|Good morning || March 19, 2020|
Leading the News
Automakers To Mothball North American Factories During Coronavirus Crisis
The AP (3/18) reports, “Ford and General Motors are confirming that they will temporarily close all of their North American factories due to the coronavirus threat.” Sources say that Fiat Chrysler will follow suit. “Ford said its plants will shut down after Thursday evening shifts, through March 30, while GM said it will begin a ‘systematic orderly suspension’ of production through at least March 30.” The shutdowns “will idle about 150,000 auto workers.”
Reuters (3/18, Klayman) reports that Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler “have agreed to shut down their U.S. plants to stop the spread of coronavirus, bowing to pressure from the union representing about 150,000 hourly workers at those facilities.” According to Reuters, the United Auto Workers “asked the automakers to reconsider their position on Wednesday, a day after the parties agreed to slow production at U.S. plants and limit the number of workers on the job at one time to prevent the spread of the virus.”
The Detroit Free Press (3/18, Lareau, Howard) reports Ford “said that after Thursday-evening shifts, the company will temporarily suspend production at its North America plants through March 30 to clean its facilities to protect its workforce and boost containment efforts for the coronavirus.” GM “also confirmed Wednesday it will begin a ‘systematic orderly suspension of manufacturing operations in North America due to market conditions and to deep clean facilities and continue to protect people.’” Fiat Chrysler did not release details on its shutdowns.
The Wall Street Journal (3/18, Naughton, Foldy, Subscription Publication) reports the deal came less than 24 hours after the three automakers reached a deal with UAW to keep the plants running, with reduced staff and shorter shifts. However, Reuters (3/18, Klayman) reports “that deal was put aside on Wednesday morning after Honda Motor Co said it would shut its North American factories for six days because of a slump in demand, and a worker at a Ford assembly plant in Michigan tested positive for the coronavirus.” UAW President Rory Gamble on Wednesday said the closures were “the prudent thing to do.” Politico (3/18, Snyder) reports, “Leaders from the companies and the United Auto Workers will work together on plans to restart production in compliance with social distancing protocols among workers, including at shift change times, and to maximize cleaning times between shifts changes.”
College Campus Closures Leave International Students In Limbo
The Verge (3/18) reports more than 200 colleges and universities across the US have “closed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.” For international students, the “surprise campus closures are just the beginning of the difficulties” they must face. In addition to the “stress of moving and saying goodbye to friends, many of these students are scrambling to secure access to things many college students take for granted, including financial security, internet access, and a stable place to study. And on top of all that, it’s increasingly hard for some students to get home.”
Coronavirus Pandemic Poses Unique Set Of Challenges For Adjunct Faculty
The Chronicle of Higher Education (3/18) reports educators are saying the coronavirus pandemic “poses a unique set of challenges for the adjunct faculty.” They point to the “hours of extra labor involved in adapting their classes for virtual instruction, a contingency they say is better accounted for in their tenured and full-time counterparts’ salaries and contracts than in their own.” They also “worry about how heavily student evaluations will be weighed in decisions about part-timers’ future employment, and about whether that future employment will even be available, as higher-education observers predict enrollment declines and an economic tailspin.”
Commentary: As Students, Professors Converge Online, Universities Shouldn’t Just Reach For Makeshift Solutions
In a piece published by the New York Times (3/18), Richard Arum, the dean of the School of Education at the University of California-Irvine, and Stanford Prof. Mitchell L. Stevens say as “students and professors converge online, universities shouldn’t just reach for makeshift solutions.” When “poorly designed and bereft of genuine human attentiveness, online delivery can be disastrous for students who are not well prepared for college-level coursework.” Thus, “going forward, educators will need to study and compare learning outcomes for different kinds of students in a variety of instructional formats. With prudent investment, careful observation and a commitment to ongoing improvement in both physical classrooms and online, quality instruction can be provided irrespective of delivery mode.”
Higher Education Institutions Suspending Face-To-Face Human-Subjects Research
The Chronicle of Higher Education (3/18) reports trials for things like new cancer treatments have not been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. But the pandemic could “stall other researchers: neuroscientists who put people in MRI scanners to study normal brain functions, business professors who gather them for focus groups, oral historians who take their testimonies, criminal-justice scholars who interview people coming out of prisons.” Those kinds of studies, which “didn’t previously expose the participants to any risk, could now sicken them with Covid-19.” That “reality is prompting research institutions including Columbia University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and the California Institute of Technology to suspend much face-to-face human-subjects research.”
Moody’s Investors Service Downgrades Its Outlook For The Higher Education Sector Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Education Dive (3/18) reports Moody’s Investors Service “downgraded its outlook for the higher education sector from stable to negative, predicting widespread instability as a result of the new coronavirus.” The credit rating agency believes colleges will “face ‘unprecedented enrollment uncertainty’ headed into the next fiscal year as the virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, throws the country into economic turmoil.” Moody’s also notes that “auxiliary areas of college operations – housing and dining, as well as parking systems and athletics – will face immediate revenue declines.”
ASEE's Online Collaboration Forum During Virus Crisis
ASEE has created a Facebook group for collaboration during this unique period. We'll discuss best practices, brainstorm ideas for online labs, discuss alternative teaching methods, and more. Learn more here.
Webinar – Storytelling to Advance Research and Teaching
pril 9 at 1 PM, ET: What’s your story? Tune in for a free webinar to learn how storytelling techniques can be used to propel your research and teaching, helping you communicate research impacts, write proposals, share best teaching practices, and teach difficult concepts. Register today at http://bit.ly/3c99jba
Webinar – Training Tomorrow’s Engineers to Combat Climate Change
April 15 at 1 PM, ET: In support of Earth Day 2020, tune in for a new webinar and learn how two NSF-funded projects, RISE-UP and ReNUWIt, are training tomorrow’s engineers to build resilience and combat the effects of climate change through robust interdisciplinary initiatives. Register today: http://bit.ly/2Tlt4F9
Research and Development
SpaceX Launches 60 Starlink Satellites Despite In-Flight Engine Failure
CNN (3/18, Wattles) reports that on Wednesday at 8:16 a.m., from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, “one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets fired 60 Starlink satellites into Earth’s orbit.” SpaceX “planned to launch up to 24 dedicated Starlink missions this year, with each mission carrying 60 satellites,” but “it’s not yet clear if rocket launches will be impacted by the workplace closures and isolation orders that have halted much of the world’s business activity as communities combat the spread of coronavirus.” For the launch, SpaceX “used a first-stage booster, or the largest and bottom-most part of that rocket that gives the initial thrust at liftoff, that had previously been used on four other missions. It marked the first time a booster has flown five times.” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted after the launch, “There was also an early engine shutdown on ascent, but it didn’t affect orbit insertion. Shows value of having 9 engines! Thorough investigation needed before next mission.”
Spaceflight Now (3/18, Clark) reports that the SpaceX “Falcon 9 rocket overcame a rare in-flight engine failure soon after launch.” One of the “rocket’s nine first stage engines shut down prematurely around 2 minutes, 22 seconds, after liftoff from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.” The “rocket’s other Merlin engines fired a little longer to compensate for the loss of thrust. The rest of the Falcon 9’s climb into orbit appeared to go according to plan, and the upper stage deployed the 60 Starlink satellites into orbit around 15 minutes after liftoff.”
SPACE (3/18, Wall) reports that the “liftoff was the record-breaking fifth for this Falcon 9 first stage. But the booster failed to stick its fifth landing, plunging into the Atlantic Ocean instead of settling onto the deck of a SpaceX drone ship as planned.” Musk said in another tweet, “This vehicle has seen a lot of wear, so today isn’t a big surprise. Life leader rockets are used only for internal missions. Won’t risk non-SpaceX satellites.”
Astronauts Prepare For May Launch Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
CBS News (3/18, Harwood) reports that despite NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine telling employees that were not mission essential to work from home starting Wednesday, “Astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken are continuing their training for launch in May aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon commercial crew ship – the first launch of NASA astronauts on a U.S. spacecraft in nearly a decade.” The astronauts “told CBS News they are taking every precaution possible to protect themselves, their families and support personnel.” Behnken said, “We’re kind of already in a quarantine bubble that includes the two of us and of course, by extension, our immediate families as well.” He continued, “We’ll be leading up to launch kind of with similar precautions. It’s not a lot different than what we would do for a crew that was going to launch on a Soyuz out of Baikonur (Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan), or what we did back when we launched on space shuttles.”
Hubble Telescope Captures Image Of Star-Forming Pink Cloud
Daily Mail (UK) (3/18, Morrison) reports that The Hubble Space Telescope “has captured a spectacular image showing a bright pink cloud of gas and dust where giant stars are formed.” The cloud “sits on the outskirts of the star forming Tarantula Nebula in the neighbouring Large Magellanic Cloud Galaxy – 160,000 light years away from Earth.” NASA said the cloud named LHA 120-N 150 is a “perfect laboratory to study the origin of massive stars.”
CNET News (3/18, Kooser) reports that the European Space Agency (ESA) said in a press release on Wednesday, “Theoretical models of the formation of massive stars suggest that they should form within clusters of stars; but observations indicate that up to ten percent of them also formed in isolation.” Astronomers “are trying to figure out if these isolated stars were born alone or if they just left home at an early age, and they’re now scrutinizing LHA 120-N 150 to see if they can spot the difference between baby stars and dust clumps within the cloud.” The ESA said, “Only detailed analysis and observations will reveal their true nature and that will help to finally solve the unanswered question of the origin of massive stars.”
Researchers Look For Solutions To Deal With Possibility Of Increased Collisions Between Satellites, Space Debris
The Houston Chronicle (3/18, Leinfelder) reports that “space debris is not a new phenomenon, but it is a growing concern as potentially tens of thousands of satellites that provide high-speed broadband internet to all corners of the Earth are being launched by companies including OneWeb, Amazon and SpaceX.” Last year, US Space Force “sent out 11.8 million alerts to satellite operators because their spacecraft had a higher-than-desired likelihood of collision.” 20 students from Rice University have proposed the launch of a “tissue-box-size research satellite to study how the sun affects satellites orbiting the Earth in hopes of better tracking and projecting their paths.” Rice University’s “first student-built satellite, expected to cost a modest $45,000, could be a step toward controlling the clutter.”
| || |
Advertiser Supplied Content
DOD Funding Expands Wind Tunnel Capabilities At University Of Arizona
The Department of Defense is funding $1.7M in wind tunnel upgrades at the UA College of Engineering, which houses subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic wind tunnels. Modifications include a section that extends the supersonic wind tunnel into the complicated and experimentally challenging transonic range, where transport aircraft and rotorcraft operate. UA engineers partner with industry and government on defense, space travel and commercial flight projects that span from Mach 0 to Mach 5.
Textron To Furlough Thousands Of US Employees
CNBC (3/18, Josephs) reports that on Wednesday, Textron Aviation “said it will furlough thousands of U.S. employees, as the rapid spread of coronavirus hurts the aviation industry and other sectors.” Textron “said it will furlough workers on a staggered schedule from March 23 through May 29,” and a Textron spokeswoman “said it applies to ‘most’ of its U.S. workers, which number 12,000.” Reuters (3/18) reports that “the furlough affects some 7,000 or more workers, a person familiar with the matter said.”
Aviation International News (3/18, Siebenmark) reports that Textron said in a statement, “This decision will allow us to do our part in mitigating and containing the spread of the Covid-19 through social distancing, while continuing to support our customers.”
FlightGlobal (3/19, Hemmerdinger) reports that Textron Aviation CEO Ron Draper said in a March 18 letter to employees, “Due to anticipated market conditions, we are adjusting production to align with anticipated market production.” He continued, “This is a very difficult first step in responding to a situation that has affected our entire world.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Trump Administration Proposes $50 Billion In Loans To Airlines
Reuters (3/18, Shepardson) reports that the Trump Administration is asking Congress to authorize $50 billion in secured loans to US airlines as they grapple with the financial fallout of the outbreak. President Trump held a call with executives from Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, UPS, and other US carriers on Wednesday, in which he “told the airlines that they are an essential part of our daily lives and our economy, and this nation will be there to support them,” according to the White House. As a condition for receiving the loans, airlines “would be required to set limits on executive compensation until the loans were repaid and would also have to agree to continue service.” The airlines also told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that they would not use the loans for stock buybacks.
Trump’s Federal Student Loan Interest Waiver Not Expected To Provide Immediate Benefits
CBS News (3/18) reports student loan experts say President Trump’s proposed waiver on federal student loan interest payments “may not offer much immediate relief because monthly payments could remain unchanged.” Michele Streeter, a policy analyst for the Institute for College Access & Success, said, “Our understanding is that this will mean monthly payments won’t go down meaningfully (if at all) for borrowers, but payments will go entirely toward paying down the principal of the loan.” The interest waiver will certainly “help some college grads, but it’s most likely to benefit those who continue to hold their jobs and can continue to manage their monthly payments through an economic downturn.” The Education Department said it is still working out details of the plan, but a spokesman said the interest rate on all federally held student loans will be set to zero.
CNN (3/18, Lobosco) reports borrowers have “received little information on how the waiver could work since” Trump’s announcement. Navient’s website read on Tuesday, “We’re working with the U.S. Department of Education to implement this change, but at this moment, we don’t have any additional details on the program.”
Also in the News
Coronavirus Outbreak Hitting US Electricity Demand
The Wall Street Journal (3/18, Gold, Subscription Publication) reports US electricity demand is already falling in the areas hardest-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, with further decline expected to come as more areas issue shelter-in-place orders. Sector observers are watching to see if power demand trends in the US follow those seen in Italy, and they warn that such downturns often indicate broader economic concerns.
Wednesday's Lead Stories
This complimentary copy of First Bell was sent to you at firstname.lastname@example.org as a service to the engineering & technology education community.
For information about ASEE member benefits, please contact ASEE Member Services at email@example.com or 202-331-3520.
American Society for Engineering Education | 1818 N Street, N.W., Suite 600 | Washington, DC 20036
Copyright © 2020 by Bulletin Media | 11190 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 20 | Reston, VA 20191