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

Leading the News

Apple: San Bernardino Developments May End Need For Assistance In New York Case.

Reuters  (3/25, Raymond) reported that in a letter filed Thursday in Brooklyn federal court, Apple attorneys said the government’s new efforts to unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone may eliminate the need for Apple’s assistance in a similar New York case. The letter, which followed a Monday disclosure by the DOJ that “an outside party” was helping the FBI in the San Bernardino case, sought to delay the department’s appeal of a ruling protecting Apple from having to unlock an iPhone in a drug case. The AP  (3/25) reported that Apple’s lawyers, who addressed their letter to US District Judge Margo Brodie, claimed that Apple’s help in the New York case may be unnecessary if the FBI is successful in hacking Farook’s iPhone. Apple attorneys added that they would seek to test any government claims that other methods cannot be used in the Brooklyn case. The Financial Times  (3/25, Kuchler, Subscription Publication) noted that there are at least 12 similar demands in US courts seeking to force Apple to unlock iPhones.

USA Today  (3/25, Guynn) and Bloomberg News  (3/25, Dolmetsch) provide additional coverage. The Huffington Post  (3/25) also carries Reuters’ coverage of this story.

Cellebrite Executive Allegedly Traveled To US Last Week. Mashable  (3/25, Blau) continued coverage of speculation that Israeli company Cellebrite is helping the FBI unlock Farook’s iPhone. According to a person who recently worked with Cellebrite, a company official spent a few days last week in the United States, allegedly demonstrating the company’s forensic capabilities. The official, Cellebrite Executive Vice President for Mobile Forensics Leeor Ben-Peretz, refused to say if he had visited the US to work with the FBI. “What I did in the U.S. is my own business,” he told Mashable. “If Cellebrite is indeed helping the FBI in the San Bernardino case, it’s not clear whether it is putting its existing technology to use or developing a new way to bypass the iPhone’s security,” Mashable said.

The Christian Science Monitor  (3/25, Mitnick) reported that whereas Cellebrite once specialized in transferring contact data between cellphones, the company has recently focused on developing new solutions for the mobile forensics marketplace. “There are only one or two companies with that kind of knowledge” to breach encrypted iPhones, said Ben Gurion University cybersecurity expert Dudu Mimran. “It’s not magic. It’s a matter of deep expertise, and an accumulation of research – and that research consumes a lot of time. I don’t think there’s a simple trick to it or everyone would be doing it.” According to comments from Cellebrite exeutive Yossi Carmil in 2013, the company boasted thousands of customers in 100 countries.

Mac Daily News  (3/25) and Newsy  (3/25) also report on this story.

Higher Education

ED: More Corinthian Students May Have Path To Loan Forgiveness.

Several media outlets are running reports on an ED announcement Friday that expands the number of former Corinthian Colleges Inc. students who may be eligible for student loan forgiveness because they were defrauded by the firm. The Washington Post  (3/25, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ED announced that “joint investigations with several state attorneys general, including Massachusetts, Illinois and Wisconsin, show that Corinthian lied about the number of students at campuses across the country who landed jobs between 2010 and 2014.” This finding regards students at Corinthian schools operating under the Everest and Wyotech brands, and “could make it easier for former students at 91 campuses to have their federal student loans forgiven.” The Post notes that a similar finding last year regarding Heald Colleges, another school that operated under the Corinthian umbrella, “led the department to levy a $30 million fine against Corinthian last year.” The piece quotes Education Secretary John King saying, “When Americans invest their time, their money, their energy, they have a right to expect that they will graduate with a high quality degree that will allow them to be competitive. Unfortunately, we have institutions like Corinthian that have been motivated more by profit than by the interests of students.”

The AP  (3/25, Binkley) reports that ED agreed “to erase the debt of more than 7,000 students in December,” and on Friday announced “that students from 91 additional campuses in 20 states can now apply for debt relief” on ED’s website. King “made the announcement on Friday in Boston, saying that college students who invest their time and energy have a right to expect high-quality degrees.” Corinthian, the AP notes, closed or sold off all of its schools last year “amid accusations of fraud.” The Wall Street Journal  (3/25, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that ED’s announcement constitutes a potential route to loan forgiveness for some 250,000 former Corinthian students, and that ED officials were uncertain as to the possible costs of the debt relief. The Journal notes that ED Special Master Joseph Smith recently reported that ED has given nearly 9,000 former students some $130 million in discharged loans.

USA Today  (3/25) reports that ED’s announcement came “two days after a San Francisco judge ordered the now-defunct, for-profit higher-ed company to pay a restitution of $820 million for students and civil penalties of more than $350 million for its illegal advertising practices.”

Colorado Urged To Adopt Dual-Enrollment Legislation.

In a Denver Post  (3/26) op-ed, Tom Coyne of K12 Accountability writes that “today, a large number of Colorado students and their families are caught in a tightening vice” between the need for “a college degree or a portfolio of certified technical competencies” and the rising cost of obtaining one. Coyne writes that one solution “is to make it much easier for Colorado students and families to accumulate low-cost college credits and technical certifications before they graduate from high school.” A bill before the state legislature would do so, “by creating a consistent, easy-to-understand and easy-to- use way for students to access dual-enrollment courses offered by every public institution of higher education in Colorado.”

Engineering Informing Liberal Arts Education
ASEE and education expert Sheila Tobias have launched a series of case studies on engineering habits-of-mind enhancing a liberal arts education.  Funding came from the Teagle Foundation.

Research and Development

Researchers Develop Breakthrough That Could Lead To Quantum Computing.

Christian Science Monitor  (3/26) reports that a team of researchers have developed a new computer chip called a quantum Fredkin gate that is “capable of overcoming one of the key obstacles to building quantum computers.” The Fredkin gate “was previously too complex to build, but scientists have found a way to simplify the process.”

Tuskegee Researchers Develop Plastic Substitute Based On Eggshells.

WSFA-TV  Montgomery, AL (3/28) reports that researchers at Tuskegee University “are getting international attention after developing a plastic substitute that could revolutionize biodegradable packaging.” The researchers “found a way to add eggshells to bio-plastic, creating unique biodegradable packaging material that doesn’t easily break.” The article says that the research was funded by a $1 million National Science Foundation grant.

Global Developments

India’s DRDO Developing DEWs.

The Times of India  (3/28, Pandit) reports the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing a 10-kilowatt Directed Energy Weapon (DEW) for use against UAS-like targets with “the establishment of critical technologies of precision tracking/pointing and laser beam combination” that has been tested “up to a range of 800 meters” at Hyderabad’s Centre for High Energy Systems and Sciences (CHESS). The DRDO’s Laser Science & Technology Centre is working on DEWs such as “chemical oxygen iodine lasers” and “high-power fiber lasers” for strategic uses, the Times reports.

Industry News

WSJournal Op-Ed: Airline Industry Players’ Squabbles Blocking FAA Reform.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (3/27, Subscription Publication), former Regional Airline Association and Airlines for America executive Roger Cohen discusses the factors delaying the overhaul of the FAA and the air-traffic control system, particularly the disputes between air-traffic controller unions, the airline industry, companies which operate business jets and the Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association. Cohen writes that such arguments likely will continue to delay much-needed reform.

Engineering and Public Policy

EPA Releases Monitoring Plan For Animas, San Juan Rivers.

The Durango (CO) Herald  (3/24, Marcus) reported that on Thursday, the EPA released its final one-year water-monitoring plan for the Animas and San Juan rivers, saying it will examine 30 sites under a variety of conditions along the two rivers, testing for spikes in the release of heavy metals. The need for further monitoring will be assessed after the first year. The EPA acknowledged fault in causing the roughly 3 million gallon spill of mining sludge and “announced that it would make $2 million available for additional monitoring needs designed to complement the yearlong effort.” The AP  (3/25, Elliott) reported that on also on Thursday, “More than two dozen state, tribal and local agencies said they will monitor the Animas and San Juan rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah at about 18 sites” to measure if toxic metals are released into the rivers by snow melt following last August’s spill from the inactive Gold King Mine in Colorado. KNAU-FM  Flagstaff, AZ (3/27, Heinsius) adds on its website that “tests taken last fall showed contamination in the rivers was consistent with pre-spill levels.”

EPA Allegedly Knew Its Efforts Would Release Waste. Natural News  (3/28, Huff) reports that new reports suggest that the EPA knew its efforts to unplug a dam at the Gold King mine “would release toxic waste – it just didn’t realize how much and how obvious it would be.” Earlier this month, House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop alleged that “there was nothing unintentional about EPA’s actions.” However, the agency allegedly moved forward “in a backhanded attempt at getting more federal funding for remediation efforts.” New Mexico and Navajo Nation officials plan to sue the agency over the spill.

EPA Appoints Remedial Project Manager For Superfund Site. The Durango (CO) Herald  (3/26, Pace) reported that the EPA has appointed Rebecca Thomas as the remedial project manager for the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site. The agency averages about six yeas of research at Superfund sites before taking remedial action, “but some smaller, less-complex mining properties may be eligible for early action, Thomas said.” Sampling of the site could begin next month.

Colorado Governor: Addressing Contamination From Inactive Mines Is Now A Priority. The Denver Post  (3/27, Finley) reports that in an interview, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said that Western governors and “chiefs of key federal agencies” have come to consensus that “tackling” the problem of “leaking inactive mines” has become a priority. Hickenlooper said he would like to call for a water summit at Four Corners, and supports turning the town of Silverton into a research hub on how to neutralize contamination from old mines.

The Durango (CO) Herald  (3/27) and the Durango (CO) Herald  (3/26, Pace) offered additional coverage.

EPA Has Not Released Models On Water Lead Levels.

USA Today  (3/25, Young) reports that “despite growing public concern about high levels of lead coming out of taps” across the country, the Environmental Protection Agency “still hasn’t released results of computer models estimating what lead level in water poses a serious health threat and should trigger local health department help.” In an email to USA Today, the EPA said they are continuing to analyze the data and “once the agency has a scientifically robust analysis, and completes internal agency review, we intend to seek external peer review.”

DOE Approves New Wind Transmission Lines.

The New York Times  (3/26, Subscription Publication) reports the Energy Department on Friday approved a new transmission project, proposed by Clean Line Energy Partners, “aimed at bringing wind energy out of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle.” Originally delayed due to resistance from lawmakers, the project received “a green light” from the Federal government. The Times indicates Clean Line Energy Partners still needs to purchase the land for the lines, which might require the use of eminent domain. Energy Secretary Moniz said, “Moving remote and plentiful power to areas where electricity is in high demand is essential for building the grid of the future … Building modern transmission that delivers renewable energy to more homes and businesses will create jobs, cut carbon emissions and enhance the reliability of our grid.”

Arkansas Lawmakers Criticize Energy Department Over Wind Transmission Project.

The Hill  (3/26, Neidig) “Briefing Room” blog reports Arkansas lawmakers on Friday criticized the Energy Department for its “executive overreach” in partnering with Clean Line Partners to build a new 705-mile wind transmission project, which would send wind energy from the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle to southeastern states. The lawmakers – Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. John Boozman, Rep. Rick Crawford, Rep. French Hill, Rep. Steve Womack, and Rep. Bruce Westerman – penned a joint statement saying, “Today marks a new page in an era of unprecedented executive overreach as the Department of Energy seeks to usurp the will of Arkansans and form a partnership with a private company – the same private company previously denied rights to operate in our state by the Arkansas Public Service Commission.”

West Virginia AG Wages Fight Against Clean Power Plan.

The AP  (3/26, Raby) profiles West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who has been challenging the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The AP quotes Morrisey as saying, “I’m very fortunate to have this job at this time so I could fight for coal miners and make West Virginia a better place to live.”

Texas Regulators Challenge Army Corps Fracking Ban.

The Washington Times  (3/25) reports the Texas Railroad Commission Executive Director sent a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers questioning a ban on fracking “within $4,000 feet and limit injection wells within five miles of the Joe Pool Lake dam.” Concerns of earthquake activity in the area lead to the ban, but the Commission objected, stating they were not consulted and the corps did not go “through a formal rulemaking process.”

Opinion: Small, Modular Nuclear Plants Would Be Competitive With Natural Gas.

A Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch  (3/26, León) opinion piece by Sama Bilbao y León, an associate professor and director of nuclear engineering programs at Virginia Common University, argues nuclear power “has been the prime driver of clean energy in the United States,” which needs to be expanded. She maintains that such an expansion would “be a cost-effective approach to meeting the growing need for electricity without adding to the burden of atmospheric pollution.” She adds that rather than the larger 1,000 megawatt plants, “small modular reactors range in size from 50 megawatts to 300 megawatts” would be more cost effective and competitive with natural gas.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Scholars Debate Whether Teaching Algebra Is Worthwhile.

The AP  (3/27, Matthews) reports on the debate over whether teaching algebra is worthwhile. Political scientist Andrew Hacker said, “One out of five young Americans does not graduate from high school. … The chief academic reason is they failed ninth-grade algebra.” Hacker “argues that, at most, only 5 percent of jobs make use of algebra and other advanced math courses.” However, Philip Uri Treisman, University of Texas professor of mathematics and public affairs, said, “Every study I’ve ever seen of workers in whole bunches of fields shows that you have to understand formulas, you have to understand relationships. Algebra is the tool for consolidating your knowledge of arithmetic.”

Alabama School To Compete In Underwater Robotics Competition.

The AP  (3/26, Belanger) reported that Limestone Career Technical Center in Athens, Alabama will compete for the first time “in an underwater robotics competition to take place next month at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. The competition is representative of the growing presence of robotics in industrial applications and for scientific research.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

District Judge Grants VW Extension To Fix Diesel Vehicles.
ED Releases Report Listing Colleges With High Ratios Of Low-Income Graduates.
Researchers Develop Low-Cost, Effective Chest Wall Motion Assessment System Using Xbox Kinect Sensors.
Source: UK’ s Dyson Considering Entry Into EV Battery Market.
BOEM Approves Virginia Offshore Wind Test Project, Dominion Still To Decide.
Georgia Career Academy Profiled.

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