ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Microsoft CEO Advises Women Against Requesting Raises, Sparking Controversy.

ABC World News (10/9, story 11, 0:15, Muir) reported Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella controversially stated women should have faith in the system to give fair raises rather than ask for them, calling his suggested practice “good karma.” Nadella has called his own comments “inarticulate.”

The AP  (10/10) reports that Nadella “says women don’t need to ask for a raise” and “should just trust the system – one that at technology companies is overwhelmingly male.” Speaking at a Phoenix, Arizona “event for women in computing,” Nadella said, “It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.” Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe, who was interviewing Nadella, “told him she disagrees, drawing cheers from the audience.”

Higher Education

Harvard Students Circulate Affirmative Consent Petition.

The Huffington Post  (10/9) reports that students at Harvard University “have launched a petition calling on the school to include affirmative consent in its sexual assault policy,” shifting from its current “no means no” standard. A coalition of student groups “created the petition, which calls for a new ‘baseline for confirming that a sexual partner wants to be in that situation at that time.’” The Post reports that despite student pressure, “Harvard’s administration won’t say whether it will join others in the Ivy League in supporting such a policy.” The Post points out that Harvard and Harvard Law are on the list of schools being investigated by ED’s OCR over their responses to campus sexual assault cases.

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Research and Development

Researchers Create Flexible Conductive Plastics.

R&D Magazine  (10/10) reports that newly developed plastic materials that can conduct electricity called “radical polymers” could “bring low-cost, transparent solar cells, flexible and lightweight batteries, and ultrathin antistatic coatings for consumer electronics and aircraft.” The article notes that researchers have identified “the solid-state electrical properties of one such polymer, called PTMA,” and quotes Purdue University chemical engineering professor Bryan Boudouris saying, “It’s a polymer glass that conducts charge, which seems like a contradiction because glasses are usually insulators.”

Hubble Attachment Discovers “Leaky Galaxy”.

The Christian Science Monitor  (10/9, Spotts) reported that research to be published in the journal Science on Friday from a team lead by Johns Hopkins University astronomer Sanchayeeta Borthakur shows that 21 percent of extreme-ultraviolet light is leaking through the hydrogen fog in a galaxy 3 billion light-years away. This “leaky” galaxy, discovered using the Cosmic Origins Spectograph attached to the Hubble Space Telescope, explains how neutral hydrogen gas fog throughout the universe was cleared following the Big Bang. The team’s data also validates a method of identification for far away leaky galaxies. Leaking ultraviolet may have been responsible for illuminating the cosmos following a 400 million year darkness, known as re-ionization.

Industry News

Companies Consider Offensive Tactics As Cyberattacks Grow.

In a front page story, the Washington Post  (10/10, A1, Timberg, Nakashima, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that recent cyberattacks against major US companies, such as Target and Home Depot, “has highlighted the scant options available to the victims,” but, the Post says, “behind the scenes, talk among company officials increasingly turns to an idea once considered so reckless that few would admit to even considering it: Going on the offensive.” Although the idea of “hacking back” can “prompt a lecture about the many risks,” such as its potential illegality, the idea “has gradually gained currency as frustration grows about the inability of the government to stem lawlessness in cyberspace,” according to experts. Former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker, a “vocal advocate of some limited forms of hacking back,” said that “even some government officials are warming to the idea,” and are “much more willing to help companies that want to do this.”

Dairy Queen Customer Data Compromised By Hackers Using Backoff Malware. Bloomberg News  (10/10, Davison) reports International Dairy Queen, the ice cream chain owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc, said that “customer data were compromised by hackers” who used the so-called Backoff malware to infiltrate 395 of more than 4,500 US locations. Those systems “contained customer names, and the numbers and expiration dates of their payment cards,” but Dairy Queen spokesman Dean Peters said that “less than 600,000 cards were affected.” According to the Secret Service, “the Backoff software has been used to target more than 1,000 businesses.”

Survey: IBM SoftLayer Customers Hit Hardest In Reboot Due To Xen Flaw. In continuing coverage of the Xen vulnerability that caused Amazon Web Services (AWS), Rackspace, and IBM’s SoftLayer to reboot their cloud systems, ZDNet  (10/9, Dignan) highlights a report from Rightscale that surveyed 449 respondents about their application downtime due to the reboot. The survey found that 51 percent of AWS customers “avoided application downtime,” while 27 percent of Rackspace customers and 26 percent of SoftLayer customers said they did not see any downtime. The survey also found that Softlayer customers were hit the hardest in terms of how long the downtime lasted, with 18 percent saying they saw a downtown of more than an hour. Nonetheless, 72 percent of all respondents said they were satisfied with how their vendors handled the reboot.

CGI Expands Security Operations With New UK Cybersecurity Center. Zacks Investment Research  (10/10) reports in its “Analysts’ Blog” that CGI has opened a new, “state-of-the-art” cybersecurity center in Reading, England. Zacks notes that the Security Operations Center (SOC) in South Wales will be the company’s “first venture” in the UK, enabling CGI to expand its presence in the security space. The Center will provide “24/7, real-time protective monitoring for clients’ in-house and cloud-based systems,” as well as “gather data from various sources, including in-house systems, intrusion detection & prevention systems, firewalls, anti-virus systems, and applications running within the cloud.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Dominion Working To Get Offshore Wind Project Started.

North American Windpower  (10/10) reports that since being chosen earlier this year by the Energy Department “as recipients of follow-up funding for advanced technologies, Dominion Virginia Power, Fishermen’s Energy and Principle Power have been working feverishly to partner with vendors, pursue state and federal permits, and obtain financing to grid-connect their offshore wind demonstration projects by the end of 2017.” At the 2014 Offshore Wind Conference and Exhibition, Dominion’s Robert Hare said, “We’re cutting our teeth with the two turbines. … We want to apply the lessons learned here on larger projects.” DVP, “which will install two Alstom 6 MW direct-drive wind turbines 26 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, is still in the vendor procurement process, Hare explained, adding that the company recently put out a request for proposals for an engineering, procurement and construction provider to build the project.”

Regulación Eólica Con Vehículos Eléctricos (REVE)  (10/9) also briefly mentions the Dominion project.

DOE Finalizing Deal To Help Wind Farm Construction.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer  (10/10, Eaton) reports the Energy Department “is finalizing details of a $2.8 million award that will help a non-profit Northeast Ohio organization construct a wind farm on Lake Erie about seven miles northwest of Cleveland.” The award “will help the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) complete engineering work on the design of giant steel monopile tubes that will be sunk into the earth under the lake to act as a base for the turbines.” The article notes “the monopiles will be adapted for Lake Erie soil conditions and icy winters from a design commonly used in the North Sea.” Although the DOE “notified congressional offices of the award on Wednesday, LEEDCo spokesman Eric Ritter said it will be a few weeks before the organization signs its Energy Department contract.”

Obama Says He Is “Unequivocally” Committed To Net Neutrality.

Politico  (10/10, Dovere) reported that in a town-hall meeting with tech entrepreneurs in California on Thursday, the President said he is “‘unequivocally’ committed to net neutrality,” adding that his Administration “was going to make sure net neutrality remains untouched.” The President said, “It’s what has unleashed the power of the Internet, and we don’t want to lose that or clog up the pipes.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Play, Informal Learning Cultivate Kids’ Interest In STEM.

In the guest blog of Scientific American  (10/9, Rosner), Ben Rosner, a Finsbury associate and former policy adviser and speechwriter for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, introduces his argument for informal learning from personal experience. The article highlights the potential for smartphone apps, as well as the initiatives of the New York Hall of Science and the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. Rosner’s argument rests on the power of being “driven by curiosity,” which he and cited researchers (the National Research Council of the National Academies, Michigan State University’s College of Education, Oregon State University’s Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning) believe lies at the core of informal learning.

Two Massachusetts Teens Named Finalists For National Science Fair.

The Boston Globe  (10/9, Blessing) reports two Massachusetts teenagers were among 30 finalists in the National Science Fair, selected from 2,054 applicants nominated for their work in algae breeding and autonomous robot navigation at society-affiliated regional science fairs. The piece further details their work and features comments from the teens and their fathers. Both will fly to Washington later this month for the Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars (MASTERS) competition for the top 10% of the nation’s sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders as a partnership between the Society for Science and the Public and the Broadcom Foundation with over $75,000 in awards.

Study: Few Students Take AP STEM Exams.

Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and Michael Q. McShane, a research fellow there, argue in USA Today  (10/9, Hess, McShane) that states are failing to prepare students for STEM job growth based on national analysis of the number of students with passing AP STEM exam scores. The piece outlines the nation’s top performers (Massachusetts at 16%) and the worst (Mississippi at 1.2%), before highlighting the low rates in computer science among the strongest states (ranging from .07% in Texas and Massachusetts to 1.4% in Maryland). The article suggests aggressively enrolling more capable students in AP STEM classes, find ways to expand STEM offerings, and hold themselves accountable for progress on both fronts.

Also in the News

Lockheed Martin Engineers Win Hispanic Engineer Honors.

The Baltimore Daily Record  (10/9, Frager) reports that three Lockheed Martin engineers “were honored recently at the annual Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference in New Orleans.” The article lists the engineers and describes their work.

Thursday’s Lead Stories


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