|Good morning || February 6, 2020|
Leading the News
NASA’s Record-Setting Astronaut Christina Koch Returns To Earth
The AP (2/6, Isachenkov) reports that NASA astronaut Christina Koch, “who has spent nearly 11 months in orbit on the longest spaceflight by a woman, landed safely in Kazakhstan on Thursday along with two of her” ISS crewmates – Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency Roscosmos’ Alexander Skvortsov. The Soyuz capsule “touched down southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 3:12 p.m. (0912 GMT).” In returning home, Koch concluded her 328-day mission which provided “researchers the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman.”
SPACE (2/6, Pearlman) reports that “Russian recovery forces, as well as NASA and ESA medical personnel, arrived quickly at the landing site to assist Koch, Parmitano and Skvortsov out of the space capsule and to conduct brief physical exams” as they “began adjusting to the pull of gravity again.” Commenting on the phenomenon in an interview a few days before landing, Koch said, “Everyone says that getting back into gravity is such a surprise, because you suddenly have to work to raise your own arms and, of course, your legs. I haven’t even had to hold up my own body weight in a long time, so we will see how that goes.” A “few minutes after landing,” Koch said, “I’m so overwhelmed and happy right now.”
The New York Times (2/6, Kowal) reports that with her return to Earth, Koch “holds another distinction: the longest stay by a female astronaut in space, 328 days.” The overall record for an American is 340 days – set by Scott Kelly in 2016. While in space, Koch “conducted research in microgravity on Mizuna mustard greens, examining the role of gravity and space on whole-plant health, cellular development and tissue growth.” Additionally, she “studied the behavior of fire in space” and “worked with the Cold Atom Laboratory.”
The Washington Post (2/6, Davenport) reports that Koch “ended a barrier-breaking tour on the International Space Station in which she participated in six spacewalks, including the first performed exclusively by women.” However, “women remain an overwhelming minority at NASA and in the aerospace industry as a whole.” According to a NASA survey, “they make up only about a third of NASA’s workforce,” and “constitute just 28 percent of senior executive leadership positions and 16 percent of senior scientific employees.”
Business Schools Throughout The US Establishing STEM-Designated MBA Programs
The Wall Street Journal (2/5, Thomas, Subscription Publication) reports that business schools throughout the nation are trying to establish STEM-designated MBA programs in an effort to attract foreign students.
Report Examines How The Use Of Education Data In Underwriting Private Student Loans May Exacerbate Economic, Racial Inequality
The Washington Post (2/5, Douglas-Gabriel) takes a look at a report released Wednesday by the Student Borrower Protection Center that examines “how the use of education data in underwriting private student loans may exacerbate economic and racial inequality.” In fact, the advocacy group “suggests that Wells Fargo and Upstart could be engaging in educational redlining by raising the price of credit for historically marginalized groups.” For their part, both “financial-services firms dispute the findings of the report and question its methodology.”
Nonetheless, investigators with the nonprofit “applied for dozens of loans online – posing as a 24-year-old man,” reports NPR (2/5, Arnold). It said he “lives in New York, works as a financial analyst and makes $50,000 a year.” The group found that if the “otherwise identical loan applicant went to NYU instead of Howard, there was a striking difference.” In short, for a “$30,000 personal loan with a five-year term, it found an applicant would pay about $3,500 more in interest and fees if they went to Howard.”
Bloomberg (2/5) provides additional coverage.
Report Recommends University Of California System Continue Requiring College Admissions Tests, For Now
U.S. News & World Report (2/5, Camera) reports a “long-awaited report” has determined the University of California system should continue to require applicants to submit a test score “while also outlining a nearly decade-long path to replacing the current admission testing choices.” The findings “dealt an immediate blow to opponents of admissions policies that require students to submit an SAT or ACT score – a process that they’ve long argued disadvantages poor students and students of color.” Yet, by affirming that position and recommending a gradual move away from the current admission process, “the task force also put testing companies on notice: The status quo won’t stand.” The report says, “UC should conduct additional research on the impact of going ‘test optional’ before deciding whether and how to implement such a policy.”
Harvard Faculty Of Arts And Sciences Votes In Favor Of Fossil Fuel Divestment
The Washington Post (2/5, Svrluga) reports the Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted 179-20 Tuesday to call for the university’s endowment managers to divest from fossil fuel companies. The vote “does not compel the Harvard Management Co., which manages the school’s endowment, to act,” but the vote adds “considerable weight to calls from students and activists.”
Coronavirus Fears Prompt Asian-American Discrimination On US Campuses
The Chronicle of Higher Education (2/5, Dill) reports the risk of an outbreak of coronavirus on US campuses remains low, but “another phenomenon has accompanied the panic over the virus – real and perceived discrimination against Asian-American students.” Due to public concern about the “handful of cases” that have been reported in the US, “many colleges have disclosed possible cases on their campuses, and canceled official travel to China. Such publicity, fueled by fears of a pandemic, has prompted casual stereotyping and discrimination against those who look Chinese, as evidenced by some social-media posts.” Jason Oliver Chang, director of the Asian and Asian-American Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut, started a collaborative document in response to the virus “to track incidents of racism against Asian Americans and the latest news developments.”
New ASEE Publication on Diversity in STEM
ASEE, with funding from the National Science Foundation, released a publication on the NSF GOLD program, seeking to diversify the Geosciences. The publication features five GOLD projects, with a deep look at two in particular. Lessons learned from these initiatives are applicable to engineering and all STEM disciplines.
March 2020 – Free Webinar on Insights for DEI Project Evaluation
March 10 at 1 PM, ET: Evaluation is critical for DEI-focused projects. In this webinar, Liz Litzler and Cara Margherio (University of Washington Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity) will help develop the capacity of researchers to work with evaluators on their DEI projects, sharing best practices for developing evaluation language, working alongside evaluators, and interpreting results. Register today.
ASEE Mid-Atlantic Spring 2020 Conference
The conference is at Johns Hopkins University on March 27th and 28th with the theme Inter- and Multi-Disciplinary Engineering Education. Register, learn more, and and submit an abstract here.
Research and Development
University Of Kentucky Researchers Developing Drones To Remotely Address Cattle Health
WKYT-TV Lexington, KY (1/29, Burniston) reported that University of Kentucky Professor of Mechanical Engineering Jesse Hoagg “is working on a noninvasive health monitoring approach to check cattle using drones. The hope is that autonomous drones would help farmers remotely check on the location and health of each cow, allowing them to address cattle health and safety issues more quickly. By flying in formation, the drones are then able to get pictures of the cows’ faces to detect any illnesses and produce 3D models of their bodies.”
Coronavirus Forces Closure Of Airbus’ Tianjin, China Plant
The Wall Street Journal (2/5, Katz, Jun, Subscription Publication) reports that Airbus has said that travel restrictions to China are hindering production at its Tianjin, China factory. Most large plants had been ordered closed by the Chinese government until February 10, but Airbus said on Wednesday that it plans to extend the closure indefinitely. The closure could cause delivery delays for Asian carriers and possibly cash flow problems at Airbus.
Reuters (2/5) reports that the Tianjin plant “assembles about 4 A320-family aircraft a month, about 7% of Airbus narrowbody production.” Airbus said in a statement, “Airbus is constantly evaluating the situation and monitoring any potential knock-on effects to production and deliveries and will try to mitigate via alternative plans where necessary.”
Aviation International News (2/5) reports that Airbus also said in its statement, “[Airbus China is] observing Chinese government requirements for staff to work from home and is facilitating with IT equipment so employees from all locations including Tianjin do not need to travel to work where possible.” The statement “did not specify the extent of disruption the closure of Chinese operations is causing its supply chain.” However, it indicated that “travel restrictions are posing ‘logistical challenges.’” The Boeing Company and Safran have “also confirmed disruption to their activities in China.”
UPS, Pilots Reach Agreement On Flights To China During Coronavirus Outbreak. CBS News (2/5) reports that the union “representing United Parcel Service pilots on Wednesday said it had reached an agreement with the shipping giant making flights in and out of China voluntary due to the deadly and rapidly spreading coronavirus.” Independent Pilots Association President Robert Travis said, “Following days of discussions, UPS agreed and signed a Coronavirus Letter of Agreement with the IPA that gives our pilots the right to take a personal leave of absence for trips containing a flight segment into, or out of, mainland China.” The agreement reached Tuesday “night called for a three-day transition period before the pact is fully implemented and ‘all UPS flights into, and out of, mainland China will be operated on a voluntary basis,’ according to IPA.”
Cruise CEO Values AV Industry At $8 Trillion
CNBC (2/5, Wayland) reports “the global autonomous vehicle industry is an $8 trillion market opportunity, according to” Cruise CEO Dan Ammann, who “on Wednesday said that valuation includes autonomous ridesharing services, including Uber and Lyft at a potentially $5 trillion sector; $2 trillion for freight; and $500 billion each for data insights and in-vehicle experiences.” To access such opportunity, “Ammann outlined how an autonomous vehicle lowers operating costs for companies that currently use human drivers...as well as advancements the company has made in bringing down costs related to vehicle production, software development and other factors.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Sen. Feinstein Urges FAA To Require TAWS In Commercial Helicopters
Reuters (2/5, Whitcomb) reports that on Wednesday, US Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) “urged the Federal Aviation Administration to require terrain warning systems in commercial helicopters, technology that investigators say was not in use in the crash that killed basketball star Kobe Bryant and eight others last month.” That helicopter “did not have a device called the Terrain Awareness and Warning System that signals when an aircraft is in danger of hitting ground.” The NTSB “had recommended the system be required for helicopters.” However, the FAA “only requires it for air ambulances.”
Fox News (2/5, Rambaran) reports that in a letter to the FAA, Feinstein wrote, “Initial reports indicate the helicopter was neither equipped with, nor required to have, terrain awareness technology. ... This is concerning, since the NTSB previously issued Safety Recommendation A-6-19 in 2006 that recommend that the FAA require all helicopters that carry six or more passengers to have this technology. The NTSB has labeled the status of this recommendation ‘unacceptable’ due to FAA’s inaction.”
According to the AP (2/5), Feinstein also wrote in the letter, “In order to ensure such a tragedy never happens again, I ask that the FAA commence a rulemaking process to require all commercial helicopters operating in the U.S. to have terrain awareness and warning systems.”
FAA Will Not Extend UAV Remote ID Comment Period
FreightWaves (2/5, Hampstead) reports that the FAA has denied a request to extend the comment period for its proposal to require UAVs to be equipped with technology allowing the UAV to be remotely identified. Among the groups that have requested extensions for filing comments are Airlines for America, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, and the Experimental Aircraft Association. The FAA “said lengthening the comment period and further delays in finalizing the rule would not be consistent with the safety and security objectives of the rule.” Thus far, “the FAA has received more than 9,300 comments on the rule.”
House Democrats Accuse Energy Department Of Under-spending Funds For Clean Energy Research
Chron (TX) (2/5, Osborne) reports House Democrats said Wednesday that the Department of Energy isn’t distributing funds for renewable energy research fast enough. At a hearing before the House Science and Space Committee’s oversight panel, “Chairman Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., said the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy didn’t spend $823 million in funding appropriated by Congress last year, more than a third of its budget.” The criticism comes after repeated attempts by the Trump Administration “to cut funding to the EERE office under former Energy Secretary Rick Perry.”
Virginia Lawmakers Vote To Block Offshore Drilling
Reuters (2/5) reports Virginia lawmakers on Tuesday “passed a bill to block future oil and gas development off the state’s coastline, reflecting opposition to the Republican Trump administration’s efforts to open Atlantic waters to fossil fuel exploration.” The bill “passed by the state House of Delegates prohibits infrastructure such as pipelines or gathering systems in state waters that could be used to transport oil and gas drilled in federal waters to Virginia’s shores.” It also “repeals a state policy to support U.S. efforts to explore for offshore oil and gas.”
St. Edwards University Receives $1.2 Million Federal Grant To Train STEM Teachers
The Austin (TX) American Statesman (2/5, Korte, Subscription Publication) reports the National Science Foundation “has awarded St. Edward’s University $1,181,608 million to recruit and train undergraduates for teaching careers in biology, chemistry and mathematics.” The Austin, Texas university “aims to recruit 18 undergraduates majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields, and support them in becoming highly qualified middle and high school teachers. School leaders and lawmakers say the program will help fill a critical lack of STEM educators across the country.”
KVUE-TV Austin, TX (2/6) reports George E. Martin, president of St. Edward’s University, said, “This funding will support our efforts to develop a well-prepared teacher workforce that will, in turn, prepare and inspire young people across Texas and the nation to enter careers in STEM fields.”
Also in the News
Pitt Professor Elected President Of Institute Of Industrial And System Engineers
The Pittsburgh Business Times (2/5, Torrance) reports Bopaya Bidanda, a professor and department chair of the Industrial Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, was named the president of the Institute of Industrial and System Engineers. He was elected to serve a three-year term, beginning April 1. In a statement, Bidanda said, “Industrial engineering is the broadest of all the engineering fields, because it can be applied anywhere. Part of my plan as IISE president is to accelerate the IISE’s strategic initiatives and to help industrial and system engineering become the engineering discipline of choice for high school seniors.”
Wednesday's Lead Stories
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