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

Leading the News

Cybersecurity Contest Focuses On Hacking Critical Infrastructure.

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24) reports the first annual Passcode capture the flag cybersecurity contest was held in Washington last week and the event “drew more than 50 participants in a digital skills challenge loosely based on the schoolyard pastime.” The Monitor says a Junior from California State Polytechnic University built small structures that mimicked water treatment facilities. The teams tried to hack the faux water treatment facilities “by solving puzzles, answering trivia questions, and attempting to seek out vulnerabilities in software.”

Anderson University Expands Cybersecurity Offerings. In commemoration of October being National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the Goshen (IN) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23, Bibbs) described the cybersecurity program at Anderson University, which is “interdisciplinary, drawing from the fields of computer science, political science and computer engineering.” Assistant professor Kyle “Tarplee said companies already are approaching the university for partnerships that develop a pipeline for full-time employees through paid internships, similar to the program AU has with Indianapolis-based Interactive Intelligence.” The article highlighted the job opportunities available in the cybersecurity field.

Higher Education

Google Partners With Tennessee State University On Software Training.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24) reports the Google in Residence program designated Tennessee State University as a “Google School,” meaning it will use “Google engineers to teach introductory computer science classes and help students develop soft and technical skills.” The university’s Department of Computer Sciences Chairman Ali Sekmen “says Google in Residence will strengthen the program and students with technical skills and better understanding of top software engineering companies’ interview processes.”

Research: Black Youth In Baltimore Ill Served By For-Profit Trade Schools.

The Atlantic Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24) reports on research into the lives of black youth living in Baltimore’s public housing projects which showed “a striking picture of black Baltimore youth striving, persevering, and working persistently to get ahead – only to find themselves undereducated and underemployed.” Such youth in their early adulthood “were consistently drawn to for-profit trade schools” but saw little positive result from their studies. The students’ “lack of knowledge about occupational careers in auto mechanics, cosmetology, and health-care and computer fields, as well as the structure of many for-profit trade programs, resulted in a series of fits-and-starts – with for-profit schools proving to be a costly and complicated route to postsecondary education.” The article touches tangentially on the increased regulatory pressure on the for-profit college sector from ED and elsewhere.

CFPB Blames Servicers For Low Income-Driven Loan Repayment Program Participation.

The Philadelphia Inquirer Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24, Sandman) reports that while ED has said over the past year that student loan borrowers “just don’t want to apply for ED’s income-driven loan repayment programs,” a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report “draws a different conclusion: it largely blames the loan servicers, and not for the first time.” The Inquirer quotes CFPB student loan ombudsman Seth Frotman saying, “Too many student loan borrowers are struggling to take advantage of their right to pay based on how much money they make. Servicers who want to better serve their customers can take the immediate steps recommended in this report to clean up this broken process.” CFPB has released a “Fix It Form” intended to give “borrowers a short cut to getting satisfaction from their servicers,” and the Inquirer says the form “competes with ED’s complaint process.”

Organizers Tout Progress In Promoting Free Community College Tuition.

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24) reports that while Congress has yet to move on President Obama’s “proposal for new federal funding to help states eliminate tuition for some students at community college,” organizers of “the White House-blessed independent campaign to get cities and states to adopt smaller-scale programs that offer free tuition at community colleges” say the push “is gaining momentum.” In its first annual report, the College Promise Campaign says “that there are now more than 150 programs across 37 states offering some form of free community college.”

Colleges Can Begin Challenging Gainful Employment Rule Calculation.

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24) reports that this week “for-profit colleges and other career education programs will have the opportunity to challenge the Education Department’s calculation of their students’ debt-to-earnings ratios,” which is the primary component of ED’s gainful employment rule. ED will accept challenges through December 7, and will “release the final data, which covers calendar year 2014, by January.”

California Colleges Get Grants To Reduce Math Remediation.

The Sacramento (CA) Bee Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24) reports that five colleges in California, including California State University, Sacramento, are getting grants from the state’s California Mathematics Readiness Challenge Initiative grant program to “reduce the number of freshmen who need remedial math classes.” The program “is aimed at improving high school education by having colleges work closely with secondary level teachers and principals.”

NEW Report: “Small Schools” by the Numbers
Smaller engineering schools are often missing from our annual “By the Numbers” summary, because of the way it’s tabulated. We have created a “Smaller Engineering by the Numbers” to feature these schools.

Norman Fortenberry Co-Chairs NASEM Project
ASEE’s ED recently co-chaired a workshop on “Enhancing Teachers’ Voices in Policy Making Related to K-12 Engineering Education.”

Research and Development

AI Expert Sees No Current Need For “Guardian” Programs.

Scientific American Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24, Greenemeier) features an interview with Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) CEO Oren Etzioni, who works “to counter messages perpetuated by Hollywood…that AI could menace the human race.” Etzioni “voiced his concerns about companies overselling the technology’s current capabilities,” citing limitations of current deep learning technology, while asserting the “need to eventually develop artificially intelligent ‘guardian’ programs that can keep other AI programs from becoming dangerous.”

Students Invent Cast That Purports To Keep Skin From Getting Itchy.

Behind a paywall, The Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/23) reported three University of Illinois students invented a “pretzel-like” cast that uses a webbed design to prevent skin from becoming itchy or “gross,” as is problematic with traditional fiberglass casts. The Cast21 “can get wet and leaves plenty of skin exposed, meaning patients can ‘scratch those itches when [they] need to.’” The makers aim to launch patient trials by mid-2017.

Researcher Proposes Using Flickr To Measure Social Activity.

The Economist Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20) reported that at a meeting of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in Baltimore today, NYU researcher Dr. Claudio Silva will present evidence that “urban pulses have useful diagnostic and prognostic properties,” as they could “help urban planners and architects identify footfall and other patterns that emerge from past developments.” Silva described urban pulses as the ebb and flow of social activity, which he assesses using Flickr activity. The Economist said that urban planners currently “try to understand patterns of activity in a district…by conducting surveys, counting the number of people passing important road junctions and measuring traffic volumes,” which “takes years.”

Provost Predicts Growth In Wearable Tech Market For Elder Care.

New York Institute of Technology VP for Academic Affairs Rahmat Shoureshi predicted in TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/17) that wearable technology “that foster[s] healthy aging and independent living will soon fill seniors’ wardrobes.” Shoureshi encouraged technology developers to focus on seniors, writing, “Today’s tech executives are laser focused on millennials. But tomorrow’s tech gadgets will offer revolutionary ways to stave off disease to enhance independence.”

Arizona University Students Build Solar-Powered Ovens.

KVOA-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Tucson, AZ (10/20, Jordan) reported online on University of Arizona engineering students’ “Solar Oven Project,” which is “an annual event where students build a model” of an oven that relies on solar power. KVOA explained “students build the oven with reflectors, oven chambers, and insulation to trap the heat.”

Future Of The Food Industry May Be Shaped By Automation, Drones.

Fox News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24, Jackson) reports on how restaurants are implementing automation and new technologies. According to Marco Perry, founder of New York product design and engineering firm Pensa, “Ultimately, robotics will go beyond the major food chains, giving even the smallest players like local artisanal bakeries and mom-and-pop restaurants the technology to deliver on-demand.” Some restaurants may be able to use drones to make deliveries. David Tal, the president of consulting agency QUANTUMRUN, said, “Food-related technology like 3D food printers, robot chefs and fully automated fast food restaurants represent examples or proof of concepts.” He said there are at least five to 10 years of “testing, federal regulation approvals and general cost reductions in robotics involved before this tech goes mainstream.”


Professor: Self-Interest Motivating Silicon Valley’s Push For Immigration Reform.

Harvard University economic professor George Borjas write in the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24, Borjas, Subscription Publication) that tech companies lobbying for immigration reform have done so “mostly so they can expand the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers.” Borjas says that while they use as their argument the “possibility that the H-1B program speeds up innovation and increases productivity,” he states that there is also “obvious self-interest for high-tech tycoons – more programmers reduce wages and increase profits.” Examining studies that have shown that “Americans are better off with more H-1B workers,” he says the results of many of these are “not credible.”

Manufacturing Sector Struggles To Find Software Engineers, Developers.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/17, Tangel, Subscription Publication) reported that the manufacturing industry is struggling to find software engineers and developers, as many of the potential recruits flock to Silicon Valley tech firms. The Journal said the struggle puts further strain on the industry’s skills gap, adding that while some companies are able to get a foothold in recruiting pools, many have difficulty filling roles.

Industry News

Michigan Companies Building Parts For Mars Spaceship.

According to the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24), part of NASA’s first manned spaceship to Mars “will be made in Michigan.” NASA’s new Space Launch System that’s being created to transport humans to Mars in the 2030s “relies on dozens of Michigan suppliers that build everything from steering to components covers for harnesses and cables, The Detroit News reported.” Warren-based Futuramic Tool & Engineering is the “most vital contributor” from Michigan, as the company is “working on every major component that’s being assembled,” said Chad Bryant, a Space Launch System propulsion manager.

Engineering and Public Policy

White House Orders Accelerated Response To Solar Flare Grid Threats.

EnergyWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24, Behr, Subscription Publication) reports on this month’s of an executive order from President Obama which directs several federal agencies to coordinate efforts at detecting, analyzing and responding to solar storms that could strike the US. The order bypassed NERC and mentions FERC only once. The president’s order “looks like an attempt to speed up the 4-year-old FERC/NERC regulatory process,” according to some grid officials and experts speaking off the record. The order “directs the secretary of the Department of Energy, in consultation with the head of the Department of Homeland Security, to create a pilot program to deploy, test and evaluate devices that can shield transformers against dangerous ground currents” and space weather events.

EPA Seek Deeper FERC Climate Reviews For Pipeline Projects.

Greenwire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24, Northey, Subscription Publication) reports that the EPA is seeking a headquarters-level discussion with FERC “to promote deeper, more comprehensive climate reviews of proposed natural gas pipelines.” The EPA’s Ken Westlake wrote to FERC calling for “a more comprehensive approach to analyzing greenhouse gas emissions for natural gas projects,” but FERC ignored the request. The EPA “is looking for more consistency in pipeline reviews and for a life-cycle analysis of emissions to be standard practice for FERC on gas pipelines,” Greenwire reports, adding that Westlake noted “the White House Council on Environmental Quality guidance clearly advises agencies across the board on how they ought to approach the issue of climate change.”

Jimmy Buffett Urges Votes Against Florida Solar Amendment.

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24) reports singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett “is urging Floridians to vote no on a power company-backed solar-power plan and to vote yes on a medical-marijuana initiative.” Florida’s “Amendment 1 has come under increasing criticism because it’s little understood and could trick residents into believing it expands solar-power choices, though it basically enshrines the status quo in the Florida constitution.”

Driverless Cars Can Reduce Pollution Alongside Policy Adjustments.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24, Zanona) reports on how autonomous vehicles can reduce pollution, “from increased ride-sharing to better traffic coordination on US roads,” however, “environmental advocates warn that decreasing greenhouse gas emissions can only be achieved if driverless cars are rolled out alongside a smart, public policy approach.” A recent Competitive Enterprise Institute report examining every state-level “following too closely” driving law found that they would restrict platooning. A new Frontier Group report suggests policies such as “eliminating excessive taxes on ride-sharing, allowing commuter benefits to apply to shared mobility services and revisiting existing laws to ensure that new transportation technologies like self-driving cars can thrive.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Elementary School Speaker In IL Discusses Drone Technology.

Relying on information in the Freeport (IL) Journal-Standard Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/5, Mason), the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24) reports that as part of a 4-H National Youth Science Day lesson, Center Elementary School in Illinois hosted a speaker who discussed drone technology. The AP explains, “Students made their own “drones” out of Styrofoam and were taught about what makes them fly – thrust and lift.”

Middle School Students Produce Video Promoting Careers In Manufacturing.

Philly (PA) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/24, Von Bergen) reports SteelStacks, an “entertainment venue raised on the bones of the old Bethlehem Steel plant in” Pennsylvania, may be the answer to getting children interested in manufacturing careers via a mini-documentary filmed there entitled, “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing,” which was produced by middle school students. Philly says that after the film’s release, East Norriton Middle School in Montgomery County saw an uptick in enrollment in the school’s manufacturing disciplines.

Monday’s Lead Stories

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