Leading the News
WPost A1 Reflects On Legacy Of NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Ahead Of Final Mission.
In a front-page article, the Washington Post (9/9, A1, Achenbach) reports that NASA’s “Cassini” spacecraft is set to enter the atmosphere of Saturn this month where it “will transmit data to Earth to the very end, squeezing out the last drips of science as a valediction for one of NASA’s greatest missions.” The Post highlights key accomplishments in its 20-year history – from discovering moons and geysers from the Saturn satellite Enceladus, landing a probe on the moon Titan, and returning “stunning images and troves of scientific data.” Its final signal will be sent on September 15 before the spacecraft is vaporized in Saturn’s atmosphere.
NSF Funds Washington State Teacher 3D Printer Training.
The Everett (WA) Herald (9/9) reports that high school and community college teachers from around Washington state “learned how to build and use 3D printers July 25-26 at Edmonds Community College.” The teachers “attended a workshop at the college’s materials science lab” funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Each educator was given a 3D printer to take back to their school.
Engineering Student Examines Value In Learning To Code.
Forbes (9/10, Bhageria) contributor Rajat Bhageria, a Masters Robotics student at UPenn Engineering, notes four of the five largest US companies “are software driven tech companies and for the past ten or so years, it seemed like studying computer science or at least ‘learning how to code’ was like an El Dorado to becoming ‘the next Mark Zuckerberg.’” The phenomenon gave rise to a number of coding bootcamps that “seemed to promise the impossible – bypass a four-year computer science education to covet a software engineering role in San Francisco after only a few months.” Many of those “successful coding bootcamps are now closing,” and “we’re seeing the decline of software engineering jobs.” While “one could argue that learning how to code will still teach a lot of problem solving and sheer perseverance,” Bhageria says, a better option is learning machine learning “or computer science more broadly.”
Kansas Community College Develops Plastic “SA Finger” For Nursing Students.
The AP (9/10) reports, “Johnson County Community College is taking calls from large research universities after it conceived, developed and marketed an unusual product,” a so-called “plastic SA Finger, which holds liquid, allows students to simulate blood draws for glucose testing.” The SA Finger is “the first product conceived, funded, developed and marketed by” JCCC, and it has already “attracted orders from the University of North Carolina and Texas Tech, as well as from Australia and Canada.” University of Kansas Medical Center courtesy professor, JCCC Healthcare Simulation Center medical adviser, and retired plastic surgeon Dr. David Zamierowski commented, “It’s a community college doing what’s expected of a research university.” Zamierowski and nursing professor Kathy Carver created the SA Finger for the Healthcare Simulation Center for nursing students to use “to practice glucose testing, which is vital for the increasing number of diabetic patients.”
Commentary: More Research, Funding Needed To Promote College Degrees.
In an op-ed for the Boston Globe (9/9, Bok), Harvard President Emeritus Derek Bok writes about the economic need for more US college graduates, saying “our priority should be to commit the money and expertise necessary to raise the percentage of Americans with degrees.” Bok writes that there will also be “a host of other benefits — improved health, less crime and substance abuse, fewer divorces, better educated children, increased voting rates, lower unemployment, fewer adults on welfare, and even higher levels of happiness and well-being. Not least, it would give millions of young people opportunities for higher paid, more satisfying careers.” Bok calls for greater higher education funding and more research into best practices for increasing college graduation rates.
More Seniors Coping With Student Loans.
Newsday (NY) (9/10) reports that according to Fair Isaac Corp., “increasingly, seniors are also struggling to pay off college expenses.” The piece reports that FICO says “the percentage of those 65 and older with student loans increased 300 percent from 2006 to 2016. Worse, their average balance jumped 40 percent over the decade, to $28,268 in 2016.”
Income Share Agreements Could Become More Common.
The Wall Street Journal (9/10, Berman, Subscription Publication) reports that a number of financial investors are increasingly backing “income share agreements,” in which a college student in need of tuition and fees offers up a portion of future earnings in return. Congress is considering laying down rules for such deals, and several colleges are organizing programs.
Research and Development
WSJournal’s Kessler: New York Needs To Reinvent Itself With Tech.
In a Wall Street Journal (9/10, Subscription Publication) op-ed, Journal technology reporter Andy Kessler writes that New York City risks suffering the same economic pitfalls of Detroit if it does not adapt to the technology market by embracing entrepreneurs in the field and building on Silicon Valley’s innovations, such as artificial intelligence and financial technology, to transform New York’s businesses.
Northwestern Researchers Use Nanoparticles To Improve Spinal Injury Healing.
Forbes (9/10, Murnane) reports on a number of “recent ahcievements in nanomedicine,” including research from Northwestern University which demonstrates “that injection of a biodegradable nanoparticle into the bloodstream can prevent the damage caused by inflammation and scarring” in patients with spinal cord injuries. Northwestern researchers “found that inflammation can be prevented by injecting nanoparticles made of poly(lactic-co-glycolic) acid into the bloodstream. The nanoparticles bind to the cytokines and carry them away from the site of the injury.”
Oregon Team’s Hybrid Engine May Be “Significant Development” In UAV Tech.
The Miami Herald (9/8, Ditzler) reported that a team led by Oregon State University-Cascades Engineering Professor Dr. Chris Hagen has developed a prototype hybrid UAV engine viable for “smalls,” or UAVs weighting less than 55 pounds, “in what could be a significant development in drone technology.” Oregon State University Research Compliance Coordinator Mark Peters said that the project “brings a concept proven in hybrid vehicles and larger aircraft and miniaturizes it,” opening the door to “extending and enhancing the usability of small rotorcaft in research, search and rescue and all those different applications that are restrained by a battery pack.” The team used a 2.75 horsepower “one-cylinder, two-stroke” 3W28i engine “commonly used in radio-controlled aircraft” as the base for their system, which they harnessed to a generator and batteries. The team said that their UAV is the first of its type with a documented flight time of over an hour, and has attracted attention from possible users.
University Of Colorado Engineers Develop UAV “Swarming” Technology.
The Boulder (CO) Daily Camera (9/10, Lewett) reports that a team of University of Colorado engineers have developed a new UAV “swarming” technology, which provides a single operator with the ability to control multiple UAVs simultaneously. The team spent three weeks last month testing the new technology and was “granted the first-ever approval by the Federal Aviation Administration to allow multiple aircraft to be manned by a single pilot.” The Daily Camera adds that this new technology may help operators “cover more ground, or air, while monitoring hiking areas and natural preserves marked by vast and rugged landscapes.”
Self-Driving Car Symposium Held In Minnesota.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (9/9, Roper) reported that VSI Labs, a St. Louis Park-based consulting firm that researches and tests self-driving technology, host a self-driving car symposium Friday. The report says “VSI recently finished installing self-driving technology in a Kia Soul, allowing for some hands-free use.” Meanwhile, “attendees including legislators, tech company representatives, engineers and others took rides around the area in the Soul and a Tesla Model S, which boasts an ‘Autopilot’ feature that can steer and brake in highway conditions.” The Star Tribune says “Minnesota has one particularly daunting hurdle with regard to self-driving cars: snow.” VSI founder Phil Magney “said 3M and other companies are developing road marking material that can be seen in more conditions.”
Berkeley Researchers Developing Picking Robots That “Overhaul” Amazon Fulfillment Centers.
The New York Times (9/10, Metz, Subscription Publication) reports University of California, Berkeley researchers, who Amazon helps fund, are developing a two-armed robot, which researcher Jeff Mahler said “figures out the best way to grab each object, right from the middle of the clutter.” The Times mentions that while robots play a key role inside Amazon’s fulfillment centers, “armies of humans do most of the [sorting] work.” According to the article, “The Berkeley robot was all the more remarkable because it could grab stuff it had never seen before,” and “the techniques used to train it represented a fundamental shift in robotics research, a shift that could overhaul not just Amazon’s warehouses but entire industries.”
Global Automakers Shifting Electric Car Research, Design To China.
The New York Times (9/10, Bradsher, Subscription Publication) reports that global automakers believe the future of electric cars is in China and are “shifting crucial scientific and design work to China as the country invests heavily in car-charging stations and research and pushes automakers to embrace battery-powered vehicles.” However, the move “represents a big risk” as China “has long prodded American, European and Japanese companies to hand over their know-how in exchange for access to its exciting new market.” Nonetheless, “Western companies say that they know the risks of transferring technology – and that the opportunities could help them reach their own electric car ambitions faster.”
Some Experts Concerned Hackers Could Target Echo, Smart Devices.
The Street (9/8, Chang) reported that with the growth of Amazon Echo and other smart speakers and the fact that “personal assistants were created to listen to consumers all of the time, privacy remains a large concern, especially as hackers are always on the prowl to lift personal information, especially data to gain access into your bank and credit card accounts or even more critical ones, brokerage and retirement ones.” While The Street said data collected from virtual assistants has yet to make it to the DarkWeb, NICE Actimize VP of Marketing Joram Borenstein said he “suspect[s] that in time, this will change and criminals will want to purchase buying patterns in order to more strongly socially engineer someone that they are targeting.” Miltiades advised, “I would recommend the same caution with Alexa as I would with all internet usage. … If you don’t want people to know about it, don’t put it online – same story, different device.”
Engineering and Public Policy
The Hill Analysis: Trump Appoints Climate Skeptics To EPA, DOE.
The Hill (9/9, Henry) reports President Trump has appointed a large number of climate change skeptics to several agencies, most notably the EPA. The Hill details EPA Administrator Pruitt’s efforts to dismantle the Obama Administration’s environmental policies, adding that skepticism is “not confined to the EPA, either: Energy Secretary Rick Perry has parroted Pruitt’s disbelief in the role of carbon dioxide on warming.”
NYTimes: Trump Waging “War On Science.” In an editorial, the New York Times (9/10, SR10, Subscription Publication) accuses the Trump Administration of waging a “war on science” by “appointing people with few scientific credentials to key positions, defunding programs that could lead to a cleaner and safer environment and a healthier population, and, most ominously, censoring scientific inquiry that could inform the public and government policy.” The Times goes on to say that the “unifying theme” of the Administration is opposition to climate change, criticizing efforts by EPA administrator Pruitt and Energy Secretary Perry to limit regulations. The piece concludes that as a result, “the future isn’t going to be nearly as promising for ordinary Americans as it should be.”
NYTimes Analysis: Irma Will Present Major Test For Florida’s Infrastructure.
In an analysis, the New York Times (9/9, Fountain, Subscription Publication) reported that Hurricane Irma will present a major challenge for Florida infrastructure – testing airports, flood control systems, sewage treatment plants, and other facilities that “could be overrun by heavy rains or flooding from storm surge, as Irma’s winds amass ocean water and push it ashore.” Additionally, according to Addie Javed, a former president of the Florida section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, this test is made more acute because “Florida, like every state in an era of tightening budgets, has deferred costly maintenance on much of its infrastructure.”
Nebraska State BOE Approves New Science Standards To Include Climate Change Curriculum.
The AP (9/9) reported that in a 6-1 vote Friday, the Nebraska State Board of Education approved new science standards, introducing climate change instruction into public schools for the first time. Under the newly-approved science standards, “students will analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make evidence-based forecasts of the current rate and scale of global or regional climate changes.” Board member Pat McPherson, who voted against the new standards, tried “unsuccessfully to amend the proposal that would have encouraged teachers to take into consideration students’ views on evolution, religion and climate change.”
Massachusetts School “Girls In STEM” Initiative Praised As “Notable Success.”
The Belmont (MA) Citizen-Herald (9/10) reports Massachusetts’ Minuteman High School launched the Girls in STEM initiative, “directed at female middle-school students who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math,” in February 2015. Since then, it “has held two weeklong camps each year that are run by female students from Minuteman who are enrolled in STEM programs.” Because of its “notable success” and favorable public reception, “there could be a future expansion of this endeavor.” The school received a $12,716 grant from the regional workforce investment board Partnerships for a Skilled Workforce to cover expenses for STEM co-advisors “to run the Girls in STEM Camp in February 2017, pay for materials used during the camp and for transportation.” The initiative “has earned state and national awards for excellence in student-to-student mentoring including recognition from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and two consecutive Grand Prizes from SkillsUSA,” which “holds trade and leadership competitions for students in career and technical schools.”
Tucson Middle School Student Selected For Broadcom MASTERS National STEM Competition.
The Arizona Daily Star (9/10) reports on the Broadcom MASTERS program, “a science, technology, engineering and math competition for middle school students” that was “founded and produced by the Society for Science & the Public” and “seeks to inspire young scientists, engineers and innovators who will solve the challenges of the future.” Maya Baker from The Gregory School in Tucson “is among the top 300 competitors” selected “from a pool of 2,499 applicants from 49 states and four territories.” Applicants “were evaluated by a panel of scientists, engineers and educators,” and “judged on the creativity and originality of their science fair project, their ability to engage in analysis of data and their understanding of STEM principles as they relate to the real world.”
West Virginia Student Qualifies For World Robot Olympiad National Competition.
The AP (9/10, Nelson) profiles 12-year-old Daniella Fragile of West Virginia, who with a team member participated last month “in the World Robot Olympiad competition at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.” Fragile and her teammate “qualified in moving forward to the national championship competition set for Saturday, Sept. 9, at the North Carolina University Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, North Carolina.” Winners of the national WRO competition will advance to the WRO World Championship Competition in Costa Rica this November. The international robotics competition seeks to bring “together young people from all over the world to develop creativity, design and problem-solving skills through robot competitions and activities.” Fragile’s “life plan to become a NASA robotics engineer after receiving degrees from either Radford or Duke University.”
California School District Teaches Gardening To Supplement Science Curriculum.
The Plumas County (CA) News (9/10) reports the Plumas Unified School District in California “provides garden facilities at all four of its elementary campuses – including Chester, Indian Valley, Portola and Quincy – and works from what began as the local Digging In community gardening program to offer curriculum-based instruction that dovetails with PUSD’s science education goals.” According to the district’s website, school gardening instruction serves as “a perfect complement to (our) already established outdoor common core mission and values” and as “an alternative avenue for hands-on learning … related to a wide range of subjects, including reading, writing, art and history.” Principal Lara Hollister commented, “Our QES garden is part of our outstanding science curriculum that we coordinate with Rob Wade and the Outdoor Core program from the Plumas County Office of Education.” Hollister continued, “We are creating our own place-based lessons here for the Next Generation Science Standards. All of our students will benefit.”
San Antonio Students Participate In Inaugural Space-Focused STEM Program.
The San Antonio Express-News (9/9) reported 30 San Antonio-area middle and high school students are participating in the inaugural Lunar Caves Analog Test Sites, or LCATS, program to learn “the fundamentals of being scientists, astronauts and space engineers.” Funded through a $1.24 million NASA grant, “LCATS will ultimately teach 125 students over the next five years.” On the first day of the program on Saturday, students “gathered at the Scobee Planetarium at San Antonio College where they viewed science exhibits and heard encouraging words from local officials who told them to work hard.” WEX Foundation founder and chairman Sam Ximenes said WEX, which secured the NASA grant “after years of effort,” said the program will hopefully help “establish a community space program in San Antonio.” Students who applied to LCATS “were part of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Prefreshman Engineering Program – SA-PREP.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• IBM Commits $240 Million For AI Lab In Partnership With MIT.
• Virginia Tech Engineering, Construction Students Get Scholarships From New Grant.
• Lyft Partnership To Launch AI-Driven Ride Sharing Pilot In San Francisco.
• Report: California’s Clean Energy Jobs Go To Relatively Diverse Workforce.
• Mercedes-Benz Introduces Two-Seat Hypercar At Frankfurt Motor Show.
• Musk Firms Increasingly Collaborate Behind The Scenes.
• House Panel Advances Cyber Attack Legislation To Guard US Ports.