
Silicon Valley Conservatives Discuss Political Culture.
The San Francisco Chronicle (9/6) publishes a Bloomberg News (9/5, Weise) article that reports on conservatives employed at predominately-liberal Silicon Valley tech companies. With President Trump in office and as “Silicon Valley faces a backlash for being so white and so male, conservatives in tech have their guards up like never before.” On condition of anonymity, some conservative Silicon Valley employees discussed how they “fear losing their jobs while others worry they’ll be ostracized by colleagues.” An engineer at Oracle “said the bro culture in tech is real and knows of female colleagues who face sexism, but with women making up fewer than a fifth of computer science graduates, the goal of reaching anything close to a 50-50 split feels ‘misguided’ in the near term.”
Engineering and Public Policy
North Carolina DOT Makes Case For Super Streets.
The Southern Pines (NC) Pilot (9/5, Douglass) reports that the North Carolina “Department of Transportation is preparing a larger effort to communicate its plans to change part of U.S. 1 and U.S. 15-501 in the next couple of years” which includes installing medians down the highways and removing most left-hand turns in a “super street” project. North Carolina DOT Division 8 engineer Brandon Jones said, “We want to publicize the public meeting and business meetings as much as possible because we do want a good turnout,” and that “We want to hear everyone’s voice on this.” The Southern Pines added that “One of the biggest proponents of the synchronized street design is Joseph Hummer, DOT’s state traffic management engineer” who “authored guidelines for the design of super streets for the Federal Highway Administration.”
Express-News Editorial Expresses Concerns About Grid Report.
The San Antonio Express-News (9/5) writes in an editorial the Department of Energy recently “released its highly anticipated report on the U.S. electricity grid.” The report, which was commissioned by Energy Secretary Perry earlier this year, “was seen by some as a litmus test of the Trump administration’s reliability in measuring and reporting scientific data, sans agenda. In that respect, it largely failed.” The Express News adds that “while the report correctly pointed out that nuclear and coal plants are declining in number not because of excess government regulation, but because of the widespread availability of natural gas and renewable energy, it also made two recommendations that signified mixed motives.” The editorial concludes “where scientific facts are distorted for political ends, it is our politics, not our science, that must change. If, as Perry says, ‘The core objective of electricity regulation has always been, and should continue to be, to ensure a reliable and resilient electric supply system that serves customers in an equitable manner,’ we must turn our sights toward the future of clean energy and not cling to vestiges of an outmoded and outpaced past.”
Solar Power Could Prove Competition For Wyoming Wind Energy Plans.
The AP (9/5) reports a large wind project in Wyoming “designed to deliver renewable energy to California faces growing competition from solar power.” Last week, Power Company of Wyoming vice president and general counsel Roxane Perruso told legislators in Wyoming “solar development alone could succeed in meeting California’s renewable energy standard, which will require half of the state’s electricity to come from clean, renewable sources by 2030.” Perruso said, “We have a huge issue in California in that Californians would like to keep all of the development and buy all of their power from within their borders.” The AP adds “California’s requirement has been a big driver of Power Company of Wyoming’s plans to build one of the largest wind farms in the U.S. in southern Wyoming. Road work for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm began last year. The first of as many as 1,000 wind turbines could go up as soon as next year.”
Solar Companies Reaching Out To Farmers In Will County, Illinois.
The Chicago Tribune (9/3, Lafferty) reports that some farmers in Will County, Illinois are starting to embrace solar power. Solar companies “empowered by Illinois’ new Future Energy Jobs Act, solar companies have approached area farmers in recent weeks about converting a portion of their property into solar farms.” Cypress Creek Renewables “has an agreement with a landowner in Crete Township to convert 45 acres on Goodenow Road into a five MegaWatt solar farm, enough to power 800 homes, said Scott Novack, Cypress’ senior developer,” and “they are looking for more sites.” Officials in Frankfort “have just begun to discuss a concept for a 32-acre community solar farm that could generate enough energy to power 1,200 homes, according to developer Josh Barrett, of Solarshift LLC, Homer Glen.”
Wind Energy Development Stalls In California.
The Los Angeles Times (9/5, Nikolewski) reports that while a recent Department of Energy report showed “California has installed 5,656 megawatts of utility-scale wind, the fourth highest in the nation,” some industry actors are “glum” about future wind development in the state. The article quotes California Wind Energy Association Executive Director Nancy Rader saying, “It’s pretty bleak in terms of the potential for new development. We’re actually at risk of going backward in total capacity in California.” The Times adds that “Texas has taken the lead in the U.S. by a wide margin in total megawatts of wind, with farm states such as Iowa and Kansas moving up fast,” while “California’s numbers have essentially remained unchanged since 2012.”
Less Than 20% Of NY 8th Graders Who Took Exam Are Proficient In Math.
The Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard (9/5, Breidenbach) reports only 22 percent of the 8th graders in New York who took the 2017 standardized test scored high enough to be considered proficient at math, according to NYS Department of Education records released recently. However, the Post-Standard says “the numbers are even worse in high-needs schools in both cities and rural places” – with additional challenges facing older students who have no foundation in the new Common Core math, which “focuses on understanding concepts rather than the traditional drills and memorization of times past.” The Post-Standard reports officials “[said] one reason for the low scores…is because some of the highest achievers don’t take the test. Students with advanced math skills are allowed to take high school-level math courses and sit for a Regents exam instead of the 8th-grade standardized math test.”
Robotics Program In Midland, TX Helps Students Build STEM Skills.
KPLC-TV Lake Charles, LA (9/5, Okazaki) reports a STEM robotics program at Lee High School in Midland, Texas is helping students develop and practice engineering skills. Students must use “brainstorming, teamwork, problem-solving, executing and trial-and-error” in order to build robots. Career and Technical Education Teacher of STEM Robotics Alan Pitkin said, “The nice thing about it is you step back and help them if they need help. You want them to use their brain to think and problem solve. Say, ‘Hey Google something, see how something works, see how the real world is using it and implement it in your robot.’” Students at Midland participate in the First Robotics competition each year.
Michigan District Adds Elementary STEM Classes.
The Grand Haven (MI) Tribune (9/5, Wagner) reports the Fruitport, Michigan school district is adding a new STEM class for K-5 students at Edgewood, Beach and Shettler elementary schools. Students will have the opportunity to take the STEM class “like gym, art and music, and it will be given the entire year.” The Tribune says “Fruitport Community Schools Director of Curriculum & Instruction Allison Camp said they were looking at increasing opportunities for elementary students for specials classes and ways to capitalize on the work being done in the middle and high school programs.”
Barnard College President Urges Parents To Instill STEM Interest In Girls.
In a piece for the Washington Post (9/5, Beilock), cognitive scientist and Barnard College President Sian Beilock urges parents to provide their daughters with “the tools to believe they can thrive in all subjects, including math, science, and technology,” or STEM. Beilock says research suggesting “innate differences between girls’ and boys’ preferences and abilities in math and science is shaky at best,” but “there is plenty of evidence that our children are aware of, and respond to, society’s input and expectations for them starting early in life.” She says young girls often “pick up on the false notion that boys are smarter,” and so they “begin to avoid activities – like many types of math and science – seen as most appropriate for ‘the smartest’ kids.” Parents, says Beilock, “can either combat or reinforce these problematic stereotypes,” so she outlines “some practical and easy-to-implement tips” for parents on how to encourage their daughters to pursue science and math.
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Texas Refineries Begin Reopening.
• North Carolina A&T Professor Gets NSF Grant To Overhaul Engineering Department.
• UNLV Getting New Laser-Scanning Microscope.
• Silicon Valley Loses Grip On Tech Talent As Other Cities Sprout Internet Companies.
• DOE Proposes Expediting “Small-Scale” LNG Exports.
• Columnist Calls For More Focus On STEM For Girls To Promote Workplace Diversity In Tech Sector.