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

Leading the News

Hackers Targeting Internet Of Things Devices For Cyberattacks.

MIT Technology Review Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30, Condliffe) reported hackers are targeting Internet-connected devices to create botnets that collectively send “data and Web page requests to servers with such ferocity that they’re overwhelmed and ultimately crash” through sophisticated DDoS attacks. MIT Technology Review says the amount of Internet-connected devices has “increased dramatically,” giving hackers a larger number of devices to bundle in botnet attacks.

The Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Bray) reports a study by the research firm Gartner Inc. “estimates there are about 6.4 billion IoT devices in the world.” Some IT security analysts “say that many of these devices are just as hackable as our home computers, but much harder to protect from attack.” Roland Dobbins, principal engineer at computer security company Arbor Networks Inc., “called for IoT companies to band together and set industrywide policies, to make their products harder to hack.”

Earlier Kickoff For FAFSA Submissions Begins.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Tompor) reports on the “new, earlier Oct. 1 kickoff for filing the” FAFSA, which “some parents and students have found overly long and arduous to complete.” The article notes that the previous January submission date caused problems for families who didn’t have access to financial data because they hadn’t yet filed their taxes. Moreover, “the idea is to move things up a few months to make it easier to plan and compare financial aid offers when possible.”

Marketplace Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30) reports that the move is “part of an initiative by the Obama Administration to provide timely financial aid information to high school students and their families.” The piece features Education Secretary John King saying, “Well, one of the challenges is that families need good information about how much aid they will be able to get in order to make decisions about colleges. And by moving the opening date for FAFSA filing up to Oct. 1, families will be able to get earlier information about the aid for which they are eligible.”

The Commonwealth (VA) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2), Colorado Daily Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30), the International Business Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30), the Cleveland Plain Dealer Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30), and the Toledo (OH) Blade Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30) also cover this story.

Campaign Releases Humorous Video Promoting FAFSA Completion. Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30) reports the National College Access Network has launched a new campaign urging high school seniors to complete the FAFSA. The campaign “is focusing on low-income and minority students – those least likely to apply for financial aid but most likely to benefit from it.” Meanwhile, the White House and College Humor “released a video featuring Michelle Obama that tries to show how silly it is not to fill out the FAFSA.”

Higher Education

Montana State University Engineering Center To Focus On Supporting Women.

The Bozeman (MT) Daily Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2) reports that last year’s graduating class from Montana State University’s electrical engineering program had 39 men and four women, and notes that the school’s new Montana Engineering Education Research Center will focus on “finding ways to increase student diversity, graduation and retention rates.” Researchers at the center plan to “look into why more women don’t go into engineering and what interventions work to encourage more to choose the field.”

More Coverage Of ED’s HSI STEM Grants.

A handful of media outlets are continuing to run reports on colleges that have received ED Hispanic Serving Institutions Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Articulation Program grants. The Pueblo (CO) Chieftain Share to
FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2), the San Antonio Express-News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30), the Albuquerque (NM) Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(10/1), and KRCR-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Redding, CA (10/1) run reports.

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Our feature story is on new joint research opportunities with the thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations.

Research and Development

Atlanta To Take Part In Expanded Smart Cities Initiative.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Saunders, Subscription Publication) reports the White House recently announced that it will invest more than $160 million in research funds for the Smart Cities Initiative. Several federal agencies will be taking part of the initiative, include the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Science Foundation, as well as several private sector partners. The Chronicle reports that the city of Atlanta will be participating in the White House Smart Cities initiative as a member of one of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Global City Teams. According to the White House announcement, as a member of a NIST city team, Atlanta will collaborate with other cities “take on grand challenges too big for any single city team to tackle.”

Lawmakers Question Whether SpaceX Should Lead Investigation Into Falcon 9 Explosion.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/29, Davenport) reports 10 House Republicans “wrote Thursday that they are increasingly concerned about SpaceX’s ability to safely fly NASA astronauts and national security satellites after the company recently suffered its second rocket explosion in just over a year.” The letter, addressed to FAA, NASA, and the Air Force, “said SpaceX should not be leading the investigation into its most recent failure, and that authority should be turned over to the federal government ‘to ensure that proper investigative engineering rigor is applied.’”

NYTimes Explores English Countryside In Search Of Amazon’s “Secret” UAV Testing Program.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/1, Scott, Subscription Publication) reported on Amazon’s “secret” UAV testing program “at an undisclosed location in Britain.” Described by Amazon executives as the company’s largest outdoor test site, the Times tracked down the testing site somewhere near Cambridgeshire, by finding a “warning to pilots that unmanned aircraft would be flying in the area” and “uncharacteristically fast cellphone reception in such a remote area — a must when processing drone data,” in addition to “the growing list of jobs and openings at Amazon’s research and development site” that indicated where UAV testing was underway.

CSRA-Led Team Completes Updates To NIH Supercomputing Infrastructure.

ExecutiveBiz Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30, Clemens) reported, “A consortium led by CSRA has expanded a supercomputing cluster at the National Institutes of Health’s Center for Information Technology in an effort to help NIH researchers process and analyze large data sets.” The companies “added the latest computing power increment to the Biowulf infrastructure that NIH uses to perform computations in genomics, image processing, statistical analysis and biomedical research projects.”

Gravity Fluctuations Could Indicate Subsurface Ocean On Saturn’s Moon Dione.

Popular Mechanics Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/1) reported that research published in the journal Geophysical Review Letters found evidence of gravity fluctuations on Saturn’s moon Dione that could be caused by a liquid ocean beneath the moon’s surface. Researchers estimate that an ocean several miles deep could be located 62 miles under the surface, causing a “wobble” in the Dione’s orbit, simlar to Enceladus’.


Amazon Hiring Hundreds For Echo And Alexa Groups.

Re/code Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/1, Del Rey) reported Amazon’s Echo and Alexa groups are “looking to fill 400 positions, according to Amazon’s Alexa job page,” with jobs including data engineers, product managers, and machine learning scientists in various locations across the US and overseas. According to Re/code, Amazon is pushing for other companies “to integrate the Alexa voice assistant technology into their own devices” and believes it can devise “a business model once the technology becomes ubiquitous.” Canadian Reviewer Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2) draws from the Re/code article to offer similar coverage.

More Companies Offer Telecommuting Options For Tech Employees To Retain Top Talent.

The Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/1, Percival) reports that as companies compete “to find and retain talented tech employees,” the approach of creating “distributed teams and remote work options are one method being used to expand the talent search and attract a wider and more diverse population of engineers.” One example cited by the story is a Staples study finding that “employees who work from home experience 25% less stress than office-bound counterparts,” for instance.

Engineering and Public Policy

California Changes Rules On Autonomous Vehicles To Reflect New Federal Guidelines.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/1) reports on California’s new rules for autonomous vehicles that “have changed course and opened a pathway for the public to get self-driving cars that have no steering wheels or pedals,” a question the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles “has been wrestling” with “for several years.” The state rules bring California more in line with new Federal guidelines on self-driving cars, the story says, and “in incorporating the federal approach, California dropped a proposal that a third-party company would certify the safety of self-driving cars.” The state also updated its regulation of vehicles currently on the market, banning “the advertising of vehicles with lower levels of automation — like Tesla Motors’ Autopilot, which on divided highways can keep a car’s lane and brake and accelerate on the understanding that a person is paying attention all of the time — as ‘autonomous’ or ‘self-driving.’”

WSJournal: CA High-Speed Rail Project Needs Stricter Oversight.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2, Subscription Publication) editorializes that California Gov. Jerry Brown should not have vetoed legislation providing for financial safeguards on the state’s proposed high-speed rail project. The legislation would have required the rail authority to specify all of its projected costs in its business plan as well as explain changes in costs and schedule when they occur. The Journal highlights several challenges for the rail project – its route has not been decided, its revenues are not secure, and one of its segments would terminate in an unpopulated almond orchard. The Journal concludes that the project needs more accountability.

Some Big Countries Raise Concerns About Aviation Emissions Agreement.

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter’s (10/1) “Morning Energy” blog reported concerns from India, Russia, and China “delayed completion of discussions of an international cap and trade program for airplane emissions at the International Civil Aviation Organization Executive Committee meeting” on Thursday. The original draft had “broad support from many countries, but…the chair is going to hold meetings with concerned countries in the hopes of bringing them on board.”

NASA Scientists Concerned Climate Change Is Putting Kennedy Space Center At Risk.

ClimateWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30, Subscription Publication) reports NASA scientists are concerned that climate “could pose a risk to space exploration” and the agency is “trying to figure out how to make the Kennedy Space Center…more climate-resilient.” Superstorm Sandy impacted KCS in 2012, “reportedly blowing sand from the beach to the space center’s launch pads.” NASA environmental scientist Don Dankert said, “I think the telling story is that the storm was almost 230 miles offshore, and it still had an impact. It makes you wonder what would happen if a storm like that came in much closer, or collided with the coast.” The agency “has since started to adopt climate resilience strategies, including putting up a $3 million dune funded” by FEMA.

“Green Coal” Company Bundling Coal With Carbon Offsets.

In a 3,500-word story, the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/1, Corkery, Wines, Subscription Publication) reports on of business of ERP Compliant Fuels, one of the largest producers of metallurgical coal in North America, which is buying mines from the twice-bankrupt Patriot Coal. ERP’s chief Tom Clarke’s plan “involves creating pollution credits by planting or preserving trees around the world to offset the carbon emitted from burning coal.” For every ton of coal he sells, ERP attaches some of the credits. Clarke hoped electric utilities would be able to count his green-coal credits toward Clean Power Plan carbon-emissions goals, but that has been effectively ruled out by the Obama Administration. The Times reports that “Clarke’s reclamation work has been meeting regulatory standards and even exceeding expectations by some measures,” but environmentalists worry that Clarke is revitalizing coal and may not be able to cover reclamation costs if the firm runs into financial trouble.

DOE Funded Guide Provides Vermonters With Solar Information.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/2) reports that a “free guide to going solar” is being offered to the public by the Vermont Public Service Department. Commissioner Chris Recchia says the state has seen significant growth “in residential and community-scale solar” with more than “6,000 installed net-metered solar projects across the state.” The VPSD says the booklet “A Vermonter’s Guide to Residential Solar” will “help residents decide if solar makes sense for them and if so how to go about it.” An Energy Department initiative funded the publication of the booklet.

Clean Energy Cost Declines Illustrated In One Chart.

Vox Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30) on Friday posted a single chart condensing six chart in the Department of Energy’s just-released “Revolution Now” an annual update on progress in accelerating clean energy. The chart shows the decline of costs for wind power, utility-scale solar power, distributed solar power, electric vehicles, and LEDs.

Analysts See Tesla’s Model 3 Displacing 300,000 Bpd Of US Gasoline Demand By 2035.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/1, Slav) reports that Tesla’s Model 3 could shave off 300,000 barrels per day in gasoline demand in the US by 2035, according to a report by Wood Mackenzie. The firm’s analysts is based on the success of Model S and the pre-orders of the Model 3, around 400,000 worldwide.

Elementary/Secondary Education

University Of Maryland Program Pairs Middle School Students With Mentors In The Sciences.

The Baltimore Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/1, Anderson) reported the University of Maryland, Baltimore CURE Scholars Program pairs middle school students with mentors who work in different fields. The program is funded by the National Cancer Institute and “aims to help children in West Baltimore schools succeed in science-related careers but also to promote diversity in those fields.”

San Diego Schools To Launch STEAM Magnet Programs To Boost Enrollment.

The San Diego Union-Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30, Magee) reported that Carson and Linda Vista elementary schools and Montgomery Middle School are launching “STEAM magnet programs next year” as part of “an effort to boost enrollment among neighborhood students and meet growing demand for science and technology courses.” The new magnates are funded by a $10 million federal grant and will focus on “promoting science, technology, engineering, art and math” – including “robotics, coding classes and ‘creative maker spaces’ for engineering and design projects.” San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten said the district was “very strategic about” applying for the US Department of Education grant – selecting the three schools that feed students to Kearny High School. She added, “We are committed to quality neighborhood schools. And we listened to our community, this is what families want.”

Student Debt Delays Some Peoples’ Choices To Marry, Buy Homes.

The Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (9/30, Gorey) reports on the way in which large student debt may make it harder for those with them “to see homeownership.” The Globe cites a 2015 survey finding that “1 in 5 reported postponing marriage because of student debt, while more than half said loans had delayed their decision to buy a home.” The combination of “record high home prices” and student debt mean that many in their 20s delay the purchase of a home and also “tend to marry and have kids later in life.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

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