|Good morning || May 20, 2020|
Leading the News
Antiviral Mask To Kill Coronavirus On Contact In Development By Researchers
Newsweek (5/17, Rahman) reported researchers at the University of Kentucky are working on developing a face mask that could kill the coronavirus on contact. The researchers have secured a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop the masks, according to the university. Dibakar Bhattacharyya, a chemical engineering professor who is the director of the university’s Center of Membrane Sciences, and who will serve as the principal investigator on the research team, said it would take around six months to create the finished and tested membrane mask.
Pandemic Upends Foreign STEM Graduates’ Employment Plans
Bloomberg (5/19) reports “more than a million international students attended US universities during the 2018-19 school year, making up 5.5% of students pursuing higher education,” according to government data. “More than half of them pursued science, technology, engineering, or math – or STEM – fields.” But those graduating this year are “seeing their plans upended by shuttered campuses, closed borders, inflexible immigration policies, and an economy that seized up just as they were about to enter the workforce.”
Johns Hopkins University Now Offering Graduate Degree In Artificial Intelligence
The Wall Street Journal (5/19, Council, Subscription Publication) reports this summer students can begin earning a graduate degree in artificial intelligence from Johns Hopkins University. The entire course load will be available online. Instructors will “include researchers, scientists and engineers, including others from” JHU’s Applied Physics Laboratory, Technical.ly Baltimore (5/7) reported.
Survey: Many Colleges Adopting Measures To Ease International Students’ Entry Or Return To School
Education Dive (5/19) reports with “travel and other pandemic-related restrictions making it harder for colleges to recruit international students, many are adopting measures to ease their entry or return to school,” according to a new survey from the Institute of International Education (IIE). Out of “599 US institutions, 44% said they’re allowing international students to take online exams instead of in-person tests, 42% are updating accepted students more regularly and 40% are offering them the option to defer enrollment.” Still, “88% of institutions expect international student enrollment to decline in the 2020-21 academic year – a trend that could further harm college budgets.”
Students Unlikely To Prevail In Tuition Refund Cases, Education Law Experts Say
Education Dive (5/19) reports that more than 100 lawsuits have been filed against “colleges because of COVID-19...most of which ask for the return of tuition and other fees.” But education law experts “aren’t convinced. Although anyone who pays tuition has standing to sue, these lawsuits generally argue that the move to online-only education breaches schools’ contracts with their students.” And because it’s “not typical for colleges to require a formal, written tuition contract, courts will have to use other documents to decide what schools have promised – and those documents are unlikely to promise in-person education.” Even if plaintiffs “leap that hurdle, courts may refuse to certify the cases as class actions, which could defeat the claims before they’re heard.”
Some Colleges Starting Fall Semester Earlier Than Usual
The Chicago Tribune (5/19, Cherney) reports a “new but seemingly simple idea is emerging as a possible solution for colleges that want to bring students back to campus in the fall: starting classes sooner.” The University of Notre Dame and Marquette University both recently “announced they will begin the fall semester earlier than usual and finish in-person classes by Thanksgiving.” The goal, the schools say, is “to limit student travel ahead of any potential resurgence of coronavirus infections anticipated for the winter.”
Most Colleges Only Offering Contingency Plans For Fall Semester
The Atlantic (5/19, Harris) reports the University of Notre Dame announced this week that it “plans to reopen its campus on August 10, two weeks earlier than normal, and to forego fall break so that students finish the term before Thanksgiving.” But for most universities, a “contingency plan is the most they can offer right now.” And the “most important factor in the reopening decision is the safety of students and faculty members.”
Harvard Students Circulating Petition Arguing Against Online Only Fall Semester
Diverse Issues in Higher Education (5/19) reports “more than 500 Harvard University students have started a petition arguing against an online only fall semester, saying that postponing the semester is a better option.” Numerous students are concerned “about how changes to instruction will impact equity and grading, and affect those who have to travel internationally.” The petition also “raises issues to do with the challenges vulnerable students face in attending online classes from home, including limited internet access and possibly toxic or abusive home situations.”
Universities Implementing Safety Protocols For Students Returning To Campus To Clear Out Dorm Rooms
Diverse Issues in Higher Education (5/19) reports with the “spring semester coming to an end, universities and colleges have put protocols in place to ensure the safety of students who are returning to campus housing to pack up their belongings after the COVID-19 outbreak forced early closures.” At the College of Charleston and West Virginia University, for example, “students will only be allowed into dorms in small numbers at a time so they can socially distance.” In addition, students are “required to wear masks in common areas and public spaces.”
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.
Computing Innovation Fellows Program
The Computing Research Association (CRA) and Computing Community Consortium (CCC) announce the Computing Innovation Fellows (CIFellows) Program, recognizing the significant disruption to the academic job search caused by COVID-19 and associated economic uncertainty. It provides career-enhancing bridge experiences for recent and soon-to-be PhD computing grads. The program offers 1-2 year postdoct opportunities in computing, with cohort activities to support career development and community building. Read the details here.
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
University Of Pittsburgh Researchers Create Virus-Repellent Textile Coating
Fast Company (5/19) reports University of Pittsburgh researchers have “created a washable textile coating that repels liquids, such as blood and saliva, and also prevents viruses from adhering to its surface.” The coating is “made with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, the same polymer that makes Teflon nonstick) and polypropylene microfibers.” Not only could this coating “potentially improve how protective PPE is, says Paul Leu, coauthor of the research, associate professor of industrial engineering at Pitt, and head of the school’s Laboratory for Advanced Materials – it could also help address critical PPE shortages.”
University Of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Develops App To Help Communities With Coronavirus Contact Tracing
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (5/19, writer) reports a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor has “created an app that could help communities with their patient tracing in the coronavirus pandemic.” The app tracks “where a person has been and, assuming that an infected person also has the app, shows when and where the two individuals crossed paths.” Prof. Bilal Khan is “working with NUtech Ventures, based at UNL’s Innovation Campus, to find a public health partner with whom to deploy his app.”
GM Working On Hands-Off Driving Assistance System
TechCrunch (5/19) reports GM “has a ‘big team’ working on an advanced version of its hands-free driving assistance system, Super Cruise, that will expand its capability beyond highways and apply it to city streets, the automaker’s vice president of global product development Doug Parks said Tuesday.” Moreover, GM is continuing to enhance its current “Super Cruise product, Parks said during a webcasted interview at Citi’s 2020 Car of the Future Symposium.” Said Parks, “We’re trying to take that same capability off the highway,” with him also saying, in TechCrunch’s words, that a different “team is working on the hands-free city driving product known internally as ‘Ultra Cruise.’” Ultra Cruise would, according to Parks, “be all of the Super Cruise plus the neighborhoods, city streets and subdivisions. So Ultra Cruise’s domain would be essentially all driving, all the time.” However, he “was quick to add that this would not be autonomous driving.”
Japan To Launch Cargo Freighter To ISS Wednesday
Spaceflight Now (5/19, Clark) reports that a Japanese HTV “cargo freighter is ready for launch Wednesday with the last set of six lithium-ion batteries to upgrade the International Space Station’s solar power truss.” The launch is scheduled for 1731 GMT (1:31 p.m. EDT) from Tanegashima Space Center. The HTV will launch aboard a H-2B rocket, and “mark the retirement of the H-2B rocket, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.” Deployment “of the...HTV cargo craft is planned approximately 15 minutes after liftoff.” An “on-time launch Wednesday would put the HTV on course to arrive at the International Space Station on Monday, May 25.”
Survey: Many Americans Distrustful Of Autonomous Vehicles
Bloomberg (5/19, Boudway) reports a new poll conducted by SurveyUSA and commissioned by the Partners for Automated Vehicle Education finds 48 percent of the 1,200 adults surveyed “said they would ‘never get in a taxi or ride-share vehicle that was being driven autonomously,’ while 21% said they were unsure about it.” Meanwhile, a further 20 percent of respondents “said that AVs would never be safe, and another fifth stated incorrectly that it is possible ‘to own a completely driverless vehicle today.’” PAVE Executive Director Tara Andringa says, “Americans have a lack of trust and a lack of knowledge about AVs.”
Engadget (5/19) reports one important revelation of the survey was that “the mistrust most people have with self-driving cars isn’t related to accidents involving those vehicles,” as just “seven percent of people said they were familiar with the Tempe, Arizona collision where an autonomous vehicle Uber was testing struck and killed a pedestrian.” Likewise, merely “eight percent of respondents said they knew ‘a lot’ about accidents involving Tesla’s autopilot feature,” compared to 87 percent who “said they either knew ‘nothing at all’ or ‘a little’ about those incidents.”
Lockheed Martin To Slow Down Production Of F-35s, Possibly Delay Delivery Of Aircraft
Reuters (5/19, Stone) reports that Lockheed Martin “said on Tuesday it will slow production of its stealthy F-35 fighter jets at its Texas facility, possibly delaying delivery of between 18 and 24 jets due to a parts shortage as the coronavirus hampers production across the jet’s vast supply chain.” The production slowdown is expected to last from two to three months, according to Lockheed Martin Vice President for the F-35 Aircraft Production Business Unit Greg Ulmer. The company “said in a statement it expects the financial impact ‘to be consistent with what we’ve reported previously,’ and that they will share any new information during the next earnings call.” The “slower production schedule will begin on May 23.”
Engineering and Public Policy
U.S. Treasury Secretary, Federal Reserve Chair Differ On Priorities In Testimony To Senate Committee
The AP (5/19, Rugaber, Crutsinger) reports, “Facing the gravest U.S. economic crisis in decades,” Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell “offered Congress contrasting views Tuesday of what the government’s most urgent priority should be.” Mnuchin warned the Senate Banking Committee “that prolonged business shutdowns would pose long-term threats to the economy, from widespread bankruptcies for small businesses to long-term unemployment for millions of Americans. ... Powell, by contrast, stressed, as he has in recent weeks, that the nation is gripped by an economic shock ;without modern precedent’ and that Congress must consider providing further financial aid soon to support states, localities, businesses and individuals to prevent an even deeper recession.”
The New York Times (5/19) similarly reports they “offered contrasting views of how best to buttress the economy.” Powell “suggested that more fiscal support to states and businesses might be needed to avoid permanent economic damage.” Mnuchin “suggested that without an expeditious reopening, the economy might never fully recover.” USA Today (5/19, Hayes) reports both Mnuchin and Powell “offered a cautious view of the economy,” though Mnuchin “display[ed] a more optimistic outlook than Powell, who told the Senate Banking Committee that ‘the scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent and are significantly worse than any recession since World War II.’”
Additional coverage by Reuters (5/19, Lawder), The Hill (5/19, Lane), CNN (5/19, Lobosco), Bloomberg (5/19, Torres, Saraiva, Matthews), the Wall Street Journal (5/19, Timiraos, Davidson, Subscription Publication), Business Insider (5/19, Winck) and the Washington Post (5/19, Werner, Stein).
Boston Federal Reserve Bank President: Unemployment Could Peak Near 20%
Reuters (5/19, Marte) reports Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren said Tuesday that the unemployment rate “could peak at close to 20% as more Americans lose jobs in shutdowns to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and job losses could linger. ... ‘Unfortunately, even by the end of the year, I expect the unemployment rate to remain at double-digit levels,’ he said” in remarks prepared for a New England Council web event.
CBO Sees Unemployment Improving Sooner Than Previously Expected. The Washington Times (5/19, Dinan) reports the Congressional Budget Office “released new projections Tuesday showing a more optimistic view of the economy as it revives from the coronavirus crisis, saying unemployment will rebound faster than the analysts had projected. The jobless rate will dip to 15.8% over the summer, but that’s still slightly better than the 16% CBO projected about a month ago. And next year unemployment will average 9.3%, which is better than the 10.1% projected in April.”
EdWeek Publishes Special Report On How AI Is Being Used In Schools
Education Week (5/19) on Tuesday published a special report titled, “Tech Use Surges Under COVID-19: Where Does Artificial Intelligence Fit In?” According to EdWeek, the report “examines how artificial intelligence is currently being used in schools and how the surge in tech use during the COVID-19 school building closures might affect the use of AI once school buildings reopen; important lessons the K-12 system can learn about AI use from the health care, military, and higher education sectors; and perspectives on the upsides and downsides of expanding the use of artificial intelligence in schools.”
Education Week (5/20, Rauf) reports that some school districts might “shy away from AI tools in the immediate future while teachers and staff adjust to a new digital ecosystem already pushing the boundaries for many.” But, voice-activated devices such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Home are increasingly “being used as teaching assistants in classes.” Additionally, “AI is helping districts identify students who are at risk of dropping out, and math tutors and automated essay-scoring systems that have been used for decades now feature more sophisticated AI software than they did in the past.”
According to Education Week (5/20, Davis), “Sectors of our economy such as the military, health care, and higher education are much further along than the K-12 system in incorporating artificial intelligence systems and machine learning into their operations.” However, many of those uses “can spark ideas for applications in K-12 that may be more pertinent than ever imagined.”
Education Week (5/20, Rauf) interviews Robert Murphy, an AI expert who has “cautioned that artificial intelligence is not likely to transform education the same way it already has other high-profile industries such as transportation, drug discovery and health care.” Instead, Murphy has “argued that AI will continue to play a back-up role to enhance the classroom experience, assisting teachers with second-language learning, feedback on writing drafts, early diagnosis of reading problems, and through adaptive instruction for remediation.”
Education Week (5/20, Lieberman) interviews Deb Norton, a K-12 tech expert in Wisconsin who has “been connecting an increasingly diverse set of educators with the possibilities of AI as a teaching tool.” She teaches a course on AI for K-12 teachers, administrators, and tech leaders that “includes sections on the definition of artificial intelligence; machine learning; voice experiences and chatbots; and the role of data in AI systems.” Norton says “AI could become a really big part of virtual learning and at-home learning,” but she just doesn’t “think we’re quite there yet.”
Also in the News
NYTimes Analysis: Tesla Owners Grappling With Musk’s “Red Pill” Comment
The New York Times (5/19, Bowles) writes, “Owning a Tesla, the luxurious electric car, is a major liberal status symbol,” one offering “the perfect balance of wealth with care for fossil fuels. But the man behind the brand is crafting a very different persona online that may now prove to be a challenge for his fans. Elon Musk, the bombastic head of Tesla and SpaceX, exhorted his 34 million Twitter followers on Sunday to ‘take the red pill,’” a post that “was quickly embraced by his followers, including Ivanka Trump,” who “announced that she had taken the pill already. The exchange referred to a scene from ‘The Matrix.’” However, “the meaning of ‘red pill,’ and the idea of taking it, has since percolated in online forums and become a deeply political metaphor.” And now, “Tesla owners are having to grapple with a car that carries a few new connotations.”
Tuesday's Lead Stories
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