LEADING THE NEWS
University of Michigan’s “M-Air” UAV Test Facility Opens.
The AP (3/28, Householder) reports that the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has opened its 9,600 square-foot “M-Air” dedicated outdoor space for testing UAVs. The M-Air facility cost $800,000, and according to aerospace engineering professor Ella Atkins, “allows the students to come out and fly anything that fits in the net.” While outdoor flight on the campus must go through a “formal university approval process due to safety concerns about interference with hospital helicopters and other aircraft,” flights inside M-Air space are “considered indoors and don’t require that level of approval.”
The Detroit News (3/28) reports the “netted complex sits in between the aerospace research building and the soon-to-be Ford Motor Co. Robotics Building, which is to open in 2020. The facility is 50-feet high with a pavilion for up to 25 flyers at a time.” The News quotes Atkins saying, “With the addition, we can pursue research projects with all of the natural elements and without worrying about the drones flying away and us losing control. It will allow us and our students to explore all the things we dream of doing with autonomous aerial vehicles.”
MLive (MI) (3/28) reports that among the “host of applications” that drones tested at the university can have, “Atkins is in the early stages of developing roofing robots that can ferry shingles and eventually install them with a pneumatic nailer.”
Howard Fires Six Employees Over Misappropriation Of Student Financial Aid.
The Washington Post (3/28, Larimer, Douglas-Gabriel) reports Howard University officials fired six employees “for ‘gross misconduct and neglect of duties’ after school officials discovered that financial aid money had been misappropriated.” Howard officials “discovered that for nine years — from 2007 to 2016 — some employees who received tuition benefits to cover the cost of taking classes were also receiving university grants. That double dipping exceeded the actual cost of attendance, signaling that the workers appeared to be embezzling.”
Report: Albany Area Leading Nation In Awarding STEM Degrees To Women.
The Albany (NY) Times Union (3/29, Biggs) reports that according to a recent report from the Center for Economic Growth, over the past three years, colleges and universities in the Albany, New York area “have awarded undergraduate and graduate science, technology, engineering and math degrees to women at a higher rate than the nation.” The piece quotes CEG President Andrew Kennedy saying, “If there’s anything that employers want more than STEM talent, it’s a diverse STEM talent pool. To be able to show that our colleges and universities are training so many women with STEM skills — and that the Capital Region regularly hosts popular STEM events such as Girls in STEM — definitely enhances CEG’s industry attraction efforts.”
ASEE Elects President-Elect, New Board Members
Stephanie Adams, Dean of Engineering at Old Dominion University, will become ASEE's President-Elect this June.
In addition, Gary Steffen, Pritpal Singh, and Kenneth Van Treuren were elected to Board seats.
ASEE Letter in Suport of Researchers
In the face of watchdog media outlets questioning expenditures of federal funds, ASEE issues statement of support for education research. The full letter can be viewed here.
Council of Graduate Schools Survey
CGS will distribute a survey to graduate programs directors, informing a study titled Master’s Admission Attributes: Current Status and Missing Evidence. This project will help programs clarify goals and outcomes of master’s education, identify students who will succeed in master’s programs, and align curriculum to support master’s student degree completion and success.
International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences Meeting
The 2018 CAETS Conference is in Montevideo, Uruguay, hosted by the National Academy of Engineering of Uruguay, Sept 11-14. It will cover agriculture and forestry sustainability, with opportunities for discussion on how innovations will contribute to the advancement of the agriculture and forestry products chain in a sustainable manner. Further information as well as the call for papers, schedule, and registration information are available here.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Emails Show Close Relationship Between Uber, Ducey.
In continuing coverage of the fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona involving a pedestrian and a self-driving Uber car, the Associated Press (3/28) reports previously unreleased emails between Uber and officials from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration “shed new light on a cozy relationship between the first-term Republican and the company whose autonomous vehicle recently was involved in a fatal crash.” The AP says the emails, released by The Guardian, show “that Ducey’s staff worked closely with the company as it began experimenting with autonomous vehicles that the company began testing on public roads in August 2016 without informing the public,” though Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak asserted, “Allegations that any company has secretly tested self-driving cars in Arizona is 100 percent false.” Ptak added, “From the beginning we’ve been very public about the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles, and it has been anything but secret.”
Fox News (3/28) reports Ducey Chief of Staff Danny Seiden received an email from Uber in August 2016 saying that Uber would begin tests of its driverless vehicles that weekend, and the Ducey administration should give local police a “discreet heads up.” Fox News reports that The Guardian said Ducey didn’t officially welcome Uber’s self-driving vehicles to the state until December of that year and had not acknowledged that it had been allowing tests unannounced since August. The New York Post (3/28, Steinbuch) reports on emails surrounding several Uber-friendly initiatives enacted by Arizona.
Additional coverage of the accident was provided by Reuters (3/28, Shirouzu), Bloomberg News (3/28, Newcomer, Bergen), Bloomberg News (3/28), the Chicago (IL) Tribune (3/27), the Seattle (WA) Times (3/28), and Circa (3/28).
Uber Reduced Number Of Cameras Used By Self-Driving Vehicles. Business Insider (3/28) reports Uber had reduced the number of lidar cameras used by its self-driving vehicles from seven units to a single camera. BI reports that Uber had also disabled the collision avoidance system that comes with Volvo XC90 SUVs, and Aptive, the developer of the technology, said in a statement, “We don’t want people to be confused or think it was a failure of the technology that we supply for Volvo, because that’s not the case.” The New York Post (3/28) and The Verge (3/28) also report.
Self-Driving Cars Resume Testing In Boston. The Boston (MA) Globe (3/28, Vacarro) reports Boston officials have allowed NuTonomy and Optimus Ride to resume their tests of self-driving vehicles in the city after temporarily suspending the tests following last Sunday’s incident. Boston Transportation Commissioner Gina Fiandaca said, “We have met with our partners, nuTonomy and Optimus Ride, to review the testing policies and procedures that are mandatory components of the City of Boston’s program. With this safety review complete, Boston will allow autonomous-vehicle testing to resume.”
Researchers Make Paper-Like LCD.
Nanowerk (3/28) reports about new research published in Applied Physics Letters, “A flexible optically re-writable color liquid crystal display ,” where optoelectronic engineers from China and Hong Kong “manufactured a special type of liquid crystal display (LCD) that is paper-thin, flexible, light and tough.”
Researchers Show Nanoplatelets Can Make TV Displays More Energy-Efficient.
Nanowerk (3/28) reports about research published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry by researchers from NIST and Sharp Laboratories of America, Inc. Their paper, entitled “High-Temperature Photoluminescence in Colloidal ‘Quasi’ 2D Materials ,” demonstrates “new optical properties in sheet-like materials” called semiconductor nanoplatelets (NPLs) “that could eventually make flat-screen televisions, laptops and other light-emitting appliances more energy-efficient.”
Argonne Lab, UI Research Team Announce Possible Lithium-Air Battery Breakthrough.
Oil Price (3/28, Slav) reports on the prospects of lithium-air batteries which would use the “oxygen available in the air to produce electricity.” Theoretically, they “could become serious competitors to lithium-ion batteries; but so far, a commercial reality hasn’t emerged.” But a research team from the University of Illinois and the Argonne National Laboratory “have announced what could be a real breakthrough if their results can be replicated with identical performance of the battery.” Lithium-air batteries would combine oxygen from the air with lithium in the anode “and produce lithium peroxide.” This is “what happens during the discharge phase. During the charge phase, the lithium peroxide gets broken down back into lithium and oxygen.” The article adds that the researchers have found several workarounds to address “major challenges” that impede the process.
Satellite Imagery Helps Archaeologists Discover Previously Unknown Settlements In Amazon.
TIME (3/28, Barron) reports that archaeologists’ analysis of new satellite and UAV imagery in the Amazon has “revealed an extensive, pre-Colombian settlement dating back to 1250‒1500 AD.” According to the research published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, as many as one million people may have lived in the settlements. The researchers, acting on a tip, “pored over satellite imagery to identify possible geoglyphs – earthworks likely used for ceremonies – across a previously unexplored swathe of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.” Colorado State University archaeologist Christopher Fisher, who was not associated with the study, explained, “When you are on the ground, you cannot really see the landscape. You need a bird’s-eye view.” The findings have “upended assumptions about the inhabitance of the Amazon.”
Survey Finds Rising Cybersecurity Concerns Around IoT Devices; Venmo Mentioned.
ITProToday (3/28, Buntz) reports that a recent survey by the Ponemon Institute and Shared Assessments found that 97 percent of the 605 security and corporate governance professionals surveyed said that a data breach or a cyberattack related to Internet of Things devices could be potentially catastrophic. Furthermore, “the average number of IoT devices within a given organization is steadily ticking up, hitting 15,874, according to the survey. But less than half of those organizations – 44 percent – keeps an inventory of those devices, leaving them ill-equipped to detect suspicious IoT-based malware or network activity.” Charlie Miller, Senior Vice President at The Santa Fe Group, which was involved in the research, said that the steadily increasing number of IoT devices used in enterprise as well as consumer settings will likely open up wholly new types of cyberattacks. Miller added, “In a recent steering committee meeting, someone joked: ‘This will become a problem when your Alexa tells your refrigerator to order food based on your last order. Then, your refrigerator communicates to your PayPal, Venmo or Zelle account and the payment is made without you even knowing it. You have exposure across all of those devices.”
JPMorgan Hiring Engineering, Science Students Across Asia-Pacific Region.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek (3/28, Chan) reports that JPMorgan Chase “is hiring more engineering, neuroscience and psychology graduates across Asia-Pacific as it seeks to adapt its workforce to the region’s fast-changing economies.” Of the 1,000 graduates “who will start in JPMorgan’s class of 2018 this June, 39 percent have degrees in subjects other than business or finance, the highest proportion in data going back three years.” As “finance and technology converge and politics and regulations play an ever-increasing role in banking, the need for people schooled in disciplines ranging from computing to political science is growing, said John Hall, who co-heads the bank’s Asia-Pacific investment banking unit.”
WannaCry Virus Hits Boeing, Jetliner Production “Not Affected.”
Bloomberg News (3/28, Johnsson) reports that on Wednesday, the Boeing Company “said it was hit by a cyberattack, following a Seattle Times report that some manufacturing equipment used to build its 787 Dreamliner and newest 777 wide-body jets could be crippled.” According to Boeing, aircraft production and deliveries have not been affected, and Boeing Commercial Airplanes Vice President of Communications Linda Mills called some reports of the attack “overstated and inaccurate.” According to Mills, Boeing’s “cybersecurity operations center detected a limited intrusion of malware that affected a small number of systems.” Assembly lines potentially “affected by the software problem include those of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner North Charleston, South Carolina, and the 777X Composite Wing Center, the Seattle Times report indicated.”
The Seattle Times (3/28, Gates) reports that the virus used to attack Boeing was the WannaCry virus, which “first surfaced in a May 2017 worldwide cyberattack.” After an “initial scare within the company that vital airplane-production equipment might be brought down, company executives later offered assurances that the attack had been quashed with minimal damage.” Boeing Commercial Airplane Chief Engineer Mike VanderWel sent out a memo calling for “all hands on deck,” writing that the virus is “metastasizing rapidly out of North Charleston and I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down,” and that the virus might “spread to airplane software.” Mills later explained that after a “final assessment,” Boeing determined, “The vulnerability was limited to a few machines,” and that there was “no interruption to the 777 jet program or any of our programs.”
ENGINEERING AND PUBLIC POLICY
Malarkey: AV Industry Should Not Be Allowed To Self-Regulate.
Daniel Malarkey, who studies AV issues at the Sightline Institute in Seattle, writes in the Seattle Times (3/28), “The companies developing self-driving technology tout safety as one of the main benefits,” and AVs “could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives over time, once they work well. But who decides when they are ready? Who gives them their licenses? It shouldn’t be the companies developing them.” Malarkey writes that the auto industry “has fought sensible safety standards for decades, opposing requirements for safety glass, seat belts, air bags and catalytic converters,” and there is no reason to believe AV developers will behave differently. He writes that while AVs show great promise, they require government regulation, not industry self-regulation.
Trump Administration Proposes Ending Penalties For Violating Auto Efficiency Regulations.
The Hill (3/28, Cama) reports that “the Trump administration is proposing to scrap an Obama administration rule that increased penalties for automakers who violate fuel efficiency standards by more than 150 percent.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “implemented the higher penalties under former President Obama in 2016, though they weren’t due to take effect until the 2019 model year.” The Hill writes, “NHTSA says the previous administration misinterpreted the 2015 law, and it doesn’t apply to fines under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program.”
The Daily Caller (3/28, Pearce) reports that the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation has an April 1 deadline to issue revised targets for 2022-2025, and it appears the agency may repeal Obama-era standards. Commenting on news of the possible repeal, Ford Chair Bill Ford and President and CEO Jim Hackett wrote an op-ed in Medium that stated, “We support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.” The two added, “We want one set of standards nationally, along with additional flexibility to help us provide more affordable options for our customers.” Still, the Caller explains that their “wording is ambiguous” in their Medium article, meaning the duo “are not necessarily calling for the Obama-era standards to remain untouched.”
Platts (3/28) reports that “the Auto Alliance trade group has campaigned for one national program, arguing automakers cannot make two different fleets,” one for potentially tougher California standards and one for nationwide standards.
NYTimes Analysis: Natural Gas Proponents “On the Defensive.”
The New York Times (3/28, Penn, Subscription Publication) reports in an analysis that while “natural gas has emerged as the nation’s No. 1 power source,” technology and economics “have carved a different, shorter pathway that has bypassed the broad need for some fossil-fuel plants. And that has put proponents of natural gas on the defensive.” Some companies have abandoned “plans for new natural-gas plants in favor of wind and solar sources that have become cheaper and easier to install” and existing plants “are being shut because their economics are no longer attractive.” Moreover, “regulators are increasingly challenging the plans of companies determined to move forward with new natural-gas plants.”
Black Girls Code Creator Pushes To Inspire Young Black Women To Pursue Tech Careers.
Reuters (3/28, Mannion) profiles Black Girls Code, a charitable organization “set up by Kimberley Bryant, an electrical engineer, in 2011 to give African-American girls between the ages of seven and 17 weekend and summer classes in computer programming, app development and web design.” Bryant “started the charity after her daughter returned from a coding camp as the only black girl, mirroring her own experience decades earlier.” The article reports Bryant “believes more young black women need to be trained – and inspired – to pursue technology careers to close the gap between the number of jobs available and people with skills to fill them.”
New York FIRST Team Takes Part In Hydrodynamics Challenge.
The Herkimer (NY) Times Telegram (3/28) reports students with the Herkimer Junior-Senior High School’s Power of T.E.N. team took part in a “hydro dynamics” challenge. The piece quotes teacher and adviser Ryan Nicklaw saying, “The kids love the challenge and friendly competition in a less structured environment than school.” Nicklaw said students “had ‘to identify and solve a problem involving how water is found, used, transported or disposed of.’”
California Students Take Part In STEM Expo.
KHSL-TV Chico, CA (3/27) reports that over 100 students on Tuesday “shared their projects at the Glenn County STEM Expo” in Orland, California. “Students presented projects on nutrition, computation and robotics, and physical science. Glenn County Superintendent Tracey Quarne said he’s attended these fairs for more than 20 years and said he hopes more young boys, and girls, will get into the field of science.”
Apple, Northwestern Offering Coding Professional Development To Chicago Teachers.
Diverse Education (3/28) reports on a partnership between Northwestern University, Apple, and Chicago Public Schools “to provide professional learning opportunities in coding to Chicago teachers.” The partnership will set up a “Center for Excellence” at “Lane Tech College Prep High School to introduce high school teachers to Apple’s Everyone Can Code and App Development with Swift curriculum. The effort aims to bring coding into the classroom and address the shortage of high school computer science teachers.”