|Good morning || July 11, 2019|
Leading the News
Wiping Out Student Debt Would Cost A Lot, But Could Also Have Big Benefits
NPR (7/10, Lombardo) reports on “what, exactly, might happen if the government simply wiped out student loans.” According to the article, “eliminating all student loan debt would cost somewhere around $1.6 trillion, though the exact cost is anyone’s guess.” Canceling student debt would also have economic benefits, according to one 2018 study, and “recent research shows that loan cancellation has a big impact on borrowers already in default on their student loans,” allowing them to relocate, look for new jobs, and make more money. However, “critics of mass debt cancellation plans fear that these proposals would benefit well-off Americans the most.”
ED “Quietly” Investing Qatar’s Investment In US Universities
The AP (7/10, Binkley) reports that while President Trump has recently met with the emir of Qatar and praised the nation “for its large investments in the United States,” ED has been “quietly investigating Georgetown and three other universities – Texas A&M, Cornell and Rutgers – over their funding from Qatar, the largest foreign donor to U.S. schools.” ED “alleges the schools failed to tell federal officials about certain gifts and contracts from foreign sources, as federal law requires, according to letters obtained by The Associated Press. Investigators are ordering the schools to provide years of information about their foreign revenue, singling out specific nations of interest at each school. Just two countries appear in all four letters: China, whose academic ties have become a source of tension amid its trade war with America, and Qatar, an oil-rich nation that has struggled to shake accusations that it finances terrorism.”
Federal Data Show Rise In For-Profit Enrollment, Student Debt
Politico Morning Education (7/10, Wermund) reports new ED data show that “more students are attending and graduating from for-profit colleges – and they’re more likely to take on more debt and less likely to have a job after they earn their degrees.” The data examine “the employment and educational experiences of students who graduated in 2016, one year after they earned their degrees. It’s the first time the Education Department has released such data in eight years, and critics of for-profit colleges are sure to seize on the findings.”
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
NASA JPL Engineers Design Climbing Robots
SpaceRef (7/10) reports, “Robots can drive on the plains and craters of Mars, but what if we could explore cliffs, polar caps and other hard-to-reach places on the Red Planet and beyond? Designed by engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a four-limbed robot named LEMUR (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot) can scale rock walls, gripping with hundreds of tiny fishhooks in each of its 16 fingers and using artificial intelligence (AI) to find its way around obstacles. In its last field test in Death Valley, California, in early 2019, LEMUR chose a route up a cliff while scanning the rock for ancient fossils from the sea that once filled the area.”
Toyota, Denso Form Joint Venture To Develop Chips For Autonomous, Connected Vehicles
Forbes (7/10, Gardner) reports on the joint venture being formed by Toyota and Denso Corp. “to develop the next-generation semiconductors for future connected and self-driving vehicles.” Denso will own a 51-percent majority of the venture, which is expected to launch in April of next year “with 500 employees and about 50 million yen ($458,968) in initial capital.” Forbes describes the news as Toyota’s “latest step” in transitioning “more advanced electronics development to Denso, which is a key supplier of advanced components for Toyota and Lexus brand cars and trucks.”
NASA Plans To Keep Voyager Spacecraft Operating
CNN (7/10, Strickland) reports “NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 are the longest-flying spacecraft in history; 42 years after they launched, both are still going strong and sending back data as they explore interstellar space.” CNN says engineers “have a new plan that will keep Voyager 1 and 2 awake and operating so scientists may continue to receive vital data about a part of space we’ve never explored.” On Voyager 2, “engineers turned off a heater for the Cosmic Ray Subsystem. That instrument dropped to minus 74 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s still sending back data.” Voyager Project Manager Suzanne Dodd said, “It’s incredible that Voyagers’ instruments have proved so hardy. We’re proud they’ve withstood the test of time.” Meanwhile, “with the new plan to save power and orient the spacecraft, the engineers expect that Voyager 1 and 2 will still send back data for at least the next few years.”
Duolingo Uses Half-Life Regression AI Model To Improve Language Lessons
VentureBeat (7/5, Sawers) interviewed Burr Settles, head of artificial intelligence and research at Duolingo, about the company’s use of AI and machine learning to train its language-learning app. According to VentureBeat, “the main problem with programs delivered automatically rather than by a human is that people differ widely – depending on their existing knowledge of a language and personal circumstances or temperament.” To address this, Settles said the company uses a half-life regression model based on error patterns across millions of users to estimate how long a new word or grammatical rule will remain in a learner’s long-term memory. Said Settles, “If you have two people, one who has never learned French before and another [who] took four years of high school [French], they’re probably very early on going to exhibit different patterns of what they get right and wrong. ... And so the ‘decay’ patterns will look very different from both of those people. The person who already has a background will make fewer mistakes, and the types of mistakes they will make [will likely be different], meaning that they don’t have to practice those things as often.” Settles said the app has seen user engagement improve by 12 percent since implementing the half-life model.
New Facility To Test Driverless Cars Opens In Logan County OH
The Cleveland Plain Dealer (7/10, Tobias) reports that “a new state-funded facility for testing driverless cars and other ‘smart’ vehicles has opened” as part of “the latest expansion of Ohio’s Transportation Research Center.” The new Smart Mobility Advanced Research Test, or SMART Center, in Logan County...includes a six-lane, high-speed ‘smart’ intersection, complete with a traffic light, that companies and researchers can use to test new vehicle technology.” The new center “cost $45 million, of which $25 million came from Ohio State University, with the rest coming from the state, through JobsOhio and the Ohio Department of Transportation.” The new SMART facility “measures 540 acres, two-thirds the size of Central Park.” The “north-south leg of the six-lane intersection measures 1.2 miles, which officials tout as the longest in the industry.
The story was reported similarly by Lima (OH) News (7/10, Rouan).
Twitter Launches New Diversity-Focused Apprenticeship Program
CNBC (7/10, Rodriguez) reports, “Twitter on Wednesday announced an apprenticeship program designed to bring more women and minorities into its engineering and data science teams, as the company attempts to improve diversity among its technical staff.” The company said in one job listing that “the Twitter Engineering Apprenticeship Program is an opportunity for folks from non-traditional tech backgrounds to experience engineering at Twitter,” and “the people who build Twitter should be representative of those that use the platform,” including “people from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented within tech such as women, black, Latinx, Native American, etc, just to name a few.”
NASA Says Australia Could Help US Get To Mars
The Daily Mail (UK) (7/10) reports “the head of NASA has called on Australia to join forces with the US and take part in their venture to Mars.” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine “said the Australian Space Agency...could play an essential role in developing technologies that astronauts would need to survive for years in space while on a mission to Mars.” Bridenstine “said Australia had greatly aided the US in the past during the Apollo moon landing and both of those countries worked well together and should do so again.” He also “said the Australian Space Agency would be one of the best facilities to develop essential technology for astronauts such as autonomous drilling and remote extraction of resources.”
Google Discontinues Nest Smartwatch App
Android Headlines (7/10, Richardson) reports that as Google and Nest merge into one brand, “Google has decided to kill the Nest smartwatch app on its own Wear OS wearables platform and WatchOS, Apple’s wearables platform for the Apple Watch,” noting insights from Google that more users were interacting with Nest thermostats via voice command than through smartwatch interfaces. Android Headlines speculates that since “wearable adoption is on the rise,” Google may eventually “bring the Nest smartwatch app back once wearable apps prove to be more trendy and popular than they are currently.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Op-Ed: Small Business Cybersecurity Bill “Completely Misses The Mark”
In an op-ed in The Hill (7/10), Marks Group founder Gene Marks criticizes the recently proposed Small Business Cybersecurity Assistance Act, saying that the national SBDC offices “are woefully underfunded and almost invisible to most small business owners.” He cites the shrinking nationwide network, and he references the recent closure of the Wharton SBDC office as proof. He adds that sponsors Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) did not do their research on how the digital cloud operates in today’s market. Marks concludes that the bill “is directed at the wrong people” because it’s “designed to help small businesses get educated about cyberattacks when it’s the large companies hosting the data – Microsoft, Google, Amazon and others – who are the ones with that responsibility.”
FDA Struggling To Gain Traction With Medical Device Recalls Based On Cybersecurity Risks
Politico (7/10) reports the FDA is finding that doctors and patients are “rushing to upgrade their devices” when cybersecurity vulnerabilities in medical devices are announced. Data shows that the August 2017 recall of St. Jude’s cardiac devices “only resulted in a 25 percent rate of upgrades months later.”
Nevada Below National Average For Number Of Girls In Computer Courses
The Las Vegas Sun (7/10, Sadler) reports, “Nevada comes in under the national average for the number of girls in computer science courses, according to new research from the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code.” The Sun writes, “Nationwide, 37.5% of elementary and high school students in computer science courses are girls, the group said” while “the number is 22.9% in Nevada.” The organization “released research [on Wednesday] showing the number of female students taking computer courses has not increased in many states.”
NYU Offers Free Workshop On STEM Teaching For Middle School
THE Journal (7/10, Kelly) reports, “This month, New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering is offering a free workshop for local middle school teachers on developing STEM lessons in the life sciences, physical sciences and mathematics.” THE Journal says, “The two-day DRK12 Robotics program will focus on the use of robotics and engineering design practices in hands-on lessons that align with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and 5E Instructional Model.”
Review Of EPA Biofuels Waivers Delaying New Action
Reuters (7/10, Pamuk) reports President Trump’s “request for a review of the administration’s expanded use of biofuel waivers for oil refiners is holding up its decisions on 2018 applications, according to three sources familiar with the matter, two of whom said Trump may soon host a meeting on the issue.” The sources said a final decision on this meeting has not been made. Trump ordered members “of his Cabinet to review the controversial waiver program, which exempts small refiners in financial turmoil from their obligation to blend ethanol into gasoline, last month after hearing from farmers angry about the issue during his recent Midwest tour.”
Trump Defends Biofuel Waivers By Noting Expanded E15 Sales Bloomberg (7/10, Dlouhy and Parker) reports Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) said in an interview on Wednesday that President Trump is defending his decision to continue granting biofuel waivers to small refineries by noting his move to all year-round sales of E15. This signals that Trump sees the issues as related. Agriculture advocates, however, have “told Trump that his ethanol change – which could expand U.S. sales of the corn-based fuel – isn’t enough to offset government decisions to waive refineries from annual biofuel quotas.” Ernest “said that she and other agricultural industry advocates are urging Trump to limit the number of waivers issued.”
NM Signs Onto US Climate Alliance’s Clean Car Promise
The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (7/10, Davis) reports New Mexico joined with the 23 other members of the US Climate Alliance on Tuesday to announced the “Clean Car Promise,” which criticizes the EPA’s efforts to rollback vehicle emissions standards. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement, “States have been stepping up to protect our environment and our citizens, and will continue to do so until we have a viable partner at the federal level.” She added, “We will continue to oppose reckless, thoughtless policy that negatively impacts the air people breathe.”
National Grid Urges NY Customers To Support Northeast Supply Enhancement Project
Bloomberg (7/10) reports National Grid PLC is “is sending notices to some of customers, warning them that it can’t expand their gas service unless New York clears” the $1 billion Northeast Supply Enhancement Project proposed by Williams Co. In these notices, the company “encourages ratepayers to sign a pre-written letter in support of the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project to be automatically sent to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.” The intent “of the notice is to inform existing and potential customers that new service applications in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island depends on construction of the pipeline, National Grid spokeswoman Wendy Ladd said.” If the pipeline “isn’t cleared to get built by winter 2020, applications in these areas can’t be processed, she said.”
California Bill Would Increase Number Of EVs
Courthouse News (7/9, Renda) reports that “a California Senate committee passed a bill Tuesday seeking to increase the number of electric vehicles on the Golden State’s roads.” Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco’s AB1046 “would empower the California Air Resources Board to conduct a comprehensive study with the aim of meeting California’s lofty goals of putting 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the roads by 2025.”
Wednesday's Lead Stories
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