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

Leading the News

AT&T Enjoys Engineer Loyalty, Still Sees Talent Challenges Amid Transformation.

The Dallas (TX) Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Schnurman) discusses engineering talent challenges facing tech company’s both in and outside of Silicon Valley, especially AT&T. The piece says being based in Dallas rather than the Valley and having “such a long history as a legacy company” means AT&T has a loyalty advantage over some tech firms. John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications is cited explaining that AT&T engineers have an average tenure of 22 years. He says, “At AT&T, the fact that you’re gonna be there for another decade makes you behave differently. … It affects how you think.” The article contends that “AT&T still has challenges on the talent front” as it’s transforming and moving “beyond telecom, and often measures itself against the nation’s tech leaders, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft.” Additionally, as “It’s also converting the AT&T network to a software-driven technology that offers more capacity,” the company reportedly “needs many more workers who can adopt the latest advancements, so it’s trying to develop the talent from within.”

A separate article from the Dallas (TX) Morning News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Joseph) focuses on AT&T’s transformation into a company that can compete with the world’s biggest tech firms. Thaddeus Arroyo, CEO of AT&T Business, is cited explaining, “If you look at AT&T, we’ve entered into a new world where I think telecom no longer captures all that we do. We now look at our business across telecommunications, media and technology.” The article repeatedly mentions that AT&T is becoming a “software-driven company.” As it does so, employees are reportedly encouraged to seek new skills, roughly $250 million dollars funds further education for employees annually, and the company seeks to embody the efficiency of the tech giants it is trying to keep up with.

Higher Education

House Republicans Reduce Number Of Colleges Targeted For Tax On Endowment Income.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Anderson, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that House Republicans have reduced “the number of colleges they are targeting for a new tax on endowment income.” Under the original version of the GOP tax bill “private colleges would have been subject to a 1.4 percent tax on net investment income if they had 500 or more students and an endowment of at least $100,000 per full-time student.” An analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education analysis found that, “about 140 schools would have been affected,” while the American Council on Education “estimated the number affected as 155.” An amendment by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady that was approved Monday reduced the number of schools “by more than half,” by raising “the wealth threshold for colleges subject to the tax to an endowment of $250,000 or more per full-time student.”

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7) reports that Brady’s amendment “would exempt more private colleges and universities from a new tax on their endowment earnings.” The language “would more than double the threshold at which private colleges become subject to a 1.4 percent excise tax on their net investment income.”

Commentary: GOP Tax Plan Will Decimate Grad Student Ranks.

In commentary for Forbes Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Siegel), contributor Ethan Siegel writes that many grad students finance their studies “through teaching and/or research assistantships, which grant graduate students with a small stipend (in the ~$20K-$30K/year range) to live off of” along with tuition waivers. “Under the new GOP tax plan, however, those tuition waivers would be taxed as regular income, making graduate school an unaffordable proposition except for those already independently wealthy.”

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.

Research and Development

AI Experts Call For Ban On Autonomous Weapons.

Newsweek Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Cuthbertson) reports that a group of “leading AI figures” has sent a series of open letters to the prime ministers of Canada and Australia calling “on governments to ban weaponized robots capable of autonomously deciding whether people live or die.” The move comes ahead of the United Nations Conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons later this month.

NSF Gives LSU Professor Cybercrime Memory Forensics Grant.

WAFB-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Baton Rouge, LA (11/7) reports the National Science Foundation has given Louisiana State University computer science professor Golden Richard III a $1.1 million Secure & Trustworthy Cyberspace program grant “to research memory forensics to aide the fight of cybercrime.” Richard’s research “seeks to aide in the problems of data breaches and computer viruses, which seem to have outpaced solutions.” The piece quotes Richard saying, “Traditional digital forensics involves searching storage devices for digital evidence that might be useful in civil or criminal litigation or in trying to understand whether a system has been attacked. Memory forensics involves adding the contents of RAM to this search space.”

University Of Rhode Island, UConn Partner On New Undersea Vehicle Research Center.

The Providence (RI) Business News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7) reports that faculty from the University of Rhode Island and the University of Connecticut are partnering to launch the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology, “a new research center dedicated to advancing submarine technology.” University researchers “will direct projects which collaborate with local manufacturing giant General Dynamic Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., additional Rhode Island-based educational institutions as well as the U.S. Navy’s Connecticut base.”

The Hartford (CT) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7) reports that the institute will be “close to the Groton naval submarine base…the Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Naval War College” and will “leverage these major naval resources across southeastern New England to develop and accelerate the transition of innovative technologies to the U.S. undersea fleet.”

Workhorse To Test N-Gen Electric Vans With Drone Delivery Option In Ohio, California.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Carey) reports that Workhorse Group “said on Tuesday it will test its new lightweight N-Gen electric van in cities in Ohio and California.” The tests will begin in the first quarter of 2018. Workhorse plans to test two versions of the van, including one with a drone in the roof for remote deliveries. Workhorse is already testing a van-based drone with UPS and currently works with UPS and FedEx. Workhorse also has a contract with USPS to replace its delivery van fleet in partnership with a unit of Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd.

Gas 2.0 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/6) and Green Car Reports Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7) also reports on the story.

NASA Issues Research Contracts For Deep Space Gateway Element.

SPACE Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Foust) reports that NASA awarded contracts on November 1 to five companies “to examine how they could develop a power and propulsion module that could become the initial element of the agency’s proposed Deep Space Gateway.” Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Space Systems, and Space Systems received contracts worth a combined value of around $2.4 million to support the agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program. The power and propulsion element, “as currently envisioned, will generate electrical power for the gateway and move the spacecraft through cislunar space with a solar electric propulsion system, as well as provide communications.”

Volkswagen, Google Expand Quantum Computing Research Partnership.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Castellanos) reports that Martin Hofmann, Volkswagen AG chief information officer, on Tuesday announced that the company expanding its quantum computing “alliance” with Google, which Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Rauwald) says the company revealed will emphasize “refining traffic-management systems, simulating the structure of electric-car batteries and other materials as well as artificial intelligence for autonomous driving.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7) provides similar coverage.

Industry News

NY Times Contributor Discusses Trip To Tesla’s Gigafactory.

In a more than 5,000-word piece in the New York (NY) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Gertner, Subscription Publication), Jon Gertner describes his recent visit to Tesla’s Gigafactory in Reno, Nevada. He writes, “The Gigafactory is considerably more than a battery factory: It’s the physical embodiment of various technological breakthroughs the company – which just manufactured its 250,000th car – is trying to bring to its cars and energy-storage systems.” Gertner says that Tesla CEO Elon Musk aims to make the vehicle more efficient, and while peer-to-peer car sharing platforms function “like mobile Airbnbs,” a Tesla network “would push this concept much further, involving perhaps hundreds of thousands or millions of cars, all of them already connected to the internet. Yet such a business network, one Tesla executive told me, most likely wouldn’t succeed unless Tesla’s cars were fully autonomous.”

Former Dyson Engineer Told Tesla About Company’s EV Plans Two Years Before They Were Made Public.

Bloomberg Business Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Wiggins) reports “court documents dating back to 2015, and published for the first time Monday, reveal the story of how a 30-year-old engineer, Pierre Pellerey, told Tesla about Dyson’s electric car more than two years before it was made public, kicking off months of legal battles.” According to Bloomberg, the documents showed that “Pellerey, whose role was so secret that company founder and chairman James Dyson had told him not even to discuss it with colleagues, forwarded an email to Tesla’s lawyer that barely disguised Dyson’s plan,” which therefore “meant that Tesla would have known of Dyson’s plans two years before they were made public in September 2017.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Oklahoma City Pushes Towards Autonomous Streetcars.

KWTV-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Oklahoma City (11/7, Torp) reports that the City of Oklahoma City “is moving forward with the plan” to add autonomous street cars in the city. KWTV-TV states that when operations begin in 2018 after construction is completed, “all seven cars will be have drivers.” Engineering consultant Veronica Siranosian said “What we are exploring here is whether Oklahoma City can be the pilot project in the United States to explore automated systems on the streetcar.” The article adds that the US Department of Transportation may be needed for future funding.

Syria To Join Paris Climate Agreement, Leaving Only US Opposed.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Friedman, Subscription Publication) reports Syria announced during UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany on Tuesday that it would sign the Paris agreement on climate change. The move, “which comes on the heels of Nicaragua signing the accord last month, will leave the United States as the only country that has rejected the global pact.” Asked about the move, White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said, “As the president previously stated, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms the are more favorable for our country.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Dennis) says Syria’s decision to join the accord “brought another round of rebukes for the Trump Administration.” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement, “As if it wasn’t already crystal clear, every single other country in the world is moving forward together to tackle the climate crisis, while Donald Trump’s has isolated the United States on the world stage in an embarrassing and dangerous position.”

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Rice) reports Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists said, “Syria’s announcement that it will join the Paris agreement leaves President Trump in not-so-splendid isolation as a result of his irresponsible and ignorant decision to withdraw the United States from the most comprehensive effort ever to confront the mounting climate crisis.”

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7) reports Glen Peters, research director of the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, contends, “President Donald Trump’s June 1 decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement may have inadvertently strengthened all other nations’ resolve.” Peters added, “This is one side benefit of the Trump thing. It plays a role in galvanizing the remaining 200 or so countries. … So he may actually achieve the opposite and strengthen the Paris Agreement.” Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Doyle) reports “the United Nations welcomed Syria’s statement as a declaration of intent to adhere to the Paris pact. But it said Damascus had not yet filed any of the official documents to sign up.”

U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Newman), CBC (CAN) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7), The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Savransky) and the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Press) also provides coverage of this story.

California To May Join With EU, China To Fight Climate Change.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7) reports California and the European Union will join together with China to discuss “possibly creating a common carbon market to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday at a conference in Brussels focused on combating climate change.” Brown said, “The European Union is definitely a leader, if not the leader, in coping with climate change. That’s why I’m here to link up with the European Union to encourage even greater efforts.” He “met leaders from EU institutions as part of a 10-day European tour that includes a United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7) reports “Brown has emerged as a foil to President Donald Trump on climate change, forming agreements and partnerships with governments worldwide as the White House backs away from international climate commitments.”

Despite Advances In Wind, Solar, Use Of Fossil Fuels Unchanged.

Eduardo Porter writes in the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Porter, Subscription Publication) that while “all but one of the world’s nations — the United States — have” made “concrete commitments to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels,” and the global use of alternative fuels like wind and solar is up, the world’s carbon intensity of energy — the “amount of CO2 spewed into the air for each unit of energy consumed” — “has not budged since” since the Kyoto accord was reached 20 years ago. He notes that “even among the highly industrialized nations,” the carbon intensity of energy has declined “by a paltry 4 percent since then, according to the International Energy Agency.” Porter argues that “this statistic, alone, puts a big question mark over the strategies deployed around the world to replace fossil energy.”

Energy Group Coalition Ask FERC To Scrap DOE Grid Proposal.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Cama) reports that a coalition of 20 energy groups and companies on Tuesday asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to scrap the Energy Department’s proposal to prop up coal and nuclear plants, saying the need for the regulation remains unproven. They wrote, “The commission is simply not authorized to provide an entire class of generation with a new payment stream, whether temporary or permanent, based on a desire to keep all options open for the future.” Tuesday was the deadline for final reply comments in FERC’s consideration of the proposal. The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Siciliano) reports that the industry coalition “say[s] coal and nuclear power producers don’t deserve the new market incentives that Energy Secretary Rick Perry is proposing.”

House Energy Bill Seeks To Expand Offshore Energy Development.

The Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, D’Angelo) reports that reports that House of Representatives Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) introduced a bill last week that would encourage energy production in the US. Titled, “Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand (SECURE) American Energy Act,” the bill “includes a hodgepodge of provisions aimed at expanding access to energy resources, namely fossil fuels; distributing revenues from offshore oil and gas leases to several coastal states; and handing over regulatory authority to states to manage oil and gas development on federal lands within their borders.” The bill also includes a measure that would “chip away at the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” a law the bill’s co-authors have called a “burdensome” obstacle to economic development.

Op-Ed: Congress Must Defend Federal Energy Efficiency Programs.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Sobolewski, Cavanagh, Subscription Publication) Terry Sobolewski, chief customer officer at the energy company National Grid, and Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, make the case that energy efficiency has bipartisan support in Washington, despite the fact that some of its leading programs are under attack. They write that “the Trump administration has proposed killing Energy Star and all but eliminating other efficiency programs, with cuts averaging nearly 80 percent.” They call on Congress to “come together and deliver strong funding for federal efficiency programs,” stating is the “one of the powerful resources we have for meeting our energy and environmental goals.”

New York Apartment Complex Owners To Triple Manhattan Solar Power Generation With New Panels.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7, Grant, Subscription Publication) reports that the Wall Street venture that owns Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village plans to spend more than $10 million to install nearly 10,000 solar panels on the roofs of its buildings, turning the sprawling apartment complex into Manhattan’s largest solar power producer. The solar panels are expected to provide enough power for up to 1,000 apartments each year, tripling the amount of solar power generation within Manhattan. Blackstone Group and Ivanhoé Cambridge, the apartment complex owners, say that while the solar project isn’t expected to produce a high return on investment, they recognize the public-relations value of the endeavor.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Wisconsin District Receives “STEMMY” Award.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/7) reports the organization STEM Forward awarded the “Excellence in STEM Award,” or “STEMMY,” to the School District of New Berlin in Wisconsin. The district has “been increasing STEM opportunities for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade” over the last five years “as a part of the district’s strategic plan.” Last year, 35 percent of New Berlin seniors graduated with some type of work-based experience, and 12 percent “completed an industrial credential.” The number of computer science classes offered in district’s two high schools have also grown considerable over the last five years. Meanwhile, the district’s two “elementary schools have ‘First Lego Robotics’ clubs, which middle- and high-school members of the robotics teams help mentor.” In fact, last year the middle and high schools offered a varsity letter in robotics to recognize members of the robotics team, providing both “increased structure to the program” and enabling students to receive recognition for their commitment.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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