News in Brief

NSF grants, an EIS workshop and more

Encouraging Innovation

NSF pumps $12 million into RED education shakeup

The National Science Foundation has invested millions in a bid to "revolutionize" computer science and engineering educations, with a focus on developing the professional skills of undergrad techies.

Six universities have received five-year, $2 million awards to fund projects that study "revolutionizing engineering departments," or RED.

"RED focuses on transforming department structure and faculty reward systems to stimulate comprehensive change in policies, practices and curricula," Donna Riley, NSF program director for engineering education research, said in a statement. The projects are meant to address such varied topics as technical coursework, professional development and academic culture.

The six fiscal 2015 RED awards will fund the following projects:

  • "An Engineering Education Skunkworks to Spark Departmental Revolution" at Purdue University's mechanical engineering department.
  • "Revolutionizing Roles to Reimagine Integrated Systems of Engineering Formation" at Colorado State University's department of electrical and computer engineering.
  • "The Connected Learner: Design Patterns for Transforming Computing and Informatics Education" at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's computer science department.
  • "Additive Innovation: An Educational Ecosystem of Making and Risk Taking" at Arizona State University Polytechnic School's department of engineering and manufacturing engineering.
  • "Developing Changemaking Engineers" at the University of San Diego's school of engineering (including departments of electrical, industrial and systems, and mechanical engineering).
  • "Shifting Departmental Culture to Re-Situate Learning and Instruction" at the Oregon State University department of chemical, biomedical and environmental engineering.

Another chance to dig into EIS

ACT-IAC will host a special session on the General Services Administration's Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions procurement on June 25.

The 10:30-noon session will be held at AT&T's eighth floor offices at 1120 20th St N.W., in Washington. Panelists will include John Donovan, associate CIO for telecommunications at the Department of Agriculture; Holly Fertig, telecommunications manager at the Interior Department; and David Naugle, senior IT specialist at the Social Security Administration,

The program will include an audience question-and-answer session.

GSA has held two official EIS "industry days" of its own in the last two months and has a third open session scheduled June 30 at its headquarters.

Did OPM know about malware before small business discovered it?

CyTech Services issued a statement June 15 aimed at clearing up its role in discovering malware on Office of Personnel Management systems tied to the OPM breach.

The small business confirmed it detected malware during a product demo, but added that it can’t say whether OPM already knew about it.

"CyTech was initially invited to OPM to demonstrate CyFIR Enterprise on April 21, 2015," said Ben Cotton, CyTech CEO. "Using our endpoint vulnerability assessment methodology, CyFIR quickly identified a set of unknown processes running on a limited set of endpoints. This information was immediately provided to the OPM security staff and was ultimately revealed to be malware."

Cotton's crucial caveat: "CyTech is unaware if the OPM security staff had previously identified these processes."

Cotton added that CyTech helped with breach response until May 1, providing "on-site support at OPM to the OPM security personnel as well as representatives of the FBI and US-CERT."

In response to questions about the initial reports that CyTech discovered the malware, OPM spokesman Sam Schumach denied the connection.

"The assertion that CyTech was somehow responsible for the discovery of the intrusion into OPM’s network during a product demonstration is inaccurate," Schumach said June 12. "OPM's cybersecurity team made this discovery in April 2015 as previously disclosed, and immediately notified US-CERT and the FBI to investigate the intrusion."

Schumach added, "If not for the fact that OPM was already in the process of updating and strengthening our IT infrastructure, we would have not known about the intrusion, and would have not been able to mitigate any damage."

Schumach did not respond to questions about OPM’s contracts with CyTech, and he did not provide a specific date on which OPM claims to have discovered the breach.

EPA compliance database expanded to address dirty air

The Environmental Protection Agency has added air pollution information to its database of compliance history, GCN reports.

With this upgrade, users can now view and compare air quality data and facility compliance information on one web page, as opposed to searching through four different websites and databases.

Bechtel team wins $1.5B Air Force engineering contract

A Bechtel-led team has won a $1.5 billion contract to run the Arnold Engineering Development Complex at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee, Washington Technology reports.

The company's National Aerospace Solutions LLC business will manage test operations and sustainment activities at multiple facilities

The Defense Department said that the Bechtel team was picked after a competition involving four bidders.

Navy, NGA discuss analytics

Rear Adm. Jonathan White, the Navy’s oceanographer, met with National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo on June 15 to discuss the impacts of climate change on national security, according to NGA spokesman Don Kerr. The two- to three-hour meeting covered how the two agencies can use "anticipatory analytics" to improve maritime domain awareness, particularly in the Arctic, Kerr said.

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