LEADING THE NEWS
Arizona Suspends Self-Driving Uber Tests.
In continuing coverage of last Sunday’s accident in which a self-driving Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, the Wall Street Journal (3/26, Lazo, Bensinger, Subscription Publication) reports Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sent a letter to Uber demanding that the company stop testing its autonomous cars on public roads in Arizona. The New York Times (3/26, Wakabayashi, Subscription Publication) reports Arizona had been allowing Uber to test its vehicles in the state if Uber “would prioritize public safety as it tested the technology,” and the letter, sent to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, said, “The incident that took place on March 18 is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation.” The Times calls the letter a “reversal from what has been an open-arms policy by the state, heralding its lack of regulation as an asset to lure autonomous vehicle testing — and tech jobs.” The Arizona Republic (3/26) similarly writes that in 2016, Ducey “issued an executive order welcoming self-driving car companies to the state without any special oversight.”
Reuters (3/26) reports Ducey wrote that the video was “disturbing and alarming, and it raises many questions about the ability of Uber to continue testing in Arizona.” Bloomberg News (3/26, Newcomer) reports Ducey said “improving public safety” had been the reason Arizona was trying to attract self-driving vehicle tests to the state, but “Arizona will not tolerate any less than an unequivocal commitment to public safety.” Bloomberg reports that a video showing the moments before the crash “showed the Uber car moving at a constant speed with no attempt to slow down or swerve in the moments before the collision,” and both Waymo and Intel have released statements in the past week that their self-driving vehicles would have detected the pedestrian and responded to the situation.
Judge’s Ruling Raises Possibility Of Resurrection Of Defrocked Accreditor.
Politico (3/26, Stratford) reports last Friday’s ruling by a federal judge that ED made procedural errors and “failed to consider relevant evidence when it decided to terminate federal recognition of the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools in December 2016.” The ruling sent the case “back to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ‘for further proceedings,’ a move that opens the door for the Trump administration to quickly undo the termination — even before her agency goes through the full process of considering the accreditor’s new application for reinstatement.”
Tesla Unveils 12-Week Electric Car Workforce Training Program.
CNBC (3/26) reports Tesla has “officially announced the Tesla START program, a 12-week training program aimed at providing students with the technical skills they need to join the ranks of the electric car manufacturer.” Participants “earn a wage from Tesla while attending classes (the company wouldn’t comment on how much), and those who earn grades of 80 percent or higher are guaranteed a job at a Tesla service center after graduation.”
Hundreds Of College Students Investing Federal Loan Money In Cryptocurrencies.
Fortune (3/26, Nusca) reports “a small study of 1,000 college students conducted this month by financial website The Student Loan Report” found that hundreds of college students “are apparently experimenting with leveraged investing by taking their education loan money and plowing it into highly volatile cryptocurrency investments” like Bitcoin. The Student Loan Report founder Drew Cloud alleged that students are legally permitted to do so “because some of those funds are used for ‘living expenses,’ a flexible category that covers myriad potential necessities.” Under ED regulations, however, such an investment “certainly isn’t allowed,” as “living expenses” must be education-related. Fortune also calls into question whether the investment is “a smart financial move,” in part because federal student loan interest rates range “between 4% and 7% for the 2017-18 school year, depending on the type of loan and the level of education; meanwhile the price of Bitcoin has dropped about 18% over the course of this month.”
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
Clemson Researchers: Steel Tariffs Could Increase Demand For Composites.
Greenville (SC) Business Magazine (3/21) reports that Srikanth Pilla, an associate professor of auto engineering at Clemson University, “believes that cost is the biggest barrier to using more composite materials in automotive manufacturing but that those materials could become more attractive if steel and aluminum prices rise in the wake of new tariffs.” Such materials “could have big advantages over metals in the making of cars” because they “can be made up to 10 times stronger and a fifth the weight of steel.” However, they are more expensive than steel or aluminum. Pilla is “leading a team that is working with an original equipment manufacturer to create a driver’s side front-door assembly out of carbon-fiber-thermoplastic composites. The goal is to reduce the weight by 42.5 percent, helping automakers meet new fuel-efficiency standards going into effect in 2025.”
Raytheon Developing Software To Control Swarms Of Small Autonomous Vehicles.
FlightGlobal (3/26, Reim) reports Raytheon BBN “is developing technology to direct and control swarms of small, autonomous air and ground vehicles, as part of DARPA’s Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics, or OFFSET, programme, the company announced on 26 March.” The software “allows users to drag and drop the creation and manipulation of tactics, and provides a game-based simulator to evaluate swarm tactics.”
UC San Diego Still Plans To Test Autonomous Golf Carts On Campus.
The San Diego Union-Tribune (3/26, Robbins) reports that “UC San Diego is preparing to move ahead with the testing of self-driving vehicles on campus even though the driverless car industry has been shaken” by the Arizona Uber incident. UC San Diego “intends to use two experimental self-driving golf carts loaded with sensors to deliver the mail at a limited number of spots during daylight hours.”
These AR Goggles Are Making Faster Fixes In Oil Fields
Bloomberg News (3/26, Vinn) reports on the Smart Helmet designed by Baker Hughes and Italian developer VRMedia which uses augmented reality technology to allow engineers to remotely supervise technician making repairs to the company’s turbines and other equipment. Baker Hughes Director of Emerging Technologies John Westerheide anticipates that similar technology will make future workplaces more virtual, interactive, and collaborative.
Researchers Create 2D Nanosheet, Observe “Sizeable Photostrictive Effect.”
Nanowerk (3/27) reports researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo “have fabricated a flexible two-dimensional (2D) charge transfer molecular (sub-nanometer) nanosheet and observed a sizeable photostrictive effect of 5.7% with fast, sub-millisecond response; this is higher than that of some conventional ferroelectronics and polar semiconductors.” Shenqiang Ren, a Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and the Research and Education in eNergy, Environment & Water (RENEW) Institute at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, told Nanowerk, “The photostrictive mechanism presented here is very new, which extends the photostrictive research field in the research community. ... In addition, our findings yield a new platform for 2D molecular charge transfer nanosheets with potential applications in flexible 2D photo-driven microsensors and actuators.” The study was published in PNAS.
Zero 2 Infinity To Use 3D-Printed Combustion Chamber For Bloostar Launch Vehicle.
SPACE (3/26, Henry) reports that Spanish startup Zero 2 Infinity will use a 3D-printed combustion chamber for the engines the company is “developing to power its Bloostar balloon-assisted orbital rocket.” The Bloostar launch vehicle will use balloons to “rise above the densest layer of Earth’s atmosphere before firing rocket engines to place satellites weighing up to 75 kilograms into low Earth orbit.” The Andalusian Foundation for Aerospace Development (FADA) “printed the combustion chamber this month for Zero 2 Infinity, the company said March 22.” Airbus Defence and Space is a board member of FADA. Zero 2 Infinity plans to use 3D printing to lower the “mass, cost, and environmental impact of the engines, as well as the time needed to build them.” In partnership with FADA’s Advanced Center for Aerospace Technology, the startup also “plans to apply artificial intelligence (AI) and neural networks to engineer more effectively cooled thrust chambers.”
UK´s First Self-drive Mainline Train Carries Passengers
Press Association (UK) (3/26) reports Britain’s first autonomous mainline train began operating Monday on the Thameslink service in central London. The technology was developed by Siemens and is integrated with Network Rail’s digital signalling system.
ENGINEERING AND PUBLIC POLICY
EPA Outlines New Research Transparency Policy.
The New York Times (3/26, Subscription Publication) reports that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt laid out a new transparency policy last week that would limit the agency by allowing it to only consider studies in which the data is publicly available. Critics say that as a result, “the agency will have a narrower and incomplete body of research to draw on when considering regulations.” The legislation aims to “preclude the E.P.A. from using any studies that could not be independently reproduced,” and has already received support from Exxon Mobil, Peabody Energy, Koch Industries and the American Chemistry Council.
Op-eds In WSJournal, NYTimes At Odds On Pruitt’s Call For Data Transparency. Blogger Steve Milloy, in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (3/26, Subscription Publication), welcomes EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s move to cease allowing the agency’s regulators and researchers from advancing their political agendas through unaccountable science. Milloy focuses on researchers not providing the underlying data in the 1990’s for studies on fine particulate matter. He concludes by calling for Congress to pass a law requiring data transparency.
Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and former EPA Office of Air and Radiation acting Assistant Administrator Janet G. McCabe, in an op-ed in the New York Times (3/26, Subscription Publication), claim that through his “latest effort to cripple the agency,” EPA Scott Pruitt declared “that he alone will decide what is and isn’t acceptable science for the agency to use when developing policies.” He will not consider studies relying on nonpublic scientific data, despite many studies relying “on medical records that by law are confidential because of patient privacy policies” or using industry data that is “kept confidential for business reasons” and peer review ensuring “that the analytic methodologies underlying studies funded by the agency are sound.” McCarthy and McCabe conclude that Pruitt “and some conservative members of Congress are setting up a nonexistent problem in order to prevent the E.P.A. from using the best available science” as part of the Trump Administration’s established motive of putting “the profits of regulated industries over the health of the American people.”
San Antonio Solar Firms Installing Microgrids In Puerto Rico.
The San Antonio Business Journal (3/26, Subscription Publication) reports, in the six months following Hurricane Maria, members of San Antonio’s solar industry, including Mission Solar Energy, CPS Energy, and Sunnova, have traveled to Puerto Rico to install “several microgrids using solar panels and storage batteries” as part of efforts to restore the island’s electricity grid. Mission Solar Energy spokesperson Alexandrea Lucas said, “We’re giving them availability whenever they need, and we’re selling them at our wholesale price. ... They don’t need to go through a distributor. They’re buying them directly through us.” Solar experts are also “training engineering students, master electricians and laborers...how to install and maintain the microgrids.”
Court Rules In Favor Of Environmentalists On Stricter Standards For Coal, Gas Development.
The Daily Caller (3/26, Pearce) reports that on Friday the US District Court for the District of Montana ruled in favor of environmental groups, finding that “a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) analysis of fossil fuel rich areas of Wyoming and Montana is incomplete and must factor climate change more fully into the study.” The ruling found that “the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” and that it “must reassess the Powder River Basin and account for the carbon released into the atmosphere if all coal, gas and oil in the area were burned” as well as “consider drafting other development plans that would leave more coal undeveloped in the ground.”
Study: Steep Emissions Reductions Needed To Meet Paris Agreement, But Not Zero.
Bloomberg News (3/26, Sullivan) reports that according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, “meeting the Paris Accord’s temperature targets will take massive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions within 15 years, but won’t require them to be reduced to zero.” However, if warming increases more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, “the consequences would likely require both drastic cuts to emissions and geoengineering efforts to remove carbon from the atmosphere,” the study by researchers at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies. Researchers “created scenarios that would achieve both the temperature goals and emissions guidelines” and determined that doing “so would necessitate cutting emissions 80 percent by 2033 to meet the 1.5 degree target or about 66 percent by 2060 to meet the 2 degree mark.” The researchers stated that in either scenario, following the targeted reduction “emissions could then flatten out without ever falling to zero.”
EPA Expected To Repeal Obama-Era CAFE Standards.
The Hill (3/26, Cama) reports that in a determination set to be proposed this week, the EPA “is expected to declare that the Obama administration’s fuel efficiency rules for cars are too strict, two people familiar with the matter said.” The move “would side with the argument automakers have been making for years” that the EPA’s “vehicle greenhouse gas standards and the related Department of Transportation efficiency standards for model years 2022 through 2025 need to be revised.” In addition, it would “open the door for the EPA to weaken the standards and set up a likely confrontation with California, whose regulators have decided to retain the strict standards that they negotiated with the Obama administration.”
E&E Publishing (3/26, Subscription Publication) reports that it will be “months before officials decide the full extent of the changes,” but that it means a revision to “the government’s single-largest program to tackle pollution from the top source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.”
Oil Price (3/26) reports that “California has long held a waiver from the EPA to set its own standards,” and there could be “a mess” for automakers if California doesn’t alter its standards while the Federal government does. Automakers approved of the Obama-era standards “way back in 2011” with “little to no dissent on these standards.”
Environmental Groups Sue To Halt EPA Rule Change For Power Plant Emissions.
The Hill (3/26, Green) reports that on Monday groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Environmental Defense Fund filed a suit against the EPA “challenging a recent administrative decision to allow certain major power plants to turn off some pollution controls.” The groups filed a “petition for review” requesting that the court “reconsider the rule change by EPA that environmentalists consider a loophole for polluters under the Clean Air Act.” The Hill reports that “the EPA did not return a request for comment.”
Maryland Utilities Want To Build Second Largest EV Charging Network In US.
The AP (3/26) reports Maryland utilities are seeking permission “to charge customers up to 42 cents extra per month to build the nation’s second-largest network of electric vehicle charging stations after California’s.” The proposed network would cost $104 million and is envisioned to “grow to 24,000 residential, workplace and public charging stations, supporting the state’s goal of putting 300,000 electric vehicles on Maryland’s roads by 2025.” The proposal is available for public comment to the Maryland Public Service Commission until Tuesday.
Connecticut Kindergarten Teachers Combine Fairy Tales With STEM Instruction.
The Stamford (CT) Advocate (3/26) profiles Laura Cruz and Sarah Lane, kindergarten teachers at Springdale School in Stamford, Connecticut who recently “wrapped up their unit on fairy tale literature with a series of activities that combined the whimsical elements of their recent readings with STEM (science, technology, math and engineering) skills.” Students “tried their hand at constructing a chair for Goldilocks and the three bears, planting seeds for Jack’s beanstalk and diving through a sensory bin of gel-like beads in search of fairytale relics and graph them according to which story they belonged in.”
Three Hawaii High School Teams Advance To FIRST Robotics World Championship.
Big Island (HI) Now (3/26) publishes the winners of the FIRST Robotics Competition 2018 Hawai’i Robotics Regional competition, which was held on Friday and Saturday. Several teams received “honors that rewarded design excellence, competitive play, sportsmanship and high impact partnerships between schools, businesses and communities.” Friends of Hawai’i Robotics announced that “Hilo High School’s robotics team, along with teams representing Waialua and McKinley High,” will now advance to the World Championships to be held in Houston next month. The organization’s president and chairman, Lenny Klompus, said with “the sustained support of the Hawai’i robotics ‘ohana,” the annual “robotics competition will continue to grow and inspire students to study math, science and engineering.”
Analysis: South Dakota’s New Standards Closely Mirror Common Core.
The AP (3/26) reports South Dakota state Education Secretary Don Kirkegaard “announced the state has officially replaced its Common Core standards,” but according to a recent Argus Leader analysis (3/24), “nearly 75 percent of the new South Dakota State Standards approved last week by the state Board of Education were taken verbatim or almost verbatim from Common Core.” In fact, math and English standards “were between 60 and 65 percent identical to former standards, according to the analysis.” Since the state adopted the Common Core in 2010, the “standards have received pushback throughout the state and efforts to remove them have been thwarted over the years.” Kirkegaard maintained that it is “not unusual for standards to look similar after a revision,” and “said the focus should be on the changes that are unique to the state.”
Pennsylvania Schools Launch Initiatives To Encourage Girls To Pursue STEM.
The Doylestown (PA) Intelligencer (3/26) asked school officials and teachers at Bucks County, Pennsylvania schools on how they are encouraging female students to get involved in STEM education. Respondents “said they are always looking for ways to expand STEM offerings for both boys and girls at all grade levels, and that benefits both genders.” For example, the New Britain Borough and Delaware Valley University’s Doylestown Township campus co-host an annual “#girlSTEM conference” that attracts more than 800 Bucks County girls. At Pennsbury High School, technology education teacher Jessica Perfetto “started a course called Introduction to Women in Technology & Design that – though also open to boys – has the express purpose of encouraging and making girls feel more comfortable in pursuing STEM.” A National Girls Collaborative Project report from 2016 “drew a favorable picture in some areas of girls’ STEM involvement at schools,” but “persisting sexual stereotypes in society can still discourage girls from pursuing STEM, Perfetto said.”