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

Leading the News

Poll: Americans Unconcerned About Robots “Taking” Jobs.

U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Lardieri) reports on the findings of an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs poll, which found “most Americans aren’t worried about robots taking over their jobs, and more than half of Americans think automation could make their work easier and more efficient in the future.” It adds, “Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they believe it is unlikely that automation at work would replace them or someone they knew,” while “56 percent said they believe technology will improve their jobs and many think automation has made jobs safer.” While studies released some years ago “predicted almost half of all jobs in America could be replaced over the next two decades by automation,” more recent research predicts “far fewer jobs will be lost.” Despite the lack of overall concern regarding job displacement, “a majority of those polled said robots have led to unemployment in factories and 75 percent think robots will eventually replace retail workers.”

Higher Education

Many Academics Publish In “Predatory” Journals.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Kolata, Subscription Publication) reports that many university and college faculty are publishing in “‘journals’ that will publish almost anything, for fees that can range into the hundreds of dollars per paper” in order to satisfy the publishing expectations of schools for promotion and tenure. While many have assumed “well-meaning academics are duped into working with them” the numbers indicate “many academics know exactly what they’re getting into” and indeed are “eager participants in what experts call academic fraud that wastes taxpayer money, chips away at scientific credibility, and muddies important research.” The Times adds there are “nearly as many predatory as legitimate” journals, and “many…have names that closely resemble those of established publications.”

Central Missouri Sees Boom And Bust In Enrollment Of Indian Students.

Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Redden) reports on the case of the University of Central Missouri which, like many universities pursued foreign graduate students in part to bring in extra revenue, and “at the height of the boom,” in 2015, the school “enrolled 2,429 students from India, accounting for about 87 percent of the university’s total 2,786 international students.” That has now fallen over 70 percent to “just 631 students from India this year.” The school’s experience “shows the risk of relying too much on students from any one country.” Inside Higher Ed adds, “Many universities across the country are reporting declines in international student enrollments,” though “the trend is far from uniform.”

Illinois Statewide Task Force Launched To Improve Adult Education.

The Bloomington (IL) Pantagraph Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Sobota) reports the Illinois Community College Board established the Statewide Task Force on the Future of Adult Education and Literacy “as a result of legislative action earlier this year.” Potential goals under consideration for the new task force include improving “the transition from basic skills to post-secondary career training and increasing public-private partnerships.” The task force may also identify and expand successful pilot programs at the state level. At a meeting last Monday, task force members raised concerns “that while a lot of students are entering adult basic education classes at community colleges, not enough are moving into middle-level, advanced career training.” The ICCB has estimated about 1.2 million adults in the state do not have a high school diploma or an equivalency certificate.

Strayer Education To Acquire Capella Education For $1.9 Billion.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30) reports Strayer Education is poised to acquire Capella Education in a $1.9 billion deal. The two schools, which “together serve about 80,000 students across all 50 states,” are expected to continue running as independent institutions with separate boards. Both companies’ boards have approved the transaction, but it is awaiting approval from ED, shareholders, state and antitrust regulators, and accreditation bodies. The AP notes the acquisition comes as ED “considers rolling back Obama-era rules that would have erased federal loans for students defrauded by for-profit colleges.” The AP notes ED officials revealed “that the department is considering only partially forgiving federal loans for students defrauded by for-profit colleges.”

Hess, Addison Urge Feds To Require Freedom Of Speech, Inquiry In Return For Research Funds.

Frederick M. Hess And Grant Addison write in the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Hess, Addison, Subscription Publication), urging that colleges and universities be required to guarantee freedom of speech and inquiry in order to receive federal research funds. They suggest such a policy could be adopted by the President, by Congress or by individual granting agencies.

Doctoral Engineering Research Showcase
The National GEM Consortium (GEM) and ASEE are hosting a Doctoral Engineering Research Showcasefor doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and new faculty to display their leading-edge technical research and connect with potential agency sponsors and academic employers. The event is in Washington, DC, January 22-23, 2018. Watch this short video for more details.

NEW from ABET – Engineering Change: Lessons from Leaders on Modernizing Higher Education Engineering Curriculum
This issue brief offers a glimpse into the best practices at play for driving change within engineering programs across the country, and the benefits that have been realized as a result.

VIDEO – Engineering Technology Leaders Institute 
Congressman Tim Ryan and others discuss the impact the nation’s engineering technology deans can have on public policy.


Lockheed Martin Looking To Train Workforce For Available Positions.

KCNC-TV Denver (10/30) reported that while the Colorado unemployment rate is only 2.5%, many companies are having trouble finding college graduates able to fill their current openings. The report then detailed the history of Nick Zeggert, an RF communication payload engineer at Lockheed Martin, who is taking part in a co-op program that allows him to work and pursue his degree at the same time. Lockheed Martin’s Brian O’Connor said that the company is looking for workers that understand manufacturing technology, but KCNC-TV reported that a LinkedIn study found that the Denver region has the “7th biggest skills gap in the nation.” The gap measures the mismatch in skills between the jobs available and the local workers available to take those positions.

Industry News

Daimler Pushes Forward With Roll Out Of Electric Trucks.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Lima) reports, “Daimler AG is stepping up plans to roll out electric-powered trucks as the world’s largest maker of commercial vehicles seeks” in an effort to get ahead of newcomers like Tesla Inc. and DHL. The automaker “has started initial production runs of the Fuso eCanter urban delivery truck and expects such models to vie with traditional diesel versions in the near future as battery costs plunge,” and it “is seeking to stay competitive as cities step up measures to improve air quality.” Head of Daimler’s Tramagal plant, Jorge Rosa, explained, “In two years, it will be possible to produce an electric vehicle at the price of a diesel vehicle. The main driver is the cost of batteries, which is dropping sharply.” Bloomberg also points out that “the maker of Mercedes, Freightliner and Fuso trucks last week unveiled a prototype of a battery-powered heavy-duty truck as Daimler expands its lineup with electric offerings,” and “to fight back, Daimler introduced the light-duty eCanter haulers in Manhattan last month, supplying a fleet to several New York City non-profits as well as signing United Parcel Service Inc. as its first commercial customer in the US.” Rosa added, “The speed at which electric mobility will introduce itself will be quite a lot faster than what was foreseen two or three years ago.”

Walmart Is Putting 2-Foot, Shelf-Scanning Robots In Over 50 US Stores, Says 50% Productivity Boost Over Humans.

Fortune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/26) reports that in a move the company says will not affect employee numbers in stores, Walmart will roll out shelf-scanning robots to over 50 US locations “to replenish inventory faster and save employees time when products run out.” The robots are about 2-feet and “come with a tower that is fitted with cameras that scan aisles to check stock and identify missing and misplaced items, incorrect prices and mislabeling” before passing that information to employees who address the findings. Jeremy King, chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce is cited explaining that the robots are three times faster and much more accurate that humans when it comes to such tasks, resulting in a 50 percent productivity increase at the hands of the robots.

Toyota’s $80M Engineering Center “Big Deal” For Kentucky.

The Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Eblen) reports, “Toyota’s new $80 million Production Engineering and Manufacturing Center is a big step toward a longtime Kentucky goal: Don’t just be a place where people make things; be a place where people also create things they make.” Monday marked the formal opening of Toyota’s new “235,000-square-foot facility on the campus of the largest of its 14 North American plants,” and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) called it “the most significant investment ever made in Kentucky.” The Herald-Leader adds, “About 600 engineers and another 200 support staff will work in the center, which includes a new TILT Lab that will focus on innovation and problem-solving,” noting that Toyota “calls the lab its ‘manufacturing nucleus.’” The article quotes a Toyota release saying, “The TILT Lab provides everything Toyota engineers need to shift conventional thinking on its axis, and take an idea from concept to prototype. Once tested, those advancements may be applied to the company’s plants to improve processes or solve a challenge.”

Briggs & Stratton Announces Movement Of Production From Japan To US.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Hauer) reports, “Briggs & Stratton Corp. is moving production from Japan to its existing facilities in the southern United States,” the company announced Monday. The relocated production “will go to the company’s manufacturing facilities in Statesboro, Ga., and Auburn, Ala,” and the company “will create 50 new jobs at each facility.” Senior Vice President and President of Global Engines & Power David J. Rodgers is quoted saying, “Moving production of the Vanguard Small and Big Block V-Twin engines to the US is another step in the execution of our commercial growth strategy. We see this as a strategic competitive advantage because we can manufacture closer to our customers in the US, resulting in faster production times and faster shipping.” The Savannah (GA) Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30) reports on the move, and quotes Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) saying, ““We’re proud that an industry leader like Briggs & Stratton has chosen to expand its facility and employment roster here. This expansion is a vote of confidence for the strategic location, logistics advantages and skilled workforce that Georgia has to offer for manufacturers.

Engineering and Public Policy

Industry Representatives: DHS Must Speed Up Critical Infrastructure Threat Information Sharing.

NextGov Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Marks) reports, “The Homeland Security Department should speed up how quickly it shares information about cyber and physical threats facing critical infrastructure sectors, according to half the respondents in a Government Accountability Office review.” NextGov adds, “During the lag time between when Homeland Security learns of threat information and when it passes that information along to industry, that information grows less valuable, those industry representatives said, and sometimes, by the time it arrives, it’s already old news.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Illinois Releases Report Card Data.

The Chicago Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/31, Rado, Richards) reports, “About two-thirds of Illinois public high schools posted below-average to rock-bottom scores on the SAT college entrance exam,” which was given throughout the state “for free for the first time to 11th-graders last spring at school.” School averages “ranged from the low 740s to the high 1300s, reflecting wide disparities in performance” according to Tuesday’s release of the Illinois Report Card. State School Superintendent Tony Smith in releasing the data, noted that “four- and five-year graduation rates went up,” but also “raised concerns about the extent of remedial classes,” saying, “We have too many kids who are still taking remedial coursework.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/31, Taketa) reports, “Most Metro East school districts performed worse than the Illinois average” on the SAT, “and just one local district had more than two-thirds of its students meeting state testing benchmarks for either subject.” Throughout Illinois, “37.2 percent of students met state requirements in English and 31.7 percent met state requirements in math.” The Post-Dispatch adds, “low-income students and black students in the Metro East were more likely to attend poor-performing schools.” The Chicago Sun-Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/31, FitzPatrick) reports there were “massive errors in data for public schools in Chicago [that] rendered preliminary data, typically made available to reporters a week in advance, virtually useless.”

Seven Michigan Districts To Enter Academic Improvement Partnerships With State.

The Detroit News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Chambers) reports the Michigan Department of Education announced Monday that seven more school districts have been identified for partnership discussions with the state aimed at improving academic achievement levels. There are currently nine partnership districts. Superintendent Brian Whiston “said the action is meant as an opportunity to work together under the leadership of the local superintendent and the local board of education to improve student achievement and outcomes with a detailed understanding between all partners.” The Detroit News notes that the seven new districts “were identified for partnership district discussions because they were already identified as priority schools by the state and continue to lag in their proficiency scores in math and English language arts on spring’s M-STEP test.”

The Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Higgins) explains the so-called “partnership districts” are “part of the state’s plan to help turn around Michigan’s poor-performing schools” without closing them, as called for by state law. The approach is “a relatively new method for Michigan,” and it has the endorsement of Gov. Rick Snyder.

MLive (MI) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30) reports Whiston said, “We want to provide as many local and state-level partners as possible to help students in these schools be successful.”

Maryland BOE Retracts Plan To Toughen High School Graduation Requirements.

Last week, the Maryland State Board of Education set a new standard that “pushes back more aggressive requirements put in place about a year ago,” reversing “a decision last year that would have gradually raised the raw score needed to merit passing” the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams, reports the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Bowie). School board members maintained they had little choice because about 60 percent of students fail the assessments. Educators are, however, “worried that even once the new standard takes effect, many of the state’s students will be unable to earn a diploma or will use an alternative method to graduate.” The Maryland State Education Association opposes “such high-stakes testing as a bar for graduation.” State school board president Andrew Smarick said nearly all of his fellow board members are “worried or upset about just how many kids, especially in the low-income districts, are graduating with bridge projects. . . . Members are pretty alarmed.”

Indiana State Senator To Reintroduce Bill Mandating Cursive Writing Instruction.

The Indianapolis Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Herron) reports Indiana state Sen. Jean Leising said she is submitting a bill in the upcoming state legislative session to require mandatory cursive writing instruction in schools. This session will be “her seventh straight year to try,” as previous proposals have passed in the state Senate, but failed to gain support in the state House. In the last state legislative session, Leising saw “the writing on the wall for her cursive bill,” and authored a measure requiring a state study on the matter. The bill passed, and the resulting Indiana Department of Education “survey of teachers, principals, superintendents and school board members found broad support for adding cursive back into the state’s curriculum.” In fact, 70 percent of the nearly 4,000 survey respondents “said they were in favor of mandatory instruction of cursive writing in elementary school.” Leising said she hopes the survey results “will help my bill finally get a hearing in the House of Representatives.”

Michigan Sees Significant CTE Program Enrollment Boost.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/30, Chambers) reports Michigan is currently “enjoying a rise in the number of students enrolled in” career and technical education programs. Nearly 5,000 more students are enrolled in CTE programs this year compared to 2015, “with the largest increase in enrollment among 11th- and 12th-grade students,” according to state officials. State education officials believe the statewide “Going PRO” campaign, “which emphasizes to students that skilled trades are careers that often require less schooling and debt than a four-year degree,” is in part responsible for the increased enrollment. Additionally, the state increased funding for CTE programs by $10 million in the 2015-16 school year to a total $35.8 million. The state intends to maintain that funding level in the current school year and the next. Despite the growing interest in CTE programs, however, completion rates were below 30 percent in the 2015-16 school year, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

Monday’s Lead Stories

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