|Good morning || July 5, 2019|
Leading the News
Amazon Reportedly Hiring UK Workers For UAV, Alexa Projects
CNET News (7/3, Al-Heeti) reported that Amazon plans “to hire more than 2,000 workers in the UK for its newest technology ventures, according to a Tuesday report.” The company will be looking for “software developers, engineers and data scientists.” Amazon will have approximately “30,000 workers in the UK by the end of the year, including cloud and machine learning experts and delivery workers, according to a Bloomberg report.” The company’s “development centers in London, Cambridge, Edinburgh, which are focused on tech like Alexa and Prime Air drone delivery, will reportedly get 170 new workers.”
Amazon Releases Video Of Delivery Drone Drone Life (7/3, McNabb) reported that Amazon published a video showing its “current version delivery drone in action.” In the footage, “the takeoff and landings are on a identified platform landing areas.” The video “does not show the transfer of the items from pick-up to delivery but it does give...an idea of the flight pattern of the drone and the interesting way that it handles take off and landings.”
University Of Akron Engineers Design Canoe Rigs For Special-Needs Kids
The Akron (OH) Beacon Journal (7/2, Beacon Journal/, Ohio.com) reports, “University of Akron students are helping Akron Rotary Camp kids with special needs experience canoeing more safely.” The Beacon Journal says, “The 10-member College of Engineering’s Engineering Design Team designed and built an adaptable canoe seat that helps children with special needs to canoe despite their physical limitations.” Most of the materials “were purchased through the team’s fundraising and donations by individual team members.”
NSF Awards $1.8 Million To Adams State For STEM Research
The Alamosa (CO) Valley Courier (7/5) reports, “The National Science Foundation awarded $1.8 million to Adams State University for a project that aims to transform STEM courses by engaging students as researchers to examine the impacts of grazing on local, rural and public lands.” Adams State’s project – titled “Enhancing STEM Student Success by Connecting Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences to the Local Ecology and Community” – “will seek to increase student engagement in first- and second-year STEM courses, including biology, chemistry, geosciences and statistics, through collaborative hands-on course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs).”
NSF Grants $1.7 Million To Kean University For STEM Workforce Development
New Jersey Business Magazine (7/3, Subscription Publication) reports, “US Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker announced the awarding of $1,684,277 in federal funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to Kean University to develop a program aimed to increase the retention and completion rates of students studying computer science and information technology (IT).” The program “will help prepare students to enter the STEM workforce by providing curriculum support and innovative faculty development, revising several computer science courses to integrate material from Google and the Computing Alliance for Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and developing career building activities to ensure students are prepared for life after graduation.” The goal “is to provide evidence-based activities and strategies that other colleges and universities can adopt in order to increase the success rate of computer science and IT students, particularly for underrepresented students.”
Chinese Students At US Universities Caught In Trade War Crosshairs
The Washington Times (7/4, Garred) reports, “Beijing may have a secret weapon to wield beyond soybeans and semiconductors as tariffs escalate and tensions rise between the United States and China: the large contingent of Chinese students studying in American schools.” According to the Times, “The more than 360,000 Chinese students in the 2017-2018 academic year made up one-third of all international enrollments at U.S. universities, and they typically paid full tuition rates to revenue-hungry schools.” The Times adds, “As President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping haggle over a new trade arrangement, colleges at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (IUC) have taken the extraordinary step of buying insurance. ‘As negotiators on both sides seek leverage on each other, it’s likely that higher education will end up in the crosshairs,’ Paul Musgrave, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, wrote recently in Foreign Policy.com.”
NYTimes Analysis: Saudi Arabia Directs Millions To US Universities
In a long-form investigative report, the New York Times (7/3, Sokolove) writes that Saudi Arabia “directed about $650 million to American universities from 2012 to 2018 and ranks third on the list of foreign sources of money, one spot behind Britain, according to data contained” in the Department of Education’s foreign gifts report. At least 25 universities “have contracts with Aramco; Sabic, the petrochemical company; or the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, a government research facility in Riyadh.” The Times says, “The benefits to Saudi Arabia from these relationships are clear” as “the kingdom gets access to the brain trust of America’s top academic institutions as it endeavors to modernize its economy, an effort Prince Mohammed has named Vision 2030,” and “the entree to schools like MIT serves to soften the kingdom’s image.” The report discusses the controversy surrounding Saudi money in US universities, focusing on the tension among students and university officials, particularly at MIT.
ASEE TV Programming from the 2019 Annual Conference
See higlihgts of the Monday and Tuesday plenary sessions.
View the full playlist here.
Research and Development
BMW, Daimler Join Forces To Develop Automated Driving Technology
Reuters (7/4, Hummel) reports BMW and Daimler will “team up to develop automated driving technology, the companies said on Thursday, the latest carmakers forced to pool their development resources at a time of shrinking margins.” Bloomberg (7/4, Behrmann) reports the two companies will “pool some 1,200 experts and are holding talks to extend the partnership to develop robo-taxi technology for urban areas.” TechCrunch (7/4, Etherington) reports the partnership will seek to develop technologies for “levels of automation all the way up to SAE Level 4.” Both firms “expect to implement the results of this partnership specifically in their own respective model series vehicles beginning in 2024.”
Opinion: Best Way To Ensure AVs Are Passenger-Ready Is To Continue To Improve Incrementally
SafeAI CEO Bibhrajit Halder writes in Axios (7/3, Halder) that “instead of trying to design fully automated vehicles from scratch, the way forward might be to adapt limited technologies that have already proven themselves in specific settings, and gradually add capability.” Halder says that “adapting new technology from successful use-cases where safety is paramount...could assuage public concerns about AVs, and accelerate AV development and production.” Halder says although “smartphones come with fewer safety concerns, they followed a common pattern.” The first smartphones “did enough advanced tasks well enough to gain popularity” following “updates to software and hardware improved performance, [smartphones] gradually became ‘the hub of everything [people] do online’” and serves as an example to show “the best way to ensure that autonomous vehicle technology is passenger-ready before it goes into production may be to continue improving incrementally.”
New Space Development Agency Issues New Requirements For Next Generation Satellites
C4ISR & Networks (7/3, Strout) reports the Space Development Agency (SDA) released a new report stating that the DoD’s “next generation space architecture would consist of several layers based around a mesh network of small communications satellites.” As part of this effort, the Agency said, “SDA intends to leverage investments made by the private sector in space capabilities (...), as well as industry best practices (e.g., mass production techniques for spacecraft buses, sensors, and user terminals).” The agency will seek industry proposals “for the following items: Small and cheap payloads that can provide high-bandwidth links between satellites; software that can track missiles from low earth orbit; software that can facilitate autonomous space sensor collection, processing and dissemination, and alternative methods for positioning, navigation and timing in case GPS is unavailable.”
“Hearables” Grow In Popularity
Investor’s Business Daily (7/3, Seitz) reported, “The focus of wearable technology is shifting from the wrist to the ear,” with the success of Apple’s AirPods driving “consumer interest in so-called ‘hearables,’ a subset of wearables.” Hearables “are forecast to account for 32% of the wearables market by units shipped this year.” Now, makers of rival “personal assistants also want a piece of the market.” For example, Amazon and Microsoft are developing “their own smart earbuds. Amazon would put its Alexa voice assistant into earbuds, while Microsoft would do the same with Cortana.”
Unmanned Leidos Sea Hunter Cuts Naval Operations Costs
In a column for MarketWatch (7/3), Jurica Dujmovic writes that the Leidos Sea Hunter, an unmanned naval vessel equipped with AI-based navigation, is able to carry out “tasks such as tracking enemy submarines, removing mines, detecting torpedoes and acting as a communication relay before it has to return to port — all at a fraction of the cost of a manned ship.” The vessel is expected to be armed after tests expected to run through 2019 are completed. Dujmovic concludes that the vessel creates “a clear picture of the direction of modern warfare” towards manned and unmanned system partnerships.
Engineering and Public Policy
OSHA Report Slams Engineering Group Hired To Repair Arrigoni Bridge For Fatal Collapse Of Florida Pedestrian Bridge
The Hartford (CT) Courant (7/3, Lender) reports the Connecticut Department of Transportation on June 19 selected FIGG Bridge Inspection of Florida to perform “$40 million worth of upcoming construction work to improve the Arrigoni Bridge, which spans the Connecticut River between Middletown and Portland.” However, OSHA has released a report “putting major blame on FIGG Bridge Engineers in the fatal collapse of a pedestrian bridge on March 15, 2018, during its construction at Florida International University in Miami.” In its defense, FIGG claimed the OSHA report “is factually inaccurate and incomplete, and includes errors and flawed analyses.” FIGG said that, “as a party member to the NTSB process,” it was unable to “elaborate further, but at the appropriate time the facts and the truth will be released to the public.”
NJ Congressman Calls On Senate To Adopt House Amendments Restricting Offshore Leasing
Offshore Engineer (7/3, Pai) reported that Rep. Frank Joseph Pallone Jr. (NJ-D) recently touted progress made in seeking to curtail “the Trump Administration’s push for seismic blasting and drilling for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean.” After the House adopted an amendment to a spending bill “that prohibits federal spending to advance oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic Ocean,” Pallone has now called on the Senate to move forward with the legislation.
The Asbury Park (NJ) Press (7/3, Oglesby) reported that speaking in front of a group of environmentalists and business advocate, Pallone said that offshore exploration could threaten up to $700 billion in New Jersey coastal property as well as the state’s tourism industry.
Trump Administration In Row With Republicans Over Ethanol Exemption Program
The Washington Examiner (7/3, Siciliano) reports that, “a month after President Trump pleased corn farmers by lifting restrictions on selling higher blends of corn ethanol at the pump, the administration has found itself in the middle of a new battle over the oil industry’s prized ethanol exemption program, which frees it from having to blend the corn-based fuel.” Farmers criticized Trump last month over the EPA’s increased use of refinery exemptions, “which they argue are eroding the market for ethanol, despite his easing restrictions on the sale of 15% ethanol fuels beginning June 1.” Now, the president “is thinking about curtailing the EPA exemption program, which many Republicans have blasted over the last week.”
Senators Try To Limit USDA Influence Over EPA’s Evaluations Of SREs Biodiesel Magazine (7/3, Voegele) reports that “several U.S. senators representing oil producing and refining states are trying to limit Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s influence over the U.S. EPA’s process of evaluating small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard.” Louisiana Republican John Kennedy “sent a letter to Perdue June 27 stating he will block the confirmation of three department nominees until the USDA stops interfering with the EPA’s handing of SREs.” Less than a week later, “a group of 13 senators, including Kennedy, sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to prohibit Perdue from influencing the decision-making process over SRE petitions.”
Study: Sixteen States Could See Carbon Emissions Spike Under Trump Power Plan
The Washington Post (7/3, Grandoni) reports that under the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule, “the EPA expects a total of 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, to see a spike in carbon dioxide emissions compared to a business-as-usual scenario in which the federal government took no action, according to an analysis of agency data done by the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund.” Roughly one in five coal-fired power plants “will actually see an increase in carbon emissions under a Trump administration rule meant to reduce carbon emissions, according to Resources for the Future, a Washington-based think tank that studies environmental policy.” Moreover, a total of 20 states and the District “are expected to see increases in emissions of sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides relative to the business-as-usual scenario, according to EDF.”
Energy Majors Investing In Expanded EV Charging Infrastructure
Platts (7/4, Court) reports that automakers and energy companies are working together to expand electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure nationwide in response to growing anxiety among consumers and forecasters that not enough is currently available. Currently, China is the most advanced in EV charging infrastructure, with the EU and US trailing with 170,000 and 73,000 charging points, respectively. Utilities, automakers, and energy companies are working to close that gap, with Shell looking “to be the biggest power company in the world by the early 2030s...by spearheading the transition to new fuels, electric vehicles and green electricity.” Meanwhile, BP is also investing in the sector across Europe and China.
Opinion: California Must Invest More In Computer Science Education
In an opinion piece for EdSource (7/3), Kapor Center CRO Allison Scott and Sacramento County superintendent David Gordon write, “Today, our kids aren’t learning the computer science knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in the future tech-driven workforce.” Scott and Gordon write, “We urge our policymakers and fellow educators across the state to invest in professional development” for computer science “because we must ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn” these skills. They continue, saying, “We must also prioritize funding, access to technology infrastructure and developing initiatives to support computer science education in the most underserved schools and districts.” Scott and Gordon say that “as technology’s role continues to grow in our state, national and global economy, accessible computer science education is a critical foundation for broadening participation in the tech workforce.”
Analysis: Indianapolis Nonprofit “Transformed” American STEM Education
Forbes (7/3, Ark) reports, “Almost half of American public secondary schools use an active project- and problem-based approach to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education that shows learners how knowledge and skills may be applied in everyday life.” Forbes says “the popular curriculum” comes “from an Indianapolis nonprofit...Project Lead the Way, now widely known simply as PLTW.” Forbes writes, “Think of PLTW as STEM-as-a-service” in which “schools subscribe to PLTW and get digital courseware...access to technical support, and a range of professional learning opportunities.” Now, “PLTW has become America’s number one trainer of STEM teachers, training roughly 12,000 teachers annually through its core training programs.”
Michigan Council Of Women In Technology Promotes Women, Girls In Info Tech
The Detroit Free Press (7/3) writes that the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) Foundation, “founded in 2002 as a networking group for female IT professionals, is now a 750-member statewide organization focused on supporting and growing women – and girls – in the field of information technology.” MCWT volunteers “work to spark girls’ interest in IT through summer tech camps and robotics and website design competitions in grades K-12; providing scholarships and internship opportunities for women considering the IT field; and mentoring women pursuing careers in technology.” The Detroit Free Press article features short interview with three MCWT leaders, discussing their “their ongoing efforts to make Michigan tops in technology.”
Wednesday's Lead Stories
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