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

Leading the News

IBM Commits $240 Million For AI Lab In Partnership With MIT.

Engadget Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7) Reports that MIT and IBM will enter into a decade-long research partnership that will see the creation of an artificial intelligence research lab at MIT where over 100 researchers from both sides of the collaboration will work “to advance four key focus areas within the AI field.” One of those focuses will be “deep-learning algorithms that can help neural networks move from single-use applications to more generalized performance” – serving to make AI more flexible in applications and transparent in processes. The intersection of AI and quantum computing will also be examined and “will aid both fields, with AI helping to identify and characterize quantum devices and with quantum computers helping to optimize machine learning methodologies.” Also to be researched are AI applications in healthcare, cybersecurity, and, according to an IBM press release, the “economic implications of AI and investigate how AI can improve prosperity.”

Fortune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Darrow) explains that while MIT has engaged in similar partnerships, the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab is the first lab at the school entirely underwritten by a single company. Fortune also says that while IBM has backed multiple projects seeking to put its Watson technology to use, it “faces many challengers in its race to make AI useful for real-world jobs. Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others are pouring resources into making their software smarter and better able to adapt on its own to changing requirements.”

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Ramos) says it was told by Dario Gil, vice president of AI and Q (Quantum) at IBM Research that “AI as a field has been going on for many decades, but it is quite obvious right now it has raised to a level of centrality for every major technology company, including us and frankly every other business and area. … The field of artificial intelligence, despite its progress, is in its infancy.”

Higher Education

Virginia Tech Engineering, Construction Students Get Scholarships From New Grant.

The Roanoke (VA) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/6) reports that ten engineering, architecture and construction students from around Virginia are getting full scholarships to attend Virginia Tech this fall, having been named A. James Clark Scholars. The Times reports that the “$15 million gift from the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation, which Tech received to make the scholarships possible, marks the largest scholarship donation ever made to the university.” The Washington Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/6, Subscription Publication) also covers this story.

For-Profit Colleges Have Disproportionately High Numbers Of Single Mothers Enrolled.

MarketWatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7) reports that new research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that “many single mothers in college may be at risk of spending a lot of money on their schooling with little payoff,” noting that “about 30% of single mothers in college attend for-profit schools.” While “single mothers make up just 11% of the overall college population, they account for 26% of students at for-profit colleges.”

ASEE Board Reorganization – Feedback Needed
ASEE ED Norman Fortenberry presents rationale on a proposed reorganization of the ASEE Board of Directors. Please leave your feedback (ASEE member login required).

NEW Online Career Development Program: Streamlined Course Design
Don’t miss out on Streamlined Course Design, a live, online program to help faculty streamline the course design process. Led by experts Karl Smith and Ruth Streveler, this program takes place as 4 sessions over 8 weeks. Produce more effective courses and sign up today. (Tune in for the free info session on September 15th at 2 PM, ET!)

FREE Action on Diversity Webinar: Empathy in Engineering — Why it Matters
Tune in 9/20 at 2:00 PM, ET for a FREE 90-minute webinar on empathy in engineering! Drs. Jo Walther and Nicki Sochacka will explore how faculty can encourage empathetic thoughts and actions in the classroom, and why empathy should be a core skill for future engineers. Dr. Shari Miller will offer her unique perspective on empathy as an expert in the field of social work Register today.

VIDEO: ASEE President Bev Watford on Priorities for 2017-2018
brief interview from the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition

Research and Development

Lyft Partnership To Launch AI-Driven Ride Sharing Pilot In San Francisco.

CNBC Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7) reports Lyft “is partnering with yet another self-driving car startup — this time with in the San Francisco Bay Area — to launch a pilot program that will shuttle ride-sharing customers to their destinations in vehicles controlled by artificial intelligence, not humans.” The move is part of the firm’s “plan to offer up its vast network of passengers and drivers to companies developing self-driving cars. Lyft already has partnerships with GM, Boston-based NuTonomy, and Waymo, the Google self-driving car project that spun out to become a business under parent company Alphabet.”

University Of Arizona Researchers Develop Non-Permeating Sunscreen.

Arizona Public Media Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/5) reports that researchers at the University of Arizona “have developed sunscreen that doesn’t penetrate into the skin,” noting that the school’s “commercialization office” is pushing the product to market. The piece explains that “some people don’t like the idea of applying chemicals that penetrate into their skin to prevent sunburn and skin cancer.” The formula is “made of ultraviolet light-reflecting tiny plastic particles that contain the active ingredient.”

Researchers Seek Materials For Use In Quantum Communication.

Chemical & Engineering News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7) reports that “in June, Chinese researchers announced a remarkable feat. With the help of an engineered crystal aboard a satellite orbiting Earth, they had beamed pairs of quantum-entangled photons from the satellite to receiving stations on two Tibetan mountaintops—located 1,200 km apart—and successfully measured the photons’ quantum properties.” The report says “this 1,200-km separation was more than 10 times the previous record, and it marked a major advance in the quest to use the quantum properties of photons to encode information.” However, “for QKD to be practical, scientists need to find ways to generate large enough quantities of entangled photons to produce a reliable signal that can travel long distances without losing information. Finding materials to do this has been a stumbling block for quantum communication.” The report goes on to examine the potential presented by several materials, including engineered crystal, diamonds, and carbon nanotubes.

Discovery Of Boron On Mars Raises More Questions About Potential Life.

Popular Mechanics Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Grossman) reports, “The discovery of boron in the Gale Crater on Mars has given scientists a clue to the potential of life having once existed on the Red Planet.” Said Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, “Because borates may play an important role in making RNA—one of the building blocks of life—finding boron on Mars further opens the possibility that life could have once arisen on the planet.” Gasda was lead author of a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters. The discovery, “made in December 2016, marks the second confirmation of boron on the Martian surface.”

BGR Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Wehner) reports that in the research paper, Gasda “of the Los Alamos National Laboratory reveals that NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected the presence of boron in the Gale Crater on Mars.” Gasda said, “Borates are one possible bridge from simple organic molecules to RNA. Without RNA, you have no life. The presence of boron tells us that, if organics were present on Mars, these chemical reactions could have occurred.”

Ranking Dem Introduces Bill To Authorize Funding Increases For ARPA-E.

E&E Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Subscription Publication) reports that Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), ranking member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation to “authorize annual funding increases for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to reach $391 million in 2022.” Johnson praised the agency, saying, “Even though the agency is still relatively young, ARPA-E has already demonstrated incredible success in advancing high-risk, high-reward energy technology solutions that neither the public nor the private sector had been willing or able to support in the past.”


Report: California’s Clean Energy Jobs Go To Relatively Diverse Workforce.

The Bakersfield (CA) Californian Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/6, Subscription Publication) reports that according to a new UC Berkeley report, “a significant share of good, career-track jobs in the construction of renewable energy power plants in Kern County and statewide have in fact gone to low-income residents and people of color.” Researchers say that joint union-employer apprenticeship programs have played a major role in connecting a more diverse workforce to these clean energy jobs. The data shows that the number of military veterans participating in these programs was also higher than in California’s workforce as a whole, but the participation of women was less than the state average. The report concludes that “job access in the clean energy industry can be advanced by adopting specific programs such as publicly funded pre-apprenticeship training and local-hire provisions, in combination with project labor agreements.”

Report: 83% Of Companies Using AI Say It Creates Jobs.

TechRepublic Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Forrest) reports on a survey by Caggemini finding that “despite fears of human employee displacement, the early effects of artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs seem to be positive.” The report finds that “83% of firms that have implemented AI said that it has lead to the creation of new jobs within their companies.” TechRepublic writes that “many of the new roles were considered senior level,” pointing out that “two out of every three jobs created by AI at these firms was for a position of manager or above.” In addition, “job loss was also fairly limited, with 63% reporting no job loss due to AI.”

Global Developments

Mercedes-Benz Introduces Two-Seat Hypercar At Frankfurt Motor Show.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Elliott) reports that Mercedes-Benz “will introduce the AMG Project One, a two-seat hypercar made with Formula 1 hybrid technology” at the Frankfurt Motor Show. “With more than 1,000 horsepower and a top speed of more than 217 mph, Project One will compete directly with the likes of the McLaren P1, the Ferrari LaFerrari, and the Aston Martin Valkyrie.”

Amazon Plans R&D Center In Barcelona To Focus On Machine Learning.

SiliconANGLE Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Wheatley) reports Amazon will “hire more than 100 engineers and scientists to work at a new research and development facility for machine learning that it plans to open in Barcelona, Spain, early next year.” The center will be located in the same building as the company’s Seller Support Hub, which opens early next year and “will serve online companies in Southern Europe selling on the Amazon Marketplace.” Amazon’s director of machine learning, Ralf Herbrich, said the R&D center will focus on improving algorithms and Alexa’s AI capabilities, which the story says is “a strong hint that Amazon is planning to make Spanish the next language on Alexa’s virtual lips.”

Venture Beat Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Sawers) reports Herbrich said, “We want to work closely with Spain’s scientific community and universities to advance state of the art research in machine learning.” Venture Beat mentions that Amazon has been hiring in droves, “having recently revealed plans to increase its headcount by 55 percent to 280,000 in the U.S. alone over 18 months.”

Industry News

Musk Firms Increasingly Collaborate Behind The Scenes.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Hull) reports that engineers at Tesla and SpaceEx, both run by CEO Elon Musk, are increasingly collaborating and sharing intellectual resources, saying this “growing behind-the-scenes collaboration that occurs within Musk’s expanding, post-modern empire has spanned from finding stronger, lighter and cheaper materials to developing software to even sharing executives when the need for trusted talent arises.” The piece quotes Loup Ventures technology analyst Gene Munster saying, “In this race to disrupt the world with both electric cars and autonomy as well as space, you don’t really work for Tesla or SpaceX. You just work for Elon Musk. You have the most wicked smart people who can feed off of each other all working for Elon, and he can call on them to help crack various problems.”

Top Automotive Suppliers Investing In Autonomous Car Technology.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Sage) reports that “two makers of laser-based sensor technology announced new funding rounds on Thursday, with top automotive suppliers Delphi Automotive, Magna International and Magneti Marelli investing in the competitive technology considered key to self-driving cars.” A technology called Lidar, “which relies on light pulses reflected off objects to gauge their position on and near the road, is seen by most automotive experts as one of the crucial elements for full self-driving cars and has become a prime focus” of investment. The moves by auto suppliers “underscores their need to identify self-driving solutions for global automakers,” Reuters writes. The article also states that “the cost, complexity and accelerated pace of development of self-driving vehicles are fueling sweeping alliances between automobile manufacturers and suppliers, and suppliers and makers of specific technologies, such as Lidar.”

The Economist Highlights Investments In EV Charging Infrastructure. The Economist Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7) reports on the investments being made by “carmakers, governments and commercial charging firms” in electric-vehicle charging infrastructure in order to build public confidence in the vehicles. Although battery technology and costs have improved considerably, particularly in the last three years, and most EV owners use their homes as charging stations, “mass adoption of EVs will mean appealing to the millions of households without garages,” as well as people who travel significant distances or for road trips.

Engineering and Public Policy

House Panel Advances Cyber Attack Legislation To Guard US Ports.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Chalfant) reports that House Homeland Security Committee “easily advanced legislation…Thursday aimed at protecting ports in the United States from cyberattacks, in the wake of a massive malware outbreak that crippled some operations at the Port of Los Angeles.” Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) introduced the legislation in June following the malware attack called “notPetya.” When introducing the bill, Torres said “With more than $1.3 trillion in cargo moving annually through our commercial ports and the increased use of cyber technology to manage port operations ranging from communication and navigation to engineering, safety, and cargo, it is critical to protect our maritime cyber infrastructure.”

Report Raises Doubt About New CPS Energy Coal Plant.

The San Antonio Express-News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Druzin, Gibbons) reports a new Sierra Club-commissioned report “has raised doubts about the economic future of CPS Energy’s J.K. Spruce power plant.” The Express-News adds “challenged by low natural gas prices,” the two units at the plant “are estimated to have operated at a loss of $135 million in 2015 and 2016, according to a report by Massachusetts-based Synapse Energy Economics.”

Panasonic To Close Salem Solar Power Plant.

The Oregonian Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7, Manning) reports Panasonic Corp. is closing down “its Salem solar energy operation, a move that will cost 92 employees their jobs.” Panasonic Eco Solutions Solar America LLC told the state yesterday “it will close its plant on Gaffin Road in Southeast Salem and will begin layoffs on Nov. 4.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Philadelphia CTE Program Parlays Grant Into Thriving Curriculum.

The Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7) reports that after receiving a $5.7 million grant to “revamp its career and technical education program, the Philadelphia School District continues to strive to give students a head start in finding gainful employment after graduation.” The district’s CTE program “now offers training in 40 career fields through 117 programs at 30 schools in the District, where career-focused students can learn from industry professionals and gain hands-on experience that can lead to industry certification and college credits.”

Iowa Officials Pushing High School Students To Pursue “Middle Skills” Jobs.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/7) reports that state and business leaders in Iowa “want more teens to” pursue “so-called ‘middle skills’ jobs — those requiring additional training beyond high school but less than a four-year college degree.” Officials are focusing on “an effort to expand and elevate vocational and technical training in high school.” Gov. Kim Reynolds is pushing “the state’s Future Ready Iowa initiative,” which has “a goal to have 70 percent of Iowa’s labor force earn training beyond high school by 2025. Currently, 58 percent of the state’s workforce, defined as ages 25 to 64, meets that benchmark.” Schools and businesses “are partnering to add and expand skilled-trades programs.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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