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

Leading the News

US, Japan Conduct Second Test Of Raytheon SM-3 Missile.

Reuters  (12/9, Shalal) reports that sources say the US and Japan conducted the second successful test of Raytheon Co.’s new Standard Missile-3 Block IIA missile on Tuesday. One source told Reuters the missile opened a sensor seeker in space for the first time and used altitude control rockets to target a star. The missile is being jointly developed by the two countries for deployment on US Aegis destroyers and Japan’s Kongo ships, and the US Missile Defense Agency says the US has spent about $2 billion, while Japan has contributed $1 billion.

Japan Launches Counterterrorism Unit, Plans To Expand Intelligence Operations. The AP  (12/9, Yamaguchi) reports that Japan introduced its new Counterterrorism Unit-Japan on Tuesday consisting of 24 members, including staff from its foreign and defense ministries, National Police Agency, and Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office. The Unit’s four leaders and 20 Tokyo-based experts will initially focus on Southeast and South Asia, the Middle East, and north and western Africa, but is slated to expand overseas. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated that the new unit is crucial to protect the lives of Japanese citizens both domestically and internationally.

Higher Education

Reporters Consider Supreme Court’s Views On Affirmative Action Case.

The New York Times Magazine  (12/9) highlights an email exchange between Emily Bazelon, a staff writer for the magazine, and Adam Liptak, The Times’ Supreme Court correspondent, about possible outcomes in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case challenging university actions in admissions which will come before the Supreme Court Wednesday and what those outcomes “might mean at a moment of debate over race in American higher education.” Bazelon wrote that Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose “views of affirmative action have straddled a kind of middle ground,” will “almost certainly” be the deciding justice in the case. Liptak, meanwhile wrote that Kennedy “is of two minds on the question,” noting that while he “knows that the legacy of racial injustice persists,” he “has never voted to uphold an affirmative-action plan.”

An editorial in the Washington Post  (12/9) says the court should uphold affirmative action, arguing that failing to do so “will leave universities without the tools they need to admit and educate a generation of leaders who will shape a society still challenged by racial division, discomfort and alienation.” The Wall Street Journal  (12/9, Subscription Publication) takes a different view, arguing in an editorial that the use of race in college admissions should be banned under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Some Predict Student Loan Repayment Will Become A Trendy Job Perk.

Bloomberg News  (12/8, Greenfield) reports more companies are offering new employees help paying off their student debt as a job perk and some are predicting that it is the beginning of a new trend. Many recent college graduates are more concerned about paying off their student loans than saving for retirement, so more companies may move to student loan repayment programs as a way to lure young talent instead of retirement savings accounts. Surveys show that many employees are interested in receiving student loan repayment as a job benefit. The Society for Human Resource Management found in a recent survey that only 3% of companies, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Natixis, offer student loan repayments as a benefit, but this was the first year the survey asked about such benefits and some of them predict it will catch on quickly because of “pent-up demand.”

For-Profit College Chain Ceases Enrollment.

Inside Higher Ed  (12/8, Smith) reports Westwood College, a for-profit college with 14 campuses, announced it would stop enrolling new students. The for-profit college chain has previously settled claims related to fraud and false claims with the US Department of Justice, the Colorado Attorney General’s office, and most recently the Illinois Attorney General’s office. The article highlights the broader controversy surrounding for-profit colleges and the efforts of some US Senators to close for-profit schools that engage in fraudulent practices and to better regulate the industry. A group of Senators introduced legislation in September that would give ED the power “to hold the executives of for-profit colleges accountable for the fraud committed by their institutions.” Senator Dick Durbin said, “We need to change the laws to protect students and their families from the deception of for-profit schools.”

Opinion: New Department Of Labor Rules On Overtime Pay Could Hurt College Affordability.

In an opinion piece in The Hill  (12/9, Jandris), Concordia University Chicago’s College of Graduate and Innovative Programs Dean Thomas Jandris outlines how new proposed rules from the Department of Labor could undermine President Barack Obama’s plans to increase the number of Americans with college degrees. Jandris explains that many positions at institutions of higher education, such as faculty, are not eligible for overtime pay, but if the Department of Labor includes those previously excluded positions in their new rules, then this could increase college costs and make it harder for colleges to expand their services and accessibility to help more students finish school. Jandris calculates that expenses at his university would increase forcing the school to raise tuition to cover the higher costs. Jandris concludes by asking federal agencies, specifically naming ED and the Department of Labor, to work with colleges to help keep higher education affordable.

From ASEE
November Prism Now Online
Cover story: Industrial RX for Healthcare. Systems engineers are out to show they can make medical practice cheaper while improving quality.

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This weekly newsletter keeps our members informed of important developments in Congress and federal agencies affecting engineering education and research.

Research and Development

MIT Team Develops Technique Greatly Improving 3-D Imaging Resolution.

Optics (UK)  (12/9) reports a group of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new technique that increases the resolution of 3-D images 1,000 times. The technology could allow high-quality 3-D cameras to be added to cell phones and could lead “to the ability to photograph an object and then use a 3-D printer to produce a replica.”

Virginia Governor Scheduled To Announce $2 Billion Bond Issuance For New Research Centers At State Universities.

The Washington Post  (12/9, Vozzella, Mccartney) reports Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is scheduled to announce a plan to issue $2 billion worth of bonds to finance new research facilities at state universities. McAuliffe talked about the plan on Tuesday saying, “We’ve got to start building capacity for those 21st-century academies. Our education system is not delivering a workforce that I need to fill the jobs of today.”

Workforce

Demand For Cybersecurity Professionals Growing.

Boston  (12/9, Hofherr) reports that the 2015 Global Information Security Workforce Study found there are hundreds of thousands unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the US right now, and predicts that there will be 1.5 million open positions in the field by 2020. The article points out that one difficulty in filling the positions is that cybersecurity analysts require a broader set of skills and more training than many other technology positions. In a video report on its website, CNBC  (12/9) interviews IBM’s Vice President of Security Caleb Barlow and a recent NYU graduate that studied cybersecurity, Kevin Chung. Barlow said there are hundreds of thousands of vacant positions in the field and the number is expected to grow. At a recent conference, Barlow said a shoe company sponsored a major event demonstrating that companies in many different industries need experts in the field. Chung spoke about his education and the importance of learning to think like a hacker to be an effective cybersecurity professional. Chung also spoke about the huge demand for people with his skills.

Global Developments

Software Engineer Arrested For Trade Secret Theft.

Reuters  (12/9, Raymond) reports that Jiaqiang Xu, a former software engineer for IBM Corp in China, has been arrested “for allegedly stealing proprietary source code from his former employer.” Authorities say he met with an undercover officer and was recorded saying sold software he made with the code. Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement, “Theft of trade secrets of the type alleged against Xu drains the lifeblood of innovation and competition, and is rightly a serious federal crime.”

Industry News

Wall Street Expresses Interest In Quantum Supercomputers.

Bloomberg News  (12/9, Clark) reports Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, CME Group Inc. and Guggenheim Partners are among the Wall Street companies expressing interest in “quantum computers, an emerging technology that aims to exploit the properties of subatomic particles to make extremely complex calculations at unprecedented speeds.” Marcos Lopez de Prado, a senior managing director at Guggenheim Partners and a research fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, explained the companies see value in the quantum computers because they “can evaluate all possible scenarios in order to produce an optimized portfolio that can deliver the best risk-adjusted return.”

Engineering and Public Policy

NHTSA Raises Scrutiny Of Jeep Wrangler Electrical Issue.

The Detroit News  (12/8, Burke) reports that on Tuesday, NHTSA announced that it is “upgrading an investigation into nearly 630,000 Jeep Wrangler SUVs for an electrical wiring” issue, which may “cause air bags to not work properly.” According to the article, NHTSA said it is initiating an “engineering analysis” into the SUVs after launching a preliminary investigation earlier this year.

Honda Set To Launch Full Production Of First Jet Pending FAA Approval.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune  (12/8, Dalesio) reports that almost 30 years of development and testing, Honda is set to deliver its first aircraft, a “business jet, which can seat up to seven and lists for about $4.5 million.” This week, the Star Tribune notes, Honda “is expected to receive a crucial Federal Aviation Administration certification of its first HondaJet, the last step before launching full production,” adding that the company is likely to make an announcement regarding the matter on Wednesday. The Star Tribune adds that Honda “touts its plane as lighter, faster and more fuel-efficient than competitors,” and “says it has received more than 100 orders, primarily from customers in North America and Europe.” According to Wayne Plucker, head of aerospace industry research Frost & Sullivan, Honda is set to succeed into the aviation industry since “anywhere Honda gets into, they tend to grab a significant market share fairly quickly.”

NHTSA To Revamp Vehicle Rating System.

NHTSA announced Tuesday that it is revamping its five-star vehicle rating system. According to the CBS Evening News (12/8, story 10, 1:55, Pelley), “regulators plan to shame car companies into building safer vehicles” as the “top safety ratings will be much harder to get.” CBS (Van Cleave) added that the proposed new standards “are so strict, there is not a car on the road today that would earn five or even four stars.” Regulators are “adding new crash tests, including one focused on angled frontal crashes and new high-tech smart dummies designed to better reflect the injuries people suffer from head to foot.” ABC World News (12/8, story 9, 0:15, Muir) reported that beginning in 2019, “in order to earn five stars, vehicles will need new safety technologies, rear visibility cameras, blind spot detection, and a new warning system that will help predict collisions.” The New York Times  (12/9, Ivory, Subscription Publication) notes that the current rating system “came under fire last year after a New York Times investigation revealed that nearly all vehicles in recent years had been awarded four or five stars.”

VW Kept Faulty Emissions Part From 2004 California Report.

Ina 1,700-word article, the Wall Street Journal  (12/8, Scheck, Spector, Maremont, Subscription Publication) reports that it reviewed emails from 2004 between Volkswagen’s US environmental-compliance employee supervisor Norbert Krause and his bosses in Germany that show the auto company knowingly deleted information about a faulty emissions part, called an exhaust-gas temperature sensor (EGT), from a report to California regulators. VW declined to comment, but in 2004 a company official said the part wasn’t relevant enough to the emissions system to disclose to the state. On Tuesday, a US judicial panel filed hundreds of lawsuits against the company in San Francisco federal court. If federal officials find the EGT wasn’t properly reported, VW could face up to $140 million in fines – $37,500 per car sold with the part.

Elementary/Secondary Education

University Of Buffalo Chemistry Professor Helps Local Teachers Improve STEM Education.

The Buffalo (NY) News  (12/9, Rey) reports Joseph Gardella Jr., a University of Buffalo chemistry professor, is the head of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership, which trains local science teachers to improve STEM education at local high schools. Every summer Professor Gardella helps teachers learn more about scientific research and instruction. The program has won national recognition and is partially supported by a $9.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

High School Freshman Partners With Colorado State University To Launch Girls Who Code Chapter.

Fort Collins (CO) Coloradoan  (12/8, Garcia) reports Olivia Thero, a freshman at Liberty Common High School in Fort Collins, Colorado, is working with Colorado State University to launch a local chapter of the Girls Who Code Club on January 19. Thero aims to convince 25 girls to sign up for the program before that. Colorado State University hopes the program will help increase the number of women who study computer science in college, including at CSU. The percentage of female students studying computer science at CSU is currently less than the national average.

College Students Start Club To Inspire Elementary School Students To Get Interested In STEM.

The Naples (FL) Daily News  (12/9, Buzzacco-Foerster) reports a group of Florida Gulf Coast University students created the “Eagles of Tomorrow” program, which aims to inspire more elementary school students to get involved in STEM. The university students visit local elementary schools to talk about STEM and help students complete STEM projects “like building a sling shot or playing math bingo.”

Florida High School Student Wins College Scholarship For Water Purification Technique.

The Washington Post  (12/9, Brown) reports Maria Elena Grimmett, a senior at Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida, was awarded a $100,000 college scholarship for winning the final round of the 2015 Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. Grimmett developed a new way to purify drinking water, specifically removing a common veterinary antibiotic sulfamethazine. Grimmett was inspired because her family’s own water in the Florida Everglades was contaminated and “tinged brown.”

Denver High School Focused On Career And Technical Education Has Highly Motivated Students And High Graduation Rate.

The Chalkbeat Colorado  (12/8, Gottlieb) reports CEC Early College, a career and technical education high school in Denver, has a high graduation rate compared to nearby schools with similar student demographics. Students get to choose between 21 different career tracks at the school that prepare them for a wide variety of jobs including auto mechanics, computer programmers, construction workers, and sports medicine. Scott Springer, the school’s principal, says the students are highly motivated because they know they are working to learn skills that are valuable to them. The article reviews the history of career and technical education in the US and how CEC Early College was rightly positioned to take advantage of its comeback.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

USGS Research Shows Uranium Contaminates Western Water.
Maryland County Considering Student Loan Refinancing Program.
Researchers Explore Teaching Robots To Learn Like Human Babies.
Machines Create More Jobs, Require More STEM Knowledge.
Chinese Researchers Developed Mind-Controlled Car.
IBM Apologizes After #HackAHairDryer Campaign Sparks Backlash.
Officials Say Transportation Bill Will Benefit Hudson River Rail Tunnel.

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