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Leading the News

Education Secretary King Visits RI For Computer Science Education Week.

The Providence (RI) Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Smith) reports that on Monday, US Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. visited West Warwick High School in Rhode Island to celebrate Computer Science Education Week, participating in a roundtable discussion and sitting with students in a computer-coding class. King, Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), US Sen. Jack Reed (D), state Education Commissioner Ken Wagner, and state Chief Innovation Officer Richard Culatta “then went to Providence Career and Technical Academy (PCTA) to observe a welding demonstration and meet with participants in a career and technical training program done in partnership with General Dynamics Electric Boat.” The article focuses on Rhode Island’s efforts to establish computer science classes in all public schools.

WPRI-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Providence, RI (12/5, Johnston) reports online that King said “‘issues of equity’ remain a challenge for the nation’s schools, but urged the Trump administration and Congress to build on the progress made under President Obama over the last eight years.” King reportedly touted the PCTA and said, “We as a country ought to be looking to build on what’s working and expanding those opportunities.” King added, “Public education is fundamental for the long-term success not only of our economy, but of our democracy. So we’ve got to be very attentive as a country to how we are ensuring that every child, regardless of zip code, regardless of race, has access to the full range of opportunity.”

Relying on WPRI’s coverage, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5) says King “wouldn’t talk specifically about Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s education priorities but told reporters public education is fundamental to the long-term success of the U.S. economy and democracy.” The AP paraphrases King as saying “it’s important that all children have educational opportunity regardless of their race or zip code.” King also “praised…Raimondo for her initiative to expand computer science programming to every school in the state.”

Higher Education

Online Bachelor’s Programs Venturing Into Science Courses.

U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5) reports that although “the natural sciences have been slower than many other disciplines to embrace online learning, experts say, that’s starting to change at some colleges and universities, particularly for nonscience majors.” However, when it comes to online science courses, “some faculty and graduate program admissions officers are hesitant,” and premedical students are cautioned to avoid them “because some programs won’t accept them as prerequisites.” Still, “schools such as UF Online, the undergraduate arm of the University of Florida; Oregon State University’s Ecampus; and the University of North Dakota have launched programs in the discipline.” Critics “say what makes online undergraduate science courses unique are the lab components, designed to be convenient for the online bachelor’s student yet in many cases, lacking direct assistance and supervision from professors.”

Higher Education Officials Discuss Disaster Preparedness Efforts.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/6, Thompson) reports that “with more than 20 million students enrolled at 7,200 U.S. colleges and universities, higher education leaders say they rely on experience and expertise to think beyond the basics of food and shelter to the special challenges of academia, including keeping students and parents informed, accounting for students, both international and from this country, not easily evacuated, and continuing instruction and research.” The AP says East Carolina University developed a “recovery center model during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, said Bill Koch, associate vice chancellor of environmental health and campus safety.” The AP says “officials monitor weather reports around the clock” while “gyms and other large spaces become designated shelters with stockpiles of food, water and cots.” Meanwhile, “generators are in place to power critical services” and “alerts and information are tweeted, emailed, broadcast, posted online and texted directly to cell phones through campus communication systems.”

Christie Signs Bill To Forgive Some NJ College Loans If Student Dies.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5) reports that on Monday, NJ Gov. Chris Christie (R) signed legislation allowing New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) to be forgiven if the borrower dies, even if there as a co-signer on the loan. Under the new law, “loan forgiveness also applies in cases of permanent disability.” The AP notes, “The loan program came under scrutiny after media reports focused on its stringent rules and aggressive collections process, which is much more restrictive than other states.” Philly (PA) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(12/5, Hanna) provides additional coverage.

Grades Predict Achievement Better Than IQ Or Standardized Test Score, Study Concludes.

Quartz Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Staley) reports that according to a study led by University of Chicago Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman, “colleges and employers interested in predicting the success of applicants would do better to look at a student’s grades, which measure personality traits, like grit and attention to detail, more effectively than IQ and SAT tests.” The research, “released as a discussion paper by the IZA Institute of Labour Economics,” was based on “data from four studies that tested students and young adults in Europe and the US on grades, IQ, personality, and achievement. Three of the four studies followed the students over a decade or more, and examined how they did on a variety measures of life outcomes, like wages, arrest rates, body mass index, and whether or not they voted. Together, the studies show personality and grades correlate more strongly with later measures of success and happiness than IQ.”

Indiana Tech Names Karl Einolf President.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5) reports Indiana Tech announced Monday that its board of trustees has selected Karl W. Einolf as its next president. Einolf will “begin work at Indiana Tech on July 1, succeeding current President Arthur E. Snyder, who is retiring.”

University of Northern Colorado Awarded $2.2M Rural Educator Recruitment and Retention Grant.

The Denver Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Hendee, Subscription Publication) reports the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) awarded the University of Northern Colorado a $2.2 million “Rural Educator Recruitment and Retention” grant to “to fund the establishment and operation of the Center for Rural Education,” which “will focus on recruiting and retaining more teachers in Colorado’s 148 rural and small school districts, with a particular emphasis on science, math, special education and cultural/linguistic diversity.” The center reportedly aims “to encourage high school and college students to teach in rural areas by allowing them simultaneous credits for both high school and college credit, as well as provide financial incentives for teacher candidates who commit to rural districts.”

From ASEE
Support ASEE with your Holiday Amazon Purchases
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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.

Prism Podcast
The Mobile Virtual Player is a new development keeping football players safe, created by Dartmouth engineering students. Listen to the short podcast on the invention here.

Research and Development

TSA Would Save Money By Waiving PreCheck Fees For Frequent Travelers, Analysis Finds.

Phys (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Ahlberg) reports that a new study published in the Journal of Transportation Security by Illinois computer science professor Sheldon H. Jacobson found the US “government could save money and make air travel safer by offering free enrollment in TSA PreCheck to frequent travelers.” The study “calculated the cost of extensive screening compared with expedited screening in terms of workforce labor hours and equipment” and determined “that costs saved by frequent travelers using expedited security exceeded the cost of waiving their enrollment fees for PreCheck.”

New Mexico Highlands University Receives $3M STEM Grant From Education Dept.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5) reports students seeking science and other similar degrees at New Mexico Highlands University “will have more support toward completing their studies thanks to” a five-year, nearly $3 million grant from the US Department of Education, which is “designed to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students who enter the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math – collectively known as STEM.” Those working “toward careers as secondary education math teachers will also benefit.”

Army Corps Suspends Permit For New Reactor At North Anna Station.

The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Zullo) reports the US Army Corps of Engineers notified Dominion last month that it “has suspended a permit it issued more than five years ago related to Dominion’s potential construction of a new reactor at its North Anna Nuclear Power Station,” pending an NRC “consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.” The article reports the US Army Corps of Engineers suspended the permit “about a month after the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club threatened to sue the corps, alleging it had not followed those interagency cooperation procedures and was in violation of the Endangered Species Act.” The article adds that Dominion spokesman Richard Zuercher “said the suspension of the permit isn’t expected to affect the project” and that “the utility may not make up its mind on the reactor expansion until after the license is issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

DOE Awards $5M Grant To Improve Metal Powders For Additive Manufacturing.

Engineering Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Laros) reports the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office has awarded a $5 million grant “to improve the materials used in industrial additive manufacturing (AM) by looking at new techniques for creating metal alloy powders that can be customized to match specific requirements.” Researchers at Ames Lab “will model and simulate the gas atomization process using a flow simulation code developed by National Energy Technology Laboratory, before verifying the findings at Ames’ own powder synthesis facilities.” In addition, Oak Ridge National Lab will conduct “corresponding AM experiments using the newly developed customized materials.” Iver Anderson, project leader and senior metallurgist at Ames Laboratory, is quoted saying, “There’s a lot of intense interest focused on additive manufacturing with metal alloys, because there are so many potential applications.”

UC Irvine PhD Student May Have Stumbled On A Way To Significantly Improve Phone Battery Life.

Inc. Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Stillman) reports UC, Irvine PhD student Mya Le Thai has discovered “a potential way to make the rechargeable batteries found in phones and laptops last an incredible 400 years” by coating “a set of gold nanowires in manganese dioxide and a Plexiglas-like electrolyte gel.” According to chemistry department chair Reginald Penner, “She started to cycle these gel capacitors, and that’s when we got the surprise. … She said, ‘this thing has been cycling 10,000 cycles and it’s still going.’ She came back a few days later and said ‘it’s been cycling for 30,000 cycles.’ That kept going on for a month.”

Workforce

Study Ranks Indiana Near Bottom For Gender Equality.

The Indianapolis Star Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5) reports a new study by 24/7 Wall Street shows the state of Indiana has the 12th largest gender wage gap, where female earnings amounted to 75.9 percent of male earnings. The study indicated the gap is likely attributed to Indiana’s lack of tax-funded pre-K, which, in turn, causes parents of young children to leave the workforce or incur the high cost of private daycare. Only 20.7 percent of Indiana’s legislative seats are held by women and, in its 200-year history, Indiana has never had a female governor, the Star adds.

Global Developments

US Helps European Authorities Bust Global Cyber Theft Ring.

The CBS Evening News (12/5, story 9, 1:40, Muir) reported police in Ukraine have arrested a man believed to be tied to a cyber theft ring that investigators have called “The Avalanche Network.” Authorities say the network had computer servers in at least four countries – including the US – and stole hundreds of millions of dollars. Soo Song, acting US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said 250,000 infected computers have been identified in 189 different countries, with roughly 20,000 of those malware infected computers in the US. The “big break” in the operation came after German police “reverse engineered” the code that Avalanche was using and brought in the FBI to help trace the operation’s servers. Song, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Mandak) reports, called the takedown of Avalanche “unprecedented in its scope, scale, reach and level of cooperation among 40 countries.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Ward) reports that the international probe “included investigators taking control of the servers being used by the Avalanche malware and redirecting the infected computers to an FBI-controlled server, an operation called ‘sinkholing.’” Investigators, said FBI Supervisory Special Agent J. Keith Mularski, were able to take over some 800,000 domains as part of the operation. “The agency then contacts the relevant Internet Service Provider to inform them of the infected computer systems to help remediate the problem, he said,” the newspaper reports.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Conte) quotes Mularski as saying, “The globalness of this — because it’s affecting the whole world — is what makes it very important and very unique.” Avalanche, the newspaper says, “was operated by two defendants going by the names Flux and Flux2, who advertised their capabilities on online criminal forums, according to partially redacted federal court documents unsealed Monday.” According to prosecutors, Flux and Flux2 have committed bank fraud, wire fraud, and other crimes, but no criminal charges have been filed in the US.

US Naval Fleet Challenged By Engineering Problems, Lawsuits.

Ars Technica Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5) reviews recent setbacks within the US Navy fleet, including major engineering problems with four new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) built by Lockheed Martin and Austal, a patent infringement lawsuit regarding elements of the Freedom class LCS’ design, and additional engineering problems with its new Zumwalt-class destroyer.

Industry News

Mubadala Aerospace CEO: Strata To Break Even In 2018.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Cornwell) reports that Mubadala Aerospace & Engineering Services CEO Homaid al-Shimmari said at a conference in Dubai that he expects subsidiary Strata to break even in 2018, “now that we have sorted all the relationships and the delays and the changes in the market,” adding that, “I think Strata will be in a [good] position financially.” Strata manufactures components for aircraft that include the Airbus A330, A380, A350-900 and Boeing 777 and 787 jets. Strata plans to begin manufacturing parts for the A320 in 2020 “when a new facility opens in Al Ain, al-Shimmari said.”

Lilium Aviation Raises $10.7 Million For Vertical Take-off And Landing Personal Jet.

Venture Beat Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Sawers) reports Lilium Aviation announced Monday it has closed a $10.7 million (€10 million) funding round from Skype cofounder Niklas Zennström’s Atomico, which the company intends to use “to create a world ‘in which everyone can fly anywhere, anytime.’” Lilium is developing a personal “jet” that is capable of vertical take-off and landing that “has an estimated cruising velocity of 250 to 300 km/h (160 to 190 mph) and a range of around 300 km (190 miles).” According to Venture Beat, the company is focused on developing “personal flying machines.”

Engineering and Public Policy

New NSF, NSTC Initiatives Aim To Bolster Computer Science Education.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Breland) reports that on Monday, the White House announced “new initiatives to bolster computer science in K-12 education,” while “citing the rapidly expanding demand for technology jobs.” The NSF “plans to spend $20 million on computer science education in 2017, on top [of] the $25 million it spent in 2016, with an emphasis on training teachers.” In addition, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) plans to “create a framework to help guide federal efforts ‘to support the integration of computer science and computational thinking into K-12 education.’”

MIT President: Federal Government Should Invest More In Basic Science Research.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology President L. Rafael Reif writes at the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Subscription Publication) that in order to restore the nation’s long-term competitiveness, health, security, and prosperity for generations, the US also needs to renew its commitment to fundamental science. He argues that federal support for basic science research has been the invisible infrastructure paving the way to economic growth and innovation. What’s more, Reif adds that federal funding for research has dipped from over 2% of US gross domestic product in the 1970s to 0.78% of GDP in 2014. He calls for greater federal investment in scientific research and cites the National Institutes of Health as an example of the declining purchasing power of funds for innovative research.

Trump Supports Completion Of Dakota Access Pipeline.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Volcovici) reports President-elect Trump on Thursday said that he supports the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. A Trump transition briefing said that media reports indicating that Trump’s support for the project is the result of him owning a stake in the company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, are incorrect. The briefing said Trump’s support “has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans.” The statement added, “Those making such a claim are only attempting to distract from the fact that President-elect Trump has put forth serious policy proposals he plans to set in motion on Day One.”

Trump spokesman Jason Miller, according to the Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Maher, Connors, Subscription Publication), said Trump’s administration will “review the full situation when we’re in the White House and make the appropriate determination at that time.”

Heitkamp: Pipeline Will Be Finished With Trump As President. The Washington Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Richardson) reports Sen. Heidi Heitkamp on Monday said the pipeline will be finished after Trump becomes President and efforts to stop the project are “not winnable.” Heitkamp said while speaking on CNBC that “the easement is going to be approved” when the administration changes.

Protests Continue In Blizzard Conditions. NBC Nightly News (12/5, story 9, 1:20, Holt) reported that protests continued in blizzard conditions on Monday despite the Army’s decision. The CBS Evening News (12/5, story 7, 1:10, Pelley) reported that activists said “they’re still staying to make sure this isn’t just a temporary victory.” The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Healy, Subscription Publication) reports that hundreds of veterans joined the protest.

WSJournal: Pipeline Decision Shows Problems With Permitting Regulations. The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Subscription Publication) editorializes that the Army Corps of Engineers decision to deny an easement to complete the Dakota Access oil pipeline shows why it is difficult to build infrastructure in the US. The Journal urges the incoming Trump administration to conduct a thorough review of permitting regulations as a starting point for building more infrastructure.


Elementary/Secondary Education

Carrollton Teen Coding Expert Teaches Other Students.

The Miami Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Morales) reports on 14-year-old Lourdes “Lulu” de la Peña who said, “I’ve always been fascinated by every kind of technology.” Lulu said that she “really got into coding” after doing robotics in school. Her blog, LulusCode.com, created with help from Florida Power & Light engineer Jorge Vargas. Lulu said, “I’ve always been really fascinated by YouTubers and a lot of vloggers and bloggers. …After that I thought ‘this might really make a difference’ so I thought maybe I should start a blog and increase the amount of girl coders.” Lulu has now become an educator, teaching “other girls during an after-school program every Monday at Carrollton.” Girls in second and third grade “learn the basics of coding using Scratch, a programming language and online community where they can create their own interactive stories, games, and animations.” Older girls learn “coding with Java, a programming language that is object-oriented and specifically designed to have as few implementation dependencies as possible.”

Heights Elementary School Students Participate In “Hour Of Code.”

The Fort Myers (FL) News-Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, McCabe) reports on third grade students from Heights Elementary School who on Monday took part in “Hour of Code, an international celebration of Computer Science Education Week that gives schoolchildren free access to games that will walk them through the basic how-tos of computer programming.” Hour of Code aims “to challenge students of all grade levels to spend an hour working through coding challenges in more than 170 virtual games.” This week, the school plans for all of its 1,200 students, included kindergartners, to take part in Hour of Code.

IL School District Teams With Discovery Education To Launch “Digital Leader Corps.”

The Western Springs (IL) News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5) reports Discovery Education, a subsidiary of Discovery Communications, has partnered with Western Spring, Illinois, school district 101 to “launch a multiyear professional development initiative, Digital Leader Corps.” The corps program, financed by the Western Springs Foundation for Educational Excellence, will focus on creating modern digital learning environments that “engage students, improve academic achievement and prepare students for success beyond the classroom.”

Analysis: Online Education Growing In Arkansas.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/4, Perozek) reported on the growth of online education in Arkansas, profiling open-enrollment charter school Arkansas Connections Academy, where “teachers give lessons while seated in front of computers in cubicles” and “students on the other end of their digital connection may be anywhere in Arkansas.” The academy “has 371 students in grades kindergarten through nine.” The Fayetteville School District also “launched Virtual Academy this year with 65 students in grades four through eight.” The article features opinion that parents are choosing online schools due to the program’s flexibility.

Experts Call New Science Fare “Dumbed Down.”

The Boston Herald Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, McKiernan) reports that education experts at the Pioneer Institute are saying “the Bay State’s new science standards have been dumbed down from what they were in the past – a change that could jeopardize the state’s high science scores.” They say the “‘Next Generation Science Standards’ – specifying what should be taught at each grade level, adopted by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education last spring – fall short.” The report’s co-author of the report and a senior fellow at the American Principles Project Ze’ev Wurman said, “The standards are so generic. They often lack actual content that has been in the past standards.”

EdWeek Blog: Technology Can Facilitate Learning.

In part two of a three-part blog series that looks at technology in the classroom, Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Ferlazzo) states, “The true value of a web app or tool lies in how robustly it facilitates student learning – and if it does so more efficiently than do traditional ‘paper/pencil’ methods.” The blog examines the impact of different types of tools and technologies.

Analytic Spot Aims To Bring Analytics To Classrooms.

The Portland (OR) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (12/5, Subscription Publication) reports on an interview with Biglan and Analytic Spot CTO Oliver Dain, who discussed “the company and where it stands in its quest to transform education.” Analytic Spot is in the process of “developing software designed to offering ongoing student assessment and reduce required testing.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

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