Leading the News
Researchers: Russian Hackers Have Developed Malware That Can Disrupt Power Grids.
The Washington Post (6/12, Nakashima) reports that according to new research published Monday, “hackers allied with the Russian government have devised a cyberweapon that has the potential to be the most disruptive yet against electric systems that Americans depend on for daily life.” The malware, which researchers have dubbed CrashOverride, is already known to have disrupted Ukraine’s energy system in December. But cybersecurity researchers with the firm Dragos warned that “with modifications, it could be deployed against US electric transmission and distribution systems to devastating effect.”
USA Today (6/12, Weise) reports the malware is “capable of directly controlling electricity substation switches and circuit breakers and could potentially be used to turn off power distribution or to physically damage equipment used in the electricity distribution grid.” US power providers are “properly alarmed,” said Sue Kelly, president and CEO of the American Public Power Association.
The AP (6/12, Raphael Satter |, Ap) reports, “The malicious software has the ability to remotely sabotage circuit breakers, switches and protection relays, the reports say, a nightmare scenario for those charged with keeping the lights on.”
Reuters (6/12, Finkle) reports, “News of the discovery prompted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to advise all critical infrastructure operators to make sure they were following recommended security practices.” DHS spokesman Scott McConnell is cited saying the department is working on the issue and will help companies identify vulnerabilities and respond to suspected breaches as the need arises. ZDNet (6/12) and the Christian Science Monitor (6/12) report similarly.
University Of Oklahoma Introduces High School Students To Engineering.
The Norman (OK) Transcript (6/12) reports the University of Oklahoma is hosting Boeing Engineering Days on Fridays and Saturdays in June to introduce high school students to “the engineering world they are interested in and a chance to explore a part of the field they may have never known they would enjoy.” The focus of Saturday’s biomedical engineering session was prosthetics, and participating students created and tested “their own prosthetic hand, with parts created by OU’s own 3-D printers.” OU biomedical engineering assistant professor Rachel Childers is participating in “the university’s growing effort in the field, with a new building dedicated to it coming within the next few years.” Childers said biomedical engineering is “definitely growing and there’s a huge interest in the field,” and she wants “to impress on these students how large of a field it is.”
Congressional Democrats Criticize ED’s Decision To Use Single Student Loan Servicer.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (6/12) reports that a group of Democrats led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Patty Murray, Rep. Bobby Scott, and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici have written to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “criticizing recent changes in how the Education Department chooses an outside company to service the billions of dollars in federal student loans it issues.” The piece quotes the letter saying, “We have serious concerns that these changes, coupled with the previous rescission of policy, will actively harm borrowers and ultimately put taxpayers at risk. The revised procurement threatens to increase rates of delinquency and default, degrade the quality of customer service, and make it harder for borrowers to manage their federal loans. We also fear these policy choices will significantly undermine the ability of the department to hold loan servicers more accountable.”
AP (6/12) reports 150 Democratic members of Congress signed on to the letter, saying “some of the changes removed requirements aimed at protecting student borrowers and helping them repay loans.” The letter argues that moving “servicing of $1.3 trillion in federal student loans to a single provider could create a ‘too big to fail’ student loan system with poorer results for borrowers and taxpayers.”
Trump To Announce Workforce Development Push At Wisconsin Technical College.
U.S. News & World Report (6/12, Soergel) reports that President Trump is scheduled to visit Waukesha County Technical College in Pewaukee, Wisconsin this week as part of his rollout of a push for apprenticeships and workforce development efforts. Trump daughter and aide Ivanka Trump, speaking on Fox & Friends, said, “We’re visiting one of the great examples of skill-based learning and skills-based education, a technical school in Wisconsin, which we’re very excited about, to talk about the skills gap and to really highlight the fact that there is a viable path other than a four-year college experience. There are 6 million available American jobs. So we’re constantly hearing from CEOs that they have job openings, but they don’t have workers with the skillset they need to fill those jobs.”
Bloomberg Politics (6/12, Sink) reports that as part of the effort, the “Trump administration asked federal agencies and departments to remove regulations that could be an obstacle to apprenticeship programs,” noting that “economists and politicians in both parties recently have focused on promoting apprenticeships and vocational education amid concerns about raising the skills and incomes of workers without a college education. It was a pet cause of Barack Obama, with the former president announcing $175 million in apprenticeship grants to benefit 34,000 Americans last summer.”
Research and Development
UT Scientists Use Magnetically-Charged Nanoparticles To Clean Oil-Saturated Waters.
Motherboard (6/11) reports University of Texas at Austin geosystems engineering professor Hugh Daigle co-authored a study (6/6) published in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research on “a technique that targets and sucks up leftover minuscule oil droplets using electrostatic attraction and a magnet.” Daigle told Motherboard, “You can separate out 95 per cent of the oil that’s in the water [using methods like skimming and centrifuging], but the stuff that’s left behind is these really small droplets,” but his technique targets “that last five per cent of oil that’s really hard to get out using other techniques.” The researchers coated positively-charged magnetic nanoparticles with positive surface-charged polymers, and dumped the nanoparticles in oil-saturated waters. After time, the positively-charged nanoparticles attracted the negatively-charged oil droplets, which were then pulled out of the water with a magnet. Daigle said his process has an oil removal rate of 99 percent, and “that the level of oil remaining in the water is below any detectable limit.”
GE Makes Hybrid Battery Storage Systems Available To All Its Gas, Coal-Fired Plants.
Power Engineering (6/12) reports General Electric is making its hybrid battery storage system available to all of its gas and coal-fired power plants following “a successful demonstration in April.” Southern California Edison was the first to deploy the system with GE, combining a 50-megawatt turbine and a 10-megawatt battery, at two sites near Los Angeles. Electric Light & Power (6/12) reports “the system is expected to lead to a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.” SCE Principal Manager of Asset Management and Generation Strategy Vibhu Kaushik said, “The new system delivered what we’d been looking for: immediate response capability from the peakers.”
Greentech Media (6/12, Subscription Publication) also mentions the project with SCE in an article focusing on General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt’s decision to step down after 16 years. The article mentions that “GE Healthcare CEO John Flannery has taken over Immelt’s role as CEO, and will assume the title of chairman from him at the end of the year.”
UT Researchers, Google, Environmental Defense Fund Examine Oakland’s Air Quality.
On its website, CNN Money (6/5) reported University of Texas at Austin researchers, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Google Earth Outreach partnered in a study that used Google Street View cars equipped with Aclima environmental monitoring tools to examine how air quality changes from one street to another. The Google cars analyzed air quality in three Oakland neighborhoods for about 150 days, and “measured levels of Black Carbon, Nitric oxide, and Nitrogen dioxide,” which have been “associated with health problems.” The sensors “found pollution levels that varied from block to block,” with higher levels “near things like cement plants, restaurants and auto body shops.”
Washington Sets New Rules For Testing Autonomous Cars.
Cars (6/12, Meier) reports Washington has set new rules for autonomous car testing and “will allow the cars on public roads with or without a driver ready to take control.” Rules vary across states, though the “National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued voluntary guidelines that it plans to update.” Most states require that a “safety driver” be available to take over, though Washington will forego this and “require companies to ‘self-certify’ that they comply with rules set for cars with and without drivers.”
London Mayor, Ford Launch New Cleantech Hubs.
Bloomberg News (6/12, Turner) reports London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced Monday that the city has officially launched “Better Futures, an incubator focused on clean-tech startups,” while Ford Motor Co. “launched a new office focusing in part on autonomous vehicles.” According to Bloomberg, “Ford’s new venture will hire around 40 specialists and open later this year, and is the carmarker’s third such ‘smart mobility’ office. The others are in Dearborn, Michigan, and Palo Alto, California.” Steven Armstrong, group vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Ford Motor Co., said, “Basing our rapidly growing team here in the heart of mobility innovation in London is critical to accelerating our learning and development of new technologies.”
Mideast Regional Research Center To Open In Jordan.
The AP (6/12) reports on the impending launch this fall of a “top-notch research center” in Allan, Jordan “that brought together Iran, Israel and other Mideast antagonists,” saying the intention is to boost “scientific discovery with the help of a powerful microscope and opening a window to a better future for a region beset by war, boycotts and closed borders.” The center’s progress has been “marked by political rows and the 2010 assassination of an Iranian scientist linked to the project.”
South Korean Scientists Develop New 3D Printing Technology.
The Korea Herald (6/12) reports a team of scientists at the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute “have developed a new technology to print three-dimensional nano-sized electronic tubes, the state-run institute said Monday, a finding that may contribute to the development of wearable technologies such as bendable electronic devices.” The researchers said, “To achieve high-quality printing with continuous ink flow through a confined nozzle geometry, that is, without agglomeration and nozzle clogging, we design a polyvinylpyrrolidone-wrapped MWNT ink with uniform dispersion and appropriate rheological properties.” Lead author Seol Seung-kwon told reporters, “Existing 3D printing technology was limited in usage. This latest method would enhance the versatility of 3D printing in the making of various components needed for future wearables.”
National Science Foundation To Award Up To $20 Million In STEM Program Grants.
THE Journal (6/12) reports through its Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers, or ITEST, program, the National Science Foundation will award up to 18 multi-year grants totaling up to $20 million to fund program proposals aimed at promoting science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, to pre-kindergarten through high school students. For grant consideration, the proposals “can be designed for engaging students within school, outside of school or a combination of the two,” and partnerships with colleges, universities, and other organizations are also encouraged. The NSF is accepting proposals through Sept. 5, and individual awards are expected to range from $400,000 to $2 million.
Virginia High School To Offer “Mechatronics” Courses.
The AP (6/12, Press) reports Virginia’s Botetourt County school board approved an agreement with the Virginia Western Community College to launch a high school “mechatronics” education pilot program at the Botetourt Technical Education Center. The AP explains mechatronics “uses mechanical, electrical and computer engineering skills required for some advanced manufacturing.” The pilot program is in part a response to the Italian-based Eldor Corp.’s plan to open an “automotive parts production and distribution facility in the area,” which is expected to create about 350 new advanced manufacturing jobs.
Entrepreneur Argues Technology, Gaming Can Enhance Student Learning.
Jonathan Aberman, the founder of Tandem NSI, a lecturer at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, and WFED radio program host, says in a piece for the Washington Post (6/12, Aberman) “Capital Perspective” that while many parents believe video games are “the enemy of learning” and “a time suck,” educational experts are increasingly “proving that the attributes of popular computer games get high scores when applied to learning.” Aberman recalls his interview with Tom Davidson, who “felt that the education sector was missing an opportunity to adapt gaming principles for positive effect.” Davidson is the co-founder and chief executive of “one of the fastest-growing education technology companies in the United States,” EverFi, which uses games to teach students not only math, science, and reading, but also “everything else necessary to be a successful member of society,” like financial literacy, sexual assault prevention, and workplace inclusion and diversity.
Virginia School District Constructs County-Wide Internet Access.
The Hechinger Report (6/12) says Virginia’s Monticello High School offers students “computer workstations, 3-D printers, laser cutters and milling machines, plus a bevy of wood and metalworking tools that he uses while teaching computer science, engineering and design classes,” but not “broadband internet beyond school walls.” Instead of waiting “for reluctant commercial internet providers to expand their reach” to serve the up to 20 percent of Albemarle County students without home broadband Internet, the district launched an “ambitious project” to build a county-wide broadband network. The district is using Educational Broadband Service, which some people say “is underutilized at best, and wasted at worst, because loose regulatory oversight by the FCC has allowed most of the spectrum to fall into the hands of commercial internet companies.” The issue may be the district’s “most daunting” challenge, but other “pioneering districts have shown that it’s possible, and Albemarle County has joined a nascent trend of districts trying to build their own bridges across the digital divide.”
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Honeywell, MU College Of Engineering Agree To Continue Collaboration.
• Pennsylvania’s Higher Education System To Examine Academic, Financial Disparities.
• Several Companies Pursuing Computer-Brain Interfaces.
• Researchers Develop “Ultrastrong,” Lightweight, And Elastic Carbon Material.
• OMB Considers Trump’s Clean Power Plan Review, Nears Public Release.