Leading the News
Federal, Puerto Rican Officials Disagree Over How Long It Will Take To Restore Power.
The Los Angeles Times (11/4, Coto) reported that US and Puerto Rican officials disagree over how long it will take to restore power to Puerto Rico. “Ricardo Ramos, director of the state-owned power company, said the utility has restored 35 percent of the electrical system’s regular output and expects to reach 50 percent by mid-November and 95 percent by mid-December.” However, “Ray Alexander, director of contingency operations at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the corps’ goal is to have 50 percent restored by the end of November and 75 percent by the end of January.” The comments came during a hearing in Washington, DC, Thursday. Alexander said the U.S. Army Corps and Energy Department have been working to construct “a more resilient electrical grid for Puerto Rico.”
Debate Over Solar Solution To Restore Puerto Rico’s Power Continues. NBC News (11/6) reports on the ongoing debate over whether solar will be a viable option to restore Puerto Rico’s power. NBC reports that “in just eight days, Tesla built more than 700 solar panels” in the parking lot of a hospital. However, “going solar won’t be easy” in Puerto Rico, as “there is still sharp opposition to privatizing the electric grid.” Electrical and irrigation workers’ union president Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo said, “The energy demand of Puerto Rico is a high-consumption demand – continuous and reliable consumption – especially for the pharmaceutical industry.” He added, “The public model will always have better costs than the private model.”
Universities Post Declining Numbers Of American Graduate Students In STEM Fields.
The New York Times (11/3, Wingfield, Subscription Publication) reports on the scarcity of American graduate students at universities in the US and cites New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering as “an extreme example,” given that 80 percent of undergraduates are US residents while about 80 percent of graduate students “hail from India, China, Korea, Turkey and other foreign countries.” The Times says that a survey by the Council of Graduate Schools and the Graduate Record Examinations Board found “in the fall of 2015, about 55 percent of all graduate students in mathematics, computer sciences and engineering were from abroad.” The Computing Research Association’s annual survey of American and Canadian universities similarly found “the dearth of Americans…even more pronounced in hot STEM fields like computer science, which serve as talent pipelines for the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft: About 64 percent of doctoral candidates and almost 68 percent in master’s programs last year were international students.”
College Officials Tout Transfer Agreements As Way To Reduce Student Debt.
Brian Payne, vice provost for academic affairs at Old Dominion University, and Daniel DeMarte, executive vice president for academic and student affairs at Tidewater Community College, write in the Washington Post (11/3, Payne, Demarte), about college debts and the efforts by Old Dominion University and Tidewater Community College to reduce student debt. One of those is making transfer agreements so that students can take courses at the lower cost Tidewater and transfer to a four-year program at Old Dominion “seamlessly.”
California Colleges Partner To Encourage More Minority Students To Study STEM Fields.
The Riverside (CA) Press Enterprise (11/5) reports that UC Riverside and Riverside City College are collaborating to encourage more minority students to go into STEM fields. The Riverside Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program, funded with an $816,000 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, “will identify students at RCC who are pursuing careers in science and make it easier for them to transfer to and graduate from UCR.”
University Of Minnesota Struggling To Cope With Biggest Freshman Class In Decades.
The AP (11/4) reports that the University of Minnesota “enrolled almost 6,200 new freshmen this fall, in addition to almost 2,300 transfer students,” making this the biggest incoming class in 50 years. Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Bob McMaster says that this “large influx of students has strained the university’s school housing, financial aid and certain classes.”
Accreditation and Professional Development
Opinion: Six Skill Areas Engineers Should Focus On To Succeed In IoT Economy.
Writing in Network World (11/3, Henry-Stocker), contributor Sandra Henry-Stocker outlined six Internet of Things skill areas that IT technologists should invest in: sensors, communicative chips, communication gateways, cloud management, “security solutions that cut across the IoT stack,” and domain knowledge “that identifies and addresses problems with IoT.” According to Srini Vemula, global product management leader at SenecaGlobal, the influx of new IoT devices in the near future “will lead to tens of thousands of new jobs in the IoT economy.” Vemula adds that the barrier to enter this industry is lower than ever, citing Amazon’s Alexa as an example of how “developers can build a complementary product or service, integrate with the Alexa platform and monetize it by selling the solution through their marketplace.”
Research and Development
Google Outlines AI Project Capable Of Building Other Machine-Learning Algorithms.
The New York Times (11/5, Metz, Subscription Publication) reports on the Google project AutoML, a “machine-learning algorithm that learns to build other machine-learning algorithms.” The program may help Google develop AI technology “that can partly take the humans out of building the A.I. systems that many believe are the future of the technology industry.” With AutoML, Google is attempting to automate the process of building algorithms that analyze the development of other algorithms, “learning which methods are successful and which are not.” According to Google, AutoML can build algorithms that, “in some cases, identified objects in photos more accurately than services built solely by human experts.” The Times mentions “Google, Amazon and Microsoft see serious money in the trend.”
Researchers Argue Machines Are Capable Of Consciousness.
Newsweek (11/4, Cuthbertson) reports that “advances in artificial intelligence and neural understanding are prompting a re-evaluation of the claim that consciousness is not a physical process and as such cannot be replicated in robots.” The piece reports that cognitive scientists Stanislas Dehaene, Hakwan Lau, and Sid Kouider, of the Collège de France, University of California and PSL Research University respectively, argue in a recently published review “that consciousness is ‘resolutely computational’ and subsequently possible in machines.” The researchers “addressed the question of whether machines will ever be conscious in the journal Science.”
NSF Gives University Of Dayton Researcher Grant For AI Research.
The AP (11/5) reports that the National Science Foundation has given University of Dayton researcher Tarek Taha a $44,000 grant “to develop a brain-inspired computer chip that can learn on its own.” The money will fund Taha’s “work toward his goal of developing an artificial intelligence chip. Taha says the chip will be more efficient and compact than current ones.”
Engineers: Graphene With Carbon Nanotube “Wrinkles” Better Conducts Heat.
International Business Times (11/3, Radhakrishnan) reported engineers at Rice University in Texas have discovered “adding a few asymmetric junctions” to graphene “would cause wrinkles, which would make heat flow more efficient by forming bridges.” In the study, which was published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, the researchers “found that manipulating the joints between the nanotubes and graphene has a significant impact on the material’s ability to direct heat.” According to IBT, this “important feature…will help make electronic devices smaller and require more sophisticated heat sinks.”
Amazon Opens New R&D Facility In Cambridge.
Insider Media (11/3) reported that Amazon has opened its new 60,000 square foot development center in Cambridge that will employ 400 staff when at full capacity. The site will house research and development teams “working on a range of projects including the Amazon Echo, Amazon Alexa and Prime Air.”
TelecomPaper (11/3) also covered the story.
NASA To Host Industry UAS Day.
Aviation Today (11/3, Fuller) reported that NASA is calling on industry “to help with unmanned aircraft system (UAS) integration into the U.S. national airspace system (NAS)” as part of its “UAS in the NAS” project. To that end, NASA will host an Industry day on November 30 to leverage “agency research in integrated detect and avoid, command and control,” and other technologies. Specific objectives will include gathering technical data on industry efforts including technology development cycles and “plans for UAS commercialization,” as well as obtaining feedback on whether NASA’s planned “systems integration and operationalization (SIO) demonstration” for the mid-2020s “is feasible.” NASA also wants to use the opportunity to communicate its “expectations for the NASA partnership development process,” and to gauge industry interest in order to help “guide partnership/acquisition decisions.”
Engineering and Public Policy
White House Approves The Release Of Report Blaming Humans For Climate Change.
In a front-page article, the Washington Post (11/3, A1, Mooney, Eilperin, Dennis) reported that the Administration “released a dire scientific report Friday calling human activity the dominant driver of global warming, a conclusion at odds with White House decisions to withdraw from a key international climate accord, champion fossil fuels and reverse Obama-era climate policies.” The Post adds that “to the surprise of some scientists, the White House did not seek to prevent the release of the government’s National Climate Assessment, which is mandated by law.” According to the Post, “the report affirms that climate change is driven almost entirely by human action, warns of a worst-case scenario where seas could rise as high as eight feet by the year 2100, and details climate-related damage across the United States that is already unfolding as a result of an average global temperature increase of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900.”
A New York Times (11/3, A1, Friedman, Thrush, Subscription Publication) front-page article said that “while there were pockets of resistance to the report in the Trump administration, according to climate scientists involved in drafting the report, there was little appetite for a knockdown fight over climate change among Mr. Trump’s top advisers, who are intensely focused on passing a tax reform bill – an effort they think could determine the fate of his presidency.” However, the Times concedes “the White House put out a statement Friday that seemed to undercut the high level of confidence of the report’s findings.” The Times adds that while Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Pruitt and Energy Secretary Perry are skeptics, National Economic Council Director Cohn was responsible for approving the report and he “generally believes in the validity of climate science and thought the issue would have been a distraction from the tax push, according to an administration official with knowledge of the situation.” The Wall Street Journal (11/3, Hernandez, Subscription Publication) says 13 federal agencies were responsible for producing the report.
The New York Times (11/3, Fountain, Plumer, Subscription Publication) in additional coverage noted details of the climate report, which suggests global warming’s effects “are expected to increase,” meaning that climate conditions will be “the same, only worse.”
The AP (11/3, Borenstein), AFP (11/3, Santini, Sheridan), Politico (11/3, Holden), The Hill (11/3, Cama, Henry), Reuters (11/4), Vox (11/4), BBC News (UK) (11/4), and USA Today (11/3, Rice) as well as the ABC World News Tonight (11/3, story 9, 0:15, Muir) and NBC Nightly News (11/3, story 7, 0:20, Holt) broadcasts provided similar coverage.
Analysis: New Climate Change Report Unlikely To Impact Policy. In a news analysis in the New York Times (11/4, Plumer, Subscription Publication) Brad Plumer reported that the Trump Administration “on Friday published a report on climate change from its own scientists that left no doubt about its grim reality and its causes.” However, there is “little reason to think that yet another scientific report will fundamentally shift attitudes on global warming — either among policymakers or the public at large.” White House aides “said that President Trump, who spent much of Friday in the air on his way to meetings in Asia, was barely aware of the report’s existence.”
GOP Push To Allow ANWR Drilling Met With Little Industry Enthusiasm.
The Washington Examiner (11/6, Siegel) reported that despite a Republican push to allow oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, energy companies “might not be interested in taking up the opportunity.” Tom Walsh, public affairs chairman and an oil and gas consultant, explained, “There is a lot of pressure from the shale play and Lower 48, and the price structure currently is not terribly supportive of activities in Alaska because we are a high-cost environment to produce oil.” Meanwhile, Erik Milito, upstream director at the American Petroleum Institute, said, “Opening it would be an important step towards increasing American competitiveness and securing our nation’s energy future.”
Clean Air Plan Would Phase Out Diesel Trucks, Ships At Port Of Los Angeles By 2035.
The San Francisco Chronicle (11/4, Barboza) reports that the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest port complex, has “approved a sweeping plan to slash air pollution by encouraging the phaseout of diesel trucks in favor of natural gas and, ultimately, zero-emission trucks and cargo-handling equipment over the next two decades.” The “Clean Air Action Plan, unanimously adopted at a joint meeting of Los Angeles and Long Beach harbor commissioners, provides a framework for transforming the huge hub for freight-moving trucks, trains and ships to cleaner technologies through 2035.” However, it “leaves many details undetermined, including who will pay for up to $14 billion in cleaner trucks and equipment and which industries will benefit.” Despite significant “reductions in diesel emissions under the port’s 2006 clean-air plan, the Angeles-Long Beach port complex remains the largest single source of air pollution in Southern California.”
US Emissions Decrease Despite Leaving Paris Agreement.
The Daily Caller (11/3, White) reported that “diplomats are confused and irritated that the U.S. has made more ground reducing emission levels than Canada” even though President Trump has decided to leave the Paris Agreement. According to a 2016 Energy Information Administration report, US CO2 emissions have decreased by 12 percent since 2005 partially due to the increase in natural gas production with fracking. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Secretary General Angel Gurria said “in Canada, you have a situation where you have a very strong political will to reduce, but effectively it has not gone on the planned road.”
New Mexico Governor Sees “Nearly Limitless” Potential In UAVs.
The AP (11/3) reported that Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM) “says aviation and innovation have been crucial to New Mexico’s economy over the years and the integration of drones into the wider airspace will make for even more opportunities.” Martinez joined federal officials and industry representatives in Washington DC on Thursday for a “kick off” of the Trump Administration’s new UAV pilot project “aimed at increasing government and commercial use of unmanned aircraft.” Martinez “said drones offer nearly limitless potential for rural states like New Mexico but that integrating the technology into everyday life must be done safely.”
Rep. Brady Seeks To Roll Back Obama-Era Electric Vehicle Tax Credit.
The Houston Business Journal (11/3, Chapa, Subscription Publication) reports US Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), is aiming to “undo an Obama-era tax credit for buyers of electric vehicles” and has included a measure to “eliminate the tax credit in the initial draft of the Republican-led tax reform plan.” Brady’s move comes just “days after Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian, a Republican, sent an open letter to the state’s congressional delegation asking them to eliminate the tax credit as part of the Trump administration’s push for tax reform.” In a statement, Christian said the “Obama-era subsidies circumvent the free market by picking winners and losers, while doing virtually nothing to tangibly protect the environment.” But the director of Environment Texas, Luke Metzger, “expressed disappointment regarding Brady’s proposal.” Metzer said the tax breaks were “critical” in getting “more of these cars on the road, and it’s a mistake to let the air out of the tires just when the industry is taking off.”
The Detroit Free Press (11/3, Gardner) reported that the proposed tax measure includes the elimination of the $7,500 tax credit for hybrids and EVs. Removing that “credit would create another obstacle for automakers who are trying to nurture a market for battery-powered transportation.” In a statement, GM said, “Tax credits are an important customer benefit that can help accelerate the acceptance of electric vehicles. Because General Motors believes in an all-electric future, we will work with Congress to explore ways to maintain this incentive.”
Fund Focused On EV Batteries Sees Boost, But Analyst Warns Of Risk From Tax Proposal. The Wall Street Journal (11/5, Constable, Subscription Publication) reports on the Global X Lithium & Battery Tech exchange-traded fund, which according to Morningstar data saw a 28.9% increase in Q3 as confidence in the outlook for mass adoption of EVs grows. The fund’s research director, Jay Jacobs, noted in a recent post that “in 2015, car production consumed 15,000 tons of lithium, but by 2025 analysts expect this number to reach 136,000 tons.” However, industry analyst Jay Van Sciver warned of potential risks, such as the removal of the EV subsidy that is currently part of the tax proposal.
Tesla Stock Slides After GOP Unveils Tax Plan Eliminating Electric Car Subsidy.
The Los Angeles Times (11/2, Mitchell) reports Tesla will be “the hardest hit company” if a Republican-proposed tax plan that includes “wiping out the $7,500 federal tax credit for buyers of electric cars” is signed into law. While Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that the company’s business plans do not rely on subsidies, the cut would begin in 2018 as Telsa scales up production of its new Model 3 sedan, and the article reports that “Tesla stock slid 6.8% on Thursday to $299.26.”
USA Today (11/2, Bomey) reports, “The tax credit is viewed as crucial to propelling technology that’s currently more expensive than comparable internal combustion engine cars.” Likewise, Reuters (11/2, Shepardson) reports, “Environmental groups and an auto industry trade group blasted the repeal,” and “GM vowed to fight, saying the credits are ‘an important customer benefit that can help accelerate the acceptance of electric vehicles.’” Meanwhile, the article reports, the Republican tax plan “also calls for repealing and phasing out other energy tax credits, including production and investment tax credit for solar, geothermal, fuel cell, wind energy and other clean energy projects,” and phasing out a credit for residential energy-efficiency projects.
GE Celebrates Science Day With Elementary Students.
The Albany (NY) Times Union (11/3) reports under the headline “Photos: GE Science Day” that GE Global Research celebrated its 29th annual Science Day with 4th-grade students from four area schools in Niskayuna on Thursday. According to the article, the students met scientists and engineers, and were able to “see and experience firsthand the way science impacts our world through more than a dozen experiments.” The article includes a five-photo slideshow depicting students enjoying different parts of the event.
Growing Number Of California Elementary Schools Hosting Math Festivals.
EdSource (11/5) says its interviews with teachers at various California school districts revealed that a growing number of elementary schools are hosting so-called math festivals “for students and families to convey the message that math is fun and can be practiced every day in simple ways in their own lives, not just in the classroom.” EdSource says the popularity of such events are partially in response to both the state’s implementation of tougher Common Core math standards. Carolyn Pfister, an education administrator with the California State Board of Education, has even “helped to put together an online toolkit with resources and guidance for schools wishing to host their own math night or festival.” Likewise, the California Math Council has prepared “online resources for schools wishing to organize family math nights.” University of California-Berkeley professor and early math education expert Alan Scheonfeld commented, “We lose so many kids in elementary school because they get convinced math isn’t for them.”
Finalists Compete In Air Force Research Laboratory’s Inaugural Spacecraft Robotics Challenge.
The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (11/4, Hayden) reported that on Saturday, the Air Force Research Laboratory held its inaugural Spacecraft Robotics Challenge finals “at the Albuquerque Convention Center in the midst of the third annual Discovery Festival, which showcases and encourages kids to become interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.” In 10 challenges of varying difficulty, the three finalist teams completed tasks using blocks representing “components of CubeSats, very small satellites made up of groups of cubes.” Andy Williams of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base explained that building CubeSats is expensive, and so researchers are currently developing autonomous robots that may one day replace humans in their assembly. Williams stated, “AFRL is really focused on STEM, because it’s absolutely critical for the Air Force to keep its technology edge.” The event was hosted by the defense firm Honeywell and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico.
New Mexico To Adopt National Science Standards In Full.
The Farmington (NM) Daily Times (11/6, Petersen) reports that last month, the New Mexico Public Education Department “considered adopting science standards that strayed from the Next Generation Science Standards, which have been adopted by 18 states and the District of Columbia since they were published in 2013, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education.” Specifically, PED’s proposal implemented “New Mexico science and society requirements, including a requirement that high school students ‘identify important questions that science cannot answer… (and) identify ways that science plays a role in many different kinds of careers and activities.’” That adjustment elicited widespread criticism because the proposed state standards “watered down language on controversial topics like climate change and evolution.” After “public outcry and protests” erupted in mid-October outside PED’s offices, “the state walked back on the proposed changes, announcing it would adopt the New Generation Science Standards with no changes, except state-specific additions, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported on Oct. 25.”
South Carolina Education Leaders Intensify Focus On CTE.
The AP (11/5) reports, “With all the industry coming to South Carolina, educators are doing what they can to make sure a prepared work force will be available.” Many high schools in the state already offer career and technical programs in a variety of fields, including those “tailored to local career opportunities.” State Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown said the state’s strategy on CTE is “a much more comprehensive approach and aligned to workforce needs and seeking to address all students.” Brown also “said school leaders have listened to industry leaders in their counties to ensure their trade programs match the need for skilled workers.”
Georgia Students Compete In Annual Soap Box Derby-Like Competition.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (11/4) reports the city of Douglasville, Georgia Tech, and Google are sponsoring the fourth-annual Gravity Games, a “contest for Georgia students” aimed at attracting “more kids into science and engineering.” The competition is unaffiliated with the American Soap Box Derby, and its rules on vehicle modifications are looser. Gravity Games offers several divisions, including an autonomous vehicle division and a from-scratch competition, in which students can enter cars not constructed from standard soap box kit cars.
Friday’s Lead Stories