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

Leading the News

France Awards Research Grants To US Climate Change Scientists In Rebuke To US Withdrawal From Paris Accord.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11, Corbet) reports French President Emmanuel Macron awarded thirteen of eighteen “Make Our Planet Great Again” climate change research grants to American scientists, in an act widely seen as in retaliation for the US’ announced withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. During an award ceremony for the winners, Macron said that France would replace US financing of climate change research. Next year, more grant proposals are expected to compete for share of 60 million euro ($70 million) in funding to be provided by the French government and various research institutes in France.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11, Deen, Krukowska) reports Macron is looking to reinvigorate efforts against global warming. Along with leaders from the UK, Norway, Mexico and the Netherlands, Macron will highlight major project aimed at reducing greenhouse gases at a series of events in Paris. The leaders will also push for increasing climate-related funding for developing nations. The meetings are an effort to preserve the Paris climate agreement. Senior climate scientist at France’s National Center for Scientific Research Herve Le Treut said, “If the Paris climate accord accomplished one thing, it was a change of consciousness around the world. We’ve seen many more initiatives since then.”

Higher Education

University Of Maryland UAS Test Site Gets Eleven TigerShark UAS.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/8) reported the University of Maryland UAS Test Site has 11 new TigerShark UAS to add to its “fleet of more than 40 aircraft,” which the AUVSI says “will ultimately help enhance and expand the long-range testing efforts of the site.” According to AUVSI, the site’s test pilots and engineers previously “could only perform operations where sensors and other equipment weighed in under 20 pounds, so the TigerShark UAS will be extremely beneficial according to the director of the UAS Test Site, Matt Scassero.”

Middle School Rocket Competition Winners Earn Scholarships To JSerra.

The Orange County (CA) Register Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11, Swegles) reports nine students from local area middle schools have earned “tuition discounts to JSerra Catholic High School as members of the top three teams in a ‘Battle of the Rockets’ held Dec. 1 at JSerra.” Teams from seven local schools participated in the model rocket aerodynamics competition.

Professor Lauds Learning Advantages Of Technology.

James M. Lang, an English professor and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, argues for Higher Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11) that, despite admiring “a measured approach” for adding technology to the classroom, he has been persuaded recently “to adopt a more playful, exploratory attitude on this front.” He argues that, instead of “seeing ed tech as a simple servant to my pre-existing classroom goals and practices,” he’s started “to recognize how it can help shape the goals I might set for my students and the practices I might adopt to improve their learning.” He says the “lesson unfolded for me over the past year, as I have been incorporating peer instruction and electronic polling into my courses” and has “opened my eyes to other pedagogical goals and practices.”

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

CA School District Leads On New Science Standards.

The Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11, Jones) carries a story originally appearing in EdSource Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/10) reporting Torrance Unified School District in California “has become a pace-setter” as schools across the US “take on the most comprehensive overhaul of science standards in 20 years.” The district has, “without relying on outside funding, or major grant money,” trained upwards of “500 teachers and has unveiled the new standards to all 24,000 students in the district.” According to the article, “by devoting thousands of hours to teacher training, the district has shown teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade how to explain a scientific phenomenon in a new way to their students – by letting the students discover the answers on their own, instead of memorizing facts from a textbook.”

Research and Development

New NOAA Texas Rainfall Maps Redefine “100-year Flood.”

The Austin (TX) American Statesman Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/8, Walsh, Subscription Publication) reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is updating its rainfall estimates “to reflect the increased frequency of heavy rainstorms documented over the past two decades.” The data “will be used in engineering standards for roads and buildings and in the National Flood Insurance Program’s mapping of flood risk, potentially forcing more people to buy flood insurance or to build their homes to higher elevations.” University of Texas at Arlington engineering professor and flood expert Nick Fang, who NOAA invited to review the data, said, “A lot of people are anxious about this. It’s going to change or affect a lot of people’s personal lives and also the design criteria.” The Statesman says the NOAA has released a preliminary version of the estimates for peer review that “shows major increases in expected rainfall for the Houston area, Hays County and the area along the Rio Grande near Del Rio – and huge leaps in how often severe rainfall is expected to hit those areas.”

Foxconn To Move Employees Throughout Campus With Driverless Vehicles.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11, Bergquist) reports, “The shuttles ferrying workers onto Foxconn’s sprawling new U.S. campus could forego one worker: The driver.” Foxconn is planning to use autonomous vehicles to transport workers throughout the company’s campus, which sprawls 22 million square feet. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel states that following a November 8 collision with Navya’s autonomous passenger shuttle in Las Vegas, University of Wisconsin College of Engineering Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory researcher Peter Rafferty “said at the last minute the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration held up an exemption that would have allowed Navya to operate after” the collision.

BBC Will Pair Editorial, Engineering Teams To Figure Out Voice Platform Offerings.

Digiday Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/12, Davies) reports the BBC will experiment next year on native publishing for voice platforms such as Amazon Echo and Google Home by pairing some editorial staff members with software engineers “to figure out what content experience people want.” Digiday explains some of the first efforts the BBC has employed on voice platforms, and it adds that “with mounting competition…the BBC wants to boost its presence on them.”


Banks Need Big-Tech Talent To Compete With Big Tech Firms.

American Banker Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11, Subscription Publication) reports the only way for banks to compete with big tech firms is by recruiting big-tech talent, specifically hiring and developing data scientist. A data scientist’s main job is to “research new algorithmic techniques and write about them. With few exceptions, the research data scientist has a Ph.D. in statistics or something equivalent and possesses a range of skills — from math to coding.” The issue for banks is that the “Tech Five” has a clear advantage in recruiting data scientist because they are willing to pay more handsomely than banks. American Banker concludes, “the next decade will be pivotal for global systemically important banks to make sense of their data as AI irrevocably changes the competitive balance.”

Labor Department: US Job Openings Fell In October, But Still Reflect Strong Job Market.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11, Chandra) reports the Labor Department announced Monday that “US job openings unexpectedly cooled in October from an all-time high a month earlier, still consistent with a solid job market.” Bloomberg adds that the data “are in sync with a Labor Department report last week that showed payrolls increased in November following a solid gain in October as the job market moved past hurricane-related distortions to make further progress.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11, Boak) reports, “US employers posted slightly fewer job openings in October than the previous month, but the number of people being hired improved.” In total, “nearly 6 million jobs were available at the end of October, down from 6.18 million in September.” However, “total hires rose 4.4 percent to 5.55 million,” which, “indicates that even if employers are seeking fewer workers that they’re still looking to add staff.” MarketWatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11, Bartash) reports, “Job openings in the US are near a record high and hiring is strong across most industries.” It adds that the “biggest problem” many firms face is “finding skilled workers in a shrinking labor pool.”

Global Developments

US Software Company Sues HNA Over Takeover Failure.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11) reports Ness Technologies, “a U.S. software engineering company, has sued Chinese conglomerate HNA Group accusing it of failing to adequately answer questions about its ownership in a U.S. review of takeovers by foreign companies, thereby causing their $325 million deal to fail.” Reuters observes that the suit is only the most recent “case involving HNA, which has come under U.S. and European scrutiny after a $50 billion worldwide acquisition spree that included stakes in Deutsche Bank and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.”

Industry News

Apple Patent For In-Display Fingerprint Scanner May Be For Other iDevices.

International Business Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11, Victorino) reports that “Apple was granted a patent for an OLED display-embedded fingerprint reader last month, and details about this invention are just coming to light this week.” With the new patent and Apple SVP of hardware engineering Dan Riccio’s statement in October that the company had no plans to develop an in-screen fingerprint sensor for the iPhone X, IBT speculates that Apple will “reintroduce Touch ID to its smartphone series by launching an iPhone 11 with in-display fingerprint reader,” or its patent was simply approved too late for the iPhone X. According to Patently Apple, the company may have experimented with in-display fingerprint sensors for other iDevices, hence the patent.

Engineering and Public Policy

Automakers Carefully Navigate Minefield Of Patents As Vehicles Incorporate More Technology.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/7, Decker, Beene) reports automakers “are trying to learn from the smartphone wars, which cost technology companies hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees, as they prepare to revolutionize their vehicles.” As Ford Global Technologies CEO William Coughlin says, “No sane automaker wants to repeat these wars, where the lawyers were the only winners.” Accordingly, many manufacturers are jointly licensing various technologies and using open source software, in addition to increasing their IP and filing more patent applications.

Puerto Rico Viewed As “Blank Slate” To Reimagine Electric Grid.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11, Johnson, Subscription Publication) reports that electrical engineers and scientists see in Puerto Rico an opportunity to develop a “new power system that is cleaner and less carbon-intensive than the fossil-fuel-dependent one” wrecked by the hurricane by utilizing the latest in electricity generation technology, including self-sufficient microgrids and solar-harnessed battery systems. However, experts say that large amounts of public and private money needed to rebuild disaster-ravaged electrical systems is not always forthcoming, and that without it, “people in places like Puerto Rico may be left to patch together whatever ad hoc power supply they can — and rather than move to a cleaner future, they may have to depend even more heavily on small, inefficient oil-burning generators.”

Pischea: Puerto Rico’s Grid Needs Fundamental Changes. In an op-ed in the Washington Examiner, Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(12/12, Pischea) Mark Pischea, President and CEO of Conservative Energy Network, says that Congress and the Trump administration “now have an opportunity to bring an entirely new energy grid to the island” of Puerto Rico. Pischea addresses four major problems that a new grid can fix. He suggests replacing the centralized power model used by PREPA; diversifying beyond a massive grid of power lines; improved management of PREPA; and a diversification of its electricity sources. Pischea says the island is “overwhelmingly reliant” on petroleum, which “subjects Puerto Rican electricity to very large price swings.”

Groups Writes Minnesota Gov., Legislature, Met Council Letter Against Southwest LRT 36 Firm Ban.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/9, Moore) reports, “A decision to bar 36 firms from working on the $1.9 billion Southwest light-rail construction project has raised the ire of two associations that represent engineering firms and specialty contractors.” On Monday, the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota issued an open letter to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (DFLP), the Minnesota Legislature, the Met Council, and the Hennepin County Board in opposition to the ban calling it a form of a “blacklist.” The groups seek an opportunity for the firms banned to begin by presenting their position and case to the Met Council.

Elementary/Secondary Education

HuffPo Offers Tools For Filling STEM Pipeline With Women.

Author and Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/11) contributor Michele Weldon offers commentary on different ways educators can help direct women into STEM fields, sharing information picked up during the recent inaugural “STEM + HD” conference. According to Weldon, “one of the solutions on the mission to use tech for global social justice issues is to increase the number of women in the pipeline – from a very young age, starting with kindergarten.” Jen Crozier, president of Jen Crozier President, IBM Foundation and Vice President, IBM Corporate Citizenship, explained, “This is an opportunity for women and girls. We need to start early in terms of identity and building skills. … We know how important it is to have a full pipeline with people with the right skills for the future. It’s clearly a very complex problem.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

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