|Good morning || October 1, 2019|
Leading the News
Tesla Owners Post Videos Of Smart Summon Feature Not Working Properly
The Verge (9/30, Hawkins) reports Tesla’s new autonomous parking feature, “Smart Summon” – which “enables a Tesla vehicle to leave a parking space and navigate around obstacles to its owner” – is “already causing confusion – and some minor fender benders.” According to The Verge, “One Tesla owner tweeted about ‘front bumper damage,’ while another claimed their Model 3 ‘ran into the side of [a] garage.’ A video of a near collision with a speeding SUV left the owner feeling their test of Smart Summon ‘didn’t go so well.’ Another Tesla was filmed seemingly confused by pedestrians and other cars as it tried to make its way across a Walmart parking lot.” The Verge thinks such videos are “likely to shape some of the public’s perception of autonomous vehicles as janky and prone to mistakes.”
Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said in an emailed statement to Automotive News (9/30, Kominek), “Tesla’s continued use of the intentionally misleading and factually inaccurate term ‘full self-driving’ speaks to the company’s only concern: keeping their brand in the news and staying ahead of their next quarterly earnings report.” Levine added, “The summon feature – when it works – is a nifty bit of technology, but doesn’t come close to the type of autonomy that we all hope will dramatically reduce car crashes and fatalities. If anything, by doubling down on terms like ‘enhanced autopilot’ Tesla is only increasing the chances of misuse leading to injury and more deaths.”
CU Boulder Engineering Dean Leaving To Return To NASA
The Denver Post (9/30, Hernandez) reports University of Colorado College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Bobby Braun – “known for laying out the ambitious goal to become the first public engineering college to achieve gender parity – will step down in January to return to NASA.” Braun “accepted a position with the executive leadership team of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, CU announced Monday.” Braun is quoted saying in a letter to the college, “The coming year is the right time for me to get back into my first true passion: aerospace. I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved together and remain excited about the future of the college and campus.”
FAFSA Mandatory For High School Graduation In Illinois, Louisiana, Texas
CNBC (9/30, Leonhardt) reports that as FAFSA application season opens on Tuesday, “Illinois and Texas joined Louisiana this year in passing laws that will require high school seniors to fill out the FAFSA as a graduation requirement.” These laws “allow for students to receive waivers by submitting paperwork with their local school district acknowledging that they understand what the FAFSA and state student aid options are and have decided not to file. Additionally, school districts can issue a waiver if a student is unable to complete the application because of extenuating circumstances.”
University Of Pennsylvania Moves To Address Increase In Student Suicides
The Wall Street Journal (9/30, Calfas, Subscription Publication) reports on the increase in suicides on college campuses and efforts by students and administrators to address the problem. The Journal story focuses on the University of Pennsylvania, where there have been 14 student suicides in the last six years. Additionally, the executive director of the school’s Counseling and Psychological Services program, which provides therapy sessions for students, recently took his own life.
Editor-in-Chief Search for Advances in Engineering Education
ASEE is seeking applications and nominations for the position of Editor‐in‐Chief for the journal Advances in Engineering Education. The anticipated start date for this volunteer position is July 1, 2020, with applications due this fall. Learn more here.
Engineering Technology Leaders Institute
“Engineering Technology: Connecting, Building & Maintaining Relationships” is the theme of this year's meeting, October 10-11, in Alexandria, VA. The meeting convenes engineering technology educators, industry leaders, and government officials. Learn more.
Research and Development
New Hyundai Unit To Focus On Flying Taxis
Motor Authority (9/29) reports Hyundai on Monday announced aeronautics engineer Jaiwon Shin will head a new Urban Mobility division. Shin’s “goal at Hyundai is to develop technologies that will enable the company to be a leader in the potentially lucrative flying taxi segment. According to Shin, the segment could be worth $1.5 trillion – yes, with a t – within the next two decades.”
While Hyundai didn’t provide “any other details on what form its air mobility division will take,” Digital Trends (9/30, Edelstein) reports, “Both large companies and startups are developing aircraft that resemble giant drones, with a series of rotors mounted on arms above the passenger compartment. Electric power and the capability for autonomous flying are often discussed as well.”
KT And Hyundai To Deploy 5G Networks Into Construction Sites
ZDNet (10/1, Mu-Hyun) reports KT and Hyundai Engineering & Construction will collaborate “to build 5G networks at” Hyundai “construction sites and develop construction automation technology, the companies have announced.” The two will “commence trials of the 5G solutions on two sites sometime this year, they said.”
USF Researchers Find Way To Convert Single-carbon Compounds To Multi-Carbon Intermediate Chemicals
Chemical Engineering (10/1, Jenkins) reports that University of Southern Florida researchers “have developed a microbial metabolic pathway that allows enzymatic conversion of one-carbon compounds into multi-carbon intermediate chemicals.” Uses for the process could “include utilizing methane that is typically flared in oil and gas operations, and converting formate from the electrochemical reduction of CO2 into ethylene glycol.”
Uber Reportedly Testing New Safety Feature
USA Today (9/30, Brown) reports Uber “may be testing a feature” that “would let passengers who felt unsafe record their driver’s voice and report the incident to the company.” On Monday, Jane Manchun Wong, “who reverse engineers apps,” tweeted that Uber “is testing a tool called ‘Record Audio’ for people ‘uncomfortable with the ride.’” Wong “tweeted that she didn’t test Uber’s beta-test feature” because “she was in an ‘actual Uber ride’ when she discovered it.” According to a screenshot by Wong, the feature “appears to be a part of the company’s ‘Safety Toolkit,’” which “includes sharing the trip status with family and friends, reporting issues and contacting police.”
Swiss Scientists Develop “Second Skin”
Tom’s Guide (9/30) reports, “Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne have invented an ultra-thin second skin” that “could be the breakthrough that VR headsets have been missing.” Tom’s Guide adds the “skin” has “pneumatic actuators that will actually make you feel are touching something real.” Tom’s Guide also says, “if it really works like they say it works – this wearable skin will reach the market very soon,” and if it becomes “a viable product, VR could finally take the world by storm.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Smith: Americans Understand Gravity Of Climate Change, But Fear Cost Of Fighting It
In a column for Bloomberg (9/30, Smith), Noah Smith says “more people are coming around to the idea that climate change is really bad news,” but “the question is what Americans would be willing to do to tackle the problem.” A recent Washington Post poll “found that 38% of Americans now consider climate change a crisis,” but “only 37% believed that major sacrifices would be necessary.” Smith contends that “if Americans are going to be asked to engage in a war on climate change, they should understand the material and economic sacrifices that will be required of them.” He recommends Americans “look at an ambitious, well-crafted climate plan like the one put forward by Washington Governor Jay Inslee,” which “calls for carbon-free power production by 2035.”
Bloomberg Details Decarbonization Efforts In Agriculture, Steel, And Cement
Bloomberg (10/1, Landberg, Hodges) reports on decarbonization efforts in heavy industry. The approach is “both sweeping and incremental: working industry by industry, process by process, to bring greenhouse gas emissions down as close to zero as possible.” Some decarbonization challenges are “familiar,” such as switching to renewable power and electric vehicles. But agriculture accounts for 25 percent of emissions, while cement and steel combined account for 14 percent. With cement, “regulators are very cautious about approving alternatives to a substance holding together most of the world’s buildings,” as “some options may be three times as expensive as regular cement.” With steel, some are “testing a switch to hydrogen as the bonding agent.” However, some warn that this “could double the cost of steel,” and “the upfront investment needed for the change could require large amounts of government aid.” With agriculture, potential solutions include: improving soil management, developing livestock that produces less methane, and advocating for people to eat less meat and dairy.
Arizona Cities Creating Regulations For “Giant Batteries” After APS Explosion
The Arizona Republic (9/30) reports Arizona cities “are enacting new laws” in the wake of a battery explosion at an Arizona Public Service Co. facility earlier this year, and fire officials hope new the directions for “how giant batteries are stored” will “become consistent” statewide. The laws “apply to homeowners, businesses and schools installing giant batteries to store energy from solar panels or for electric vehicles.” The laws also will apply to public utilities, which will “need to notify cities when building the facilities, receive permits and inspections, and build the facilities with certain safety features.”
San Juan Generating Station To Be Used For Carbon Capture Study
The Durango (CO) Herald (9/30, Weber) reports the city of Farmington, New Mexico “has signed an agreement for Enchant Energy Corp. to acquire 95% interest of the San Juan Generating Station, a move that could extend the life of the power plant past a scheduled 2022 closure but one experts warn could also slow progress toward cheaper and cleaner energies.” The Public Service Co. of New Mexico, the plant’s majority owner, plans to shut down the 847 MW, coal-fired plant to meet its emissions goals. Enchant Energy “will gain majority interest in 2022 to conduct a carbon-capture sequestration study through a federal grant.” The city of Farmington “is now turning to Enchant Energy in hopes of maintaining the life of the plant, which provides significant jobs to the area.” However, “environmental critics warn Enchant Energy lacks the experience to conduct a large-scale project and question the feasibility of a carbon-capture initiative.”
Trump Administration’s Opposition To Wind Energy A Contrast To Industry Growth
The AP (9/30, Knickmeyer, Ngowi) reports that although wind power is “one of the fastest-growing U.S. energy sources” nationwide, President Donald Trump’s distaste for wind turbines means the government “may be pulling back from what had been years of encouragement for climate-friendly wind.” Trump’s Interior Department “surprised and alarmed wind industry supporters in August, when the agency unexpectedly announced it was withholding approval for the country’s first utility-scale offshore wind project” off Martha’s Vineyard, citing a “surge in corporate interest for offshore wind projects” and a desire for “more study before moving forward.” However, “wind is booming most strongly in states that voted for Trump,” including in Texas and Iowa.
Top Oklahoma School To Require New STEM Ethics Class
The Talequah (OK) Daily Press (9/30) reports the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, a top public high school, “has announced a new course for its students entitled, ‘Language Arts: Ethics in STEM.’” The required class is “part of the humanities curriculum” for OSSM seniors. The Daily Press writes that “in creating this new offering,” OSSM “joins many institutions of higher education, including Harvard, MIT and Georgetown” who have similar classes on the topic.
High School Career And Technical Education Could “Make A Difference” For Male Students
In an opinion piece for The Conversation (9/30), Vanderbilt University professor of education and public policy Shaun Dougherty writes that “job prospects for young men who only have a high school diploma are particularly bleak” and “are even worse for those who have less education.” Dougherty says, “When young men experience joblessness, it not only threatens their financial well-being but their overall well-being and physical health.” However, “high quality and specialized technical education in high school” could “make a difference,” Dougherty says, “based on a study I co-authored with 60,000 students who applied to the Connecticut Technical High School System.”
Detroit Educator Uses Rowing To Teach STEM Concepts
In an article for The Conversation (9/30), Wayne State University professor Elizabeth Barton writes, “This year, I am working with the Detroit Boat Club Crew, overseen by the nonprofit Friends of Detroit Rowing, to combine the sport of rowing with a new curriculum that teaches middle and high school students science and mathematical concepts.” Barton says this “innovative approach” is “tackling two areas of concern for Detroit youths: promoting physically active lifestyles and preparing youth for successful careers in scientific and technological fields.” Rowing “leans heavily on STEM concepts commonly found in the fields of mathematics, physics and kinesiology,” Barton says, and “through the sport, our curriculum covers works from the famous Greek mathematician Archimedes up through NASA engineer Katherine Johnson.”
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