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

Leading the News

US Charges Six Chinese Citizens With Theft Of Trade Secrets From Tech Companies.

The New York Times  (5/20, B1, Sanger, Perlroth, Subscription Publication) reports that the Justice Department on Tuesday “announced the arrest of a Chinese professor and the indictment of five other Chinese citizens in what it contended was a decade-long scheme to steal microelectronics designs from Silicon Valley companies.” The indictment “was the broadest since five members of the People’s Liberation Army were indicted last year by the United States, accused of hacking into the computer systems of American companies to steal technology for state-owned companies.” The Times notes that none of the Chinese citizens charged “have been arrested or seen an American courtroom, and for a time those indictments froze discussions between the United States and Chinese governments over rules for reducing online attacks,” but Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin, who heads the Justice Department’s National Security Division, “recently defended the approach as the best way to ‘raise the price’ for the Chinese.”

The Wall Street Journal  (5/20, A1, Grossman, Subscription Publication) reports that the indictment charges the six with bringing trade secrets related to technology used to filter out unwanted signals in wireless devices from US firms Avago Technologies and Skyworks Solutions Inc. back to Tianjin University in China. Federal prosecutors say they then established a joint venture with the university to produce and sell equipment using the technology and secured contracts to sell the equipment to companies and the military.

The Washington Post  (5/20, Nakashima) reports that the indictment, unsealed on Monday, “highlights the threat posed by insiders who use their position to steal sensitive information on behalf of a foreign government or for financial gain and is part of a larger trend by the U.S. government to step up efforts to deter Chinese theft of trade secrets,” and it is “also a manifestation of the ongoing innovation war between China and the United States and could increase tensions in an already-fraught relationship. ‘According to the charges in the indictment, the defendants leveraged their access to and knowledge of sensitive U.S. technologies to illegally obtain and share U.S. trade secrets with the [People’s Republic of China] for economic advantage,’” Carlin said, adding, “Economic espionage imposes great costs on American businesses, weakens the global marketplace and ultimately harms U.S. interests worldwide.”

Higher Education

Report: Poor, Minority Students Carry Higher Student Debt Burdens.

The Washington Post  (5/19, Douglas-Gabriel) reports in its “Wonkblog” blog that according to “a new report from the liberal think tank Demos,” state higher education cuts and tepid growth in Federal aid are increasing the debt loads carried by black, Hispanic, and low-income college students. The report indicates that while less than half of students who are too affluent to qualify for Pell grants graduate with debt, that figure rises to 84% for those who can qualify for them.

Group Sues Wisconsin Governor Over Effort To Change University’s Mission.

Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post  (5/19) “Answer Sheet” blog the non-profit watchdog group the enter for Media and Democracy has sued Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker “alleging that he is refusing to make public documents relating to an effort by his office to change the mission of the University of Wisconsin that is embedded in state law.” Walker has proposed budget legislation “that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the ‘Wisconsin Idea’ and embedded in the state code.” Walker’s changes would remove language “that commanded the university to ‘search for truth’ and ‘improve the human condition,’” in favor of language mandating that the system “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

NYTimes Calls On Congress To Address Fake Online Degrees.

In an editorial, the New York Times  (5/20, Board, Subscription Publication) says it is “hard to believe that the Pakistani government was unaware of a major scam orchestrated by Axact, a software company based in Karachi that operates a global network of fake online schools that sell bogus diplomas.” Nevertheless, the Times says the “problem of bogus degrees and predatory schools goes well beyond one company in Pakistan,” and calls on Congress to “focus on it in a sustained way,” which “means getting federal agencies to devise a coherent plan for curbing these kinds of abuses.”

Utah State Launches Aerospace Engineering Doctorate Program.

KSL-TV  Salt Lake City (5/20) reports online that Utah State University will launch Utah’s first-ever doctorate program in aerospace engineering, which “will focus on the design, development and testing of rockets, spacecraft, airplanes and missiles.” The piece quotes associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering David Geller saying, “The new degree program will establish a separate degree path for existing aerospace engineering graduate students and attract new students who are looking specifically for a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. Offering this Ph.D. better positions USU to capture regional talent that would otherwise leave the state.”

The Logan (UT) Herald Journal  (5/20) reports that the state Board of Regents approved the new program on Friday.

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Research and Development

L’Oreal Working On 3-D Printing Skin To Replace Animal Testing.

The Washington Post  (5/19, Phillip) reports that cosmetics company L’Oreal is “partnering with Organovo, a 3-D human tissue company, to print tons of” simulated human skin “to facilitate animal-free cosmetics testing.” The piece notes that the technology is “already being explored for use in human skin grafts that could treat burns or for use in reconstructive surgery.”

The Christian Science Monitor  (5/19) reports that the partnership “could pave the way both for bioprinting on a commercial scale, and for animal-free testing across a number of industries.”

White House Vows To Veto Science Funding Bill Over NSF Cuts.

The Washington Times  (5/18) reports that the White House announced this week that President Obama will veto “a House science, technology and innovation funding bill” over what it called “unacceptably steep cuts for the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies.”

Graduate Student Designs “Microneedle Pill” That Could Replace Traditional Injections.

Forbes  (5/20) reports that an MIT chemical engineering graduate student won the Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize for his Microneedle Pill, or mPill, a “capsule covered in tiny needles and coated in a ‘pH responsive coating’ that makes it easier to swallow,” as a replacement for “traditional injections.” Once the patient swallows the pill, the coating dissolves and the hollow needles deliver the medication into the bloodstream.

Global Developments

New Food Supply Technology Will Help Grow Production.

Business Insider  (5/20, Hickman) hosts a World Economic Forum article that notes that food supply will need to grow by 60 percent to accommodate an additional two billion humans over the next 35 years. This increase will be accomplished in part using “precision farming” and “prescription planting,” which use data and forecasting to optimize production and water use. Better fertilizers, genetic engineering, and urban farms will also play important roles.

Industry News

Uber Snaps Up Staff From CMU For Self-Driving Car Project.

The Verge  (5/19, Lowensohn) reports that Uber has been “snapping up some of [Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center’s (NREC)] most talented staffers” to work in its “multi-year project to replace human drivers with computers,” recruiting “about 50 people” or “a third of the staff.” The Verge adds that Uber announced Monday that it “plans to lease a 53,000 square foot facility that used to be a Restaurant Depot supply store” to house its Advanced Technologies Center.

Engineering and Public Policy

House Easily Passes Short-Term Transportation Spending Extension.

Reuters  (5/20, Lawder) reports that on Tuesday, the House passed a two-month transportation spending extension on a 387-35 vote. The provision now goes to the Senate, which will need to pass it before funding authority expires on May 31.

The New York Times  (5/20, Huetteman, Subscription Publication) reports that Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer “supported the Republican-sponsored legislation for short-term financing, but cautioned that Democrats would spend those 60 days finding permanent funding of the program, which for years relied on fuel taxes that are no longer keeping pace with the nation’s transportation needs.”

In an editorial, USA Today  (5/20) condemns Congress for passing another transportation funding “patch,” arguing that Congress should raise the gas tax and index it for inflation. The paper concludes, “It’s time to end the stupid tricks and put the nation’s public works on a sound footing.”

In an opposing op-ed for USA Today  (5/20), Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute writes that while “we hear a lot about crumbling infrastructure, some of our infrastructure is actually in great shape,” mainly that which is funded by “users fees,” while that funded by tax dollars is, in fact, “crumbling.” He says that this is because in recent decades, funding decisions “have increasingly been made by politicians more interested in ribbons than brooms,” funding “unnecessary” new projects instead of “needed repairs.”

Study: Higher Wind Turbines Could Generate More Energy In More Places.

The Washington Post  (5/20, Mooney) reports that a new Energy Department report indicates “the potential for wind to generate energy” in the US is “greatly limited” by the fact that “most of the wind turbines being used in the country today aren’t tall enough.” According to the Post, “if they were extended higher…they could potentially not only tap more energy,” but also “tap it in vastly more places.”

Panetta, Hadley: US Can Achieve Its Goals With Secure Access To Energy. In a Wall Street Journal  (5/20, Subscription Publication) op-ed, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley argue that in addition to militarily, the US can also achieve goals economically, which requires ensuring access to secure energy supplies.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Texas Enacts Law Barring Local Fracking Bans.
UConn To Launch Tech Entrepreneurship Program.
University Of Pittsburgh Developing Technology To Test Chemicals For Toxicity.
CBC To Push For More African Americans In Tech Sector.
Indian American Students Win Major Intel ISEF Special Awards.
EPA Criticized Over Positive Campaign For Public Comment On Water Rules.
Tweets Highlight Women In STEM.

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