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

Leading the News

White House Holds First National Water Summit.

The Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun  (3/22, James) reports the White House on Tuesday marked World Water Day with its first national water summit in a bid to “put a greater focus on water challenges ranging from climate change to the old, leaky pipes that waste billions of gallons across the country every day.” At the event, the Obama Administration “announced several initiatives aimed at encouraging more investments in water infrastructure, improving water data and boosting technologies that can help shrink the country’s water footprint.” The White House said it is “promoting several new initiatives aimed at making the country’s water system more sustainable,” and announced “commitments of nearly $4 billion in private capital for investments in infrastructure, as well as private-sector plans to invest more than $1 billion in the next decade in developing new water technologies such as advanced water treatment and reuse systems.” In addition, the Administration said it will “spend about $35 million this year in federal grants to support water science.”

Additional coverage was provided by the Miami Herald  (3/23), the Fresno (CA) Bee  (3/22), the Durango (CO) Herald  (3/22), the Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun  (3/22), Think Progress  (3/22), and KING-TV Seattle (WA)  Seattle (3/23).

Federal Study: Western Farms, Hydropower At Risk From Climate Change. The AP  (3/22, Elliott) reports that a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report warned Tuesday that climate change could impact food production, the environment, and electrical generation at dams by disrupting the interplay of rain, snow and temperature in the West. Higher temperatures “would mean more evaporation from reservoirs, particularly in California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins,” lowering hydroelectric output during high summertime demand. The Hill  (3/22, Henry) reports that Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor said in a statement, “One of the greatest challenges we face is dealing with the impacts of climate change on our nation’s water, which is really the lifeblood of our economy.”

In California, the San Francisco Chronicle  (3/22, Alexander) reports that “the upper Sacramento Valley is forecast to receive the same or slightly more precipitation, the San Joaquin Valley is slated for about the same, and Southern California will probably see less.” Lake and surface reservoir areas are projected to drop an estimated 17 percent.

Higher Education

California Community College System Set To Begin Searching For New Accreditor.

The Sacramento (CA) Bee  (3/22) reports that the California community college system’s board of governors has decided “to begin searching for a replacement for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.” The move stems from the controversy surrounding the commission’s efforts to close City College of San Francisco. Since then, the commission “has been under fire for an inconsistent, oblique and overly punitive accreditation process.”

KPIX-TV  San Francisco (3/21) reports that ACCJC “is not in compliance with federal standards and has already been warned by the U.S. Department of Education that it could lose its authority to accredit colleges.”

Detroit To Offer Two Years Of Tuition-Free Community College To All High School Graduates.

The Detroit Free Press  (3/22, Helms) reports Detroit leaders have unveiled the Detroit Promise program, which will guarantee two tuition-free years of community college for students “who graduate from any high school in the city – public, charter or private.” The program “will pay for tuition costs not covered by grants and other scholarships students receive, and they’ll be able to attend five Detroit-area community colleges.” Mayor Mike Duggan said, “We are making a promise to every single child who graduates from a high school in the City of Detroit that you will have your first two years of college paid for. We’re going to build from here to the point where we’re ultimately going to raise money so it can be four years, but today it’s two years.”

Student Loan Repayment Aid Called An Attractive Employee Benefit.

Student Loan Hero CEO Andrew Josuweit writes in the Chicago Business Journal  (3/22) about “reasons why employers should offer student loan repayment aid as a perk.” He says such a benefit is “attractive to employees” and “may even take priority over affordable healthcare or saving for retirement,” and while “student loan repayment assistance is still a fairly new concept,” more companies are starting to offer it. It also “provides potential tax relief” as well as flexibility for employers, since the benefit can be easily adjusted.

I-Corps for Learning Webinar
Are you an engineering educator with an entrepreneurial mindset (or you’d like to be one)? The ASEE-managed I-Corps for Learning is seeking participants for the next cohort of this exciting project. NSF is holding a webinar this Friday to explain how you can join.

Safe Zone Ally Workhsops
With funding from NSF, ASEE is offering online workshops to become a Safe Zone Ally.

$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

Washington University In St Louis Researchers Design Microbes To Outperform Lazy Rivals.

UPI  (3/21, Hays) reports that researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have developed “genetically engineered microbes” which “work harder than their lazier, but otherwise identical peers, and engineers can now measure output, and kill lazy cells.” The innovation allows “scientists to boost production of biofuels, pharmaceuticals, materials and other useful chemicals by encouraging cells to work harder.” Chemical engineer Fuzhong Zhang led a team which “developed a quality control tool called PopQC,” a “tiny sensor that can be placed inside a cell to track the amount of work being done.”

VA, NIH Devise New Program To Train Big Data Scientists.

ExecutiveGov  (3/22, Clemens) reports the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Cancer Institute “have devised a new program to train big data scientists as part of an effort to help improve clinical outcomes.” VA and NIH also intend for the program “to support the Precision Medicine Initiative research effort with the goal of transforming disease treatment methods.”


Anid: Shortage Of Talent Leads To Failing Cybersecurity.

In an op-ed for Fox News  (3/22), Nada Marie Anid, Ph.D., dean of the school of engineering and computing sciences at New York Institute of Technology, argues that a “shortage of talent” will harm any “efforts to bolster cybsersecurity.” Anid says that what is needed is “a long-term strategy to close the cybersecurity talent gap.” Anid urges computer science education, a cybersecurity scholarship program, and incentives, such as paying school loans, from the public and private sectors for students accepting in-house cybersecurity positions.

Report: Tech Sector Faces Persistent Gender Gap.

The Wall Street Journal  (3/22, Gellman, Wells, Subscription Publication) reports on the persistence of gender disparities in the tech workforce, as illustrated in a new report from McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn. Org. The report found that many women in the tech sector see their gender as a limiting factor on career advancement and details statistics showing that several big companies are working to improve the issue.

Industry News

Brussels Attacks May Impact FBI-Apple Legal Battle.

USA Today  (3/22, Swartz) reports cybersecurity experts say the Brussels attacks on Tuesday could “rekindle the government’s resolve” in its legal battle with Apple over the San Bernardino iPhone. Avivah Litan, vice president at market researcher Gartner, said the FBI will use the attacks “to advance its case” because the public “reacts very strongly to theses types of incidents, and insists the government needs to do what is necessary to get the bad guys.” However, Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “a non-profit that supports Apple,” said the attacks could strengthen Apple’s argument about the importance of encryption because, “If the FBI had its way weakening encryption with Apple, it makes most airports that much more vulnerable to these attacks, not less.”

FBI’s Bowdich: We Have A “Good Shot” At Unlocking iPhone. The AP  (3/22) reports FBI Assistant Director in Charge David Bowdich “says it will take at least two weeks to know whether an alternate method will unlock” the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, which is why a judge has canceled a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday. The hearing was canceled, Bowdich said, despite the fact that the government was “very ready” to argue its points. According to Bowdich, the alternate method of unlocking Farook’s phone has a “good shot” of working.

The Los Angeles Times  (3/22, Winton) reports that according to the assistant director, the FBI in Washington first became aware of a third party’s claim that it could unlock Farook’s phone on Sunday evening. “Bowdich said that third party–who he would not identify –did demonstrate the ability to unlock the phone in testing,” the Times says.

Underground Market For Apple Bugs May Explain FBI’s Third-Party Assistance. The New York Times  (3/23, Benner, Subscription Publication) reports that Apple’s encryption battle with the government “may have inadvertently catalyzed the underground market for Apple code flaws,” which could explain why a third party is helping the FBI unlock the iPhone used by the San Bernardino gunman. Jon Oberheide, chief technology officer of the cloud security company Duo Security, said that with the FBI’s public failure to get into the phone, “hackers realized there was a blank check for them if they could accomplish it.” Furthermore, some security researchers, according to the Times, “said no bounty Apple could offer now would match the reward [hackers] could expect from the underground market.”

Google Seeks “Vehicle Operators” For Driverless Cars.

NBC News  (3/22, Bayly) reports that Google has posted an ad on seeking “vehicle operators” to “collect data for its engineering team and run proprietary systems,” asking that applicants “have a clean driving record and be able to ‘keep all project details confidential.’”

Private And Hybrid Cloud Industry Now Worth $60 Billion.

Seeking Alpha  (3/22) reports, “The long-awaited ‘private cloud boom’ is here,” and that new Synergy Research Group figures show that “servers and software for the construction of private and hybrid clouds” is now worth $60 billion and growing. Seeking Alpha says Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Cisco are leading the pack with about 12% of the market each, while there was a big rise for IBM in 2015 Q4, which is now “tying Dell and Microsoft with a 7% share.” Seeking Alpha says that cloud profits do not come from hardware, and identifies Microsoft’s focus on Cloud software as a critical strength.

Engineering and Public Policy

IG Report: EPA Must Do More To Ensure Water Systems Stay In Compliance.

A report released Tuesday by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General says the EPA “needs to do more to ensure that the small community [water] systems, which serve more than 24 million people, stay in compliance,” USA Today  (3/22, Ungar, Nichols) reports. According to the IG report, more than “three-quarters of small community water systems across the nation with the most serious health-related violations of federal safe drinking-water regulations still were violating those rules three years later.” In October 2011, the agency “classified 2,252 small community water systems as serious violators…including 193 systems with the most serious problems.” Of those 193 systems, “only 43, or 22%, were back in compliance within three years – meaning 78% were not.”

Sandoval Aide: Nevada’s Clean Energy Reputation Damaged.

The AP  (3/22, Rindels) reports that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Chief Strategy Officer Dale Erquiaga “acknowledged Tuesday that Nevada’s reputation on renewable energy has been damaged in light of a recent rooftop solar rate hike.” Erquiaga remarked at the first meeting of a newly reconvened New Energy Industry Task Force that the governor “sees this not just as the right thing to do, but as an economic imperative.” The task force will work on the net-metering issues as well as on “how to modernize the electric grid and how to encourage clean energy developments.”

Report: Wisconsin Lags Midwest In Clean Energy Sector Jobs.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (3/22) reports that according to a report released Tuesday by the Clean Energy Trust and others ranking jobs in the clean energy sector, Wisconsin ranks ninth among 12 Midwest states. “We’re lagging the Midwest on a per capita basis, and last week’s $7 million cut to Focus on Energy will only push us further behind,” said Tyler Huebner, executive director of the group Renew Wisconsin. Huebner added that the state should update a 2006 renewable energy standard that utilities have already met.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Tennessee Creates Career Forward Task Force.

The Tennessean  (3/22, Gonzales) reports that the new Career Forward Task Force “will look to find ways to improve the career readiness” of Tennessee high school graduates. The task force “includes a roster of state business, education and community leaders to explore ways to better engage students in their academic preparation, personal and social development, and workplace readiness.”

Idaho State House Rejects New Rules On Science Standards.

The Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review  (3/22, Russell) reports that the Idaho state House has voted 59-5 “to reject proposed new administrative rules on science standards” for Idaho students. State Rep. Julie VanOrden “said the standards weren’t bad, but lawmakers felt they should take more citizen input before approving them.”

California Middle School 3D Design Class Making Hands For Nonprofit.

The Orange County (CA) Register  (3/22, Oliviero) reports on a 3D design class at Johnson Middle School in Westminster, California, where students are designing devices for “a nonprofit, Enabling The Future, that gives out plastic hands to people with no hands.” The design class “is so new it didn’t get started until mid-fall.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Apple Unveils iPhone SE, iPad Pro At Cupertino Event.
Student Debt Relief Rulemaking Committee Fails To Reach Consensus.
University Of Texas Researchers Develop Method For Eliminating Radio Antenna Reciprocity.
Yahoo Partners With Google, Microsoft, Others To Publish New Email Security Standard.
McConnell Tells Governors To Stop Working To Comply With Clean Power Plan.
Austin, Texas Elementary To Add Launch Program.

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