|Good morning || November 5, 2019|
Leading the News
Boeing Declares Starliner Pad Abort Test A Success
The New York Times (11/4, Padilla, Fortin) reports that The Boeing Company “successfully tested a safety system of its commercial spacecraft on Monday morning, bringing the American aerospace industry one step closer to launching astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time since 2011.” Boeing “ran an uncrewed test on the launch abort system of the CST-100 Starliner” at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. In a statement, Boeing said, “Today’s pad abort test was a milestone achievement for our CST-100 Starliner team, for NASA, and for American human spaceflight.”
The Washington Post (11/4, Davenport) reports that Boeing “declared successful its test of the emergency abort system...even though only two of the three main parachutes deployed.” At 9:15 a.m. ET, “the capsule fired its abort engines” and went “hurtling through the air to more than 4,000 feet.” In a statement, Boeing Vice President and Program Manager, Commercial Crew Programs, Space Exploration John Mulholland said, “The test team and spacecraft performed flawlessly.” He added, “Emergency scenario testing is very complex, and today our team validated that the spacecraft will keep our crew safe in the unlikely event of an abort.” Company officials “said they have built in redundancy to the spacecraft, and having two of three parachutes deploy was” sufficient.
Florida Today (11/4) reports that “according to Boeing spokesperson Jessica Landa, the deployment of only two of the parachutes is acceptable within their test parameters for their landing sequence.”
Reuters (11/4) reports that “the deployment failure happened during a so-called pad abort test of a system designed to propel the crew to safety in the event of an emergency, Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher said by email.” He added, “It’s too early to determine why all three main parachutes did not deploy.” Blecher also said, “However, having two of three deploy successfully is acceptable for the test parameters and crew safety.”
Commentary: Higher Education Diversity Efforts May Harm HBCUs
Forbes (11/4, Vedder) contributor Richard Vedder writes about a recent report from the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at Rutgers University suggesting rising enrollment of black students at HBCUs. “I found this startling, since for years HBCU enrollments have trended downward. Moreover, overall enrollments are in decline, so some further decline in HBCU enrollment is expected.” The study’s authors suggest that “increases in race-related incidents...have led black students to seek the welcoming environment of HBCUs. ... This led me to explore the underlying enrollment data as published by the U.S. Department of Education in the Digest of Education Statistics. Sure enough, the latest reported data (2017-2018) show total enrollments rose from 292,083 the previous year to 298,138, an increase of 2.1%.” However, “the number of black male students actually declined.” Vedder continues to suggest that efforts on the part of mainstream universities to improve diversity by recruiting black students may have the unintended consequence of stymieing enrollment growth at HBCUs.
Johnson Calls ED “Irresponsible” Lender
Newsweek (11/4) reports, “Former Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer of Federal Student Aid A. Wayne Johnson criticized his former department as being the most ‘irresponsible’ lender in the world.” Speaking Sunday on CNBC, Johnson said, “The Department of Education is the largest consumer financial lender in the world, and we’re the most – in my opinion – irresponsible.” Johnson “worked at the Department of Education from 2017, when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appointed him to the position of chief operating officer, until his resignation in October. Since leaving the department, Johnson has spoken out about the untenable state of student loan recipients and problems he witnessed within the system.”
Colorado Legislature Considers Bills Promoting Work-For-Credit Policy, $20 Million Higher Education Pilot
Colorado Politics (11/4, Karlik, Politics) reports that on Monday, Colorado’s Making Higher Education Attainable Interim Study Committee “signed off on three proposals to get students successfully through higher ed institutions, even before they step foot on campus.” Colorado Politics says, “A bill passed unanimously would direct the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to incorporate work experience into post-secondary academic credit.” The new system “is anticipated to take effect after 2024” and will “prioritize career and technical education in fast-growing industries.” Also, a second bill “would appropriate $20 million annually for a pilot program in the Department of Higher Education.” The state “would give grants to institutions with plans to decrease barriers to completing postsecondary education and boosting their number of graduates.”
Free Webinar on Increasing URM Recruitment and Retention in the Sciences
Looking to increase recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities (URM) at your institution? Tune in Dec. 10 at 1:00 PM, ET for a free webinar featuring the NSF GOLD-supported GeoDES and Sparks for Change project teams, who will share insights from their innovative professional development projects developed to increase the engagement, recruitment, and retention of URM faculty in the sciences. Sign up today: http://bit.ly/31nQjPL
Submit an idea to NSF's Project Pitch
America’s Seed Fund, powered by NSF, believes in the power of groundbreaking and technically risky ideas for massive impact. They specialize in funding startups and small businesses with ideas -- still in the pre-validation phase -- that want to build a prototype/proof-of-concept. Each startup can get up to $1.5 million (over 36+ months) to aid in conducting research and development. If you have an idea, submit a Project Pitch to see if it’s a good fit.
Former ASEE Member Wins Nobel
ASEE is happy to claim Nobel Prize winner John Goodenough as a former member, proof that educators and researchers find value in being an ASEE member.
Research and Development
Researchers Create 3D-Printed Skin With Blood Vessels In Hopes Of Preventing Body From Rejecting Grafted Tissue
Newsweek (11/4, Gander) reports that a team of researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and Yale School of Medicine “have created 3D-printed skin complete with blood vessels, in an advancement which they hope could one day prevent the body rejecting grafted tissue.” Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Director Deepak Vashishth said in a statement, “This significant development highlights the vast potential of 3D bioprinting in precision medicine, where solutions can be tailored to specific situations and eventually to individuals.”
Forbes Contributor Says AV Technology Is “Already Here”
Contributor Enrique Dans writes at Forbes (11/4, Dans) about autonomous vehicles as an illustration of “technological development cycles,” with particular reference to “Waymo One, the autonomous vehicle transportation service created by the Alphabet subsidiary in Phoenix, Arizona.” Dans also states, “autonomous vehicles are already here” and comments, “Whether we adopt this technology, with all its advantages, or we cling to old habits now depends entirely on us.”
Shell Trials Microsoft “Machine Teaching” Software
Bloomberg (11/4, Bass) reports Microsoft is working on a software package of “machine teaching” that allows engineers to teach drones and other autonomously acting devices “how to behave, where to go and how to maintain safe conditions.” Delta Air Lines, Shell, and Schneider Electric are trialing the software for their operations. Shell is testing the software for the control of drilling equipment. The software varies from regular machine learning in that it “allows engineers to set up rules and criteria for how autonomous devices should operate,” then use simulation software “to set up a series of lessons, a digital curriculum.” Once the guided lesson curriculum is set up, “the system automates the process of teaching and learning, across hundreds or thousands of simulations at the same time.”
Miami Tower Anticipates Flying Cars, While Several Companies Work On Development
USA Today (11/4, Brown) reports a new tower in Miami, Paramount Miami World Center, will have “an observation deck at the top that doubles as a landing pad for vertical takeoff and landing vehicles.” USA Today adds that while the building will open in 2020, “a flying car’s reality, where passengers can be dropped off at home like Amazon drone packages, could be decades away – if ever.” There are, says USA Today, both technical and regulatory obstacles, though “the hoverbike met U.S. Federal Aviation Administration guidelines in 2018,” and “the FAA gave Terrafugia’s flying Transition an exemption, allowing it to be certified as a light-sport aircraft.” Meanwhile, “PAL-V is currently training pilots and has sold most of its first run of 25 units” and “Terrafugia says its first flying car is slated for production before the end of the year and it claims to comply with the NHTSA.”
Researchers Say Lasers And Flashlights Can Be Used To Hack Alexa, Google Home, Or Siri
The New York Times (11/4, Perlroth) reports researchers in Japan and at the University of Michigan on Monday “said...that they had found a way to take over Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri devices from hundreds of feet away by shining laser pointers, and even flashlights, at the devices’ microphones.” The researchers “discovered that the microphones in the devices would respond to light as if it were sound.” Kevin Fu, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, said, “This opens up an entirely new class of vulnerabilities. It’s difficult to know how many products are affected, because this is so basic.” Those who studied the flaw “said they had notified Tesla, Ford, Amazon, Apple and Google to the light vulnerability. The companies all said they were studying the conclusions in the paper released on Monday.”
Researchers Make Artificial Leaf To Convert CO2 Into Cheaper Fuel
Fast Company (11/4, Peters) reports research published in Nature Energy on Monday “explains one new process for artificial leaf technology, inspired by photosynthesis, that can make carbon-neutral fuel at a low cost.” Yimin Wu, an engineering professor at the University of Waterloo, said the technology “mimics natural leaves. We’re using carbon dioxide and water and sunlight as an input, and producing methanol and oxygen as a product.” According to Fast Company, “The process is 10 times more efficient than photosynthesis in a plant.”
Student Develops New Solution For Vehicle Blind Spots
Popular Mechanics (11/4, Linder) reports Alaina Gassler, a 14-year-old eighth grade student from Pennsylvania, “engineered a new fix for car blind spots during a science competition” and “after beating out 80,000 other competitors in a nationwide science, technology, engineering and math competition, Gassler took home a grand prize of $25,000.” According to Popular Mechanics, “Gassler’s invention more or less makes the front pillars in a vehicle ‘invisible’ so that drivers can see what’s in their blind spot.”
Researchers Develop AI Method To Detect Deceptive Intent
Sify News (IND) (11/2) reported that researchers “have designed a method which could detect a person’s intent to mislead.” The study was recently published in the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence. The researchers “posit that...the intent, rather than the content of the communication, determines whether the communication is deceptive or not.” Dartmouth engineering professor Eugene Santos, who co-authored the paper, said, “To the best of our knowledge, our algorithm is the only method that detects deception and at the same time discriminates malicious acts from benign acts.” In future studies, Santos “hopes to examine the ripple effect of misinformation, including its impacts,” Sify News said.
University Of Arizona Researchers Use Human Immune System As Cybersecurity Model
KGUN-TV Tucson, AZ (10/23) reported that University of Arizona researchers are modeling cybersecurity on the human body’s immune system. The project has secured a $3 million grant from the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program, while a $2.5 million grant from the Department of Defense will foster the research’s commercial application.
Air Force, University Of New Mexico Researchers Create Composite Material For Prolonging Solar-Panel Life
The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (11/4) reports that scientists from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the University of New Mexico “have teamed up to prolong the life of solar modules by harnessing the Atom Ant-like strength of carbon nanotubes.” The scientists “created a composite material that meshes carbon nanotubes with silver, the standard metal used to conduct electricity in solar cells and modules.” They call the material “MetZilla,” or “Godzilla-infused metal,” which “they say could extend the life of solar panels to a minimum of 35 years, and potentially up to 50.” An AFRL spokesman said the new tech could benefit both commercial and defense markets.
New Radar System Allows Scientists To “See Inside” Wildfires
CNN International (11/4, Williams, CNN) reports, “Scientists studying California’s devastating wildfires are using a powerful new radar system that could help them better understand how they spread and how firefighters should fight them.” The new tech “works by emitting bursts of millimeter wave energy that bounce off particles and can be detected by the radar.” The system is funded by a $650,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and “got its first real world tests last month with the Briceburg Fire near Yosemite National Park and the Kincade Fire, which has burned more than 77,000 acres and destroyed 374 structures in Northern California.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Virgin Hyperloop Seeks Backing To Build U.S. Certification Center
Reuters (11/4, Shepardson) “In March, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said she was creating an internal deliberative body to help resolve jurisdictional and regulatory gaps that may impede new technology, “such as tunneling, hyperloop, autonomous vehicles, and other innovations.””
Autonomous Vehicles Regulation Awaits Action By NHTSA, FMCSA
ZDNet (11/4, Nichols) offers a “guide to autonomous vehicles” focused on “what business leaders need to know.” ZDNet says autonomous vehicles are “still perhaps decades from market adoption in some use cases.” ZDNet says that the key technologies fit into the categories of “sensors, control algorithms, and connectivity” and describes the current state of each. As to regulation, “an open rule-making inquiry by both” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration “may result in relaxed restrictions” and “Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is supportive, but the AV START Act, cosponsored by Senators John Thune (RSD) and Gary Peters (D-MI), which sought to establish federal standards for autonomous vehicle regulation failed in the senate in late 2018.”
House Democrats To Continue Investigation Into 737 MAX
Reuters (11/4, Shepardson) reports that House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Aviation Subcommittee Chair Rick Larsen (D-WA) released a joint letter Monday calling statements made by Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg “consistent with a culture of concealment and opaqueness.” The letter said that the families of the victims of crashes involving the 737 MAX “deserve a thorough investigation from our Committee about how the regulatory system and the law failed, and that’s exactly what our committee intends to do.” They wrote that their investigation found that Boeing’s leaders were “aware of many of the problems that engineers are now attempting to fix during the design and development phase of the 737 MAX.” Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said that Boeing “will continue to cooperate with the committee.”
Opinion: US Should Prioritize Safer Roads, Not Faster Entertainment, In Radio Spectrum Policy
In an opinion piece for Automotive News (11/4), Texas A&M Transportation Institute director Gregory Winfree and University of Arizona engineering professor Larry Head write that “there is no room for second-guessing the demonstrated life-saving purpose and potential of [dedicated short-range communication]” when it comes to vehicle safety and the future of autonomous vehicles. Winfree and Head write that the Federal Communications Commission “is reconsidering whether an important slice of the radio spectrum should be offered for expanded Wi-Fi use, or if it should be retained for its originally intended purpose – to allow cars to talk to each other and share vital safety messages that promise to prevent vehicle crashes.” According to Winfree and Head, “The wireless industry wants the band for augmented entertainment purposes, leaving safety interests to rely upon nascent 5G or other unproven spectrum-sharing technologies.”
Detroit Schools Rapidly Expand Computer Science Programs
Chalkbeat (11/4) reports that Detroit’s computer science course offerings are rapidly expanding at a rate “faster than the rest of the state.” In the city, 18 schools “offer Advanced Placement computer science, including district and charter schools, according to the College Board, the company that administers the courses and the tests that follow.” However, “Three years ago, not a single school in the city offered the AP course.” Chalkbeat says, “As the Detroit district works to boost its enrollment, it is betting that specialized schools – including schools focused on computer science – will attract students.” One high school “is already focused on cybersecurity,” and while another school “focused on digital technologies” could be forthcoming.
Pennsylvania’s Education Department Says More Students Enrolling In Advanced Courses, Industry-Based Learning
North Central PA (11/4, Staff) reports that the Pennsylvania Department of Education “has determined that a significantly higher number of high school students are enrolling in advanced courses and industry-based learning opportunities compared to students in 2018.” To determine this, the department used the Future Ready Pa. Index, “a tool meant to provide the public with comprehensive information on student and school success.” The 2019 data show “there was a 22% increase in the number of non-career and technical education students who participated in industry-based learning experiences.” The data “also showed a 17% increase in the number of students who enrolled in at least one rigorous course of study, including Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or dual credit courses.”
Monday's Lead Stories
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