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

Leading the News

Thune: Senate And House Have Reached Airport Security, FAA Agreement.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Morgan) reports Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune said the Senate and House have arrived at an agreement on airport security upgrades. Thune said the proposal will expand PreCheck and toughen vetting of aviation workers with access secure areas, among other things. He said the proposal could be voted on in both chambers before the summer break.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Zanona) focuses on another aspect of the agreement, a short-term extension of FAA programs “at current funding levels through September 2017.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Lowy, Press) reports, “The bipartisan agreement was announced by senior members of the House and Senate transportation committees. Approval by both chambers is expected to swiftly follow.” Congress “has only nine days to act in order to prevent a partial shutdown of the” FAA.

Higher Education

In “Direct Overture To Sanders,” Clinton Outlines College Tuition Plan.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Pace) reports that in a nod to Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton on Wednesday announced “new steps aimed at tackling the rising cost of college tuition and the burden of student loan debt, including a three-month moratorium on loan payments for all federal borrowers.” Clinton also called “for a plan that ensures families with annual incomes up to $125,000 pay no tuition at in-state public colleges and universities.” The AP says announcement was “a direct overture to Sanders,” who “was wildly popular with young voters during the Democratic primary, with many drawn to his calls for free tuition at all public colleges and universities.”

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Flegenheimer, Subscription Publication) reports that Clinton also vowed “to restore year-round Pell grant funding, her campaign said, in the hopes of aiding students seeking summer courses.” The Times adds that though Clinton’s proposal stooped “short of Mr. Sanders’s vision,” it’s “likely to hearten the senator and many of his supporters, as aides to Mrs. Clinton work to unite the party before the Democratic National Convention on July 25-28 in Philadelphia.”

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Wagner, Gearan, Weigel) reports that with her proposal, “Clinton took a major step Wednesday toward soothing tensions with…Sanders.” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver “called the Clinton plan ‘a tremendous step forward’ that would serve as ‘a signal to the people who supported Bernie Sanders that they’re being listened to.’”

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Gaudiano) reports that in response to the proposal, Sanders applauded “Clinton’s ‘bold initiative’ to ‘revolutionize the funding of higher education in America.’”

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Hefling, Strauss) reported that Clinton and Sanders “discussed their competing college cost plans last month during a meeting, and ‘strategized about how best to promote the issue in the party’s platform and ensure it remains a core issue in the general election debate,’ according to a Clinton aide.” Politico added that Clinton’s “campaign didn’t provide an estimated pricetag for the changes to her original plan, but said additional costs would be offset by closing ‘additional high-income tax loopholes’ and that it wouldn’t add to the national debt. The cost of Clinton’s original college affordability plan was $350 billion.” Under the headline “Clinton Expanding College Plan to Offer Free Tuition to Millions,” the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Meckler, Hughes, Subscription Publication) also has a report.

Plan Includes Three-Month Hiatus On Student Loan Payments. The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/5, Gearan, Phillip) reports that the ;lain includes “a three-month moratorium on repayment of federal student loans to allow time to refinance or restructure high-interest debt.” Under the “reprieve,” borrowers “could defer loan payments for three months” at an expected cost of $1 billion in “lost interest when borrowers refinance to cheaper loans.”

University Of Houston To Offer Energy-Focused Engineering Courses At Local CC.

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6) reports that the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering will begin offering “two energy-focused engineering courses at the Houston Community College (HCC) Northwest-Katy Campus” this fall. The graduate-level courses will focus on petroleum engineering and subsea engineering and “will be the first of many UH engineering courses offered in the Katy area.”

Tennessee Tech Offers Cybersecurity Program.

The Cookeville (TN) Herald-Citizen Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/3, Militana) reports Tennessee Tech has growing its cybersecurity program over the last decade. The school’s Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center was designated “a national center of academic excellence in cyber-defense education through 2021.”

ED’s Student Loan Forgiveness Rules Stir Higher Education Sector.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Wilson) reports that ED’s proposed new rules “that could make it easier for students to seek forgiveness of their federal student loans” are “roiling the higher education industry, with the backlash particularly fierce among for-profit colleges that feel they are being singled out.” Meanwhile, advocacy groups “have largely applauded the rule, but they are also upset with the Education Department and say the 530-page proposal released on June 13 does not go far enough in some cases.”

Colleges Courting Foreign Entrepreneurs With H-1B Visas.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Binkley) reports that at least five US colleges, including Boston’s Babson College, are helping foreign entrepreneurs – and their businesses – stay in the US “using a new approach that critics describe as exploiting a legal loophole.” The piece explains that the colleges are “creating ‘global entrepreneur in residence’ programs” to allow these individuals to become exempt from H-1B visa caps, thereby giving them long-term residence. The AP reports that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has sharply criticized the programs “as a ‘backhanded attempt’ to skirt federal rules.”

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Research and Development

GM Developing RoboGlove To Help People Work Beside Robots.

Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Rosen) reports General Motors and Bioservo Technologies are developing the RoboGlove, which is “designed to strengthen and prolong a worker’s grip.” GM spokesman Alan Adler says the company hopes to have a prototype on factory floors next year. A number of emerging technologies, such as the glove, seek to enhance “humans’ dexterity, endurance, and strength so they can work alongside industrial robots.”

Boeing Opens New Facility To Advance Autonomous, Interconnected UAS Technology.

The Daily Caller Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Lieberman) reports that Boeing is now experimenting with self-guided and interconnected UAS units at its recently-opened Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory (CASL). The article explains that “The Castle” is a “playground” for researchers and engineers to experiment and develop new drone capabilities, “including further autonomy, but especially collaboration between systems, otherwise known as swarm technology.” At the opening ribbon-cutting ceremony of “The Castle” last week, Boeing demonstrated “some of their synced technology.” According to the article, the intrinsic cooperation within interconnected systems “allows once difficult tasks to be completed easily through aggregation.”

IARPA Seeks Predictive Intelligence Tools.

Defense Systems Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Pomerleau) reports that “the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is seeking proposals in a four technical categories the agency is not currently addressing: anticipatory intelligence, analysis, operations and collection.” Defense Systems says “IARPA is interested in predictive technologies in detection and forecasting of emergent phenomena, automated generation and maintenance of taxonomies analysis and forecasting of rare events, quantitative risk assessments of emerging dual-use technologies, causal inference from observational data, methods for assessing capability and intent to develop weapons of mass destruction and methods for assessing capability and intent to leverage cyber capabilities against U.S. critical infrastructure.” The report says “IARPA plans to issue multiple awards under the BAA and awards will generally be for a period of performance lasting 12 months or less.” Responses are due by May 2, 2017.

DARPA Hosting Cyber Grand Challenge. LiveScience Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6) reports that the Defense Department “is hosting a huge hacking competition next month to highlight vulnerabilities in the world’s growing network of ‘smart’ devices – the so-called internet of things.” The report says that DARPA “will hold its Cyber Grand Challenge Aug. 4 in Las Vegas” and that its “first-of-its-kind contest is designed to pit machine against machine in what is being billed as the ‘world’s first automated network defense tournament.’” LiveScience explains that “each of the seven qualifying teams has already been awarded $750,000 to prepare for the event, and they will vie for a share of nearly $4 million in prize money at the Cyber Grand Challenge.”

Global Developments

Colorado Co-Op Engineer Travels To Remote Myanmar Village To Help Build Water System.

Electric Co-op Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Kahn) reports Rachel Schur Wagner, a staff engineer at La Plata Electric Association in Durango, Colo., took “four planes, an 11-hour bus ride and” then spent “two hours in a truck” to get her vacation destination. Schur traveled to the remote village of Nang Boat in Myanmar, also known as Burma, to “bring running water to the people there.” Wagner said, “It’s all gravity. There’s no pump, no moving parts. You basically have to have enough elevation drop at the source to the tank to get water to flow. And then enough drop from the tank into the system.” ECT adds the residents must “buy into a water committee, which is run similar to a co-op. Being subsistence farmers, they buy in with labor rather than money.”

Chinese Government Group Works To Develop Autonomous Driving Standards.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, News) reports China is developing policies and regulations for autonomous vehicles that will provide standards for automakers. The Society of Automotive Engineers of China and other foreign governments are facing pressure to regulate self-driving vehicles to create safe environments for passengers. Bloomberg notes the Chinese government is also pushing for faster implementation of self-driving vehicles as part of a plan urging manufacturers to improve technology to compete with other low-cost manufacturing countries.

Industry News

Android Phones May Have To Be Reset To Be Rid Of HummingBad Malware.

CNET News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Hautala) reports security specialist Check Point says HummingBad malware “has taken hold of about 10 million Android phones around the world” and “can take root in your phone, collecting your personal data and making it act like you’ve clicked on ads that you haven’t.” CNET says that “there are steps you can take to see if HummingBad has roosted with you” and that individuals can remove the malware “though the fix is only a few steps removed from ‘kill it with fire.’” CNET explains that any number of antivirus apps should not be able to detect HummingBad now that it is publicly known and that “if you find you’re the owner of one of the millions of infected phones (only 288,800 of which are in the US), you can get rid of it, but you’re not going to like the approach: factory reset.”

Android Update Designed To Curb Ransomware Infections. The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Blake) reports that the next release of Android, code-named Nougat, “will reportedly make it more difficult for hackers to compromise mobile devices with ransomware, potentially resolving cybersecurity concerns raised by recent explosion of infections suffered by smart phones.” According to a blog post written Tuesday by Dinesh Venkatesan, a principal threat analysis engineer at security firm Symantec, “the new OS will implement a feature intended to keep hackers from locking Android users out of their devices with ransomware.” The Times points out that “ransomware infections caused more than $1.6 million in damages last year, per the FBI’s own account, and a report published last month by Kaspersky Labs revealed that the number Android users attacked with ransomware went up nearly 300 percent between 2014 and 2015.”

IBM Launches Experimentation As A Service Offering.

eWeek Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Taft) reports that IBM Research has launched an “Experimentation as a Service offering” allowing users to make “demos of products and services and host them on the IBM Cloud.” According to a description on IBM’s Cloud Marketplace site, the EaaS offering enables “demo creators to define and implement a set of services and UIs that provide an abstraction of the underlying cloud resources (including VMs and Networks)” to make it “easier for individuals to quickly develop, classify and recall complex demonstration topologies and experiments on an as needed basis.” Dinesh Verma, IBM Fellow and Department Group Manager of IBM Research Cloud-based Networks, said the company “is now offering IBM Research Experimentation as a Service to the public through a ‘freemium’ model on the IBM Cloud Marketplace.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Mandalay Bay Rooftop Solar Array Expanded, Now Largest In The Nation.

The Las Vegas Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6) reports the “largest rooftop solar array” now sits atop the Mandalay Bay Convention Center following an expansion. MGM Resorts International announced yesterday “that its roughly 26,000 solar panels that span 28 acres set a record as the largest rooftop array in the United States.” The system, at full production, “will provide Mandalay Bay 25-percent of its energy.” The array at Mandalay Bay “was first unveiled in 2014 at an event that included U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.” The Sun adds that “through the second-phase expansion announced on Wednesday, MGM Resorts and NRG Energy added about 5,000 additional solar panels.”

DOE Lab Consortium Working To Modernize Grid.

E&E News PM Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Subscription Publication) reports that in January, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz rolled out a blueprint “to transform America’s electrical grid to handle much larger quantities of renewable energy,” bankrolled by $220 million in new funds. “Teams from 14 of DOE’s 17 research labs will work on 88 projects designed to transform the power grid.” Bryan Hannegan, an associate director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and co-chairman of DOE’s Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium called the effort “a small tugboat trying to turn a big ocean liner of other people’s investments.” Hannegan’s predecessor, David Danielson, a former assistant secretary of DOE, “says that the plan comes at a time when the US economic stage is finally set for a big power shift.” A growing global $300 billion clean energy industry, Danielson said, presents “an opportunity for the US to lead the way in clean energy manufacturing competitiveness.”

Window Closing On Energy Bill Conference Vote.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6, Henry) reports that with ten legislative days before senators recess, “the prospects that an energy reform package will wilt away this session” have risen. “Senate Democrats have resisted going to a conference committee with the House because of provisions within the House bill they oppose.” Senate Energy Committee Member John Barrasso said a motion to go to a conference committee won’t come to the floor until Democrats can put up the votes. Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski “said she hopes to get a vote on going to conference this week, but acknowledged the Senate schedule is full of other matters.”

Michigan Appeals Court Will Not Stop Consumers Energy Smart Meters.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6) reports an appeals court in Michigan “has upheld a 2013 decision by state regulators to allow Consumers Energy to roll out high-tech meters.” The attorney general’s office “challenged the utility’s ability to recover the costs of the so-called smart meters.” But the appeals court, in a 2-1 decision this week, “says state regulators relied on sufficient evidence supplied by the company.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

NSF Awards $1.2 Million To Tuskegee’s STEM Summer Academy.

The Hudson Valley (NY) Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/6) reports the National Science Foundation has awarded $1.2 million to Tuskegee University “to bring drone technology to high school students and their teachers” during a “4-week long intensive STEM Summer Academy” led by the university’s Computer Science Department. The program “will engage 30 rising 10th and 11th grade students from Macon County and Montgomery public schools,” who will participate in “exciting aerial drone-based activities.” The grant will also allow “six teachers from the participating schools to take part in the academy each year” so they can bring STEM concepts from the Academy into their classrooms.

Female Interest In Coding Soars In NYC Public Schools.

The New York Daily News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/5, Chapman) reports that 340 female New York City high school juniors and seniors enrolled in Girls Who Code’s free summer computing classes – up from 260 girls in 2015 and 20 girls in 2012. According to Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani, four girls applied for every available seat in this summer’s classes – reflecting girls’ growing interest in coding. The company “runs coding clubs at 40 city schools” and has “1,560 female students participating in its summer immersion programs in cities around the country.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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