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Leading the News
HBCUs To Receive $15M From Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation For COVID-19 Testing, Screening
The Washington Post (10/13, Lumpkin) reports up to ten schools “will receive millions of dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support campus coronavirus testing facilities and expand screening for thousands of students at historically Black colleges and universities, the foundation announced Tuesday.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “three-year, $15 million donation will equip as many as 10 schools to be testing hubs that process tests for the novel coronavirus that are administered at other HBCUs in their regions.” USA Today (10/13, Aspegren) reports the grants will allow these HBCUs to “test all of their students, faculty and staff, as often as their protocols will require,” Gates Foundation Director of Strategy Planning & Management Toni Hoover said.
The Wall Street Journal (10/13, Goldman, Subscription Publication) says each HBCU – Florida A&M University, Hampton University, Howard University, Meharry Medical College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Xavier University – will receive $1.5 million. Up to four additional schools will be added to the donation in upcoming weeks.
Missouri S&T Receives $300 Million Gift From St. Louis Businessman
Bloomberg (10/12) reports HBE Corp. founder Fred Kummer and his wife June “donated $300 million to Missouri University of Science & Technology, the largest gift in its history, to support a new school of innovation and entrepreneurship and also provide scholarships.” Missouri S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani called the gift “transformative” in a Monday statement. It will allow Missouri S&T to “dramatically increase the size of our student body, recruit outstanding new faculty, establish powerful new centers of research, and engage with the community in new and exciting ways.” The AP (10/12) reports Kummer is a 1955 civil engineering graduate of Missouri S&T, “which was then known as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy.”
The Wall Street Journal (10/12, Belkin, Subscription Publication) and Forbes (10/12, Nietzel) also provide coverage.
Amazon’s Lab126 Donates $100,000 To University Of Maryland For Diversity Initiatives, Robotics Programming
The Washington (DC) Business Journal (10/13, Capriel, Subscription Publication) reports Amazon “is again putting more money toward computer science education in Greater Washington,” with its Lab126 donating $100,000 “to the University of Maryland’s engineering school for diversity initiatives and robotics programming.” Lab126 is “the research-and-development team behind Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets and Echo speakers,” and it “will be launching a diversity initiative within the university’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, the school and the company announced Monday.” The $100,000 “is expected to fund two doctoral fellowships in robotics for this academic year,” as well as “help establish an expansion of a capstone course in autonomous robotics and fund university chapters of the Black Engineers Society and the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers.” The donation also will “go toward the Clark School’s Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering.”
Keeping Track Of College Students Reportedly A “Logistical Nightmare” For Health Departments Amid Pandemic
Kaiser Health News (10/12, Weber) reports that “as the return of college students to campuses has fueled as many as 3,000 COVID-19 cases a day, keeping track of them is a logistical nightmare for local health departments and colleges.” Some college “students are putting down their home addresses instead of their college ones on their COVID testing forms – slowing the transfer of case data and hampering contact tracing across state and county lines.” Furthermore, “college-age people already tend to be hard to trace because they are unlikely to answer a phone call from an unknown number.”
Monmouth University “Super-Spreader Event” Led To 125 COVID Cases
NBC News (10/13) reports a Monmouth University spokeswoman said a “super-spreader event” caused positive coronavirus tests for more than 100 students and forced the New Jersey school into all-online classes. The outbreak “was traced to a single off-campus private gathering that resulted in 125 positive Covid-19 cases among the West Long Branch school’s nearly 5,700 pupils.” The university declined to specify what kind of event it was, only saying it was a “social gathering” that happened about two weeks ago.
CBS News (10/13) reports Monmouth has reported over 319 coronavirus cases since August 25. The school’s COVID-19 dashboard shows “only 96 of those cases are considered active, while the other 223 account for recovered cases.” Fox News (10/13, Miles) also provides coverage.
BYU-Idaho “Deeply Troubled” Over Reports Students May Have Tried To Contract COVID-19 For Plasma Donor Payout
NPR (10/13, Chappell) reports, “Administrators at Brigham Young University’s campus in southeastern Idaho say they are ‘deeply troubled’ by reports that students may have intentionally tried to contract COVID-19, lured by blood donation centers that are paying a premium for plasma with COVID-19 antibodies.” The university said in a statement, “Students who are determined to have intentionally exposed themselves or others to the virus will be immediately suspended from the university and may be permanently dismissed.” The university “condemned the behavior, saying it is ‘actively seeking evidence of any such conduct among our student body.’”
The New York Post (10/14, Garger) and Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (10/13, Tanner) also provide coverage.
Report: Politics Linked To College Reopening Decisions
Education Dive (10/13, Busta) reports that “colleges that decided early how they’d offer classes this fall tended to stick to that approach at least through early August, with public and private schools in Republican-led states more likely to delay the decision or opt for in-person instruction.” The findings “come from a preliminary analysis of campus reopenings data from the College Crisis Initiative (C2i), which is tracking colleges’ responses to the pandemic.” However, “the authors found ‘no discernible pattern’ to suggest coronavirus case rates were a key part of decisions.”
Colleges Using Freebies To Encourage COVID Screening, Testing
Inside Higher Ed (10/13, Anderson) reports that “now that students are back on some college campuses and settled into the fall semester, early efforts to keep them vigilant about staying healthy and coronavirus-free during the pandemic are losing steam.” Infection reduction and monitoring strategies “that are heavily promoted by institutions just aren’t cutting it anymore.” Students “are already tired of being constantly reminded by emails and signs all over their campuses that this is not a normal college year, and they’re badly missing the ordinary routines that used to be part of the college experience.” College administrators and student activities officials “are reaching back to classic student engagement tactics, such as gift freebies and prize giveaways, to encourage students to participate in COVID-19 testing and screening and to stay motivated about their institutions’ efforts to prevent infection outbreaks.”
Data Shows That Pandemic May Not Have Worsened Campus Mental-Health Crisis
The Chronicle of Higher Education (10/14, Brown) reports that “as the pandemic disrupted collegiate life, mental-health experts feared a worsening crisis.” Some worried “that counseling centers would be overwhelmed by demand, leading to longer wait times and less effective treatment for students who were struggling and at risk of dropping out.” However, “early data from campus counseling centers challenge the idea that colleges are on the brink of a mental-health disaster.” The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors “recently surveyed 144 colleges, asking them to compare the first four weeks of this semester with the first four weeks of fall 2019.” The survey “found a 29-percent decrease in the number of students seeking counseling services.”
Most Alabama Four-Year Universities To Not Require Admission Tests For 2021 School Year
Diverse Issues in Higher Education (10/13, Kyaw) reports that “most of Alabama’s four-year universities are not requiring college admissions test scores for the 2021 school year, many citing the difficulty students had in taking the test last spring, AL.com reported.” The University of Alabama “announced waiving standardized test score requirements last week, followed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham doing the same on Tuesday.”
Princeton To Pay Nearly $1M To Female Professors, Addressing Inequality
The New York Times (10/13, León) reports that Princeton University “has agreed to pay nearly $1 million in back wages to female professors after a review found disparities in compensation between male and female professors, the U.S. Department of Labor said.” The review, “which started in 2014 and focused on the wages of female full professors from 2012 to 2014, found that 106 women had been paid less than their male counterparts, according to a statement last week from the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.”
Coronavirus Forces College Libraries To Quarantine Print Materials, Textbooks
Inside Higher Ed (10/13, McKenzie) reports that “in the run-up to exams and midterms, the library at Roger Williams University is often busy with students trying to borrow textbooks and squeeze in some last-minute studying.” Access to these materials “is always limited because the number of textbooks available is small.” However, “this semester, the imbalance between supply and demand is far worse than usual, said Lindsey Gumb, assistant professor and scholarly communications librarian at Roger Williams, a private liberal arts college in Rhode Island where students are back on campus this semester and participating in hybrid instruction.” As a safety precaution “to slow the potential spread of COVID-19, librarians at Roger Williams are quarantining all returned print materials for 72 hours before making them available again.”
Report: Some Associate-Level Programs Have Similar Returns On Investment Than More Advanced Degrees
Education Dive (10/14, Schwartz) reports that “some associate-level programs have similar or better returns on investment than more advanced degrees in other fields one year after graduation, according to a new report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW).” The report “points to some nursing and STEM degrees, in particular, as having high value for associate degree holders.” Programs in-demand locally “can also yield large returns, the report’s lead author said.” The analysis “is based on program-level data from the College Scorecard, an online tool from the U.S. Department of Education.” Researchers “say having this data accessible could increase accountability among colleges.”
Opinion: Colleges Remain Silent After Trump’s Executive Order On Diversity Training
In an opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education (10/13), Ohio State University assistant professor Hasan Kwame Jeffries writes that “this past summer, far-right media outlets from Fox News to Breitbart flooded the airwaves and the internet with stories about diversity training within the federal government.” These features “castigated the programs, accusing them of encouraging discrimination against white people, especially white men, by promoting ideas of white racial inferiority.” He maintains that “this...was nonsense” and “diversity training does no such thing.” Trump’s executive order against diversity training “was clearly designed to suppress diversity, equity, and inclusion work in higher education.” Most colleges “reacted to the executive order the same way they have to other grievance politics grenades (the travel ban, border-wall construction, ICE raids) Trump has thrown their way – they remained silent.”
New Prism Magazine Online
Our cover story, "A Virtual Reality" examines how engineering educators find creative substitutes for in-person labs and other hands-on learning experiences. This story and more, at the Prism online site.
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Conference Report on Increasing Participation of Minority-Serving Institutions in the NSF CISE Core Programs
This new meeting report details outcomes from an event that assembled 90 MSI faculty to learn about increasing the number and competitiveness of their proposals to NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Core Programs.
Webinar: Supporting Underrepresented Engineering Students in the Time of COVID-19 - Oct. 22 at 2 PM, ET
Explore how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting traditionally underrepresented students in engineering and how faculty and administrators can better support these students, sharing preliminary insights and lessons learned from two NSF RAPID grants. Register Now!
Webinar: Supporting Engineering Graduate Students in the Time of COVID-19 - Nov. 5 at 1 PM, ET
This free webinar will explore how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting engineering graduate students and how faculty and administrators can better support these students, sharing preliminary insights and lessons learned from three NSF RAPID grants. Register now!
Research and Development
University Of South Carolina Researchers Develop Model Showing How Many COVID Infections Masks Prevent
The Charleston (SC) Post and Courier (10/10, Moore) reported University of South Carolina researchers “have developed a model of the coronavirus pandemic showing that masks have stemmed the spread of disease and prevented tens of thousands of infections in places that have adopted them widely.” The USC Model, developed by the school’s Artificial Intelligence Institute, “looks for patterns between the prevalence of COVID-19 in different areas and estimates of how often people wear masks.” Biplav Srivastava, the USC professor leading the modeling project, “said the tool is meant to highlight the importance of wearing a mask and to give decision makers more information as they consider public health measures.”
Clemson Engineering Alumnae Lead NASA Teams Aiming To Visit The Moon, Mars
The Columbia (SC) State (10/13, Riddle) reports on how two Clemson University engineering alumnae are “working on America’s return to the moon, where astronauts will build a base to enable missions to Mars.” Vanessa Wyche, deputy director at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, was “one of the few women in engineering at Clemson in the 1980s.” While some professors “were not used to having women in their classrooms,” Wyche “learned the great equalizer was being able to do the work.” Meanwhile, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, launch director at the Kennedy Space Center, has been “involved in every shuttle mission” since 1988. Blackwell-Thompson and her team are now “training and testing for next year’s Artemis liftoff.” Wyche is currently overseeing the design of the Artemis “rocket and spacecraft and the training of the crews,” and Blackwell-Thompson “will be launch director for the Artemis missions.”
The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer (10/13, Riddle) and Charlotte (NC) Observer (10/13) also carried this story.
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Audi, FAW Deepen Partnership To Build Electric Vehicles In China
Bloomberg (10/13, Nicola) reports Audi and FAW “signed a memorandum of understanding” Tuesday “to start a company that will produce electric cars for the Chinese market from 2024.” The vehicles will be battery-powered and “designed to meet the requirement of local premium buyers and use the PPE electric platform developed with Porsche.” In a statement, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann said, “This decision emphasizes the strategic importance of the Chinese market.” The story says Chinese state support for the electric-vehicle industry has made the country the largest market in the world for electric vehicles, but Europe “looks increasingly likely to outpace China soon” in EV sales in the wake of “higher subsidies in several countries.”
Tesla Reduces Model S Price In US, China
Reuters (10/13) reports Tesla “said on Tuesday it cut the price of its Model S ‘Long Range’ sedan by 4% in the United States, days after the electric-car maker reported record quarterly deliveries.” Moreover, in addition to decreasing “the price to $71,990 from $74,990 in the United States,” Tesla also cut “the starting price of the Model S by 3% in China.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Prospects Fade For Additional Stimulus Before Election
Bloomberg (10/13, House) reports the chances for coronavirus stimulus legislation before Election Day “dimmed on Tuesday” as House Speaker Pelosi “demand[ed] the White House revamp its latest offer” and Senate Majority Leader McConnell pushed “a smaller-scale strategy that Pelosi quickly rejected.” The AP (10/13, Taylor) reports that McConnell “said Tuesday that he’s scheduling a procedural vote on a GOP COVID-19 relief bill next week, saying aid to hard-hit businesses shouldn’t be held up by gridlock involving other aid proposals.”
Politico (10/13, Everett) reports that McConnell made the case on Tuesday that the GOP bill “would offer more money for unemployment insurance and provide funding for schools and hospitals, in addition to funding PPP.” Politico adds, “McConnell’s move towards a vote now suggests at least some effort to unite the GOP,” while the Washington Post (10/13, Stein, Werner) reports McConnell’s move is “aimed at pressuring congressional Democrats” as bipartisan agreement on coronavirus relief legislation “remains out of reach.” It comes as President Trump “urged Congress to vote on a much more substantive package than what McConnell prepared to offer.”
Reuters (10/13, Cornwell) reports Democrats “have rejected” bills of the type being advanced by McConnell “as they hold out for trillions in aid.” Reuters adds, “Both sides say more aid is needed now, but appear to remain far apart, and a bipartisan deal on coronavirus relief remains unlikely before Nov. 3 presidential and congressional elections.” Likewise, Roll Call (10/13, Lerman) calls McConnell’s “skinny” bill “a new attempt to jump-start negotiations,” but adds there is “little reason to think” the legislation “stands any real chance of becoming law.” Axios (10/13, Arias) reports the measure “could serve as a backstop in the event that a new bill is passed in the House that Republicans in the Senate deem unworkable.”
The Wall Street Journal (10/13, Duehren, Subscription Publication) reports the White House proposed an almost $1.9 trillion plan last weekend, but Pelosi said in a conference call with House Democrats Tuesday that she would continue to push for a better deal.
Additional coverage by CNBC (10/13, Pramuk), The Hill (10/13, Marcos) and the New York Times (10/13, Cochrane).
IMF: Global Economic Damage From Pandemic Will Be Less Severe Than Anticipated
The Wall Street Journal (10/13, Zumbrun, Subscription Publication) reports the IMF predicted Tuesday that global economic damage from the coronavirus will not be as severe as anticipated due to government actions around the world and China’s fast recovery. Global GDP is expected to fall by 4.4% this year, which is less than the 5.2% the IMF predicted in June. Output is forecast to increase 5.2% in 2021, less than the previous projection of 5.4%.
Companies Delaying Return-To-Office Dates To Summer 2021
The New York Times (10/13, Friedman, Browning) reports when US companies closed offices due to the pandemic, many “told their employees that it would be only a short hiatus away from headquarters,” only to repeatedly delay the return date. Now, “with the virus still surging in some parts of the country, a growing number of employers are delaying return-to-office dates once again, to the summer of 2021 at the earliest.” Google “was one of the first to announce that July 2021 was its return-to-office date.” It was followed by Uber, Slack, Airbnb, Microsoft, Target, Ford Motor and The New York Times, all of which “postponed the return of in-person work to next summer and acknowledged the inevitable: The pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon.” The Times also reports, “More companies are also saying that they will institute permanent work-from-home policies so employees do not ever have to come into the office again.”
Binghamton University Researchers Develop Program To Help Children, Caregivers Practice STEM At Home
Amber S. Simpson, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at Binghamton University, and Peter N. Knox, Ph.D. Candidate in Community & Public Affairs at Binghamton University, write in The Conversation (10/13) about their hybrid approach – utilizing on-screen and off-screen time – to helping “children learn engineering design practices at home.” They say their program “encourages families to work on the activities together using household items like recyclables.” Simpson and Knox claim the “accessible nature of our method of instruction provides a manageable model for at-home learning” and helps caregivers “assist students learning remotely.” The program also addresses the “deficit of engineering content within elementary school STEM curriculum.” They conclude by saying their researchers “will begin working with more local families in the states of New York and Indiana beginning January 2021.”
Purdue Aerospace Professor Helps Elementary Students Send Science Experiment Into Space
The New York Times (10/13, Chang) reports on how Steven Collicott, an aerospace professor at Purdue University, helped students at a nearby elementary school develop an experiment observing fireflies in zero gravity and, with the help of Blue Origin, send the small experiment into space on “its New Shepard suborbital spacecraft for as little as $8,000.” On Dec. 12, 2017, the experiment was on board New Shepard, where an “apparatus replicated the chemistry of how fireflies generate light, with syringes mixing the glow-creating substances together as the capsule reached the top of the trajectory more than 60 miles above West Texas.” It turns out “fireflies can indeed glow in space.”
Tuesday's Lead Stories
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