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

Leading the News

Research On Gene Drive Technology Has Potential To Eliminate Entire Populations Of Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes.

The New York Times  (6/8, A1, Harmon, Subscription Publication) reports that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine endorsed research on “gene drive” technology, which “gives humans the power for the first time to alter or eliminate entire populations of organisms in the wild — like mosquitoes, mice or plants — through deliberate genetic manipulation.” Gene drives ensure that a “chunk of genetic code containing them is transmitted to all of an individual’s offspring, even if it reduces their fitness or causes their annihilation.”

The AP  (6/8, Neergaard) reports that traditional genetic engineering of mosquitoes is limited because altered mosquitoes “can’t survive outside of a lab,” meaning that “any population decline would be slower and more controllable than if gene drives had been used.” Researchers believe that gene drive technology should make it “possible to eliminate populations” of mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus and dengue fever “by making them sterile.”

USA Today  (6/8, May) reports that gene drive technology “could eliminate mosquitoes’ Zika-carrying cousins or wipe out an invasive species.” However, “wiping out an invasive species could disrupt the environment and make room for something worse to take its place” so “more research is required to understand how the technology can be used safely.”

Higher Education

Cal Poly Students Make New Exercise Machine For Special Olympic Athletes.

KSBY-TV  San Luis Obispo, CA (6/3) reports that Cal Poly mechanical engineering students have partnered with PathPoint to create “a new way for Special Olympic athletes to train.” The “multi-station accessible workout gym” has “different tiers of exercises including cardio, weights and band resistance movements” and is designed to be used by people with or without disabilities.

ITT Educational Services Considering Response To ED Financial Restrictions.

The Indianapolis Star  (6/8) reports that ITT Educational Services is still considering how it will respond to ED’s recent directive to “set aside extra money to protect students in case it collapses.” The piece explains that in an SEC filing this week, the firm “offered ‘no assurance’ that it will meet” ED’s requirement that it “maintain $123.6 million on hand, up from $79.7 million, to reimburse students if the company goes out of business.”

UCLA To Announce Details Of Task Force And Investigation Into Campus Shooting.

Following the campus shooting that resulted in the murder of a professor and the gunman’s suicide, Reuters  (6/8, Bernstein) reports that UCLA has initiated a campus security analysis and plans to launch a task force to ensure that findings are implemented. Though officials did not offer concrete details on the potential issues to be addressed, some have indicated that the task force may consider whether class rooms should be equipped with locking doors.

EDITOR NEEDED: Journal of Engineering Education
ASEE members recognize JEE as the world’s premier journal on the scholarship of engineering and engineering technology education. Read more if you’d like to be considered as the next editor.

Summer Prism Now Online
ASEE members can access the new Prism magazine online. Topics include research opportunities opening up with a thaw in US-Cuba relations and proposed changes to ABET criteria, among much more.

Retention Strategies
Going the Distance” is a video showcasing effective retention strategies at six universities.

ASEE has done extensive work on retention and time-to-graduation rates over the previous several years. A good distillation was recently done by consultant Cindy Veenstra.

Research and Development

Tech Startup Develops AI To Prevent Cyberattacks.

IDG News Service  (6/8, Noyes) profiles tech startup Cylance, which has developed “AI to detect and prevent cyberattacks.” The product, dubbed CylanceProtect, “uses AI to proactively analyze a file’s characteristics and predict before it executes on the local host, whether it is safe or a threat.” IDG News Service adds that Cylance has raised $100 million in funding and will “expand its sales, marketing, and engineering programs.”

NASA Holding 2016 UAV Conference In Central New York.

The Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard  (6/8) reports NASA will hold an international UAV convention this fall at “sites in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley that are affiliated with NUAIR Alliance, a nonprofit consortium that runs one of six national test sites for drones authorized” by the FAA. According to the Post-Standard, NUAIR administers “many of its tests at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Row.” A reason why NASA selected the Syracuse region for the conference is because New York is investing $250 million “to develop an air traffic management system for drones so they can be safely integrated into the nation’s commercial airspace.” The first Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management Convention was held at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffet Field, California in July 2015.


Raytheon’s Wajsgras Calls For Fostering Greater Interest In Cybersecurity Careers.

In a US News & World Report  (6/8) op-ed, Raytheon president of Intelligence, Information and Services David Wajsgras writes that defending against a rising tide of cybersecurity threats “increasingly will depend on the successful nurturing of our youth to develop an interest in pursuing” STEM subjects. Moreover, even as interest in STEM subjects rises, “more young people must see cybersecurity as a worthwhile career option.” Wajsgras also laments “a deeply entrenched gender gap in engineering and technology that begins as early as high school.”

Global Developments

Helping Senegalese Farmers With Smart Solar.

Renee Cho, of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes at Phys (UK)  (6/8, Cho) that an Energy Grand Challenge for Development, launched by USAID “and international partners, provides grants to entities exploring clean energy solutions for agriculture that have the potential to be scaled up.” Cho says that “in 2013, the Earth Institute at Columbia University received a grant for its pilot Acacia Irrigation project in Senegal.” She explains that “the Sustainable Engineering Lab set up a battery-less system comprised of three solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays to power irrigation pumps in Gabar, a village in the Niayes zone of Senegal, which produces over half the country’s agriculture.” Meanwhile, “early indications are that the farmers using the solar powered pumps for planting carrots have harvested more than similar farmers using diesel pumps.”

Industry News

Apple To Offer Ads In App Store For First Time, Improve Developer Incentives.

Major outlets and tech media report Apple has said it will begin showing paid ads in its App Store for the first time and reduce its revenue split with apps that have long-lasting subscribers. Speaking to the The Verge  (6/8), Apple SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller outlined the changes ahead of next week’s Worldwide Developer Conference. The move represents “a fundamental shift in the economics of the App Store,” according to the Verge, as “developers will be incentivized to sell their apps for a recurring fee instead of a one-time cost.” The plan would maintain the traditional 70/30 split, but “developers who are able to maintain a subscription with a customer longer than a year will see Apple’s cut drop down to 15 percent” from 30 percent.

Stressing that Apple wants to keep developers working on apps for its store, rather than losing them to Android, the Wall Street Journal  (6/8, Wakabayashi, Subscription Publication) explains that Apple will use the ad revenue in part to offset the revenue split reduction. Jackdaw Research founder Jan Dawson said the plan will be an improvement for developers and create new business models. The Journal notes that Alphabet also offers a 30/70 revenue split, though it has extended an 85% rate to some subscription-based apps. Apple is also cutting it review times for app submissions.

Shira Ovide examines the move in a Bloomberg Business  (6/8) Gadfly blog. Ovide writes that “changing the App Store incentives for developers is the company’s biggest bet yet” to make it less dependent on device sales, but she thinks it would “take a significant subscription shift to move the needle.” Still, Ovide says Apple deserves “credit for experimenting with ways to make developers happier and trying to plug the company’s huge strategic problem to boot.”

Among other media reporting are the AP  (6/8, Bailey), USA Today  (6/8, Graham), Bloomberg News  (6/8, Webb), Motley Fool  (6/8), CNBC  (6/8), CNET News  (6/8), and Business Insider  (6/8).

Continuing Speculation Ahead Of WWDC. Meanwhile, Ars Technica  (6/8) runs through what observers believe is coming at WWDC this year, though it adds the proviso that “reliable rumors are less plentiful this year than they have been in the past, which means that whatever else happens, this may well be the most surprising Apple keynote we’ve had in quite a while.” The Verge  (6/8) headlines its preview, “Apple’s WWDC 2016: Siri, IOS 10, Apple Music, And What Else To Expect,” and Bidness Etc.  (6/8) features predictions for the conference from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Engineering and Public Policy

House Unanimously Approves Pipeline Safety Bill.

The Hill  (6/8, Henry) reports the House of Representatives yesterday approved “a bill to reauthorize the federal pipeline safety oversight board.” Congress members “attached their bill re-upping the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to a Senate bill passed earlier this year doing the same thing.” The measure will now go back to the Senate. The legislation was “passed unanimously,” with “both the ranking Republican and Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee” praising it. Chairman Fred Upton said, “We promised action, and today, I am proud that we have a bipartisan agreement that will make a real difference.”

McClatchy  (6/8) reports House lawmakers approved the bill with the aim of preventing “the catastrophic pipeline breakdowns that have devastated parts of California.” The legislation “updates federal Department of Transportation programs that could affect the 200,000-plus miles of gas and hazardous materials pipelines that currently snake through the Golden State.” The bill “calls for a federal inquiry into the massive leak discovered last year at Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility that spewed 107,000 tons of methane into the air.” The bill represents “a rare example of congressional cooperation in an election year.”

Engineering News-Record  (6/8, Ichniowski), the Ventura County (CA) Star  (6/8, Sullivan), the Santa Clarita Valley (CA) Signal  (6/8, Thacker), and the Wichita (KS) Eagle  (6/8, Lefler) also report on the story.

Senate Committee To Hold Hearing On Impact Of Clean Power Plan Stay.

The Hill  (6/8, Cama, Henry) reports the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will today “hold a hearing on the implications for the Supreme Court’s February stay of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.”

House Approves Bill To Delay EPA Ozone Rule Compliance.

The AP  (6/8, Daly) reports that the House on Wednesday approved a bill delaying stricter EPA limits on ozone pollution, despite a veto threat. The EPA “plans to implement the ozone rule over a 20-year period that gives the most-polluted states until 2037 to fully comply,” but “Republicans said a series of interim deadlines set to begin this fall are difficult for states to meet.” The bill delays state action until 2024. The Hill  (6/8, Henry) reports the bill “would also slow down the review schedule for EPA air pollutant rules and give regulators the chance to consider cost — not just public health impacts — when reviewing those rules.”

Senate Energy Reform Bill Includes “Controversial” Methane Drilling Provision.

E&E News PM  (6/8, Subscription Publication) reports that a “controversial” provision in the Senate energy reform bill slated to be considered when lawmakers launch a conference committee “would authorize federally funded drilling for methane hydrates in Alaska” on land and sea. The issue “has long been a priority” for Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The Obama Administration supports expansion into methane hydrates, which DOE has called a “vast, untapped potential energy resource,” but environmental advocates worry about potential seafloor destabilization and climate change.

Environmental Group Requests Probe Of EPA Methane Leak Reports.

The Los Angeles Times  (6/8, Penn) reports that environmental advocacy group NC Warn has filed a complaint saying that David Allen, who was head of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board at the time, did not correct key reports for 2013 and 2014 “about methane leaks after the equipment used for the reports was proved faulty.” The group “has called for an investigation by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Trio Of Florida Students’ Experiment Returns From ISS.

The Tampa Bay (FL) Times  (6/8, Solomon) reports that three sixth-grade girls in Hillsborough County, Florida received a FedEx package last month containing a “6-inch plastic tube that housed their experiment” which had been included on a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station. The experiment’s goal “was to determine if cottonseeds could germinate, or grow, in a low gravity environment. The girls hope their experiment could one day help space explorers produce their own food, clothing and medicine for a manned mission to Mars.”

Duke Energy Foundation Donates $20,000 To Support STEAM Education In Spartanburg, SC.

The Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal  (6/8) reports that the Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation that will enable the center’s Advantage: Arts & Science program to provide mobile science and arts offerings to local students. The article explains that the purpose of the program is to leverage art as “an entry point to the world of more technology and science based learning.” In a statement, Chapman’s President and CEO Jennifer Evins said, “We want to foster creativity with our students so they can better integrate in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which will ultimately help them become a successful part of a future workforce for the region that is tech savvy and compatible with industry needs.”

Chicago High School Robotics Team Wins Regional Contest.

The Daily Southtown (IL)  (6/9) reports that the robotics team at Brother Rice High School in Chicago recently placed first in the Marine Advanced Technology Education Midwest Regional Championship for underwater robotics. Science teacher Dan Mostyn, who coaches the high school team, said that after winning the regional contest, “the next step is to go to Houston in June to NASA’s Johnson Space Center to compete in the international competition.” The article explains that Brother Rice team had to compete against 11 other teams in the Chicago area “to build a robot that could do specific chores, such as open doors, or gather samples from an ocean floor.”

Local Kids Win Second Prize In International Lego Robot Tournament.

The Almanac (PA)  (6/8, Funk) reports that South Fayette Township students – brothers Parv and Nav Shrivastava of the Robo Disruptors team – “recently exhibited their technological expertise on a global stage” at the FIRST Lego League Razorback Invitational International Tournament at the University of Arkansas in May. The brothers won “second place for robot design,” beating entrants from “72 teams representing 13 countries.”

Also in the News

Viral Video Shows Retired Aerospace Engineer Singing Nu Metal On America’s Got Talent.

The Denver Post  (6/8, Worthington) reports that the video of retired aerospace engineer John Hetlinger singing the nu metal song “Bodies” on America’s Got Talent Tuesday night “has gone viral, leading to a plethora of tweets, more than 2.3 million Facebook views, and an invitation from Drowning Pool to join them onstage.” The 82-year-old Hetlinger said, “I’m really surprised by the results but all-in-all, I think it’s really a lot of fun.” According to the Post, Hetlinger is a former project manager for Ball Aerospace and Technologies, “where he helped fix NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.” Hetlinger’s wife said he has been singing karaoke for more than 20 years.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Haley: South Carolina Will Not Become “Dumping Ground For Nuclear Waste.”
ED Data: Most High School Graduates Go On To Some Form Of Postsecondary Education.
MIT, Harvard Researchers Develop Black Hole Imaging Algorithm.
Obama Offers Support For India’s Implementation Of Climate Pact.
Experts Discuss Integration Of Autonomous Vehicles.
Senate Unanimously Approves Overhaul Of Toxic Substances Control Act.
Opinion: The US Can Become A Leader In STEM Education.

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