Leading the News
Tech Firms Pledge $300 Million To Administration’s STEM Initiative.
The New York Times (9/26, Kang, Subscription Publication) reports that tech sector giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft “on Tuesday pledged a total of $300 million for computer science education, part of a partnership with the Trump administration meant to prepare students for careers in technology.” This development follows Monday’s announcement that President Trump is directing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to “direct federal money toward teacher training and resources that bolster science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education” to the tune of $200 million. The Times reports that several of the tech firms “have been pushing to increase computer training in schools,” and have “pressed for coding and other classes to be bolstered to keep the United States competitive with nations that are pulling ahead in those areas.”
Reuters (9/26) reports that the tech sector trade group the Internet Association helped organize the corporate effort, and quotes Internet Association chief Michael Beckerman saying, “It’s essential that the public and private sectors work together to ensure all American students have the opportunity to learn computer science and take part in the fastest growing sector of our economy.”
The Detroit Free Press (9/26) reports that the commitment “will help boost computer science education programs across the nation, including classes for more than 15,000 Detroit students.” The initiative was announced “during an event in downtown Detroit that featured Ivanka Trump, Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert and other advocates for computer science education and coding.” The paper quotes Ivanka Trump saying, “Less than half of American schools have even a single computer science course. We have to do better. We’re going to do better.”
Politico Morning Education (9/26) reports that Trump directed DeVos “to spend at least $200 million in existing grant funds per year on the promotion of high-quality STEM education,” clarifying that “DeVos won’t repurpose existing funds to create a new grant program. Rather, STEM education will be a ‘priority’ for the Education Department in doling out funds through existing discretionary grant programs.”
The Detroit News (9/26, Chambers) reports that Ivanka Trump “came to Detroit on Tuesday to help spearhead a discussion on a combined $500 million public and private-sector commitment aimed at promoting access to high-quality K-12 education programs on coding and computer science.” This piece quotes her saying, “The administration is committed to training Americans for the jobs of the future and today’s event and yesterday’s presidential memorandum were major milestones in those efforts.” Also reporting are WDET-FM Detroit Detroit (9/26), WDIV-TV Detroit Detroit (9/26), and WXYZ-TV Detroit Detroit (9/26).
ED Report Details Risks To First-Generation College Students.
Catherine Gewertz writes at the Education Week (9/26) “High School & Beyond” blog that a new ED report “offers a stark portrait of the risks of being the first in your family to attend college,” saying that only 20% of first generation college students “earn bachelor’s degrees by the time they’re 25,” while that number rises to 43% for legacy students. The report says “while first-generation students had high educational aspirations, they risk falling behind their peers at many points in the transition from high school to college completion.”
Northeastern President: Universities Must Prepare Students For Technological Workforce Changes.
In commentary for TIME (9/26), Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun writes about research indicating that many current jobs are likely to be replaced by artificial intelligence in the coming decades and describes changes that institutions of higher education must “respond to this sea change in the future of work.” He calls for a new “curriculum that empowers humans to do those jobs only humans can do” and opportunities for students to get workplace experience before graduation “to deepen their understanding beyond ‘what’ into ‘why’ and ‘how.’”
Research Suggests Investment In Low-Income Students Can Pay Off.
MarketWatch (9/26, Berman) reports the National Bureau of Economic Research distributed a paper this week that “focuses on students at four-year public universities in Texas who were just barely eligible to receive the maximum amount of money the federal government provides to low-income students through the Pell grant and those who just missed the cut off.” According to MarketWatch, “researchers found that students who received the maximum grant were more likely to graduate, graduated faster and earned more,” and “those extra earnings mean they’ll likely pay more in taxes, generating enough extra money for the government to ultimately recoup its investment.”
Research and Development
Colorado School Of Mines Students Construct Net-Zero Tiny House.
The Denver Post (9/26) reports the Mines Tiny House Team, a group of mostly physics and engineering majors at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, has for the last two years developed a “roughly 220-square-foot house includes a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping loft and deck.” The project house is not only “built on a six-wheel trailer and can be moved from place to place,” but “also a model of efficiency and sustainability,” as it is considered “net-zero” in that it “uses about the same amount of energy that it makes.” The Mines Tiny House incorporates “energy-producing solar panels, a composting toilet, wax-based insulation to control interior temperature and a living wall – a self-sufficient vertical, indoor garden – to boost air quality.” The Mines Tiny House will be showcased at the Energy Department’s Solar Decathlon Sustainability Expo next month, and the students are prepared “to participate in the Solar Decathlon in 2020.”
Lehigh University Team Develops Streamlined Prison Population Management Algorithm.
The AP (9/26, Tatu) reports a group of engineering students and professors at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania designed an algorithm that takes only 10 minutes to assign the approximately 1,000 inmates entered weekly into the state Department of Corrections system to one of 25 correctional facilities. Without the algorithm, the process took “seven corrections employees a week to figure out where they would go.” The system is not only “expected to save the prison system nearly $3 million a year but also has landed the Lehigh team in contention for the international Daniel H. Wagner Prize for Excellence in Operations Research.” In response to the state’s call for a better population management system, “Lehigh began designing the program five years ago.”
Doctors Caution Changes To H-1B Visa Program Would Hinder US Medical Research.
Reuters Health (9/26) reports an analysis published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine found approximately 18 percent of America’s medical professors graduated from medical school. Furthermore, “Foreign medical graduates also lead 19 percent of clinical trials, produce 18 percent of published biomedical research, and lead 13 percent of research grants funded by the National Institutes of Health.” Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Anupam Jena, the senior study author, cautioned that without these foreign medical graduates, American medical research would suffer. “I would expect fewer clinical trials to be conducted, fewer research papers to be written, and the overall pace of medical innovation to decline,” Jena posited, adding, “The impact might not occur immediately but the long-run impact on medical innovation would be substantial.” The analysis comes as the Administration considers proposed changes to the nation’s immigration policy – and specifically, to the H-1B visa program. “Some states and hospitals rely heavily on physicians in the H-1B visa program, which President Donald J. Trump recently proposed revamping, the study authors note,” and “Trump has also issued an executive order barring entry for people from several predominantly Muslim nations.”
Equifax Breach Highlights How Companies Remain Vulnerable To Cyberattacks.
The Conversation (UK) (9/26) points to the Equifax data breach that exposed “143 million people’s personal data to unknown cybercriminals starting in March but not made public until mid-September,” as the latest example of an “entirely avoidable” attack. “During the past three decades we’ve researched, developed and tested millions of lines of software for many purposes,” and over that time “observed that the technical means by which a breach happens often reveal software vulnerabilities that need fixing.” Nonetheless, the article says, Equifax, like many other companies, relied on “out-of-date software with known security weaknesses.” The Conversation questions why Equifax and other companies do not “move more quickly to protect themselves and the people whose data they store,” especially “when the digital weaknesses are publicly known before an attack happens.” Ultimately, the article says, it is corporate management that serves as the “crucial element in preventing and recovering from security breaches – or making them worse.”
Coalition For Future Mobility Runs Ad Campaign In Support Of Autonomous Vehicles.
Reuters (9/26) reports the Coalition for Future Mobility, a group of supporters of self-driving cars “representing major automakers, along with other advocates for self-driving cars,” said Tuesday that “it will run ads this week in social media and Washington newspapers, in an effort to convince the US. Congress to adopt sweeping legislation to boost the nascent industry.” The Coalition wants the Senate “to pass a bill that would speed up the use of self-driving cars by easing safety regulations, and bar states from blocking such vehicles,” after the House “has already unanimously approved a bill.” While a “similar draft measure” is being considered on the Senate side, Senators are “divided over whether to include large commercial trucks, a dispute that could prevent the bill from winning approval this year.”
Experts Warn Of Digital Car Vulnerabilities.
MarketWatch (9/26, Dawson) reports that “As vehicles fill up with more digital controls and internet-connected devices, they’re becoming more vulnerable to cybercriminals, who can hack into those systems just like they can attack computers.” Well publicized attacks, such as the Jeep Cherokee hacked in 2014, demonstrate vehicle vulnerabilities. While speaking at a conference sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Trade Commission Duke University assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Miroslav Pajic said,”It is just a matter of time before large-scale attacks occur.”
Chip Design Assembler Arm To Open Seattle Area Engineering Center.
GeekWire (9/26, Krazit) reports that Arm, the chip design company whose products “power virtually every smartphone on the planet,” has announced it will open an engineering center in the Seattle area, in Bellevue, “as it eyes the talent pool in the Pacific Northwest.” Citing a blogpost from the company, GeekWire says the office “will be working on research and development of artificial intelligence, robotics, and health care.” Arm reportedly assembles the chip designs of companies like Apple and Samsung for use in mobile processors, but the designs have also made their way into smart home and industrial automation devices.
Dyson Will Introduce Electric Car By 2020.
Reuters (9/26, Sandle) reports that “James Dyson, billionaire inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, said on Tuesday his company was building an electric car which will launch by 2020, the latest firm to challenge traditional carmakers in a burgeoning market.” In the announcement, Dyson said that his firm would spend $2.7 billion “on solid-state battery technology and vehicle design.” The company “had been developing new battery and electric motor technology for its vacuum cleaners and other products for the past 20 years.” Reuters quotes Dyson saying, “Battery technology is very important to Dyson, electric motors are very important to Dyson, environmental control is very important to us. I have been developing these technologies consistently because I could see that one day we could do a car.” Bloomberg News (9/26, Kahn) also reports.
Engineering and Public Policy
Climate Change, Electric Cars Could Worsen Massachusetts’ Transportation Finance Problems.
The Boston Globe (9/26, Finucane) reports Massachusetts’ “roads and bridges and the MBTA continue to have problems, despite efforts in recent years to fund fixes for them, according to a new report on the financing of the state’s transportation system,” which also “warns of ‘emerging challenges’” that could exacerbate the state’s finance problems. Those new issues include “the effect of climate change, which will cost money, and the rise of ride-hailing and the electric car, which could deprive the state of revenues it gets from gas-fueled cars.” The report was “issued by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed government watchdog group.”
Puerto Rico Could Become Testing Ground For New Electricity Grid Innovations.
Bloomberg BNA (9/27, Kern) reports that Energy Secretary Rick Perry and the nominee to head the Energy Department’s electricity office both see potential for huricane-wrecked Puerto Rico to become a testing ground for new electricity-delivery technologies from the national laboratories. Energy nominee Bruce Walker discussed the potential for a more “collapsible” electric grid system to be installed in Puerto Rico, one which could “come down in a hurricane with high winds—but be restored quickly.” Perry suggested, “Wouldn’t it make abundant good sense if we had small modular reactors that literally you could put in the back of C-17 [military cargo] aircraft, transport it to an area like Puerto Rico, and push it out the back end, crank it up and plug it in?” He added, “That’s the type of innovation that’s going on at our national labs. Hopefully, we can expedite that.”
South Carolina Researchers To Examine How To Better Prepare Students For Calculus.
The Greenville (SC) News (9/26) reports South Carolina Coalition for Mathematics and Science executive director Tom Peters, Clemson University sophomore engineering student Tiera Green, and Clemson assistant professor Eliza Gallagher have joined “a team of more than 20 researchers across the state working on a planning grant for the next two years dedicated to figuring out how South Carolina schools can prepare students for calculus, a basic requirement for an engineering degree.” Researchers from the University of South Carolina, South Carolina State University, The Citadel, the South Carolina Technical College System, and the South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence will also participate in the study. The team was awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct the research.
WHNS-TV Greenville, SC (9/25) reports that on Monday, the researchers involved in the project gathered at Clemson University to announce the study. Gallagher explained, “What winds up happening is a lot of students who are interested in these fields end up on college campuses and they are placed below calculus, and that is actually the single biggest predictor of whether you’ll finish your STEM degree, is whether you start in calculus or below calculus.”
Special Report: Schools Must Evolve To Educate Future Workforce.
Education Week (9/27) runs a package of stories titled “Schools and the Future of Work” which explores how “technological change, globalization, and climate instability are happening at an accelerating pace all across the world” and what that means for the labor scene in the coming decades. Stories explore what skills students will need for future jobs and how schools can best deliver them.
North Carolina Elementary Teacher To Pilot Engineering Program.
The New Bern (NC) Sun Journal (9/26) profiles Havelock Elementary School teacher Wanda Tompkins. The North Carolina teacher was “selected from a pool of educators across the country by Engineering Adventures to pilot a new unit developed by Engineering is Elementary in cooperation with NASA.” Tompkins “will receive all curriculum and materials for their newest unit ‘In Good Hands: Engineering Space Gloves,’” through which “students will design a model space glove that can withstand the hazards of a space mission.” The Sun Journal notes “Engineering Adventures is an afterschool curriculum designed for upper-elementary students by the Museum of Science in Boston to challenge children to engineer solutions for real-world problems.”
Maryland Teachers, Administrators Discuss Pilot Elementary Writing Program, New Science Standards.
The Baltimore Sun (9/26) reports Harford County Public Schools in Maryland launched the pilot phase of the Lucy Calkins Units of Study program at nine of its elementary schools in January last year. School administrators and faculty told the Harford County Board of Education at a Monday meeting that the program, “used to teach writing to elementary school students, has been a big success in its pilot phase during the past two years.” Also at the meeting, HCPS Supervisor of Science Andrew Renzulli “gave an update on the implementation of the state’s Next Generation Science Standards,” which were adopted by the Maryland State Department of Education in 2013 and “designed to give students more rigorous and real-world lessons on science and engineering, according to school system officials.” In spring this year, fifth and eighth grade students took the new Maryland Integrated Science Assessment, or MISA, in what Renzulli called a “no-fault field test scenario.”
NSF Holds Conference On STEM Education For Students With Reading Difficulties.
Christina Samuels writes at the Education Week (9/26) “On Special Education” blog that the National Science Foundation sponsored a conference in Arlington, Virginia this week that brought together “experts in the fields of STEM education and learning disabilities,” saying that one key takeaway of the event is the ideal that students with reading difficulties such as dyslexia often “struggle also struggle with math—and educators need to be prepared to address both issues, as well as the behavior problems that may arise in children who struggling academically.” The conference “was intended to connect researchers working in these areas to talk about best practices and potential new areas to explore.”
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Trump Directs DeVos To Spend $200 Million In STEM Education Grants.
• Colleges And Universities Recruiting Women Students For Technical Fields.
• Woman Suffering From Spinal Muscular Atrophy Designs Robots To Help Severely Disabled People.
• Professors Argue Gender Gaps In Technical Fields Can Be Closed By Early Exposure.
• VW Securing Supplies Of Cobalt As Part Of Move To Electric Cars.
• PREPA: Eighty Percent Of Power Lines In Puerto Rico Down.
• Commentary: Push For Computer Science Curriculum Not Motivated By Tech Industry Conspiracy.