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

Leading the News

Trump Administration’s EPA Appears To Be More Lenient Toward Polluters.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/10, A1, Lipton, Ivory, Subscription Publication) reports in a 4168 word article that an analysis of the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency “has adopted a more lenient approach than the previous two administrations – Democratic and Republican – toward polluters.” “People at the agency are just being cautious, almost to the point of paralysis,” said former director of the EPA’s air and radiation division George T. Czerniak. “They do not want to do anything for fear of being told they have done something wrong – something the new administrator won’t like.”

Higher Education

Partnership With Local College Gives Idaho High Schoolers CTE Options.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/9, Wootton-Greener) reported on the College of Southern Idaho’s Expanded Technical Dual Credit program with Castleford High School, which allows high school students to “earn a technical certificate or start along that path by the time they graduate from high school” in one of “four program options: autobody technology, welding technology, drafting technology or food processing technology.” In spite of declining enrollment, CSI career and technical education coordinator Melissa Chantry said, “Statewide, there’s a need for more students to be in CTE field. There’s a variety of initiatives going on to promote that.”

US Army Cyber Command Seeks To Build Partnership With University Of Georgia.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/10) reports, “The University of Georgia and the U.S. Army’s Cybersecurity Command could soon be exchanging students and workers.” Civilian Army official Ronald Pontius “said the U.S. Army Cyber Command in east Georgia is looking to build partnerships with the University of Georgia. He suggested that possible collaborations with the university could include internships, research projects and young Cyber Command workers studying at UGA, among other ideas.”

Opinion: Net Neutrality Repeal Could Raise College Costs And Hinder Free Exchange Of Ideas.

In an opinion piece for the Washington (DC) Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(12/8), Terry W. Hartle and Jonathan Fansmith of the American Council on Education (ACE) argue there are three potential consequences to repealing net neutrality related to American higher education that aren’t receiving the same type of attention as other factors despite their imminence and importance. First, the authors say the multitude of Internet-dependent functions of colleges – from collaborative research to hosting online students – will become significantly more expensive and costs will have to be passed on to the public and students, making college more expensive and limiting the services institutions can provide. Second, the “quality of the education we provide and the research we perform” may take a severe blow as “ISPs prioritize, manipulate or otherwise distort service.” Finally, and “less likely, but…in many ways more troubling,” ISPs could block certain content, acting on the will of their customers rather than any sort of company ideology.

Dream Summit Takes Place Amid “Particularly Tense Time.”

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/9, Najarro) reports on the third annual Dream Summit, “which helps students of all immigration statuses plan for college.” Superintendent Richard Carranza “emphasized the importance of higher education to” high schoolers present at the event. The Chronicle adds, “This year’s workshop comes at a particularly tense time as the Supreme Court last week allowed President Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban to go into full effect and as Congress has yet to pass a solution for” DACA recipients.

ASEE Board Re-Organization Feedback
ASEE members can leave a comment on a proposed reorganization of the Board of Directors.

Doctoral Engineering Research Showcase
Registration deadline approaching. The National GEM Consortium (GEM) and ASEE are hosting a Doctoral Engineering Research Showcase for 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.


Accreditation and Professional Development

Commentary: Online Education Tech Has Met Its Limits.

University Ventures managing director and Crunch Network contributor Ryan Craig argued for TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(12/8) that “technology has always had the potential to upend the academic enterprise,” especially in “the world of higher education,” but thus far many offerings have failed to find success. According to Craig, innovative models from Coursera and Udacity failed to “build a viable business model on a foundation of free anything,” prompting both companies to pivot “to tuition-based novel credentials.” Craig argued that these programs face challenges of efficacy and quality, along with low completion rates. Craig argued that “these online programs are in stark contrast to programs like Galvanize, where employers are present in the same physical environment, come into contact with students and appreciate the high intensity.” Craig concluded that employers’ interest in “physical proximity” leads him to “expect continued inferior placement outcomes for online programs, which defeats the purpose of last-mile training.”

Research and Development

Researchers Work To Root Out Gender, Racial Biases In Artificial Intelligence.

The San Francisco Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/8, Bass, Huet) reported on a Microsoft Corp. team called FATE – fairness, accountability, transparency and ethics – in AI aimed at finding and removing “biases that creep into AI data and can skew results.” The Chronicle explained that popular fears about AI tend to center on “self-aware computers turning on their creators and taking over the planet,” but the reality “turns out to be a lot more insidious but no less concerning to the people working in AI labs around the world. Companies, government agencies and hospitals are increasingly turning to machine learning, image recognition and other AI tools to help predict everything from the credit worthiness of a loan applicant to the preferred treatment for a person suffering from cancer. The tools have big blind spots that particularly affect women and minorities.”

The Economist Surveys Global Race For AI Dominance.

The Economist Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7) reports on the wide and fast-developing field of artificial intelligence, saying,”The West’s largest tech firms…are investing huge sums to develop their AI capabilities, as are their counterparts in China.” To this end, they “completed around $21.3bn in mergers and acquisitions related to AI…or around 26 times more than in 2015.” The story quotes Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke as having said, “If you’re a tech company and you’re not building AI as a core competence, then you’re setting yourself up for an invention from the outside.” The Economist classifies Amazon, along with Apple, as being among the companies that are more secretive about their AI goals and use their research to develop new consumer products, as opposed to companies like Microsoft and IBM, which are more public about their pure research into AI and “do not require researchers to apply their findings to money-making activities.”

In another story, The Economist Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7) reports about the billions being invested in AI, saying that “at the heart of the frenzy are some familiar names: the likes of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft.” The question of who controls what data is becoming more and more relevant as companies with “clout in the consumer realm…keep pushing into new areas, from Amazon’s interest in medicine to Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn.”


Bureau Of Labor Statistics: US Added 228,000 Jobs In November.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/8) reported that the Labor Department announced Friday that “US employers added a substantial 228,000 jobs in November, a sign of the job market’s enduring strength in the economy’s ninth year of expansion, and the unemployment rate held at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.” The Friday jobs report “made clear that the US economy is on firm footing and is likely benefiting from more resilient global growth, with all major economies across the world expanding in tandem for the first time in a decade.” The AP also noted that US economic growth “exceeded an annual rate of 3 percent” over the past six months, the first time in three years that has happened. Indeed Chief Economist Jed Kolko is quoted saying, “It’s a surprisingly strong report given the age of the recovery. After 86 months, we’re still seeing strong payroll gains.”

Global Developments

ABB CEO Says Not To Fear Automation, As Those Who Embrace It Excel.

A piece from TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Lardinois) says that at the tech news company’s Disrupt Berlin event, ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer addressed the fears some have of automation and robots. He said, “I think we need to take this fear extremely seriously and get people out of this fear,” adding, “Technology can be really good if you play it right. … The truth is that the countries with the highest robot density – South Korea, Germany, Japan – have the lowest unemployment rates.” Indeed, ABB itself, Spiesshofer explained, has more employees now working as engineers for its robots than it ever had in roles like casting mechanic. TechCrunch explains, “This isn’t an easy path, though. Spiesshofer noted that we need a lifelong education ecosystem that enables intergenerational education. And companies like ABB need to embrace this and allow their employees to learn new skills.” The article also sums up Spiesshofer’s perspective, saying he “believes AI is all about augmenting human potential.”

Industry News

Columnist: Tech Industry “Ready For Smartphones That Replace Laptops.”

ComputerWorld Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/9, Elgan) contributing columnist Mike Elgan said that since Microsoft and Qualcomm last week announced a new kind of laptop “powered by a smartphone processor running a desktop operating system.” He added: “It’s really only a matter of time – and of will on the part of the industry.” Elgan concluded “I believe the industry is ready for smartphones that replace laptops. Are you?”

Engineering and Public Policy

ASEE Fellow Comments On Expanding Diversity In Engineering.

University of California, Davis Dean of Engineering Jennifer Sinclair Curtis – who is also a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education – argued in commentary for Scientific American Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/8) that “increasing the number of women in engineering is a problem without clear boundary conditions” but, even though “we know that no single solution can help address the challenges women face in navigating their studies and careers, the understanding we’ve gained in recent years can point the way to seeing real change.” Curtis argued that, “despite ongoing efforts across academia, government and industry to increase participation, only 14 percent of all engineers and 25 percent of all IT professionals in the United States today are women.” But, she claimed, the problem goes back farther to overall enrollment rates. She highlighted a partnership between UC Davis and “Chevron and the Koret Foundation to launch AvenueE, a community college transfer program designed to eliminate barriers that hold back women and underrepresented minorities in engineering and computer science.”

State AGs Sue EPA Over Smog Pollution Standard Delays.

The Bucks County (PA) Courier Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/9, Bagenstose) reported that fourteen attorneys general sued the EPA for its failure to meet a deadline in enacting smog standards. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro argues that the agency’s action “suggest it is unwilling to comply with its legal obligation to implement these smog rules.” Industry groups, however, claim that air pollution is “already is declining in the U.S. and that EPA smog standards are lowered faster than industry can respond.” Noting that many areas have still not attained a 75 ppb standard set in 2015, American Petroleum Institute senior director for regulatory and scientific affairs, Howard Feldman, said, “If you were doing things logically, the first thing you would do is work on meeting the first standard, make progress on that, and then move on to second standard.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Students, Professor Design Alzheimer’s Experiment To Go Aboard ISS.

The Miami Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/6, Russell) reported that Valparaiso High School juniors Connor Gregg and Merrick Jakelski have partnered with Calumet College of St. Joseph Professor Sandra Rogers to develop an experiment which will travel to the ISS. The experiment “will look at the effects of microgravity on peptides (proteins in the brain), which, when they begin to break down, have an effect on memory.” Rogers theorizes “that microgravity will slow or stop the collapsing of the peptides, thus slowing or stopping the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, Jakelski said.” The experiment will be launched in February “aboard the SpaceX 14, a commercial resupply rocket to the space station. Once powered-up, it will run experiments for 28 days and then be returned about a month after its launch.”

Career Technology Centers Continue Playing Vital Role In Dayton.

The Dayton (OH) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/8, Bush, Subscription Publication) reported, as part of its State of the Schools series, that “the role career technology centers play in developing the next generation of workers is perhaps as important as ever.” Many industries in the region “are struggling to find skilled workers to fill a growing number of jobs. Connecting qualified students with local businesses, industry officials say, is perhaps the most crucial step in finding the right people for these positions. To address the skills gap, career tech centers are making a concerted effort to collaborate with Dayton-area companies, and are boosting their program offerings to ensure students have the technical skills they need for the modern-day workplace.”

Local Students Compete In FIRST LEGO League Robotics Tournament.

The Corvallis (OR) Gazette-Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/9, Schrock) reported North Albany Middle School students competed “in the FIRST LEGO League tournament on Saturday at the Kelley Engineering Center at Oregon State University,” building and programming robots to complete various tasks. The Gazette-Times explained that “FIRST LEGO League is a nationwide initiative involving students in fourth through eighth grades” in which “each team must design, build and program a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS, which provides the software and hardware to create the machines. The teams then compete to accomplish each mission on a table-top playing field.”

First Girls Complete FHS’ Manufacturing Certification.

The Walton (FL) Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/8) reported that two Freeport High School sophomores last month “became certified production technicians from the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council. They are the first females at the school to earn certification.” The program “assures that students have basic skills. Job opportunities that could come from the certification include assemblers to machine operators. Nearby potential employers that seek staff members with these skills include Fort Walton Machining, American Elite Molding, Ascend Chemicals, Gulf Power and General Electric.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

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