|Good morning || May 14, 2020|
Leading the News
Ford, GM, FCA Plan To Reopen North American Factories On May 18
Reuters (5/13, White, Klayman) reports, “Ford Motor Co, General Motors Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV all plan to reopen North American factories on May 18.” The reopening of the US auto sector “will be a closely watched test of whether workers across a range of industries can return to factories in large numbers without a resurgence of COVID-19 infections.” How well the automakers do “will be significant for the U.S. economy, as nearly 1 million workers are employed in the sector.” Ford and GM executives “said separately this week the companies have not recorded any cases of COVID-19 transmission in plants outside the United States since adopting new safety protocols.” The Detroit Three have “taken unprecedented steps to share information about coronavirus safety practices and develop a common set of workplace standards for their restarts, working with the United Auto Workers union, executives said.”
Roadshow (5/13, Szymkowski) lists the automakers that have “restarted production in some capacity amid the coronavirus.” Roadshow adds that “the first automakers to restart production are in Europe.”
Tesla Reaches Deal On Reopening California Plant. Reuters (5/13, Shepardson) reports that Tesla and state officials in California “have resolved their acrimonious clash over safety procedures at the automaker’s sole US assembly plant with a deal that allows production to resume as early as Monday.” Alameda County “said the automaker could take additional steps ahead of next week after Chief Executive Elon Musk had vowed to defy authorities, saying Monday he was resuming production despite the prohibition.” Reuters notes that on Tuesday, Musk “won the backing of President Donald Trump.”
CNBC (5/13, Feiner) reports that Alameda County “had entered a stand-off with Tesla at the beginning of the stay-at-home order when the company tried to claim essential service status to remain open. County officials rejected that claim.” According to the Washington Post (5/13, Lerman), Musk “has corralled other leaders in Silicon Valley to his cause.” The New York Times (5/13, Chokshi) and Wall Street Journal (5/13, Higgins, Subscription Publication), among other news outlets, also report the story.
University Of Arizona Planning To Welcome Students, Professors Back To Campus For In-Class Learning
ABC News (5/13, News) reports at the University of Arizona, “plans are underway to welcome students, staff and professors back to campus for in-class learning come this fall.” University President Robert C. Robbins has “acknowledged that a second wave of COVID-19 cases would almost definitely occur at summer’s end.” But he explained to ABC News on Wednesday that the “school’s reopening plan consisted of testing, tracing and treating.”
CSU Chancellor Explains Decision To Hold Classes Online In The Fall
Timothy P. White, “chancellor of the 23-campus California State University system since 2012, was supposed to be celebrating his imminent retirement right now, not dealing with the many academic and financial problems raised by the coronavirus.” But with the “emergency, White agreed to stay on as chancellor” and on Tuesday, he made what may “prove to be one of the most consequential decisions of his tenure: announcing that most CSU classes in the fall will be online unless there is a significant improvement in the health situation.” White recently sat down with EdSource (5/13) to talk about the decision, which has “garnered widespread attention across the country.”
Survey: Roughly Two-thirds Of College Students Would Be Comfortable Attending In-Person Classes This Fall
Fox Business (5/13, Pagones) reports “roughly two-thirds of college students said they would be comfortable attending in-person classes come the fall semester, even without the existence of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus vaccine.” The survey by College Reaction also revealed that “31 percent would instead opt for virtual classes and 4 percent would choose to temporarily remove themselves from the school altogether.”
Georgetown University Preparing To Enter Next Academic Year With $50M Shortfall
The Washington Post (5/13, Lumpkin) reports Georgetown University will “suspend contributions to employee retirement plans, introduce a voluntary furlough program and halt some construction as it prepares to enter next academic year with a $50 million shortfall.” According to President John J. DeGioia, the moves “represent a second phase of budget cuts and are intended to save the school about $100 million.” Notably, the pandemic has “crippled colleges and universities of every size and stripe, forcing schools across the country to lay off workers, cut pay and, in some cases, close altogether.”
College Admissions Expert Warns Against Reopening Campuses This Fall
In the “Answer Sheet” blog, Washington Post (5/13) education writer Valerie Strauss points out that many “colleges and universities have said they are planning to reopen and allow students to return.” Officials are “making plans for social distancing and testing of people on campus as well as contact tracing, and hoping for the best.” But “not everybody agrees the experiment is worthwhile” and a recently published post by Scott White “explains why not.” The college admissions “expert who retired after 40 years in education” says that although he feels “like Chicken Little here,” he is “really concerned about colleges opening this fall.”
Undergrad Sues Washington University Over Tuition, Fee Reimbursement
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (5/13, Bernhard) reports first-year student Alexander Raimo is “suing Washington University, seeking a refund of about $28,000 in tuition and fees for the spring semester after leaders shut down the campus in March and moved classes online because of the coronavirus outbreak.” According to the suit, Raimo “was left learning the course material independently without the same professor, teaching assistant, and peer support experienced on campus.” Notably, Raimo is being partly “represented by Hagens Berman, a law firm that has filed similar lawsuits since late April against Emory, Duke, George Washington, Boston, Brown and Vanderbilt universities and the University of Southern California.”
Report: To Bring Down Cost Of College, Address Living Expenses First
Inside Higher Ed (5/13) reports a recent American Enterprise Institute (AEI) report “argues that free tuition programs at four-year institutions wouldn’t be helpful to the neediest students. Instead, policy makers should be looking at living expenses.” Report author and AEI Resident Fellow Jason Delisle said that while tuition increases for students who qualify for financial aid have been substantial, the growth in student cost of living has been even more so. Commenting on the report, New America Federal Higher Education Policy Deputy Director Clare McCann said, “That has been an underappreciated point in many of the college promise programs that are out there.”
Many College Students Considering Taking Year Off
The Washington Post (5/13, Svrluga) reports many students are “thinking about taking a gap year,” but, adds the Post, “the pandemic is upending gap-year programs,” as “international travel and hands-on volunteer work seem unlikely, and good jobs will be harder than ever to find.” Still, many students are considering delaying entry into college or just taking a year off in order to avoid paying for online courses or out of fear of being in an environment in which the coronavirus would be likely to spread rapidly.
Pandemic Further Disrupts Once-Reliable Flow Of Graduate Students
The Hechinger Report (5/13) says that “until recently, graduate students had generally remained a bright spot in higher education, continuing to show up at colleges and universities and helping institutions balance their books even as undergraduate enrollment dramatically declined.” But even before the pandemic, there were “signs that the once-reliable flow of graduate students and the money they bring with them was beginning to slow. And now, when that money may be needed most, school leaders and researchers fear that these numbers could plummet.”
Opinion: How To Support DEI Efforts During Pandemic
Writing at Inside Higher Ed (5/13), education consultant Stephanie A. Goodwin and University of Arizona professor emeritus Beth Mitchneck say university leaders must “anticipate and respond to” the threat the coronavirus pandemic poses to the “career trajectories of STEM women, particularly women of color.” The authors give several means by which this issue can be addressed, including fixing gendered resource disparities, compensating for childcare needs, engaging women campus leaders of color in pandemic-related decision-making, and keeping DEI concerns in mind when discussing budget issues.
ASEE's 2020 Annual Conference Now a Virtual Experience
Lots of great content - none of the travel!
The 2020 ASEE Annual Conference is an online event. See all the details here.
Special Call for Papers - Covid Edition
ASEE's Journal of Engineering Education and Advances in Engineering Education are issuing a special call for papers. Learn more here.
WEPAN Executive Director Search
As WEPAN approaches its 30th Anniversary, they announce a search for an ED to lead them into their next 30 years! The WEPAN ED is responsible for providing leadership, setting direction and proving guidance for WEPAN’s activities, members, and member organizations. The successful candidate will be a thought leader, collaborative worker, strategic thinker, and is fiscally responsible. Learn more here. Direct questions directed to P.K. Imbrie (765.427.2607) or Shelia Ross (312.505.7683).
ASEE Resource Central
ASEE Resource Central is now live. This site provides resources for online teaching promising practices, remote work advice, student support strategies, and insights on virtual labs and capstones. Topics are searchable and organized by category. The site is continuously updated with new resources, leveraging the expertise of ASEE members and our community.
Research and Development
Students, Startup Hope To Help Solve Ocean Plastic Pollution With Floating Robot
The Washington Post (5/13) reports engineering students at the University of California San Diego and a small start-up Clear Blue Sea are looking to use their creation of FRED, an acronym for floating robot for eliminating debris, to “help solve one of the planet’s most daunting problems: oceans littered with plastic.” The Californians “hope to deliver a proven design for a 50-foot version of FRED capable of autonomously collecting trash on open bodies of water” by next spring. They plan to “make their blueprints public to accelerate research.”
University Of Pittsburgh Professors Devising Method To Conduct At-Home COVID-19 Testing With Smartphones
News Medical (5/12) reported University of Pittsburgh professors are “reimagining” coronavirus testing “using a device that nearly every American owns – a smartphone.” The project aims to “perform non-invasive at-home testing for COVID-19 infection, and it was selected for funding by the National Science Foundation through its RAPID award program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Lead researcher Wei Gao “and his team will build upon smartphones’ microphones and speakers to develop acoustic sensing that can measure changes in human airway mechanics, which are uniquely correlated to COVID-19 infection.”
Researchers Looking Into Pandemic’s Impact On Waste Management Services
WCTV-TV Tallahassee, FL (5/11, Hernandez) reported the coronavirus pandemic is “putting a strain on trash collection.” And that is why “professors at the Florida State and Florida A&M College of Engineering are studying how municipal waste systems are operating and adapting through the pandemic.” Dr. Juyeng Choi, an Assistant Professor with FSU/FAMU College of Engineering, and his partner, Tarek Abichou, a Professor of Civil Engineering also with the FSU/FAMU College of Engineering, were “granted a $152,000 grant to study challenges and changes to more than 11 systems across the country during this pandemic.”
Companies Resume Autonomous Vehicles Testing
VentureBeat (5/13, Wiggers) reports autonomous vehicle companies are cautiously putting their cars back on the road. Waymo, Aurora, Zoox, and Baidu have resumed testing in the past week. Meanwhile, Cruise and Yamibuy are focusing on philanthropic efforts. Cruise “is devoting resources to...the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank and San Francisco New Deal to deliver meals to residents in need using self-driving vehicles.” Additionally, Pony.ai “is delivering meals to ‘vulnerable communities’ in Fremont.’”
Several Tech-Related Issues, Not Just Pandemic, Are To Blame For Slowing AV Development. Shira Ovide writes as part of the New York Times’ (5/13, Ovide) On Tech newsletter that the pandemic “has accelerated some long-predicted technology habits like telemedicine and online grocery shopping,” but driverless car technology “might be kicked into reverse.” Testing of “many computer-controlled cars is on pause to protect human minders from the coronavirus, and many companies can’t afford to splurge now on costly technology, the New York Times reporters Cade Metz and Erin Griffith wrote on Tuesday.” This is “slowing driverless cars’ development,” but as Metz and Griffith wrote, “The problems are bigger.” Ovide adds, “We can’t blame the coronavirus for everything. The technology needed to make the cars safe is even harder to master than companies thought – and the problems the tech is trying to fix are even bigger.”
NASA Approves Lunar Robot Iris To Launch To Moon With Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lander
ExecutiveGov (5/13, Martin) reports that NASA has approved a lunar exploration robot, named Iris, to “fly aboard the Peregrine lander made by Astrobotic Inc. and land on the Moon in fall next year.” The robot was developed by students at Carnegie Mellon University.
Airbus Looking At Possible Job Cuts
Reuters (5/13) reports that Airbus “is drawing up plans for restructuring involving ‘deep’ job cuts, but has not taken a final decision, industry sources said.” If the “move is confirmed, the European planemaker is expected to brief unions on the proposals around the end of the month and is meanwhile drawing up contingency plans for a prolonged crisis after furloughing thousands of workers.” The Daily Mail (UK) (5/13, Witherow) reports that Airbus “stands ready to axe more than 10,000 staff, possibly within days.”
Bloomberg (5/13) reports that sources said Airbus has begun discussion with unions in Germany, France, and Spain over job cuts. Airbus “executives will thrash out an initial plan on a call next week, the people said. It may take months to arrive at a final figure for redundancies, which will depend on the depth of the aerospace downturn and negotiations with labor unions.”
Qatar Airways CEO Says Airline Is In Talks With Airbus, Boeing About Possible Order Deferments
Reuters (5/13) reports that Qatar Airways is holding discussions with Airbus and The Boeing Company to “defer aircraft orders for several years, its chief executive was quoted as saying on Wednesday.” Akbar al-Baker told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper, “Well we are in negotiation with them, so I don’t want to talk about this, but yes it will be deferred for several years.” The “report did not say how many aircraft the airline was looking to defer or for exactly how long.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Airlines Requiring Face Masks, But Not Enforcing Policy
The Associated Press (5/13) reports that airlines have started requiring that crew and passengers wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but there are concerns that companies lack the ability to enforce those policies. Pilots “worry that travelers could remove their masks and spark a confrontation with others during a flight,” so pilots are “pressing the Federal Aviation Administration to require masks instead of leaving it up to individual airlines.” Enforcement of the rule “appears to be spotty at best,” with enforcement expected to be stricter at the gate than in the air.
CNN (5/13, Muntean) reports that airlines plan to “rely on passenger cooperation rather than strict enforcement.” Memos that were sent by American Airlines to its pilots and flight attendants say that the airline may deny boarding to customers not wearing a mask but “the face covering policy will become more lenient” once the plane is in the air. The memo read, “The flight attendant’s role is informational, not enforcement.” American told flight attendants, “Please encourage them to comply, but do not escalate further. Likewise, if a customer is frustrated by another customer’s lack of face covering, please use situational awareness to de-escalate the situation.” United also told crews to avoid confrontations, and the airline said in a statement, “If for some reason this policy causes a disturbance onboard, we’ve counseled our flight attendants to use their de-escalation skills, and they do have the flexibility to re-seat customers on the aircraft as needed.”
Opinion: Promoting, Improving STEM Education Can Help Mitigate Adverse Affects Of Climate Change
In a piece published by The Hill (5/13), the director of the Master of Arts in Teaching Program at American University says there is a “scientific consensus that climate change is impacting our planet, and with vulnerable communities often being the worst hit, we need to discover more ways to mitigate it.” As an educator who “specializes in science education,” Carolyn Parker believes that “one of the best ways we can equip our society to address climate change is to raise our overall level of scientific literacy, and we do that by promoting and improving STEM education.” She goes on to break down her opinion “into three specific calls to action.”
Wednesday's Lead Stories
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