Science & Technology
Governor Quinn Announces Illinois is the Nation’s Top Green Building State PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Katie Hickey   
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 12:02

U.S. Green Building Council Ranks Illinois Number One in the Sustainable Building Design Movement

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced that the U.S. Green Building Council has ranked Illinois number one among all 50 states in the sustainable building design movement. Illinois has more than 29 million square feet of certified green buildings, or 2.29 square feet for every resident. Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.

“Both the public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment,” Governor Quinn said. “Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader, and we are proof that a smaller environmental footprint can help us step toward energy independence.”

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) ranking of the Top 10 States for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) highlights the regions around the country that are at the forefront of the movement for sustainable building design, construction and operation. Utilizing less energy and water, LEED-certified spaces save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce carbon emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

“In the face of the extraordinary global challenge of climate change, our national imperative to create resource-efficient and cost-effective green buildings has never been greater,” USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi said. “Illinois has a strong base of dedicated individuals who are using LEED to transform its built infrastructure into high-performing spaces that promote the health of our planet and the people who use these buildings each and every day.”

“Illinois’ national ranking is the result of the robust network of businesses committed to sustainability working together with elected officials who understand the benefits of green building,” said Brian Imus, executive director of the Chicago-based USGBC Illinois Chapter. “It’s great to see passion from so many people making an impact and moving Illinois closer to the goal of everyone living, working and learning in a green and healthy building.”

The per-capita list is based on 2010 U.S. Census data and includes commercial and institutional green building projects that were certified throughout 2013. Illinois certified 171 projects representing 29,415,284 square feet of real estate, or 2.29 square feet per resident, in 2013. USGBC calculates the list using per-capita figures as a measure of the human element of green building, allowing for a fair comparison of the level of green building taking place among states with significant differences in population and, accordingly, number of overall buildings.

A few notable projects that certified in Illinois in 2013 include:

·         The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, LEED Gold

·         Choices Mental Health Facility in Ottawa, LEED Platinum

·         300 North LaSalle, a 57-story, 1.3 million-square-foot tower in Chicago developed and managed by USGBC Platinum Member Hines, LEED Platinum

·         The Caterpillar Visitors Center in Peoria, LEED Gold

·         Engine Company 16 in Chicago, LEED Platinum

·         Lincoln Hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, LEED Platinum

·         Powell Elementary School in Chicago, LEED Gold

·         Lincoln Land Community College Workforce Development Center in Springfield, LEED Silver

The full ranking of the top 10 states includes:




Projects certified in 2013

Square feet LEED certified in 2013

Per-capita square footage





















5 (tie)

New York




5 (tie)











North Carolina




















Washington, D.C.




*Washington, D.C., is not ranked as it is a federal district, not a state.

Collectively, 1,777 commercial and institutional projects became LEED certified within the top 10 states in 2013, representing 226.8 million square feet of real estate. Worldwide, 4,642 projects were certified in 2013, representing 596.8 million square feet.

More than 20,000 projects representing 2.9 billion square feet of space have been LEED-certified worldwide, with another 37,000 projects representing 7.6 billion square feet in the pipeline for certification.

The U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. Their LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction, maintenance and operations of green buildings. More than 57,000 commercial and institutional projects are currently participating in LEED, comprising 10.5 billion square feet of construction space in 147 countries and territories. In addition, more than 50,000 residential units have been certified under the LEED for Homes rating system. Learn more at


“What is technology?” PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Michelle Tigani   
Friday, 14 February 2014 14:55

by Kara Kerwin

For being the U.S.’s most-watched live event ever, Super Bowl XLVIII was pretty uninspiring.

What was inspiring, however, was the uplifting ad Microsoft ad featuring former NFL safety and ALS patient Steve Gleason, along with other people with disabilities, using innovative new technologies to make life easier. Gleason’s use of a Microsoft product called the Surface gave him the ability to provide voicing for the commercial in heart-rending fashion.

The ad opens with a simple question on the screen as Gleason (in tech-aided voice-over) asks: “What is technology?” As the answers come, “…it unites us…” “…It inspires us…” “…It has taken us to places we never thought we would go…” emotional scenes of tech in action are shown, including a child running on a pair of prosthetic legs, a deaf woman excitedly using an implant to hear a doctor, and a elderly man once blind now able to use a computer efficiently, exclaiming, “Now I can do whatever I want!” The ad concludes with a simple tagline: ‘Empowering us all.’

It’s an effective promo. Even though a vast majority of us don’t know the technological workings of helping a blind man see, who can argue with the ultimate outcome? It’s common sense, really.

As I add another view to the two million the video already has on YouTube, I catch a classroom—pause, rewind, and instant replay. It must have been just a millisecond’s worth of a clip, but it’s there. A classroom full of students ecstatically shares a lesson with another group of their peers remotely through video chat. “Wow,”I think to myself. “That’s common sense too, right?” Sadly, America doesn’t treat it as such, at least not in implementation. The concept is agreeable and runs seamlessly with the rest of the ad’s message. For all the first-down tech innovation we apply to our lives’ every facet, we fail to take the education of our nation’s children with us to the end zone. Each generation of our students will have lives more immersed in tech than the last. America’s first-graders were born after the iPhone was released.

“What can it do?” the commercial asks.

Ninth-grader Vincent Zhou, the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Junior Men's National Champion, is an online student who one day might be a part of the same Olympic games that are happening now in Sochi, Russia. Vincent is also among the three hundred thousand U.S. students who attended school online last year, and he knows full well what it can do. Vincent goes to Capistrano Connections Academy in California. Young athletes like Vincent are interested in digital learning, whether wholly online or blended, so they can balance a busy training schedule, just one of many reasons families around the country make the decision to take an alternative approach to education.

Online public schools mix typical class structure with the ease of online learning. With no tuition requirement for most online schools, over thirty states offered full-time online schools in multiple districts, respectively, at the end of 2012. Some online schools belong to a local school district, like Appleton School District in northern Wisconsin. Through online schooling, a student can attend school in Appleton despite living over 100 miles away. No wonder over 60 percent of Americans support digital and blended learning.

Students who graduate from the Ohio Connections Academy, a school authorized by the Ohio Council of Community Schools, receive the exact same diploma as their traditional school peers. Connections is one of a growing number of national educators providing online resources and curriculum to public and private schools across all community demographics. At Connections, parents and teachers work together to provide several lines of support at home and elsewhere. Schools like Connections provide online portals and digital tools to help students stay organized with everything they need at their fingertips.

Nexus Academy, a blended learning educator with locations across multiple states, uses daily online lectures as students do most of their schoolwork independently, meeting regularly to discuss progress and set unique goals with teachers and parents, through face-to-face meetings and video calls.

Construction for a brand new Wheaton High School is underway in Silver Spring, MD as part of Montgomery County’s new plan to infuse “new innovative strategies” into students’ education. But the innovation that Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr defines as “embracing the new” is in stark contrast to the common sense applications from that Super Bowl commercial. The recognition for the need is there. Will we continue to build new housing for old, tired methods, or will we make education adapt to our students, what they need, and the lives they will live beyond schooling?


Kara Kerwin is President of The Center for Education Reform, a K-12 education policy and advocacy organization based in Washington, DC.

Unprecedented wind power growth in 2014 -- let's keep it going! PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Aaron Severn   
Wednesday, 05 February 2014 14:14

Here at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), we recently released some exciting news – that the U.S. has more wind projects under construction right now than ever before.

Here are some more highlights from our
Fourth Quarter 2013 Market Report

  • There is enough wind power under construction in the U.S. to power the equivalent of 3.5 million American homes, or all of the households in Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas – that’s over 12,000 megawatts (MW) in total.
  • Some of the states poised for major growth in wind energy include Texas, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, and Michigan.
  • U.S. manufacturing production capacity has ramped up dramatically, with major manufacturing facilities active in Colorado, Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota.

In contrast, however, the amount of wind power installed in the U.S. this past year is the smallest the country has seen in the past nine years – only 1,084 MW, a 92% drop from 2012.

The reason for this contrast is the lack of certainty about federal policy, particularly the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) that help project developers finance wind projects.

Throughout 2012, the wind industry did not know if the tax credits would be extended, so business came to a halt – thus resulting in the small amount of new wind power installed last year.

When the PTC was extended at the beginning of 2013, the industry quickly rebounded, signing a record number of agreements to sell wind power, and starting construction on projects in at least 20 states.

We are once again without policy certainty.  Congress did not act on tax legislation in 2013, and so the PTC was allowed to expire for the fifth time in its history on January 1, 2014.

I urge you to write to your federal legislators today.  Show them both the disappointing year that the wind industry had in 2013, and the exciting year that is coming up in 2014.  Ask them to support extensions of the PTC and ITC, so that businesses in the wind industry can have the certainty they need to develop clean, homegrown, affordable power.

Quad City Engineering and Science Council (QCESC) hosting Quad Cities FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC) Regional Qualifier Tournament for Grades 7-12 PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Christine Cournoyer   
Wednesday, 05 February 2014 12:12

On Saturday, February 8, 2014, the 3rd Annual Quad Cities FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) regional qualifier will be held at Pleasant Valley High School in Bettendorf, Iowa.  24 Teams from Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin are scheduled to participate. Winning teams will be invited to participate at the State of Iowa FTC Championship being held on February 21st and 22nd in Coralville/Iowa City.

This event is free and open to the public.  People of all ages will enjoy this face-paced and exciting event which will showcase 7th-12th grade students’ ability to design, build and program robots, use teamwork to build alliances and cooperate with other teams, apply creative problem solving to real-world math and science concepts and earn a place in the Iowa State FTC Championship.

Opening ceremonies will begin at 11:15 A.M., qualification matches will begin at 11:45 A.M. with semi-final and final matches beginning at approximately 4:30 P.M. A more detailed schedule of events, teams competing and more information can be found at our website,

For further information, please contact Pat Barnes at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (563) 370-5513.

Background of FIRST® Tech Challenge:

FTC is designed for students in grades 7-12 to compete head to head, using a sports model. Teams are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and is programmed using a variety of languages. Teams, including coaches, mentors and volunteers, are required to develop strategy and build robots based on sound engineering principles. Awards are given for the competition as well as for community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments.

Students get to:

  • Design, build, and program robots
  • Apply real-world math and science concepts
  • Develop problem-solving, organizational, and team-building skills
  • Compete and cooperate in alliances and tournaments
  • Qualify for over $13 million in college scholarships
  • Earn a place in the World Championship


Quad City Engineering and Science Council:

The Quad City Engineering and Science Council (QCESC) is an umbrella organization representing 36 technical societies in the Quad City area with approximately 5,000 associated members. The QCESC is non-profit and is actively seeking new society members as well as additional corporate sponsors.

The QCESC is in it's 52nd year of operation and annually sponsors events such as the National Engineers Banquet, the Engineering and Scientist of The Year Awards, scholarships to local high school students, the President's Reception for local Society President's and provides judges and volunteers for the local STEM activities including FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge, Battle of the Bridges, QC Tech Challenge, Mousetrap Car Race, and the Kids Engineering Camp.

More information about the QCESC can be found at:

# # #

Preventing Data Breaches and Combating Cybercrime PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 13:21

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee

“Privacy in the Digital Age: Preventing Data Breaches and Combating Cybercrime”

Tuesday, February 4, 2014.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding today’s hearing to examine the well-publicized recent commercial data breaches.  We’re still learning all the details, but it’s clear these and other breaches have potentially impacted millions of consumers nationwide.

Today we have the opportunity to learn about the challenges that both industry and law enforcement face in combatting cyber-attacks from well organized criminals. The witnesses have a unique ability to provide us various important perspectives as we consider the government’s role in securing sensitive data and crafting a breach notification standard.

I hope to learn where the committee’s expertise could be helpful in combatting future attacks.   Furthermore, I’d like to use this hearing to explore areas of common ground, so we can determine what might be accomplished quickly.

In most cases, thankfully, businesses are able to prevent the relentless attacks against their networks.  This is due to comprehensive security programs coupled with law enforcement’s diligent work.  However, the data breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus demonstrate that even companies with vast resources can suffer serious attacks with the potential to harm their customers.

One defensive tool that’s been discussed is updating payment card technology.  Retailers and card issuers are preparing to transition away from decades-old technology.  This is a positive step in the right direction.  However, it’s a bit troubling that it’s taken so long to implement this technology.  Many fraudulent transactions might have been prevented had this occurred already.  But this alone won’t provide complete security, as I’m sure we’ll hear today.

Criminal hackers aren’t quitters.  They continue to find ways to break into company networks.  As the Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned, attacks like those recently suffered will continue.  So companies must be vigilant in defending their systems, as well as in taking steps after an attack to warn customers and limit the damage.

Unfortunately, it may be days, weeks, or months before a business realizes it’s been attacked.  And if a hacker can breach a large business’s security system, then it’s obvious that smaller businesses are threatened as well.  It’s important we remain mindful of the differences in businesses and the resources they have available as we go forward.

It’s been a couple of years since the committee last considered data security legislation.  In that time, we’ve learned a lot about this subject thanks to the broader cybersecurity conversation.  The proposals offered by the administration and Congress, along with other government initiatives, can be helpful for us as we consider how to proceed on legislation.

Currently, there are at least four pieces of data security and breach notification legislation in the Senate, with possibly more to come as other committees begin their work.  While these bills would establish national security standards, they take different approaches.  This offers us the chance to examine the effects of each, which is a good thing.

In the past, I’ve expressed concern with approaches that don’t provide businesses the flexibility they need to secure their data.  We must avoid creating a one-size-fits-all security requirement, particularly if it fails to account for businesses of different sizes and resources.   An inflexible approach could lead to businesses focusing on merely completing a checklist of requirements in order to avoid liability, instead of doing what makes sense to secure customer information in their particular circumstances.

On this point, I hope to learn how the government can better partner with the private sector and law enforcement to strengthen data security.  The government has a strong interest to work together with industry, given the impact cyber-attacks have on the nation’s economy.

Fostering a greater public-private approach to cybersecurity was recognized in last year’s Executive Order from the President on Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.  The Executive Order stated that strengthening cybersecurity can be achieved through government partnership with private business.

As a result of the Executive Order, we should review the National Institute of Standards and Technology ongoing partnership with owners of critical infrastructure.  This partnership will create standards, guidelines, and best practices for businesses to implement on a voluntary basis. 

There’s already bipartisan support for this approach. Senators Rockefeller and Thune have introduced a bill to enshrine the National Institute of Standards and Technology role in creating a cybersecurity framework.  This is just one model for government action focused on securing critical infrastructure.  It’s worth considering how this approach might work in this particular context.

The recent breaches also draw attention to the need for a uniform, federal notification standard.  There’s been little suggestion that the public failed to receive news about these recent breaches.  However, we once again see the difficulties faced with a patchwork of state laws.  Companies must ensure compliance, while also investigating ongoing threats.

I’ve supported creating a federal notification standard to replace the laws in 46 states and the District of Columbia.  It makes sense.  If done correctly, it would ease compliance costs for businesses, particularly since the current laws are ever changing.  A federal standard would also ensure consumers are notified of breaches that could result in financial harm or identity theft. 

But if the standard for notification is crafted too broadly or the penalties for failure to notify are too harsh, there’s a risk for consumer over-notification.  Businesses may choose to issue notice of even trivial breaches.  Just as there’s a potential for harm when a victim is not notified of a breach, over-notification can lead to harm or apathy.

Further, a notification law must recognize the resources available to different businesses.  While companies like those before us today were quickly able to comply with existing law, many smaller businesses would face a more difficult experience.

There’s widespread support for a national breach notification standard.  As a result, we should ask whether it’s appropriate to separate this issue from other aspects of the ongoing data security debate.  This might provide the chance to take action quickly, as we continue work on other issues.

Thank you again, Mr. Chairman.  I look forward to exploring these issues and working with you and others.


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