LEADING THE NEWS
Trump Promotes Infrastructure Plan In Ohio.
Politico (3/29, Gardner, Snyder) reports that President Trump traveled to Ohio on Thursday to promote his infrastructure plan. The WBNS-TVColumbus, OH (3/29, 5:03 p.m. EDT) website writes that Trump spoke “to a group of heavy equipment trade unions whose apprenticeship program the President says he wants to replicate across the country.” The Columbus (OH) Dispatch (3/29, Botos) reports that “Trump’s stage at an International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18 training site was framed by a pair of 80,000-pound yellow and black-colored CAT hydraulic excavators, American flags behind him and two bleachers of hard hat workers.” The President “promised an infrastructure plan that would create 400,000 jobs ‘almost immediately,’” and vowed that “rural communities...would get special attention under his plan because they’ve been ‘left out’ over many years and programs.”
The Massillon (OH) Independent (3/29) reports that workers filled two bleachers at the event, while a third bleacher included Trump’s two daughters, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. At the event, Trump also “congratulated Chao for finally shepherding through a project in Alaska, which the president said had been stuck in bureaucratic red tape limbo since 1975.”
The Alliance (OH) Review (3/29), Transport Topics (3/29), and CNBC (3/29) also report on the story.
Congress Has Allocated Little Funding For Trump’s Infrastructure Plan. The Washington (DC) Post (3/29, Long) reports on the current status President Trump’s infrastructure plan in the context of Thursday’s rally, saying that while Trump has promised “the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history,” the infrastructure plan has “repeatedly slipped down the priority list” in both the White House and Congress. The Post reports the spending bill passed last week does include $21.2 billion in new infrastructure spending, but the figure is only “slightly more than 1 percent of the president’s goal” of $1.5 trillion. The Post says there have been disagreements between Democrats and Republicans in Congress over how the proposal should be funded, and the White House “lacks a clear message on what Trump wants.”
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
Self-Driving Car Industry Pushed For Fewer Regulations.
In continuing coverage of the fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber vehicle and a pedestrian, ConsumerAffairs (3/29) reports on the efforts of the self-driving car industry to reduce regulations and expedite testing of autonomous vehicles. ConsumerAffairs reports Uber and Lyft sent a joint letter to Congress advocating for the AV Start Act two days before the accident, and the article says self-driving vehicle advocates “are continuing to push Congress to quickly pass the AV Start Act.” The piece explains that the AV Start Act “could potentially weaken the state regulations that do exist,” such as exempting autonomous vehicles from the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards requiring automakers to report potential defects. There is also concern that autonomous vehicle manufacturers may be able to force lawsuits filed against them into arbitration.
Jason Levine, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, argues in an op-ed on The Hill (3/29) that last Sunday’s accident “was a tragedy — and a wake-up call” and demonstrates that “the current rules are not doing enough to protect the public because they are not designed to do so.” Levine says that while autonomous vehicles stand to boost automotive safety, the US Department of Transportation “is working exclusively on how government should exit the field” instead of “proposing commonsense regulation of an industry that possesses both tremendous potential and unlimited risk.” Levine warns against passing the AV Start Act because it would allow automakers to place self-driving vehicles on the road “without adequate standards to ensure they are safe.”
In an editorial, the San Francisco (CA) Chronicle (3/29) says the California DMV should “be cautious and judicious in its awarding of” permits to allow self-driving vehicles on the state’s roads when it is allowed to approve applications for self-driving tests on April 2. The Chronicle adds that the DMV will need to make sure the public can be “assured that these companies have fully thought through the inevitable ramifications of having autonomous vehicles on the road,” such as liability in the case of an accident.
CIO Today (3/29) and the Silicon Valley (CA) Business Journal (3/29, Subscription Publication) also report on the self-driving car industry following the incident.
Uber Settles With Victim’s Family. The Washington (DC) Post (3/29, Siddiqui) reports Uber and the family of Elaine Herzberg have reached a settlement which “appeared to forestall a potential legal showdown in the case.” The Post says that the settlement will likely delay courts from having to answer “many of the substantive legal questions” surrounding liability in self-driving vehicle accidents. Additional coverage of the settlement included Business Insider (3/29), NPR (3/29, Neuman), the New York Post (3/29), Fox News (3/29), and Car and Driver (3/30).
Autonomous Vehicle Stakeholders Urge Caution In Testing Following Pedestrian Death In Uber Crash.
The Wall Street Journal (3/29, Moss, Subscription Publication) reports Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. chair Li Shufu said at an autonomous vehicle conference in Beijing this week that autonomous vehicle testing must proceed methodically and by taking all safety precautions. Li supports government regulation in China to ensure public safety. Li’s comments came in the wake of the first-ever pedestrian death by an autonomous vehicle, where an Uber test vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The Journal also reports about how Chinese companies are engaging with the autonomous vehicle sector to compete with industry leaders like Waymo.
The Detroit Free Press (3/29, Lawrence) reports Samsung has become “the latest corporation to get permission” from California to test autonomous vehicle systems on public roads, joining “dozens of companies” already testing in the state. The Free Press profiles Silicon Valley startup Phantom Auto and its co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Elliot Katz, who says that “This technology has gotten to an unbelievable point, but it’s not 100% yet,” and so the public is rightly skeptical about the technology’s safety in edge scenarios like navigating a construction zone.
Washington Governor Says Seattle Will Be “The Autonomous Vehicle Center Of The US.”
GeekWire (3/29) reports that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee predicted on Wednesday evening “that Seattle will be home to the first electric ferries in America and a hub for autonomous vehicle development.” Inslee said, “We are going to be the future of the electrification of the transportation system and the autonomous vehicle center of the US.” Inslee said that there are “more than 24 companies working on self-driving technology in the state; they include Echodyne, Mighty AI, and others.”
Arizona Governor Reiterates Support For AVs. The AP (3/29) reports, “Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey says he continues to believe autonomous vehicles can make roads and highways safer after a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian.” Ducey said Thursday “that he wants local and federal law enforcement to complete their investigation before commenting about the crash. But he reiterated his support for the self-driving vehicles as a way to make roads and highways safer.” The Arizona Republic (3/29) reports that Ducey’s office “rejected the premise of a story in The Guardian of London that Uber was secretly testing its technology on public roads before the company and the governor announced such experiments.”
Vanderbilt Researchers Base Vocal Fold Paralysis Tool On Cicada Wings.
R&D Magazine (3/28) reports researchers at Vanderbilt University studying cicada wings in 2001 “found similarities in the way the cicada wings moved and the movement of human vocal folds. Inspired by the similarity, a multidisciplinary team from the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE) and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), began working to design a software tool to help surgeons develop more precise surgery plans for the most common surgical intervention for unilateral vocal fold paralysis, type 1 laryngoplasty.” The researchers developed the tool with a $2.4 million National Institutes of Health grant.
UT Austin Researchers Develop “Tweezers” To Manipulate Nanoscale Objects.
IHS Electronics360 (3/27) reports a team led by University of Texas at Austin mechanical engineering professor Yuebing Zheng has developed “‘nanotweezers’ that handle nanoparticles with the help of light. These nanotweezers could be used in nanotechnology as well as in health monitoring.” Zheng “wanted to create a tool that could help humans manipulate nanoscale objects at will, so he created the nanotweezers. The new tool was built off of a few years of research from Zheng and his team from the Cockrell School of Engineering.” The researchers hope the device “will lead to a further understanding of and advancements in nanophotonics.”
USC Researcher Develops System To Scan Pupils, Adjust Lighting.
The Orange County (CA) Register (3/29) reports that USC researcher Joon-Ho Choi has developed technology that uses a computer’s camera to capture “pupil-size data that’s then used to calculate each person’s optimal lighting comfort level in real time. The USC professor’s experimental model is the first in the nation to connect indoor climate controls with physiological data.” The piece reports that “industry giants such as Siemens, makers of automated room controls, and BuroHappold, a global engineering firm,” see the technology “as a way to advance high-tech home and office indoor climate systems. And environmental agencies are interested in the energy savings possible from integrating building system controls with living, breathing humans.” The paper reports that if the technology was “used in all 5.6 million commercial buildings in the United States that have lighting, the energy load would be reduced by 8.2 billion kilowatt hours (kWh).”
IBM Predicts Quantum Computing Will Go Mainstream Within Five Years.
CNBC (3/30, Tan) reports “IBM’s research division says industries are just starting to discover how quantum computers can be used” and predicts that within five years, “the tech industry will discover the first mainstream application of quantum computers alongside classical computers.” IBM Asia Pacific Chairman and CEO Harriet Green said, “Just in the last five years, IBM has invested over $38 billion in these new capabilities. ... These investments are very real and available to help change and transform businesses now.”
India Successfully Tests Upgraded Engine In Communications Satellite Launch.
Spaceflight Now (3/29, Clark) reports that the Indian GSAT 6A mobile “technological testbed” communications satellite successfully launched Thursday aboard a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle as part “of 10 space missions planned by India by the end of the year.” Indian engineers wanted to demonstrate the new High Thrust Vikas Engine’s “performance Thursday before introducing the upgrade to the four Vikas engines that power the GSLV Mk.2’s strap-on boosters on future missions.” The engine’s second stage generated “around 190,000 pounds of thrust during a 2-minute, 12-second firing,” a six percent increase over standard Vikas engines. The second stage also employed “electromechanical actuators powered by lithium-ion batteries for the first time, replacing hydraulic systems used on past missions.”
ENGINEERING AND PUBLIC POLICY
States And Cities Often Faced With Choice To Pay Attackers During Cyberattacks.
The New York Times (3/29, Blinder, Perlroth, Subscription Publication) reports that states and cities including New Mexico, North Carolina, Atlanta, and suburban Dallas have faced a new “dilemma...with alarming frequency: Digital extortionists have hijacked their computer systems and demanded ransom. Should they pay?” Atlanta’s city government “has been struggling with one of the gravest cyberattacks on record against a major American city” for the past week, a “vivid example of the perils local governments face in the internet age.” The Atlanta attackers are seeking “the Bitcoin equivalent of about $51,000.” Jason Rebholz of security firm Icebrg said, “Local governments often don’t feel comfortable using taxpayer funds to pay a criminal, especially when they consider where those funds may be going. On the other hand, they have to weigh a $51,000 ransom demand with the fact that they are likely going to pay a lot more to resume operations.”
Study: Math-Based Play Can Reduce Math Anxiety.
Education Week (3/29) reports that according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University researchers, “taking math outside the classroom” can “help young students with math anxiety.” Researchers studied students taking part in the Crazy 8s Club after-school program, which “allows children from K-2 and 3-5 to learn more about math through play.” They found that “after participating in the Crazy 8s club for eight weeks students experienced a significant reduction in their math anxiety as compared to students who participated in an art club for the same amount of time.”
Silicon Valley Startup Aims To Push Low-Income, Non-Legacy Students To Prepare For College.
The Hechinger Report (3/29) profiles high school students in Newark, California who lack “college-educated relatives, counselors, role models or mentors” to encourage them to prepare for college, noting that the issue is especially prominent in high-poverty districts or districts with large minority populations. Noting the district’s proximity to Silicon Valley, the article reports that “some local entrepreneurs, backed by advisors from nearby Stanford University and elsewhere, think technology can help to solve this problem. Those entrepreneurs have created a platform, and company, called Siembra — a Spanish word for sowing seeds — that reaches out to low-income, first-generation and racial and ethnic minority high school students on their ever-present smartphones, nagging them to stay on track the same way college-educated parents of wealthier kids do.”
Illinois High School Student Launches App To Track Driver Training Practice Hours.
The Elgin (IL) Courier News (3/30) reports Patrick Stephen, a junior at Bartlett High School’s Academy for Science, Engineering and High Technology in Elgin, Illinois, “has launched an app to help student drivers keep track of the hours they spend behind the wheel.” Stephen “said he began work on the project last summer and recently released the aptly named Student Driver, with a version available for free at Apple’s App Store.” The app “senses the phone moving to keep track of practice time behind the wheel.”
ALSO IN THE NEWS