University briefs

By David Dyck

US researchers thwart drone on $1,000 budget

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin successfully took down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, also referred to as a drone) last week as part of a demonstration for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The government agency had set a challenge for researchers to develop a device for $1,000 or less that could successfully thwart the pre-defined commands of a drone airplane, which the team was able to do in about a year.

The researchers used a “spoofer” device whose signals override those of the UAV’s command computers — sending it hurtling toward the ground against its original programming instructions. The team’s success raised concerns amongst police and military officials who use the drones for surveillance of enemy parties, though it is suspected that a similar spoofing technique was used to down a drone airplane in Iran last year.


Ontario debates dramatic changes to post-secondary education

The government of Ontario released a discussion paper last week outlining possible reforms to the province’s post-secondary education, including the possibility of year-round schooling and increased support for online courses. The changes also propose making all first- and second-year university courses transferable to other post-secondary institutions in the province.

Proponents of the reforms say that post-secondary education must “keep up with the times” and become more flexible and relevant for students in today’s economy, wherein it is estimated almost 75 per cent of all jobs in Canada require college or university education.


Study links childhood spankings to likelihood of adult mental health problems

A study released last week by researchers at the University of Manitoba has connected the likelihood of an adult to develop mental health disorders to whether or not the person received corporal punishment, such as spankings, as a child. The researchers included pushing, slapping, spanking, grabbing, shoving, and hitting in its definition of corporal punishment but were careful to exclude factors which are typically classified as child abuse.

Due to the link between spanking and adult development of mental health issues, the Canadian Pediatric Society will consider changing its guidelines on punishment of children to exclude physical factors such as spanking, which it previously had not included.