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

Leading the News

University Of Michigan Students Release Report On Autonomous Car Cybersecurity.

The Detroit News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4) reports researchers at the University of Michigan “working with the Mcity robotic-car testing facility have developed a tool to determine how vulnerable self-driving cars are to hackers who might want to take control of a car or lock its systems for ransom.” Cyberthreats to autonomous cars “could also extend to networks that will connect with autonomous vehicles, such as financial networks that process payments for tolls and parking, or road sensors for cameras and traffic signals.” Mcity’s Andre Weimerskirch, lead author of a report released last week on the Mcity Threat Identification Model, said, “Automated cars rely so much on sensor input. Obviously if you can forge into it, manipulate it or do a denial of service, that’s a huge issue. There’s also cases like ransom, where someone can hack into a car and say ‘$100 or your car won’t start.’”

WDIV-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Detroit (1/4) reports the report, “Assessing Risk: Identifying and Analyzing Cybersecurity Threats to Automated Vehicles,” “lays forward several security vulnerabilities that must be overcome before automated and connected vehicles can become widely adopted.” Researchers describe three potential scenarios: “First, an automated vehicle veers off its navigation route, takes its driver to a desolate road, pulls over and stops. Second, when the driver calls his or her vehicle to come to a store, and instead receives a ransom message demanding a $100 bitcoin transfer in return for the vehicle. Third, a self-driving vehicle won’t move from the driveway, since it senses it’s been hacked and the driver’s home has been preprogramed as its safe destination.”

Phys (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4) reports the research suggests that “the vulnerabilities that come along with advanced mobility are both unprecedented and under-studied.” This piece says the Mcity Threat Identification Model “could help academic and industry researchers analyze the likelihood and severity of potential threats. The new model outlines a framework for considering: the attacker’s skill level and motivation; the vulnerable vehicle system components; the ways in which an attack could be achieved; and the repercussions, including for privacy, safety and financial loss.”

Higher Education

WSJournal Analysis: Many College Students Do Not Fit The Stereotypical Image.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Korn, Tam, Subscription Publication) reports on statistics describing American college students today. The Journal reports that, contrary to the image of college students as 18-year-olds enrolled full time in top colleges and universities, many college students today are already working at least part time or have gained work experience before returning to college. The article places the information in the context of the Higher Education Act, currently before Congress, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ and Congressional Republicans’ push for more opportunities for college students to get vocational training and job credentials.

To Boost Workforce, States Offering Residents Tuition-Free Community College, Technical School.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Mercer) reports that, in an effort to “churn out more workers with marketable skills, an increasing number of states are offering residents free tuition to community colleges and technical schools.” Campaign for Free College Tuition President Morley Winograd is quoted calling it “the fastest-growing policy idea in the country,” adding, “Everybody’s got cheap dirt — but do you have skilled workers. That’s the question states face as they recruit new industry.” The Star Tribune writes, “The rush to offer free tuition began with Tennessee in 2015, but other states quickly followed,” pointing out that “Arkansas, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island have started programs, and Nevada plans to launch one this year,” while, “California and Montana enacted legislation to create programs but have yet to appropriate funds.”

New Webinars, Feb. 2018 — Voices on Women’s Participation
This free webinar series will explore major themes from the NSF-supported TUEE (Transforming Undergraduate Engineering Education) Phase III workshop, Voices on Women’s Participation and Retention. Each webinar offers tools to broaden female participation and retention. Webinar topics include encouraging men to serve as gender equity allies, inspiring and developing mentors and role models, and how to evolve organizational culture and effect change on your campus. Learn more and register today!

Start Smart with “Smart Start”
Researchers and innovators will want to be in this two-week course to improve STEM education at all levels. Courses offered in the spring of 2018. Learn more and apply here.

Streamlined Course Design: Spring 2018 Program
Don’t miss this live, four-part online program for faculty and instructors who want to streamline their course design process and produce more successful and effective courses. ASEE members save $130 on registration! Learn more and register here. Email to inquire about group rates and discounted student rates.

Research and Development

Researcher Mulls Communication Breakdowns Between Autonomous Cars, Human Drivers.

In a piece for The Conversation (US) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7), University of Pittsburgh researcher Abdesalam Soudi, “a sociolinguist who studies human-computer interaction,” writes about the question of how autonomous cars will communicate and interact with human drivers of other cars, pedestrian, cyclists, and other non-computerized wayfarers. “Driving can involve a range of social signals and unspoken rules,” he writes, asking, “How will driverless cars be able to navigate this complexity?”

Aptiv, Lyft Will Demo Autonomous BMW 5 Series Sedans At CES This Week.

The Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7, Reindl) reports that at CES this week, “a fleet of eight autonomous BMW 5 Series sedans will shuttle conventioneers to 20 destinations across the city, sharing Las Vegas’ busy roadways with the regular traffic and any street-crossing pedestrians.” The Free Press says Aptiv transformed the vehicles “into self-driving sedans” that will all be “connected to the Lyft ride-hailing app.” According to the Free Press, “while none of the Detroit 3 has announced plans to unveil any autonomous vehicles at the show this week, executives from GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler will be on hand” and Ford is “expected to reveal more about its autonomous vehicle business strategy.”

In a piece about the demonstrations, the Las Vegas Review-Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7, Prince) emphasizes that “self-driving technology will be a major theme at CES this year, which will feature 400 auto technology companies.” The New York Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7, Vega) similarly reports that “roughly 10 percent of the exhibitor space at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) will be dedicated to self-driving cars, including autonomous taxis, the latest infotainment systems, augmented reality and other car-tech; the 300 or so car-tech companies will dominate headlines.”

Hyundai To Showcase Autonomous Vehicle Safety System At CES. In a story about CES 2018, Automotive News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7, Ahmed) reports “Hyundai Mobis Co. will debut a narrow self-driving safety system aimed at drowsy drivers at CES 2018 this week.” Autonomotive News says the system represents the company’s “bid to jump ahead of competitors in the autonomous race and broaden its U.S. customer base.”

Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Passes “Key Milestone.”

SPACE Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Foust) reported that the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced on January 5 that NASA had confirmed the company’s Dream Chaser space plane had successfully passed a key milestone during its November free flight test. In a statement, SNC “said that NASA concluded that the Nov. 11 free flight of the Dream Chaser engineering test article, at Edwards Air Force Base in California, met or exceeded all the requirements of the company’s last remaining funded milestone in its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) award from 2012.” SNC is “focused” on developing a cargo transport version of Dream Chaser that will service the ISS “under a Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract awarded to SNC in January 2016.”

Global Developments

Engineer Unveils Plans To Build Test Circular Runway For Cargo UAVs.

BBC News (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7, Shaw) reports that Dutch engineer Henk Hesselink has revealed plans to build a prototype circular runway for unmanned delivery UAVs at an abandoned naval base near Valkenburg. Hesselink’s design for circular runways “at passenger airports captured global attention last year, in aviation circles and on social media.” The design aims to “make more efficient use of space, reduce tricky crosswind landings and cut down on noise pollution.” Hesselink wants to test landing for larger UAVs, which, in contrast to small UAVs used for home delivery services, “will be needed to carry goods to out-of-town distribution centres, he argues.” The larger UAVs will “need a runway to land and take-off – and this infrastructure, he points out, is not yet in place.” Hesselink is currently “building a consortium of financial backers to fund the test runway at Valkenburg.”

Industry News

IDC Releases Robotics Predictions Report; Forsees Increase In Industrial Robot Adoption, Intelligent Feature Inclusion.

Design News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/13, Spiegel) shares a slideshow breaking down 10 predictions from the research firm IDC’s annual robot development report, “IDC FutureScape Robotics 2018 Predictions,” which is a collection of “predictions by IDC’s robotics team as to the development of robotics from 2018 through 2021.” One prediction specifically related to industrial robotics, as explained by Design News, is that “by 2020, 45% of newly installed industrial robots will be equipped with at least one of the intelligent features such as predictive analytics, health condition awareness, self-diagnosis, peer learning, or autonomous cognition.” The slideshow explains that IDC predicts a major increase in robotics adoption as, “by 2019, robot adoption will have increased by one-third, with 60% of G2000 high-tech manufacturers having deployed industrial robots in manufacturing operations.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Analysis: Grid Responds Well To Frigid Weather.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Mufson) reported the frigid weather in the northeastern part of the U.S. has “created the sort of winter scenario that Energy Secretary Rick Perry has cited as a reason to bolster the reliability of the grid by boosting coal and nuclear power plants.” The Energy Secretary “said that only those power plants could assure reliability because only they could keep 90 days’ fuel supply on site.” But to this point, “the region’s electricity grid has responded with little disruption, and without any need to rev up aging coal plants, which supplied 6 percent of electricity in New England on Thursday.”

Scientists: Climate Change May Be Contributing To Cold Weather. NBC News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) reports some scientists say the “record-breaking temperatures…are being fed, at least in part, by a warming climate.” A study in the journal WIRES Climate Change last year, “lays out how the warming Arctic and melting ice appear to be linked to cold weather being driven farther south.” Climate scientist Jennifer Francis said, “Very recent research does suggest that persistent winter cold spells (as well as the western drought, heatwaves, prolonged storminess) are related to rapid Arctic warming, which is, in turn, caused mainly by human-caused climate change.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Phillips) reports that while “temperatures dipped far into the negatives this week” in the northeastern U.S., but in Australia where it is summer, it is “a remarkably hot one.” It has been “so hot that part of a freeway in Victoria on Australia’s southeastern coast was ‘melting.’ Several hundred miles northeast, in the greater Sydney area, Australians spent Sunday in the most sweltering heat in nearly 80 years.”

Cold Spell Impacting Low-Income Residents. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) reported the low “temperatures across half the country” highlighted “a stark reality for low-income Americans who rely on heating aid: Their dollars aren’t going to go as far this winter because of rising energy costs.” Forecasters are cautioning “people to be wary of hypothermia and frostbite from an arctic blast that’s gripping a large swath from the Midwest to the Northeast, where the temperature, without the wind chill factored in, dipped to minus 32 on Thursday morning in Watertown, N.Y.” Prior to the cold spell, the Energy Department “projected that heating costs were going to track upward this winter, and many people are keeping a wary eye on their fuel tanks to ensure they don’t run out.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Zezima) reports “the cold has been especially hard on people” on “fixed incomes or live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford higher than normal utility bills.” The Post adds that “even with low-income heating assistance, weather like the stretch residents are enduring now has the capacity to throw the working poor over the financial edge.”

Diverse Coalition Of Energy Groups Oppose DOE Grid Proposal.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) reported that the Energy Department’s proposed subsidies for coal and nuclear plants “seemed liked an obvious way to deliver on campaign promises to boost the nation’s energy industry,” yet the plan “set off sharp criticism from other sectors that Trump has also vowed to help, such as natural gas and utilities.” An unnamed Washington-based oil-and-gas lobbyist said the proposal irritated oil and gas producers, as well as renewable energy firms that said they weren’t consulted. The American Petroleum Institute wrote that the proposal “upsets the very foundations of the competitive wholesale electricity markets.” The article also describes contention over the U.S. biofuels policy as “another telling example of the difficulty appeasing competing industry camps.”

FCC Rejects Delay Of Net Neutrality Repeal As Tech Companies Vow Lawsuit.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Decker) reports the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday “rejected calls to delay ending net neutrality rules over a flawed public comment system, saying it hadn’t relied on millions of identical or suspicious submissions in its decision making.” The FCC in its final order said it rejects “calls to delay adoption of this Order out of concerns that certain non-substantive comments (on which the Commission did not rely) may have been submitted under multiple different names or allegedly ‘fake’ names.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Fung) says the Internet Association, “the major trade group representing Facebook, Google, Netflix and dozens of other tech firms in Washington,” on Friday announced “plans to join a multi-pronged legal attack against” the FCC “over its decision to deregulate the broadband industry – drawing fresh battle lines in a years-long fight over the future of the Internet.”

Pai To Skip CES Tech Show Over Threats. The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5) cites the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to TwitterRe/code Share to FacebookShare to Twitter, and other media outlets in reporting FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will no longer appear at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next week “because of death threats” linked to the agency’s decision to repeal net neutrality.

Chao To Headline CES Panel On Smart Cities.

In a story about CES 2018, kicking off this week in Las Vegas, the Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Howard) reports on how automakers are approaching “one of the most important auto shows in the world.” Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro says, “Self-driving is huge,” and will feature prominently at CES. Shapiro mentions that “Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao will be there. And I plan to interview the CEO of Lyft onstage.” Digital Trends Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6) reports “Chao will also headline the Smart Cities event.”

EPA Aims To Finish Clean Power Plan Replacement By End Of 2018.

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Holden) reports staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency “are under orders from the Trump administration to complete a replacement for former President Barack Obama’s major climate change rule by the end of the year, far faster than the normal pace the agency uses to develop major regulations, according to three sources familiar with the process.” According to Politico, the timeframe “would enable EPA lawyers the chance to defend the regulation from the legal challenges it is certain to face during President Donald Trump’s current term,” which would help EPA Administrator Pruitt’s agency “avoid the fate of the Obama EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which was held up in court and is now being rescinded by a new administration that opposed the original carbon dioxide regulation.”

Sununu Expresses Opposition To Administration’s Offshore Drilling Plan.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6) reports New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday came out against the Administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling in federal waters, joining fellow Republican Govs. Rick Scott of Florida and Larry Hogan of Maryland. Sununu said, “Of course I oppose drilling off of New Hampshire’s coastline.”

Michael Moore Vows To Invest In Fracking Off Florida Coast Near Mar-a-Lago. The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6, Delk) “Briefing Room” blog reports liberal filmmaker Michael Moore on Saturday “threatened to begin fracking off the Florida coast near President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort” in a tweet that “appeared to be a response to a new administration proposal to increase offshore drilling for natural gas.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

New Hampshire Governor, Senator Kick Off Annual FIRST Competition.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/6) reports that New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) spoke at Saturday’s launch of the state’s annual FIRST Robotics Competition, which “encourages young people to engage in science, technology, engineering and math.” The competition “requires teams of students to build and program robots to perform challenging tasks against a field of competitors” in order to “inspire interest in science and technology through a program that focuses on leadership, teamwork and communication.”

Iowa High School’s Video Course Profiled.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7, Horlyk) reports that five years ago, East High School in Iowa launched a class, called EHTV, in which “students produce stories that are then shared on its own YouTube channel.” Only 10 or 12 students were enrolled in the inaugural EHTV course, but it has since grown “to more than 35 students.” Students enrolled in the course can earn college credit “through a partnership with Western Iowa Tech Community College.” Business teacher Cody Jaminet, who oversees the course, said more importantly, students learn communication skills necessary to be successful in a competitive workforce.

East Idaho Students Learn Theme Of This Year’s FIRST Robotics Competition.

East Idaho News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/7) reports that on Saturday, east Idaho students tuned in to a live feed from FIRST Robotics’ headquarters unveiling the theme of this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition: “being trapped in a retro video game.” East Idaho robotics clubs “will head to the Boise competition in March,” where they will “work in assigned alliances with other clubs to compete against other groups” for a chance to compete at the national level. Technical Careers High School junior Kellie Stanger, a member of the school’s Ammoknights Robotics Club, recently delivered a presentation “to the Idaho Section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which gifted the Ammoknights with $1,000.” Notably, one former Ammoknights member credited an internship offer with National Instruments to his involvement in FIRST Robotics.

Friday’s Lead Stories

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