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

Leading the News

King Promotes Maker Spaces, Calls For Congress To Reauthorize Perkins Act At Baltimore Nonprofit.

The Baltimore Sun  (3/9) reports that Education Secretary John King visited the nonprofit Digital Harbor Foundation workshop in Baltimore on Wednesday “to highlight ‘maker spaces’ as he calls on Congress to reauthorize a $1.1 billion program for technical-education programs in schools.” The Sun describes some of the projects students were working on during his visit, and quotes King saying, “What an amazing place this is — it’s incredible to think that this was once an abandoned rec center. It’s time for Congress to reauthorize the Perkins Act so that every student, in every community, has access to rigorous, relevant and results-driven CTE [career and technical education] programs.”

Catherine Gewertz writes at the Education Week  (3/9) “High School and Beyond” blog that King is pushing Congress to reauthorize the Perkins Act, “though prospects for its revision and approval appear dim.” Efforts to renew the law, which “funnels more than $1 billion a year into career and technical education in middle school, high school, and college,” have stalled amid efforts “to focus in particular on building more consistency into the quality of CTE programs.” In prepared remarks, King said that “the best CTE programs build students’ creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and help them prepare for additional education and good jobs after high school.” The piece adds that King was expected to “announce a new competition, sponsored by the Education Department, to create space for high-quality CTE programs.” The Career Technical Education Makeover Challenge “will distribute a total of $200,000 to as many as 10 applicants who submit proposals to convert space in their high school building into places equipped to allow students to design and build things.”

US News & World Report  (3/9, Camera) reports that King was expected to “highlight the recent launch of a career and technical education program in the city called P-TECH that will give high school students hands-on job training.” Students will graduate high school with an associate’s degree, “and will be first in line for jobs with employers like IBM and Johns Hopkins University, both of which are partners with the program.” This piece quotes King saying, “Today, every job that leads to a secure future requires critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity, as well as some postsecondary education or training. The best CTE programs help students prepare for this future once they graduate from high school.” UPI  (3/9) and Black Enterprise  (3/10) also cover this story.

ED Orders Student Loan Servicers To Reimburse Military Borrowers.

The Military Times  (3/9) reports that ED has instructed its student loan servicers examine their records stretching back to 2008 and reimburse “military borrowers who were overcharged in violation of the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act.” ED officials informed the Senate HELP Committee that “they’ve started the process to automatically provide credit for any service member who was on active duty since federal student loans became eligible for the reduced interest rate under SCRA.”

Higher Education

CFPB Pushing Student Loan Companies To Avoid “Confusing Fine Print.”

Christian Science Monitor  (3/9, Shekhtman) reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “is asking private student loan companies to stop using some confusing fine print to deceive borrowers.” CFPB “challenged lenders who are ‘auto-defaulting,’ demanding immediate and full repayment of a loan if a co-signer dies or files for bankruptcy, even when the loan is current and being paid on time.”

Senate Democrats Say ED Must Do More To Protect For-Profit Students From Debt.

US News & World Report  (3/9) reports that a group 32 Senate Democrats have written to President Obama saying ED’s “student loan forgiveness proposal for borrowers who were defrauded by” for-profit colleges “isn’t good enough.” The Senators say the plan “doesn’t go far enough to ensure relief for students who say they were swindled by for-profit colleges and should have their debt forgiven.” The article quotes ED spokeswoman Dorie Nolt saying in response to the letter, “The regulatory language provided to negotiators before the last session was a starting point for discussion. We have received a lot of helpful and substantive feedback from negotiators, advocates and members of Congress, and we greatly appreciate this letter as part of that process. We are working to incorporate much of the feedback we have received as we revise our proposal for the next round of negotiations.”

University Of Denver Offers Cybersecurity Degree With 50% Tuition Discount.

The Denver Post  (3/9, Chuang) reports that on Wednesday the University of Denver said it added a cybersecurity master’s degree program through which “all students accepted will receive a scholarship cutting the college’s regular tuition in half.” The Post says this underscores the university’s belief there is a “cybersecurity worker shortage.” The university’s “new advanced degree includes courses like ethical hacking, network security and principles of computer forensics.”

MIT Runs Cybersecurity Hackathon.

Christian Science Monitor  (3/9, Detsch) reports on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hacking conference “Cambridge 2 Cambridge” that aims to connect people “from across the universities” and connect them with hackers, developers, and coders in order to expose them to “what it’s like to be part of a cybersecurity team that tries to break into things” with the “ultimate goal” of improving digital security. The venue lets participants experience both hacking into systems and being hacked without violating the security of a business network, and quotes Boeing cybersecurity researcher Joshua Cazalas saying that “In real life, getting pwned is really bad news – you might have to burn your server down. Here, you just lose a point.”

I-Corps for Learning Dear Colleague Letter
The I-Corps for Learning program recognizes recent discoveries and promising practices from STEM education research and development and promotes opportunities for their widespread adoption, adaptation, and utilization.

$25K E4U3 Video Contest
The National Academy of Engineering has announced a video contest on Mega Engineering! Most of humankind’s biggest endeavors are mega engineering projects that provide solutions that span disciplines, geographies, and cultural boundaries.

Research and Development

UMass Researchers Develop Improved Wind Turbine Anchoring System.

The Springfield (MA) Republican  (3/9, Lederman) reports University of Massachusetts researchers are “developing a new mooring system for floating offshore wind turbines that uses an integrated network of anchors and lines to hold dozens of turbines in place in the ocean.” The NSF-funded research aims to “hasten the progress toward the goal of generating 20 percent of U.S. energy needs from wind power by potentially reducing the cost of building offshore wind farms by a significant margin.”

Google AI Beats Human World Champion In First Round Of Go.

In its “The Two-way” breaking news blog, NPR  (3/9, Chappell) reports Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo program narrowly defeated Go world champion Lee Sedol in round 1 of the ancient game. The article carries a recap of the game from Google. The AlphaGo program “actually learned the game without much human help,” as NPR explains it “started by studying a database of about 100,000 human matches, and then continued by playing against itself millions of times.” NPR adds, “As it went, it reprogrammed itself and improved.”

RIT Partners With Pictometry To Create Drone Research Lab.

In a 1,000-word article, the Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle  (2/26, Brooks) reported the Rochester Institute of Technology is partnering with Rochester-based Pictometry to build a $75,000 drone lab “that’s basically an outdoor space” where RIT students and Pictometry employees can “fly drones and test different scenarios.” The article noted the partnership’s challenge in obtaining FAA approval, which was granted because the area will be enclosed in netting. The partnership will also work to develop sense-and-avoid technology, which “involves using drones that aren’t remote-controlled and getting them to avoid crashing into buildings.”

US Navy Contracts Charles River Analytics For Tactical Cloud Framework Development.

Naval Technology  (3/8) reported the US Navy awarded Charles River Analytics a $400,000 contract “as part of the Navy Tactical Cloud effort to enhance data capabilities in combat environments.” Under the contract, the company will “develop a framework for probabilistic, multi-source naval analytics and analytic services called Navalytics,” in addition to devising a “mechanism to rapidly develop and deploy mission-critical analytics.”

NIH Awards Grant To Upstart For Nanotech, Regenerative Spinal Implants.

Fierce Medical Devices  (3/10, Lawrence) reports that the National Institutes of Health has awarded Nanovis a grant “for preclinical research on the use of its porous Forticore interbody fusion devices in combination with nanotube technology. The combination is expected to result in a surface that mimics nature and encourages regeneration around an implant.”

CSRA Wins $54 Million Simulation Contract.

ExecutiveBiz  (3/9, Nicholas) reports the EPA has awarded CSRA a contract worth $54 million over the next seven years for “simulations for research initiatives.” The decision follows a re-compete on task orders previously held by CRSA’s predecessor companies. CSRA President and CEO Larry Prior said, “We are using best-in-class technologies, scientific applications and visualization technologies to develop sophisticated environmental models and simulations that enable in-depth research for environmental issues such as global climate change that are too large to replicate in the real world.”

DOT To Test Effects Of Adjacent Frequencies On GPS, GNSS Receivers.

FierceGovernmentIT  (3/9, Walker) reports that the Department of Transportation will be conducting tests at the US Army Research Laboratory at the White Sands Missile Range facility in New Mexico into “what adjacent radio frequency band power levels can be tolerated by GPS and global navigation satellite system, or GNSS, receivers.” DOT has also invited manufacturers “interested in providing assistance for the testing to participate in the event.”


IT Security Careers On The Rise.

The AP  (3/9, Sweeten) reports that IT security careers “are growing at an exploding rate,” with research showing “between 200,000 and 500,000 cybersecurity jobs unfilled right now.” The AP adds that security experts urge potential students interested in an IT security career to “major in computer science or networking fields with specializations in cybersecurity.”

Global Developments

IBM Opens Johannesburg Cloud Data Center.

Zacks Investment Research  (3/10) reports IBM Corp. has opened its first South African data center in Johannesburg in partnership with South African ICT service provider Gijima and Vodacom, in order to “facilitate ‘cloud adoption’ and support customer demand across Africa.” South Africa General Manger Hamilton Ratshefola is quoted saying “our new Cloud Data Center gives customers a local onramp to IBM Cloud services including moving mission critical SAP workloads to the cloud with ease.”

Industry News

FTC Chief Technologist Says Frequent Password Changes May Not Improve Cybersecurity.

In an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor  (3/9), chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission Lorrie Faith Cranor says the frequent changing of passwords “may be ineffective, especially if other steps aren’t taken to correct security problems.” Cranor points to a 2009 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study that found “users tended to create passwords that followed predictable patterns, called ‘transformations’,” which may include small changes such as “incrementing a number.” Cranor says the research found that password changes by “transformations” made guessing a new password fairly easy for a hacker. Cranor says if a user suspects a password has been jeopardized, he should “choose a new password unrelated to the old one and don’t reuse a password from another account.”

CNET Senior Editor Discusses Proposed Alternatives To Passwords. CBS This Morning  (3/9) interviewed CNET senior editor Dan Ackerman for a segment discussing proposed changes to the password system to increase privacy and security. Ackerman said that companies are working toward “biometric solutions,” such as fingerprint or facial recognition, as an alternative to the traditional user input of a password. Ackerman sided with Apple in the encryption debate when asked about the creation of a backdoor, saying that encryption provides an extra layer of security beyond a user-created password.

VW’s US Operations Chief Horn Leaves Following Emissions Scandal.

The Wall Street Journal  (3/9, Stoll, Subscription Publication) reports Michael Horn, Volkswagen’s head of US operations, will depart immediately in a mutual agreement with the automaker and be replaced by Hinrich Woebcken, who is currently head of North American regional operations and chairman of the US business. The Journal mentions the move comes after a steep drop in sales following the diesel emissions scandal.

Engineering and Public Policy

Florida Democrat Places Hold On Flint Aid, Energy Bill.

The Hill  (3/9, Henry) reports Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson “has placed a new hold on a Senate package to overhaul federal energy policy and provide aid to Flint, Mich.” Nelson “is objecting to provisions related to the energy side of the package, his office said Wednesday, and he’s looking to block consideration of a Republican amendment related to off-shore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.” The amendment “would expand a revenue sharing program established between the federal government and states along the Gulf.” Nelson “is worried the amendment would open the door to expanded oil drilling in the Gulf, including off the coast of Florida.” Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown said, “Sen. Nelson supports the energy bill and the money for Flint, Mich., but the Republicans insist on an amendment that would start the process of drilling off Florida’s coast.”

Obama, Trudeau Aim To Forge “Special Relationship” On Climate Change.

US News & World Report  (3/9, Neuhauser) reports that President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet at the White House on Thursday and “will announce a new commitment to reducing potent methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2025,” following a pledge made by Obama in 2015. Arctic issues, power sector infrastructure, and new limits on aviation and heavy vehicle emissions will also be discussed. Mark Feierstein, the National Security Council’s Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs said in a call with reporters Tuesday that there is a “developing special relationship” between both leaders whom he described as “young leaders with similar visions.”

Republicans Say EPA Engaging In “Uncooperative Federalism.”

Fuel Fix (TX)  (3/9) reports, “Republican senators condemned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday, saying it is overstepping its authority and pushing onerous pollution regulations on states.” During a hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. James Inhofe said, “We have observed a flood of new regulations breaking down this system, in what seems to be uncooperative federalism,” adding that the EPA aims to “fulfill a political agenda.” Summarizing lawmakers’ comments, Fuel Fix reports that “for some it was an agency that ran amok over industry; for others a necessary barricade in protecting the health of air and waterways.”

SEIA Predicts “Staggering” Solar Energy Growth In 2016.

The Hill  (3/9, Cama) reports GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) annual report released Wednesday predicts the US “solar power industry will grow in 2016 at a rate 119 percent higher than last year.” Specifically, SEIA forecast “16 gigawatts of capacity of new solar panels will be installed in 2016,” which would break records and represent “staggering” growth over last year’s 7.3 gigawatts. SEIA president Rhone Resch lauded “strong demand for solar energy nationwide, and smart public policies like the” investment tax credit and net energy metering as propelling the change.

New York City Council Tightens Efficiency Requirements For New City Buildings.

The New York Daily News  (3/9, Durkin) reports that the New York City Council on Wednesday passed a bill that will require new city-owned buildings “to cut energy consumption in half compared from current standards.” The tighter regulation is “part of a push to cut the New York’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Professor Stresses Importance Of Computer Science For All.

Kamau Bobb, Ph.D., writes for The Root  (3/9, Bobb) to advocate for teaching computer science to African-Americans, lauding President Barack Obama’s recently announced initiative “Computer Science for All.” Bobb argues African-Americans’ “ability to engage in the workforce and to confront the pressing problems of the world will hinge on their ability to use and adapt computation to their own ends.”

Brain Expo In Alabama Teaches Students Importance Of Learning.

WHNT-TV  Huntsville, AL (3/9, Crown) reports online on the annual Brain Expo at James Clemens High School in Alabama, where both high school and elementary school students view exhibits and engage in “hands-on science lessons” that emphasize the importance of learning. One student said she learned that “learning new things could actually sharpen your brain to do other things.”

Robotics Competitions In Oregon Aim To Prepare Students For Careers.

KTVL-TV  Medford, OR (3/9, Allison) reports, “St. Mary’s High School is preparing for the First Tech Challenge competition in the Bay Area later this month,” where “robotics teams accept a challenge to build a robot, then code programming to make the invention perform tasks.” The school’s coach for the competition “believes robotics gets students interested in jobs with high salaries and demand.” In Oregon, nearly 200 school will compete in robotics competitions in the spring.

Immanuel Lutheran Hosts STEAM Competition In Illinois.

The Arlington Heights (IL) Tribune  (3/8, Broj), a community blog for the Chicago Tribune, reported on a STEAM competition at Immanuel Lutheran School where fourth grade students “took on the challenge to ‘build something that moves’ in an exercise designed to spark creativity.” The school also plans to hold a STEAM-focused activity night for the community on April 5.

California Awards $245 Million In Career Technical Education Grants.

EdSource  (3/9, Harrington) reports that on Wednesday the California State Board of Education approved $245 million in Career Technical Education Incentive Grants to more than 250 schools, districts and other educational agencies in the state. The funds aim to provide “students in linked learning programs…real-life work experience while they learn.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Las Vegas Paper Discovers Area 6 Is Secret US Drone Testing Ground.
Court Of Appeals Panel Upholds Gainful Employment Rule.
Pentagon Tests Secret “Micro-Drones.”
US Companies Taking Initiative In Shift Toward Clean Energy.
Future Of Ethanol Remains Uncertain.
Chicago Makes Computer Science Classes Mandatory For High School Graduation.

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