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

Leading the News

Israeli Tech Firm Reportedly Helped FBI Hack Farook’s iPhone.

NBC Nightly News (3/29, story 4, 2:00, Holt) reported that “the mystery may be solved over the events that led the FBI to drop its legal action against Apple.” NBC (Almaguer) added that four months after the San Bernardino terror attack, “investigators finally have access to the work cell phone of gunman Syed Farook,” and “according to industry sources the FBI has been getting help from this Israeli company, Cellebrite, experts in mobile forensics with tools to extract data from the iPhone 5C.”

ABC World News Tonight (3/29, story 5, 2:00, Muir) reported that “the break that allowed the FBI to open the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers came more than a week ago, when representatives of an unidentified company flew to Washington for a secret meeting at FBI headquarters” and “wanted to show FBI leaders they had a method for opening Syed Farook’s iPhone.” ABC (Thomas) added that the phone “was secretly flown to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia,” and “this past Sunday, the attempt was made to hack into the phone.” The FBI “claims it worked and tonight, forensic examiners are attempting to exploit potential evidence inside.”

The AP  (3/29) reports that according to a senior law enforcement official, investigators “managed to defeat an Apple security feature that threatened to delete the phone’s contents if the FBI failed to enter the correct passcode combination after 10 tries.” That enabled the FBI to conduct a brute-force attack on the iPhone and enter potential passcodes until the phone was unlocked. It is not clear, however, the AP reports, how “the FBI dealt with a related Apple security feature that introduces increasing time delays between guesses.”

The Los Angeles Times  (3/29, Dave) reports that Apple “refused to give the FBI software the agency desperately wanted,” but now, Apple “is the one that needs the FBI’s assistance.” The FBI announced on Monday “that it managed to unlock an iPhone 5c belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters without the help of Apple,” and the bureau “has shown no interest in telling Apple how it skirted the phone’s security features, leaving the tech giant guessing about a vulnerability that could compromise millions of devices. ‘One way or another, Apple needs to figure out the details,’ said Justin Olsson, product counsel at security software maker AVG Technologies. ‘The responsible thing for the government to do is privately disclose the vulnerability to Apple so they can continue hardening security on their devices.’”

The AP  (3/29, Abdollah) reports that in 2014 the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement saying that software vulnerabilities – such as those presumably exploited to crack the San Bernardino iPhone – should be reported to companies. “When federal agencies discover a new vulnerability in commercial and open source software – a so-called ‘zero day’ vulnerability…it is in the national interest to responsibly disclose the vulnerability rather than to hold it for an investigative or intelligence purpose,” the office said. According to DNI, tech flaws should be divulged “unless there is a clear national security or law enforcement need.” The Wall Street Journal  (3/29, Wakabayashi, Barrett, Subscription Publication) reports that according to security experts, Apple’s refusal to help the FBI is a major factor that may lead the bureau not to share information about the iPhone’s security flaws with Apple.

Higher Education

New University of Wyoming Science Building Dedicated.

The AP  (3/29) reports on the dedication of the Michael B. Enzi STEM Facility at the University of Wyoming, attended by “Sen. Mike Enzi, Gov. Matt Mead and others.” The $50 million building has housed freshman and sophomore science classes since opening on January 25 and boasts more than 30 labs and “active-learning classrooms,” according to the AP.

Arkansas Biosciences Institute Exceeds Half-billion In Grant Funding.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette  (3/30, Sandlin) reports that through leveraging part of the state’s share of a 1998 national tobacco settlement the Arkansas Biosciences Institute reached $508,780,000 in total research grants from “both private foundations and federal agencies.” Achievements also announced include 350 “full-time equivalent knowledge-based jobs” at member institutions, 152 patent filings, and 34 patient awards for innovations.

Purdue University Mulls Pilot Income-Share Agreement Program.

The Hechinger Report  (3/29, Pappano) reports Purdue University is considering a pilot program for 100 to 200 students to add income-share agreements (ISAs) to their financial aid packages this fall. In return for money from investors, ISAs require students to repay a percentage of their future income to the investors over a set period of time. Details on the “Bet on a Boiler” program are still being finalized, but students who accept ISAs “could get up to $10,000 to $15,000 each for tuition, room, board and expenses, in exchange for a portion of their postgraduate earnings.” Ted Malone, director of financial aid at Purdue, recognizes the risks of ISAs, but points out it could help middle-class families that “can’t get grants but can’t write big checks for $10,000 either.” The Hechinger Report says ISAs are a “new spin on college financing” in the US, but are more common in Latin America.

Audit Accuses University Of California Of Admitting Too Many Out-Of-State Applicants.

The Los Angeles Times  (3/29, Watanabe) reports a “sharply critical state audit released Tuesday” says the University of California has hurt resident students by accepting a large number of out-of-state applicants to its campuses. The audit found in-state enrollment was up 10 percent over the past decade while out-of-state enrollment increased by 432 percent. Furthermore, non-California residents “benefited from lowered admission standards,” while residents were increasingly “turned away from their campus of choice.” The audit recommends “stricter entrance requirements for nonresident students,” as well as a cap on their enrollment and increased recruiting efforts toward black and Latino in-state students. UC President Janet Napolitano denounced the audit’s conclusions, saying they were “disappointingly prebaked,” and said the increase in out-of-state students was to cover rising costs in response to the state cutting education funding.

New Anti-Counterfeiting Program At Central Piedmont Community College.

WCNC-TV  Charlotte, NC (3/29, Yesenosky) reports that Central Piedmont Community College received a $200,000 National Science Foundation grant to “add an anti-counterfeiting program” to their curriculum, focusing on “counterfeit packaging.” The Charlotte (NC) Observer  (3/29, Marusak)says that the “two-year technician certificate program” will be led by CPCC’s graphic arts and imaging technology program chair Zachery Blackburn.

USA Today Reporter Says Student Loan Debt Forces Financial Responsibility.

USA Today  (3/29, Malcolm) business reporter Hadley Malcolm writes about how an “unexpected upside of” graduating with student debt is “the financial responsibility it forces on your life.” Malcolm says she takes “control of every dollar” she spends and knows “exactly where it’s going.” According to Malcolm, “Having control of your money, even when you have negative net worth, is oddly freeing.”

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

Massachusetts Institutions Attract Self-driving Car Industry.

The Springfield (MA) Republican  (3/29, Schoenberg) reports that “Massachusetts…could find itself in a strong position to benefit” from the rapidly growing self-driving car industry as car and technology companies increase research funding to Massachusetts universities and start-ups. Beneficiaries include researchers at Olin College of Engineering, MIT, and UMass Amherst, and state authorities are “considering a proposal” to use a former US Army base in Devens as a test site, according to the Republican.

NASA Chooses Penn State Team For Planet Finding Project.

The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News  (3/29, Alexandersen) reports that NASA chose a Penn-State-led research group to build a detection system for planets outside of the solar system. The 20-scientist team will have three years for the $10 million project, which will become “the centerpiece of a partnership between NASA and the National Science Foundation,” according to the Patriot-News. The device will be built in labs at Innovation Park on the Penn State University Park Campus.

Industry News

Nevada Dedicated World’s First Solar-Geothermal Hybrid Power Plant.

The AP  (3/29, Sonner) reports that on Tuesday “the only hybrid power plant in the world producing renewable energy by combining geothermal with two kinds of solar power” was dedicated by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and other officials. The Stillwater Hybrid Power Plant was built by a unit of Italy’s Enel. Marin Keller, director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said the cutting-edge technology is one of the “underpinnings of the future of clean energy.” He said it will help the US government meet commitments it outlined at climate talks in Paris in November to “dramatically accelerate the pace of energy technology innovation.” Italian Premier Matteo Renzi said at Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting, “The future of energy is technology.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal  (3/29, Whaley) reports that Enel CEO Francesco Starace said, “Stillwater showcases the pioneering technology innovation of Enel Green Power that is making us so successful in working with governments and business partners around the world to tackle environmental issues and climate change through renewable energy.” Gov. Sandoval touted $6 billion worth of renewable energy projects in the past six years and said he was “very, very pleased” with investment in the 33.1-megawatt project. The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune  (3/29) also provides coverage of this story.

Engineering and Public Policy

H-1B Visa Hires Overwhelmingly Come From India.

The Washington Examiner  (3/29) reports, based on a study by Information Week, that “at least 95 percent of foreign workers hired by the eight biggest users of high-tech visas were from India,” specifically “male Indian college graduates.” David North, a fellow at the Center of Immigration Studies, says that these hiring practices are “discriminating against US workers” and “those from the rest of the world,” and speculates that the employees hired are “cheaper than comparable resident workers” and “a pliable, non-mobile work force that would not think of joining a union.”

Professor: Skilled Immigration Restrictions “Hurting US Job Growth.” US News & World Report  (3/29) reports that according to a new report from Dartmouth Tuck School of Business professor Matthew Slaughter, “Rigid policies restricting skilled immigration are hurting US job growth while costing domestic companies thousands of dollars per worker.” The report “suggests existing H-1B visa regulations are limiting productivity growth in the US and costing American firms a fortune.” Slaughter said, “We’re not making it easier. If anything, I think it’s accurate to say we’re making it more difficult for companies in America to hire talented foreign nationals.”

FTC Sues Volkswagen Over “Deceptive” Advertising Of Diesel Vehicles.

The Federal Trade Commission filed a Federal lawsuit against Volkswagen Group of America, the German company’s US division, on Tuesday for the allegedly “deceptive” advertising of its “clean diesel” vehicles.

According to The Hill  (3/29, Henry), the FTC unanimously approved the lawsuit against VW, which was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

The Detroit Free Press  (3/29, Bomey) writes that the FTC “is pursuing ‘permanent injunctive relief, rescission, restitution, the refund of monies paid, disgorgement of ill-gotten monies, and other equitable relief,’ according to the lawsuit.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

GE Hitachi Hosts Girls In Technology Summit To Promote STEM Education.

WECT-TV  Wilmington, NC (3/29, Black) reports online that on Tuesday GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy hosted the eighth annual Girls in Technology Summit, which “brings together girls from six middle schools in New Hanover and Pender counties” in North Carolina “to meet with women who are engineers and technologists” at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. At the summit, “through hands-on activities, the students used their imagination and creativity to come up with innovative solutions to real-world engineering problems.” GE engineer Kate Martin said, “When I was young, it was opportunities like this that helped me realize I was interested in engineering.”

On its website, WWAY-TV  Wilmington, NC (3/29) says the summit “put on by GE Hitachi showed students math, science, and engineering can be fun.” Martin is further quoted as saying, “When I was a child if it wasn’t for parents and teachers that exposed me to things like Science Olympiad, I wouldn’t know that the engineering careers were out there as a possibility for myself.” Martin also “said the girls are incredible to work with and bring a new perspective to problem solving.” On its website, WBTV-TV  Charlotte, NC (3/29, Black) highlights the importance of promoting women in technology careers.

The Wilmington (NC) Star News  (3/29) hosts a slideshow online depicting the summit, and carries captions reporting that about “100 seventh and eighth graders from area schools participated” in the event. Photographs show volunteers Acquinetta Beatty and Jessica Yenser explaining “the rules and instructions for what the girls need to do to work together to build a ping-pong ball roller coaster.”

North Carolina School Adds IB Career Program.

The Winston-Salem (NC) Journal  (3/29, Winston) reports Parkland High School in Forsyth County is adding another “IB program aimed at students pursuing career-related education.” In that program, students have “different core coursework that includes a course on personal and professional skills.” They also “take a deeper dive into a specific career-field.”

ETH Zurich Student Exoskeleton Draws From Human Mechanics.

Reuters  (3/29, Stock) reports that engineering students at ETH Zurich are working on a powered exoskeleton suit with a variable knee softness that mirrors natural knee movement and makes the suit capable of handling more types of terrain and obstacles than other models. The team will be competing in the October 2016 Cybathlon, a competition for athletes with physical disabilities utilizing cutting-edge assistive devices to complete challenges specific to their handicaps.

New York School Offers New Nano Classes.

The Utica (NY) Observer Dispatch  (3/29, Scott) reports that the Utica City School District recently finished a “two-room nanotechnology lab” at Thomas R. Proctor High School as part of its $187.6 million capital project. The classes offered seek to complement initiatives by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to expand nanotechnology enterprises in the state and have over 140 students signed up throughout the next year.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

DOJ Drops Legal Action Against Apple After Cracking Farook’s iPhone.
Connecticut Senators Want Debt Relief For Students Of Fraudulent Colleges.
3D Printing Leads To Surgical Innovations.
New USGS Maps Show More Earthquakes In Central US, Many Caused By Wastewater Injection.
New York Institute Of Technology Engineering Dean Calls For More Computer Science Education To Fight Cybercrime.

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