Leading the News
Foundation Makes Record-Breaking $219 Million Donation To University Of Maryland.
The Washington Post (10/4, Anderson) reports that the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation “is giving the University of Maryland its largest private donation by far, more than $200 million to expand scholarships, endow new faculty positions and make other investments in buildings and programs at the state flagship in College Park.” The $219 gift “shatters the previous record for a single donation to U-Md. — $31 million — set three years ago.” It is “among the most significant gifts to any public university in the country.” UMD “officials said the gift will enhance the 39,000-student university’s strength in engineering and fields such as neuroscience and cybersecurity.”
The Baltimore Sun (10/2) quotes UMD President Wallace Loh saying, “It’s an investment in the future of young people in Maryland.” The piece reports that Loh said “he was speechless when he heard how much money the Clark Foundation would be giving.” The Sun reports that A. James Clark attended UMD in the 1940s on a state scholarship and “consistently gave back to his alma mater before his death in 2015,” including “$15 million in 1994 to create an endowment fund to support the engineering college, which subsequently was named the A. James Clark School of Engineering.”
The AP (10/4, Witte) reports that the donation will help the school “double need-based scholarships,” and reports that Loh “said the gift will significantly increase access to education for bright students with modest means at a time when students struggle to pay tuition, and large debts after graduation have become a major national issue.” The AP reports that it is “the sixth-largest private gift to a public university in the nation.” One program being funded “will provide scholarships to 40 high-performing engineering undergraduates, and an endowment of a pilot program will provide need-based scholarships to 40 engineering majors who come from the state’s community colleges.” Also reporting are the Washington Times (10/4, Kelly), and the Washington Business Journal (10/4, Subscription Publication).
Alum Gives Creighton University $10 Million To Support STEM Education.
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (10/4) reports that Creighton University alumnus George Haddix has given the school “$10 million for academic programs, faculty development, laboratories, student opportunities and advising. Haddix has donated to other schools he has attended” and has “influenced the metro area’s view of the need for collaboration when it comes to science, technology, engineering and math, now widely known as STEM. When people in different subject areas work together, Haddix said, they see things in new ways.”
Cal Poly Breaks Ground On Solar Farm.
The San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune (10/3) reports that last month work began on “Cal Poly’s planned 4.5-megawatt solar farm” and the “project is expected to be completed in late December.” The plant will “generate more than 11 million kilowatt-hours per year, which is about a quarter of Cal Poly’s energy needs.”
DOJ Investigating Harvard Admissions Practices.
BuzzFeed (10/4, Tillman) reports that DOJ “is engaged in an ongoing investigation into admissions practices at Harvard University,” having “suggested the investigation’s active status in a letter, dated Sept. 29, that was sent in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by a government watchdog group and a civil rights organization seeking records about investigations into admissions practices at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” The groups requested the document “in response to reports that DOJ would be launching an investigation related to allegations of discrimination against Asian-American students.”
Pew Report: Hispanic High School Graduations, College Enrollments Up.
NBC News (10/4) reports that according to a new report from the Pew Research Center, “the Latino high school dropout rate has fallen to a new low, and it has been accompanied by record-high college enrollment.” Over the past five years, “the Hispanic dropout rate fell 6 percentage points — to 10 percent in 2016.” The statistic “is significant considering that Latino students make up a growing share of the nation’s students.”
Support For College Endowment Reform Spans Political Spectrum.
The Atlantic (10/4) reports on opposition from across the political spectrum to “fat-cat university fundraising” and massive endowments at elite colleges. The piece lists notable figures from both liberal and conservative schools of thought and notes that the “GOP-led Congress has held at least two separate hearings examining the taxpayer subsidies that support endowments, which are now potentially under scrutiny as part of tax reform.” Elite schools “emphasize that they rely on the endowments for expenses that are critical to students’ education—campus facilities, for example. Many also dedicate a sizable portion of their endowments to student aid. But that spending ultimately benefits a relatively small population of students, and the institutions have faced growing criticism for not using the endowments to meaningfully increase the number of low-income students they serve.”
Research and Development
NSF Gives University Of Wisconsin-Madison $15 Million Grant For Materials Research.
The Wisconsin State Journal (10/4) reports that the National Science Foundation is giving the University of Wisconsin-Madison Materials Research Science and Engineering Center a $15.6 million grant “to keep research going on materials like semiconductors, glass and liquid crystals, in what Director Nick Abbott called ‘high-risk, high-reward research.’”
NSF Funding Supercomputer Upgrade At Clemson University.
The Greenville (SC) News (10/4) reports that the National Science Foundation is funding a $1 million upgrade of the Palmetto Cluster supercomputer at Clemson University, currently “the eighth most powerful among U.S. academic institutions.” The grant “will enable the supercomputer’s keepers to purchase and install new hardware that will expand its capacity and speed up its computing power.” The computer’s “research ranging from the genetics of disease-resistant orange trees to the connectivity of wildlife habitats.”
Researchers Say Artificial Intelligence May Give Rapid Diagnosis For Urinary Stones.
Aunt Minnie (10/5, Ridley) reports an “artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm can accurately detect and classify urinary stones based solely on images from noncontrast single-energy CT scans, according to research presented at last week’s Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine’s Conference on Machine Intelligence in Medical Imaging (C-MIMI) in Baltimore.” The algorithm was developed by a team from Massachusetts General Hospital in a proof-of-concept study and “yielded more than 90% sensitivity and specificity for detecting urinary stones on single-energy CT scans” and it “was also highly accurate for classifying the stones by type – a task that typically requires dual-energy CT scans.” Presenter Hyunkwang Lee said, “It can provide faster prioritization of positive cases for radiologist review, and rapid and accurate diagnosis.”
Baidu Opens Second Research Lab In Silicon Valley.
The San Francisco Chronicle (10/4, Baker) reports Baidu “opened a second research and development center in Silicon Valley, this one focused primarily on self-driving cars.” The Sunnyvale facility will be home to Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group and will also research Internet security and connectivity issues, as well as “a vehicle lab for work on the company’s autonomous driving platform, named Apollo.”
GM Reports Test Fleet Of Robot Cars Was In Six Minor Crashes Last Month.
Reuters (10/4) reports that General Motors’ self-driving unit, Cruise Automation, “has more than doubled the size of its test fleet of robot cars in California during the past three months.” However, as the test fleet has grown, it has also reported more crashes. In September, GM’s robot cars were involved in six minor crashes in California. Rebecca Mark, spokeswoman for GM Cruise, said, “All our incidents this year were caused by the other vehicle.” None of the accidents resulted in injuries or serious damage. In a statement, GM said, “While we look forward to the day when autonomous vehicles are commonplace, the streets we drive on today are not so simple, and we will continue to learn how humans drive and improve how we share the road together.”
General Motors Increases Number Of Autonomous Test Vehicles In California.
Reuters (10/4, Shepardson) reports a spokesperson for General Motors’ autonomous vehicle unit Cruise Automation, Rebecca Mark, said Wednesday that the company has multiplied the number test vehicles it has on California roads, and “all” the traffic “incidents this year were caused by the other vehicle.” A statement issued by GM yesterday read that “While we look forward to the day when autonomous vehicles are commonplace, the streets we drive on today are not so simple, and we will continue to learn how humans drive and improve how we share the road together.”
Environmental Engineers Design Sustainable Farm In Jordanian Desert.
The Christian Science Monitor (10/4, Luck) reports on the Sahara Forest Project in Jordan, where environmental engineers “are designing a sustainable farm that uses solar power to desalinate seawater to grow crops in regions that have been arid for centuries, then uses the irrigation runoff to afforest barren lands and fend off desertification.” The project “yielded its first crop of cucumbers last month and aims to produce 130,000 kilograms of vegetables from the Jordanian desert each year.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Senate Commerce Committee Approves Self-Driving Car Bill.
The Washington Post (10/4, Halsey) reports that on Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation that “seeks to clarify the role played by the federal and state governments in the autonomous car future.” Like the House bill, the Senate bill “would allow Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to exempt automakers from existing safety standards, eventually permitting the sale of 100,000 cars a year as the self-driving technology develops.” While the bill gives oversight responsibilities to Chao and the NHTSA, “safety advocates have been fearful that the absence of regulations would allow unfettered development of the vehicles.”
The Detroit News (10/4, Laing) reports that the bill comes “against a backdrop of furious activity in the auto sector as automakers race to put cars that are capable of at least some hands-free driving on the road as quickly as they can.” Self-driving trucks were dropped from the Senate and House bills “after a high-profile campaign from labor unions to protect the jobs of professional drivers.” Reuters (10/4, Shepardson) reports the legislation is supported by companies such as GM, Alphabet, and Ford. Among other media reporting are the Detroit (MI) Free Press (10/4), Digital Trends (10/4), and Gizmodo (10/4).
Trump Administration To Propose Repealing Clean Power Plan.
Citing “a person familiar with the deliberations,” Bloomberg News (10/4, Dlouhy) reports that in a proposal that could be released this week or next, the Administration will propose repealing the Clean Power Plan, “former President Barack Obama’s signature plan for combating climate change by asserting that its expansive approach to addressing carbon emissions exceeds legal limits.” In addition, the EPA will “issue a formal request for the public to offer ideas for a replacement to the Clean Power Plan that could be more modest in scope.” The New York Times (10/4, Friedman, Subscription Publication) cites an internal EPA document, which states, “The agency is issuing a proposal to repeal the rule,” but does not explain how it “will justify to the courts the decision to eliminate the regulation.”
The Hill (10/4, Manchester) reports “this would be the first major action taken by Trump to roll back the program.” Reuters (10/4, Volcovici) reports the Clean Power Plan “was challenged in court by 27 states after Obama’s administration launched it in 2015.” It’s “currently suspended by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which set a deadline of Friday for a status report from the EPA on how it plans to proceed.” The Washington Examiner (10/4) reports “groups that support the Obama-era climate plan have said they will sue the Trump administration no matter what” EPA Administrator Pruitt “decides to do — repeal or replace.” USA Today (10/4, Miller) and the Wall Street Journal (10/4, Puko, Subscription Publication) also provide coverage of this story.
Perry Says Coal Is ‘Fighting Back.’
E&E Publishing (10/4, Subscription Publication) reports Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Wednesday “told mining executives at a private meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington” that coal is “fighting back” and burning “cleaner than ever before.” He “spoke at the National Mining Association’s board of directors meeting before Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) took the stage.” The association “has faced backlash for hosting an event at a hotel owned by the Trump Organization, from which the president has refused to divest.” Perry said that coal will play a key role in the U.S.’ “unprecedented clean energy revolution” because of programs like “DOE’s clean coal research and projects including the Petra Nova project in Texas – the world’s largest retrofit of carbon capture technology on a coal-fired power plant.” He said, “Coal burns cleaner than ever before. … Over the past three decades, the U.S. coal fleet has dramatically reduced emissions of air pollutants.”
New Mexico Officials Will Not Discuss Origins Of Proposed Science Standards.
The AP (10/4) reports, “The New Mexico Public Education Department won’t explain the origin of changes to the state’s public school science standards that omit all references to climate change caused by human activity.” Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski said the department “received input from several groups for the teaching standards, but declined to name the groups.” The Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, which “promotes education and provides science materials and curriculum to schools in the state, has said it opposes the proposed changes.”
Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District To Offer Drone Course.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (10/4, Raghavendran) reports that the Anoka-Hennepin School District “is launching a drone course for the 2018-19 school year, where high schoolers will learn to build, program and fly the aircrafts.” The course will be based at Anoka-Hennepin’s Secondary Technical Education Program, and will be open to any high school student in the district.
Fab Lab Network Spreading Across US.
The Seventy Four (10/4) has a feature on the Fab Lab Network, which offers “highly technical maker space[s] packed with the latest machines and programs to spur hands-on STEM learning.” Fab Labs are appearing “across the nation, thanks in part to a $10 million, three-year push by Chevron to locate 10 labs where they can serve a diverse population of school-age children,” particularly in “rural communities that otherwise wouldn’t have access to such sophisticated technical equipment.”
States Are Starting To Focus On Career Education, Not Just College Readiness.
Education Week (10/4, Gewertz) reports that a number of states are shifting their focus from college readiness to “students’ futures as workers, enacting a flurry of laws and policies designed to bolster career education and preparation.” The article says that various states, including Arizona, Kansas, Oregon, and Texas have created “their own ways of prioritizing career study.” The article says that Maine and Indiana have “pushed forward on career study by bringing it into middle school.” The article says states have taken these steps “while a long-overdue reauthorization of the main federal career and technical education law, the Carl D. Perkins Act, ‘percolates’ in Congress,” according to the Association for Career and Technical Education’s Catherine Imperatore.
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Eleven Industry Groups File Opposition To DOE Directive To FERC.
• DC Council Member Proposes City Student Loan Forgiveness Program.
• NASA To Extend Expandable Module’s ISS Mission.
• Latina Engineers Discuss Need To Increase Diversity In Tech Industry.
• EU Officials To Meet With Executives About Battery Manufacturing.
• Ford CEO Pledges To Reduce Costs By $14 Billion, Invest In Trucks, EVs.
• Self-Driving Car Legislation Receives Criticism For Lack of Safety Measures, Privacy Protection.