Seattle Week in Review: Northwest Energy, Space Education, & More

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a new NASA-funded program to provide STEM education programs to more middle-school and high-school students around the region. The goal of the Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline, a five year, $10 million effort, is to attract more kids—particularly from underserved and under-represented communities—to STEM fields with engaging content focused on space, as well as Earth observation, a large but lesser-known part of NASA’s work.

“There’s definitely a strong leakage of students out of the STEM pipeline,” says Robert Winglee, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences. “That’s a real weakness for the region if we want to be compete economically in the future. That leakage starts at middle school and it continues through high school and into undergraduate education.”

Winglee notes the job opportunities now and in the future at a growing number of commercial space businesses setting up or expanding in Washington state. “So it’s just not NASA,” he says. “It’s the private sector.”

The UW-based effort, which involves some two dozen museums, colleges and universities, school districts, and service providers, will coordinate efforts to bring science to the students, particularly in rural areas and tribal communities. For example, the Washington Aerospace Scholars program, based at the Museum of Flight, is expanding to offer online courses to students around the region.

“We are making science mobile to reach kids in rural areas,” Winglee says.

Winglee readies a bottle rocket with a student. Credit: Washington NASA Space Grant

Winglee readies a bottle rocket with a student. Credit: Washington NASA Space Grant

Week in Preview: PBS will air a one-hour documentary next Wednesday, The Human Face of Big Data, featuring stories and interviews from 30 data scientists, artificial intelligence researchers, and other experts, including Shwetak Patel, a University of Washington computer science and electrical engineering professor who has too many other titles to list. It airs on KCTS 9 at 10 p.m. Looks great. Here’s the trailer:

We covered a handful of big-ticket M&A deals across the Xconomy network this week. Some highlights:

Stryker agreed to pay $1.28 billion for Physio-Control, a storied Seattle-area medical devices maker.

IBM Watson Health announced a $2.6 billion acquisition of Truven Health Analytics, gaining some 2,600 employees and a lot of data covering various aspects of healthcare costs and outcomes.

GTCR, a Chicago private equity firm, agreed to pay upwards of $500 million for Lytx, a San Diego-based maker of dashboard video telematics and driver risk management services.

Good reads:

—The experience of unboxing a cardboard box full of cardboard boxes of diapers produces in me a specific moment of existential angst, and not just because it’s a reminder of how many diapers I’ll be changing in the days and weeks to come. The New York Times unpacked the environmental impacts of our instant-gratification economy—both through the proliferation of disposable packaging (much of which can be recycled) and emissions from fleets of on-demand delivery vehicles.

—Emily Parkhurst, digital managing editor at the Puget Sound Business Journal, shares her personal experience of leaving off pursuit of a marine biology degree, at least in part because she didn’t receive support from male professors and students. It’s a telling anecdote to illustrate a recent University of Washington study that found “males enrolled in undergraduate biology classes consistently ranked their male classmates as more knowledgeable about course content, even over better-performing female students,” according to a UW Today summary. The authors of the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, write that this under-estimating of women can undermine their self-confidence and contribute to higher rates of attrition in the physical sciences for women than men.

—Not sure what to think about the epic battle for security and privacy unfolding this week between Apple and the FBI? One option is just to ditch your device forever, or at least for a while, as Seattle Times Pacific NW magazine writer Tyrone Beason did. His essay on “the art of winging it” this week begins:

“Let’s get lost.

“Let’s set aside our phones and tablets and declare a holiday from algorithms that can predict our every online whim, from satellite navigation, from the culture of consultation, from life hacks, from the tyranny of recommended experience and the vicarious thrill of knowing all the cool things other people are saying and doing.”

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