Leading the News
University Of Washington Opens New Nano-Engineered Systems Institute.
GeekWire (12/6, Boyle) reports on the opening of the Institute for Nano-Engineered Systems at the University of Washington on Monday. The director of the institute, Karl Böhringer, said “The University of Washington is well-known for its expertise in nanoscale materials, processing, physics and biology – as well as its cutting-edge nanofabrication, characterization and testing facilities. NanoES will build on these strengths, bringing together people, tools and opportunities to develop nanoscale devices and systems.”
Book Examines Chinese Students’ Efforts To Navigate US University System.
Inside Higher Ed (12/6) reports that the new book “Inventing the World Grant University: Chinese International Students’ Mobilities, Literacies & Identities” explores “the underground networks some students develop to navigate their classwork and the frictions at play as American universities seek, in the authors’ words, ‘to capitalize on international students while also policing them through policies of containment.’”
House HEA Overhaul Would Cut PSLF Program, Benefit For-Profit Colleges.
Forbes (12/6) contributor Zack Friedman writes that the House GOP plan to reauthorize the Higher Education Act “could end Public Service Loan Forgiveness for student loans.” The measure “also reduces federal aid programs and curbs regulations that traditionally limited federal funding to for-profit colleges.” The piece notes that ED called for eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program earlier this year. Friedman also writes that “for-profit schools would benefit” under the law, which “would eliminate the ‘90/10 rule’ which says that for-profit colleges cannot receive more than 90% of their revenue from Title IV federal aid. The bill also eliminates the gainful employment rule.”
Columbia University Investing $100 Million To Diversify Faculty, Student Body.
Diverse Education (12/6) reports that Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger announced earlier this year that the school will invest “$100 million over the next five fiscal years to continue its support of faculty recruitment, career development and a pipeline for potential professors, as well as doctoral and post-doctoral students from underrepresented groups. This is alongside $85 million that the school has dedicated to similar efforts since 2005.” The investment is part of the school’s efforts to “make sure its faculty and student body look more like the world around it.”
Research and Development
NASA New Horizons Spacecraft Eyes Distant World MU69.
The Hill (12/6, Summers) reports that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is “on its way to another distant world, 972 million miles beyond Pluto, still called by its discovery designation of 2014MU69.” New Horizons will pass by MU69 on January 1, 2019, and scientists “have little idea what we will find.” The object likely “has not changed since it was formed 4.56 billion years ago,” which makes MU69 a “treasure chest” for scientists studying the origin and formation of planets.
Report: US Has Lost Dominance On High-Intensity Lasers.
A new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says the “US has lost its previous dominance” in what the Washington Post (12/6, Lynch) casts as “the race to field the next generation of high-intensity lasers for use in medicine, nuclear weapons development, manufacturing and science.” The report said that leadership in the field of high-intensity lasers “is rapidly moving to Europe, and in some cases, to Asia as well.” The Post describes the report as a “stark warning that the United States is missing out on a ‘second laser revolution,’” and this warning “comes as President Trump calls for rejuvenating traditional industries such as coal mining.”
Undersea Drone Fleet Embarking On Antarctic Mission To Forecast Sea Level Rises.
Scientific American (12/6) reports that a fleet of undersea drones developed by the University of Washington in Seattle is setting out on a “risky yearlong mission” to “help forecast sea level rises by observing the melting process in this hidden topsy-turvy world, where layers of warm and cool water mix at the shelf.” The drones “have been toughened up for their long mission but were originally designed for use in open water rather than under a hard, frozen shoreline, surrounded by unknown hazards and with no way to communicate if they have problems.”
UT Austin Researchers Develop Flexible Electronics Printed On Paper.
Chemical & Engineering News (12/6, Bourzac) reports University of Texas, Austin engineering professor Deji Akinwande spoke about his team’s work on “graphene and molybdenum disulfide transistors made on specially coated paper” at the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco. The paper, coated with flexible electronics, “boasted performance levels that match those of devices built on plastic,” the story says, adding that “Akinwande says he was surprised how well the devices worked.”
JD.com Announces Investment In Autonomous Vehicle Technology In China.
The South China Morning Post (HKG) (12/6, Lee) reports JD.com announced a 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) investment in autonomous vehicle technologies, joining the race among automakers the world over to lead in that space. JD will use the money to build a new research and development center in the Liuyang National Economic and Technological Development Zone of Changsha, Hunan “cover[ing] all aspects of self-driving technology and automated delivery, such as research, testing, maintenance, training and data management.”
Ford To Build Self-Driving Vehicles In Michigan, Move EV Production To Mexico.
CNBC (12/6) reports that mere month after Ford “cancelled plans to build a plant in Mexico and not move some vehicle production south of the border,” the company “says it plans to shift future production of an electric vehicle from Michigan to Mexico.” The shift is part of a larger strategy to “free up production space at the automaker’s plant in Flat Rock, Michigan so it can build its first autonomous-drive vehicle.” The planned vehicle will be “a gas-electric hybrid model capable of operating 20 hours a day.” Forbes (12/6, Abuelsamid) reports under the headline, “Ford Offers Glimpse Of Its Plans For A Commercial Fleet Of Dedicated Self-Driving Hybrids.”
DHL Relying On Latest Technologies To Reduce Packing Time At Warehouses.
Fleet Owner (12/6) reports Deutsche Post DHL Group is “using everything from helper robots to routing apps of a sort to cut down the time it takes to pack a shipment at the warehouse.” The company is trying to expand its “end-to-end” e-commerce services, which goes beyond packaged delivery and related logistics. For example are DHL’s autonomous Locus helper robots, which “take lists of items that need to be added to shipments, optimize their route around the warehouse to get those items, and whisk themselves off to each one.” These robots take “much of the legwork out of the equation for pickers, who get an image of items needed displayed on an iPad and can scan them in by barcode.” The article also discusses how a “collaborative robot like Rethink Robotics’ Sawyer is designed to interact with and learn from humans” at DHL’s facilities.
Engineering and Public Policy
NAE Chair Calls On Federal Government To Prioritize, Stabilize Research Funding.
In commentary for The Hill (12/6, England), former Secretary of the Navy and Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, currently the chairman of the National Academy of Engineering, writes that the venerable military dictum that one should “take the high ground and hold it” applies equally to “scientific research and engineering. Research is the foundation for engineering invention, and that leadership in engineering underpins our national security and economy.” England muses on the history of modern research and the federal government’s role in promoting it via the Department of Defense after World War II. He chronicles how this effort to maintain technological superiority over global rivals spread to other federal agencies but laments that “we’re seemingly not doing enough to keep the research high ground.” He writes that this “takes money, but equally important it requires a predicable source of funding over multiple years.” He concludes by calling on the Trump administration and Congress to avoid the “funding disruptions” that “cause havoc in the scientific community.”
ATA President Says Autonomous Regulatory Landscape Would Need To Address Both Cars And Trucks.
Transport Topics (12/6) reports ATA President Chris Spear said Wednesday at a panel hosted by CQ Roll Call that “it just makes absolutely no sense why you wouldn’t build a framework” that applies to all vehicles, instead of proposed legislation to establish a regulatory landscape for autonomous cars, but not trucks. Spear said, “If you’re really serious about safety. If you really want to lower the number of fatalities from 40,000 down to zero, you need connectivity. You need cars. You need trucks talking to one another … That’s just fundamental.”
West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System Continues Progress Toward Public Use.
Phys (UK) (12/6) reports that “in two papers published December 6 in Seismological Research Letters, researchers describe the key components and testing platform for the prototype ShakeAlert system, now being tested in California, Oregon and Washington.” According to Monica Kohler, a Caltech research faculty member in the Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, “the development of ShakeAlert has shown that a dense network of seismic stations, swift transfer of seismic data to a central processing and alert station, speedy paths for distributing alert information to users, and education and training on how to use the alerts are all necessary for a robust early warning system.”
U.S. Army Corps Select Fluor To Restore Power In Puerto Rico.
Utility Dive (12/6, Walton) reports Fluor Enterprises has been selected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid. The Corps awarded Fluor a $831 million time-and-materials contract to restore power, with an estimated completion date of February 28. The article reports that, “According to IEEE Spectrum, there are now roughly 3,000 utility workers on the island doing restoration work,” while “PREPA is working with a range of partners to develop a new plan for the grid, including: New York Power Authority, the Long Island Power Authority, Consolidated Edison, Edison International, the Electric Power Research Institute and the Smart Electric Power Alliance. The plan is expected to come out later this month.”
EPA Chief Assures Congressmen Of Agency’s Scientific Integrity Policy.
The New York Times (12/6, Friedman, Subscription Publication) reports EPA Administrator Pruitt reassured lawmakers from now on EPA scientists would not face restrictions on discussing their work, following reports that two EPA scientists were prevented in October from presenting on environmental issues to the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program. The canceled EPA scientist presentations reportedly were to touch upon the concept of climate change. In a letter to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Pruitt said, “Procedures have been put in place to prevent such an occurrence in the future.” Whitehouse and other Democrats who challenged the EPA on the issue were reportedly satisfied with Pruitt’s response.
WPost: Decision To Shrink National Monuments Shows Trump’s “Shortsightedness.”
The Washington Post (12/6) says in an editorial that with President Trump’s announcements that he will reduce the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah, the “degree of his shortsightedness became clearer.” The Post argues that while “public lands and waters should be open to development, including drilling, so that the nation’s resources can drive national growth, enable all sorts of recreation and benefit nearby towns and cities,” the federal government “owns some lands that are simply too precious to permanently sully in pursuit of temporary economic gains.”
Analysis: Technology In The Classroom May Not Benefit Students And Workers As Much As Tech Companies.
An analysis in The Conversation (12/4) argues in relation to the current “coding craze” in American schools, part of an effort to make computer science a “new basic” skill for all Americans, that “the American history of these education initiatives shows that their primary beneficiaries aren’t necessarily students or workers, but rather the influential tech companies that promote the programs in the first place.” The author cites a lack of evidence that technology is “the solution for success in a globalized market,” and ends by stating “Technology in the classroom can’t solve the problems that budget cuts, large class sizes and low teacher salaries create.”
Wyoming Governor Calls For State-wide Computer Science Education Week.
Wyoming Public Radio (12/6, Watson) says Wyoming Governor Matt Mead on Tuesday officially recognized December 4 through 11 as Computer Science Education Week in Wyoming, “as a part of his effort to make computer science a K-12 academic requirement.” However, Mead also acknowledged “that the idea might be met with hesitation given the financial challenges public education is facing,” and said, “There is an expense associated with [funding computer science education], but when you look at the net, there is a greater expense with not doing that.”
California Elementary School Uses Coding In Math Lesson.
The Santa Clarita Valley (CA) Signal (12/6, Smith) reports a third-grade classroom at Bridgeport Elementary School had a math lesson on Wednesday using the “Hour of Code,” which was meant to give students “a less traditional, more hands on approach to working with numbers,” according to the school’s principal. The article quotes several school officials on the importance of bringing technology to the classroom, and says of the lesson, “The idea is not only for them to have fun while learning, but to create access and familiarity where it may not have existed before.”
Rhode Island Elementary School Hosts “Hour Of Code.”
The Providence (RI) Journal (12/6, Linda Borg) reports on the international ‘Hour of Code’ at William D’Abate Elementary School, a global awareness campaign sponsored by Code.org which took place at D’Abate on Wednesday. The activity was part of Computer Science Education Week and came in the context of a promise by Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to “bring a computer science class to every public school by December 2017.”
Arkansas Governor Announces New Computer Science Teacher Stipends.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (12/6) reports Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson “used this week’s observance of Computer Science Education Week to announce that he has allocated $500,000 in state funds for computer science education lessons in elementary and middle schools.” Hutchinson, the paper reports, “has made computer science education in all grades a top priority of his administration.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Artificial Ovaries Can Reduce Symptoms Of Menopause, Researchers Find.
• Intellectual Property Law Expert Speaks At Women In Engineering Seminar.
• Research Shows Impact Of Climate Change In American West.
• Apple Hires Staff Away From Dialog.
• AP Compares Educations Of Trump and Obama Science and Environment Nominees.
• Indiana University Students Host Booths At Elementary School STEM Night.