November 2012

Dance With the Dragon
Research partnerships grow alongside U.S.-Chinese competition.
By Mark Matthews

Off China’s coast lies a haven for ocean scientists. Hundreds of kilometers wide and just a few hundred meters deep, the continental shelf in the East China, South China, and Yellow seas presents an array of aquatic ecosystems in gently descending depths, amid tidal flows, reefs, a range of temperatures, and varied exposure to sunlight. No researchers appreciate this maritime laboratory more than experts in acoustics, “the eyes of the submarine world.” For them, the multiple seabed, sediment, and ambient noise levels offer abundant ways to measure how sound and vibrations travel. The findings of these engineers and ocean scientists provide crucial insights to the U.S. Navy in shielding harbors from terrorists, improving surveillance and mine detection, and designing stealthier submarines for a future conflict on the seas.

Of course, this watery workshop is also a strategic prize. As oil tankers and containerships ply commercially vital shipping channels, the People’s Republic of China and its neighbors compete noisily for rocky islets set amid sizable undersea oil and natural gas deposits. And while China’s expanding navy asserts regional clout, the United States is vying to preserve its Pacific preeminence. Occasionally, tensions bring the two countries close to blows. This happened in 1994, when China dispatched fighter jets to intercept U.S. warplanes over the Yellow Sea and a Chinese nuclear attack submarine came within 21 miles of the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk.

The year following this menacing encounter, however, the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Chinese Academy of Sciences began working together to probe the acoustical mysteries beneath the Yellow Sea. Hailed as a success by both sides, the ongoing ocean acoustics partnership held its third international conference in Beijing this past June, drawing 80 papers and nearly 100 participants from 11 countries.

Welcome to the strange yet mutually rewarding world of U.S.-Chinese research collaboration, where a global superpower and its dynamic Asian rival team up to advance fields ranging from cyberinfrastructure to nanotechnology, electronics, clean energy, food safety, and language translation technology. The partnership began when the two nations renewed diplomatic relations in 1979. Today, projects vary in size from workshops to multiyear grants of $1 million or more. A five-year National Science Foundation-backed pursuit of low-carbon, sustainable cities in the United States, India, and China led by environmental engineer Anu Ramaswami of the University of Minnesota, for example, will draw researchers and students from 14 institutions in the three countries. So many major U.S. universities and corporations have links with Chinese partner institutions that announcements of new projects are becoming routine. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drew scant attention in May when she expanded the U.S.-China EcoPartnership to include joint pursuit of clean-energy solutions by the University of California, Los Angeles and Peking University.

In part, such collaborations reflect the growth of international university and industry research-and-development partnerships, facilitated by ever faster communication networks like the Asia-Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) and efficient data-sharing organizations such as PRAGMA, the Pacific Rim Application and Grid Middleware Assembly. As Emily Ashworth, head of NSF’s Beijing office, puts it, “Scientific research is global. When you find the right partner, you do business.”

But China’s size, ambition, and emphasis on engineering put the U.S.-Chinese collaboration in a special category. It is propelled by the PRC’s drive to upgrade from a manufacturing to an innovation economy; by multinational companies eager to tap Chinese R&D talent; by faculty and student exchanges; and by partnerships forged among and with a burgeoning population of U.S.-trained Chinese engineers and scientists. While China’s own universities now award more natural science and engineering Ph.D.’s than do American schools, the United States remains a favored destination for Chinese graduate students, with applications increasing at an annual rate of close to 20 percent. Indeed, while international collaboration represents a declining proportion of China’s research output, coauthorship with Americans has been rising. China’s production of engineering articles has been growing at an annual 16 percent clip, and the country now outpaces Japan in U.S. research collaborations. Overall R&D spending in China grew 28 percent between 2008 and 2009.

“What is American in all this is much more difficult to discern,” says Denis Fred Simon, a vice provost at Arizona State University and coauthor of China’s Emerging Technological Edge. “People don’t realize how embedded China’s research system and our research system are.”

And there’s the rub. Some China-watchers fear that, aided by the United States, the world’s most populous nation is modernizing so fast it could devour America’s technological lunch, with dire results for the U.S. economy and national security. “China doesn’t want to make some things and buy others; they want to make virtually everything, especially advanced technology products and services,” warned Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, in May.

A Wary Congress

The amount of cross-fertilization makes Congress uneasy. House Republicans, in particular, suspect China of exploiting scientific exchanges to spy on America and steal intellectual property. A report this year by ITIF said China’s theft of U.S. intellectual property costs almost 1 million U.S. jobs and caused $48 billion in U.S. economic losses in 2009 alone. Wary that Beijing is acquiring the capacity to destroy U.S. satellites, Congress has barred NASA from space cooperation. GOP lawmakers also accuse the Obama administration of getting too cozy with China and at one point slashed the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s budget to punish it for hosting Chinese officials.

Such reactions are not new. Congressional limits imposed a decade ago chilled Air Force research cooperation. Today, some schools that perform sensitive defense research, such as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, are still reluctant to join aerospace research projects with China. And although the ONR-backed underwater acoustics collaboration is considered basic research and therefore unclassified, it has, from time to time, raised eyebrows inside the Pentagon, says Jeffrey Simmen, who led ONR’s Ocean Acoustics Program for 10 years. An applied mathematician, Simmen heads the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory.

But White House science adviser John Holdren insists that U.S.-Chinese cooperation on science and technology “strengthens our hand in the effort to get China to change the aspects of its conduct that we oppose.” Moreover, America can benefit from China’s “rapidly growing capabilities in many domains of S&T,” he told a House panel last year, while government-to-government cooperation can help U.S. high-tech firms gain access to enormous potential markets and allows the two countries to share costs of developing clean-energy technologies.

Back in 1979, when Jimmy Carter and Deng Xiaoping agreed to cooperate on science and technology, Chinese academia was struggling to recover from the purges and persecution of the Cultural Revolution. The post-Mao Zedong leadership recognized that scientists had to be given freer rein if the economy was to advance, so it encouraged exchanges and overseas studies. But in the early years, Chinese university research was weak and the relationship was “highly asymmetrical,” according to Richard Suttmeier, a University of Oregon expert.

The Chinese research landscape was still decades behind the West when Jeffrey Simmen was recruiting partners in 1995. At that time, he found relatively few researchers and archaic equipment. But the nation’s recent headlong modernization rush has since carried university researchers along with it. Changes have been “beyond description,” Simmen says: vibrant laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment and “so many young, energetic, excited researchers.” “Mind-blowing,” is how Michael Pecht, director of the University of Maryland (UMD) Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering and an expert on the global electronics industry, describes China’s development of science parks – some the size of the District of Columbia – in just the past five years.

“What the Chinese have is a remarkable ability to channel their efforts in one direction,” marvels Robert Parker, executive dean of the University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute, a six-year-old engineering school in Shanghai. “When they decide they want to turn, they can turn.” China’s science agencies act accordingly in how they direct funding, says Emily Ashworth, whose office facilitates connections between NSF-funded scientists and students and Chinese institutions. “It is goal-oriented – more top down.”

China’s current Five-Year Plan – its 12th – stresses science education, greater environmental awareness, and higher-value products. The country is now embarked on 16 R&D “mega-projects,” as Suttmeier calls them, including manufacturing technology, Earth observation systems, and water pollution control. Seven strategic emerging industries – clean energy technology; next-generation information technology (IT); biotechnology; high-end equipment manufacturing; alternative energy; new materials; and clean-energy vehicles – all suggest a need for highly trained engineers and strong R&D.

“The Chinese have done it right: They invested in their people and infrastructure,” says Simmen. “The only thing they don’t have is experience.” Because many academics never returned after the Cultural Revolution, researchers are mostly in their early 50s and younger.

Green Pioneers

When U.S. and Chinese policymakers share the same goals, they can mount a formidable joint effort. Take clean energy, which is driving perhaps the most ambitious government-funded collaboration to date. The U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, funded on the American side by the Department of Energy (DOE), brings together researchers from academia, national laboratories, and industry to speed inventions in advanced coal technology, energy-efficient buildings, and clean vehicles.

The five-year coal effort, led in the United States by West Virginia University and in China by Huazhong University of Science and Technology, recognizes that coal is “central to the energy systems and growth aspirations of both countries.” Beyond trying to improve existing methods for cutting CO2 emissions, like carbon capture and sequestration, the teams will try to demonstrate how algae can be used both to absorb C02 from coal combustion and to become its own “rich source of renewable energy.”

The Clean Vehicles Collaboration, led by the University of Michigan and Beijing’s Tsinghua University, conducts research leading to novel battery designs, advanced biofuels, lighter-weight materials, more efficient electric vehicles, and vehicle-grid interaction. It also offers an opportunity to build on existing research links between American universities and Tsinghua. One member of the team is Ohio State’s Yunmi Wang, an expert on engines and powertrains who holds mechanical engineering degrees from
Tsinghua and the Universities of Minnesota and Texas.

The U.S. relationship with Tsinghua on energy comes together in the person of Chung K. (Ed) Law. A mechanical and aerospace engineering professor at Princeton and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, he runs the DOE-funded Combustion Energy Frontier Research Center – a consortium of seven universities and two national labs. Recently he took on a second role, directing Tsinghua’s Center for Energy Combustion.

Government-sponsored collaborations reach well beyond energy. NSF and China’s National Natural Science Foundation are funding joint research on advanced sensors and bio-inspired technologies. The two agencies have also joined forces to support development of software that can spur scientific discovery and research productivity. Already-funded researchers who collaborate with China-based researchers can get a funding supplement.

Beyond these incentives, U.S.-based engineers tap into the growing number of Chinese researchers whose training in the United States makes them attractive recruitment targets for China-based companies, as well as Chinese universities. Graphene specialist Rodney Ruoff, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Texas, Austin, has continued collaborations by phone and email with two Chinese postdocs in his research group who were recruited by Chinese universities. Weiwei Cai, now a physics professor at Xiamen University, joined Ruoff in publishing research on the isotope effects on the thermal properties of graphene. Yanwu Zhu, now a professor at the University of Science and Technology of China, worked with Ruoff on a new carbon material, chemically activated graphene. “What we’re working on now is an extension of what had been going on in my lab here,” Ruoff says.

Complementary Skills

That distinguished American researchers are reaching out to Chinese collaborators is itself a sign of China’s growing strength in science and engineering. Ray Baughman, a University of Texas at Dallas materials scientist, nanotechnology trailblazer and member of the National Academy of Engineering, can attract collaborators from a number of countries – and does. “Any collaboration has to combine unique skill sets of different partners,” he says. A visitor to China since 1987, he started conducting research with Chinese only a few years ago. Among emerging skills he’s noticed: high-resolution imaging, chemical synthesis, and an understanding of structures at the atomic level. Many Chinese researchers bring a solid foundation in physics, chemistry, and math. “They have a lot of very good scientists,” says the NSF’s Ashworth.

University researchers aren’t the only ones taking notice of Chinese talent. As U.S. and multinational companies establish research and development centers in China – the better to meet the particular demands of the huge local market – they’re trying to recruit the best and brightest young Chinese engineers. U.S. training is a big plus.

One place these companies turn is the UM-SJTU Joint Institute, which offers an undergraduate-through-doctoral-level curriculum, taught in English, as well as opportunities for students to spend time both in Ann Arbor and Shanghai. Parker, the executive dean, says General Motors, General Electric, Phillips, Covidien, which makes medical equipment, and John Deere are among the firms that have come through the institute to meet Chinese faculty and seek access to students. A mechanical engineer specializing in vehicle noise and vibrations, Parker has himself conducted research for GM’s China subsidiary.

Concern about China’s space threat hasn’t prevented U.S. space agencies from tapping Chinese talent. Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA have employed Chinese electrical engineer Feng Xu, winner of a 2011 National Natural Science Award of China. As a postdoc visiting scientist in NOAA’s satellite oceanography division, Xu is credited with developing a quality monitoring system. Now holding a green card, he works both at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where he has published imaging research, and at Intelligent Automation Systems Inc., which conducts research sponsored by U.S. military and civilian agencies.

Aeronautics is a growing area of joint U.S.-Chinese research and development, one where experts say China is catching up rapidly. “At the current rate of progress it is likely that most sectors China will be able to compete on broadly equal terms with the West by 2020,” predicted a 2010 article in Aerospace America, published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The AIAA signed a memorandum of understanding last November with the Chinese Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics to promote what then AIAA Executive Director Robert Dickman called “meaningful scientific exchanges in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics.”

In May 2011, the National Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Engineering jointly sponsored a workshop to improve collaboration on global satellite navigation systems, the international utility known as GPS. Opening that workshop, Chinese Academy President Zhou Ji summed up China’s current challenge in science and engineering. The most critical task, he said, “is to improve an independent innovation capability.” Besides enhancing the overall scientific and technological quality and integrated competitiveness of its industries, “China will have to cultivate and develop new industries of strategic importance and foster new sources of economic growth while taking innovation as a driving principle.”

Whether China can become an “innovation economy” is a source of dispute – with important competitive implications for the United States. A number of Americans, including Vice President Joe Biden, argue that China’s repressive regime inhibits new ideas. NSF’s Emily Ashworth notes that despite China’s heavy investment in research and engineering skills, “they don’t have many world-class breakthroughs. Creativity needs nurturing.” But she says that Chinese returning from U.S. graduate schools could change this picture. The University of Maryland’s Michael Pecht, who both teaches and consults in China and has followed the growth of the country’s electronics industry, notes that the Chinese are “rethinking education.” At universities, “a lot of higher-level people – deans, provosts, presidents – were educated in the United States,” he says. As with the technology and managerial skills transferred from Western to Chinese companies, Chinese academic institutions are liberalizing and encouraging innovation and creativity, he says.

What the Chinese lack in innovation, they seem to make up in being fast followers, especially in engineering-based innovation, where China is showing real strengths. ITIF’s Atkinson told the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission that “the bottom line is that America ignores China’s innovation policies and growing innovation capability at its own peril.” In electronics, China’s momentum “is such that any past shortages in experience and intellectual capital have been overcome,” write Pecht and coauthor Leonard Zuga in their 2009 paper, “China as Hegemon of the Global Electronics Industry: How It Got That Way and Why It Won’t Change.”

In ocean acoustics, the advantage the United States once held in research capacity — one that once led Simmen and his colleagues to be greeted by the Chinese “like royalty” — has passed. Now China can collaborate with many countries. “They do it bigger,” says Simmen. “Eventually, it will be better.”

Mark Matthews is editor of Prism.

Grave New World
Emerging technologies with the power to harm or help pose tough ethical choices ñ and a challenge for educators.
By Art Pine

Over the past decade, the burst of new technologies has been breathtaking—and often revolutionary. Pilotless drones track human footprints to help locate bombing targets. Tiny molecular robots made from DNA seek out and destroy cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact. Brain implants enable humans to control prosthetics by merely thinking what they want them to do. Driverless cars are just around the corner.

But with these breakthroughs have come disturbing new ethical questions that challenge traditional ways of training conscientious citizen-engineers. No longer is it enough for students to be taught how to respond if a boss ignores safety standards. The engineers of tomorrow must grapple with technology that not only empowers humans with spectacular new tools but also threatens to break free of human control. How should they, for instance, view the use of drones that can mistake their targets and kill civilians? Who should control DNA robots — and decide how they’re used? Who is responsible when a driverless car runs over a pedestrian? Should hands-free cellphone use be required in designs of new cars?

Such questions call for “more than just ethics-as-usual,” says James Moor, a Dartmouth College philosophy professor who has studied the issue closely. What is needed, Moor argues, is “better ethical thinking that is more proactive, with more interdisciplinary collaboration among scientists, engineers, and ethicists.” Past game-changers – gunpowder, the steam engine, the airplane, the atomic bomb — also posed ethical dilemmas. The big difference between those earlier breakthroughs and today’s is “the incredible pace” and sophistication of scientific development, says Brookings Institution scholar Peter Singer. Technologies produced now raise “questions about issues of right and wrong which we did not have to think about before.”

Potential Abuses

Adding to the complexity is the potential for enormous impact and a convergence of technologies, with achievements in one field paving the way for advances in others. Computerization, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and robotics have changed the way naval architects and marine engineers design and build ships, for example. Nano- and biotechnology are also altering modern medicine. While promising dramatic progress in fighting disease, they have heightened fears about potential abuses across a wide range of applications, from genetic engineering of human beings to manufacturing self-changing materials that could create new creatures or cause serious damage to humans and animals.

Many new ethical issues enter a gray area between personal responsibility and public policy. Cyber technology enables governments (and individual hackers) to send out viruses that can prowl the Internet and ultimately destroy corporate files and disable nuclear facilities, as occurred when the United States and Israel reportedly developed and unleashed the Stuxnet program against Iran. Should such actions now qualify legally as acts of war? The explosion in cyber technology has raised gnawing concerns about individual privacy that weren’t even imaginable a few years ago. These range from intrusive access to personal information to techniques for state control and manipulation that conjure dystopian societies imagined by George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.

“There now are trajectories that can lead to such things, and they are plausible,” says Ronald Arkin, a computer science professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Already, certain technologies, such as camera-equipped pills that explore the stomach or colon, touch human lives as never before, notes Michael Mumford, an industrial psychologist who teaches ethics to engineering students at the University of Oklahoma.

Narrowly Structured Courses

Incorporating ethics training into the nation’s established engineering curricula has never been a scientific process. Since 2000, ABET, the accrediting group, has required that engineering graduates be able to demonstrate “an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.” Professional societies have set up codes of ethics to self-police their members. Engineering schools and societies have introduced ethics centers whose missions include promoting ethics instruction, gathering data, and serving as an information exchange.

Understandably, however, many of the courses and codes of ethics are narrowly structured, designed to deal mainly with workplace-related dilemmas that engineers may encounter. Although leading professional societies have talked about ethics in the context of emerging technologies, there’s no clear trend of where ethics education is going.

Keith Miller, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois, Springfield, says that while ABET has encouraged engineering departments to expand ethics education, the accrediting agency has also relaxed specific requirements, such as prescribing the minimum number of hours that schools must devote to ethics courses. “I worry a bit that these look better on paper than as they have actually been implemented,” he says.

With technology racing forward upredictably and with engineers operating in a global environment, revamping engineering ethics courses to deal with the new world of emerging technologies won’t be easy. Professors breaking most sharply with previous curricula have been those with backgrounds in computer science and robotics. Leaders in the ethics field say faculty members who have been trained in other engineering disciplines often seem least willing to change.

Deborah Johnson, a University of Virginia professor active in the search for ways to adapt ethics training to emerging technologies, notes that many of the questions they raise are issues for society as a whole to decide, not just engineers. “Engineers have a lot to contribute,” she says, “but it’s only a small part” of the whole. She cites other, more practical challenges: Students already must master a jam packed engineering curriculum, with little time for additional electives; teaching ethics classes holds little prestige for either engineering professors or philosophy professors; and students resist ethics classes because they’re an elective. Nevertheless, “it’s a growing field,” she says. Joseph Herkert, an Arizona State University ethics and technology professor who has been one of the leaders in expanding current ethics training, suggests that pressing engineers to become more publicly involved in ethics decisions would encourage them to learn more about the subject and interact more with communities beyond engineering.

Institutions Respond

While many educators appear slow to adapt, there are signs of change. So far, the biggest drivers have been the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, which require ethics training for professors and graduate students who are seeking grants. The world’s largest technical professional association, IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), regularly sponsors conferences at which ethics education is a key topic for discussion. The National Society of Professional Engineers has established a National Institute for Engineering Ethics, while the National Academy of Engineering’s Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society has begun a major effort to address broad ethical issues. ASEE’s ethics division played a key role in developing a new Code of Ethics for Society members. (See ASEE Today)

Earlier this year, the European Commission launched the RoboLaw Project, which brings together specialists from engineering, philosophy, law, regulation, and human enhancement to explore whether — and how — law and ethics standards should be revised in the face of advances in robotics, bionics, neural interfaces, and nanotechnology.

To Arizona State’s Herkert, the major question that engineers must help resolve is one of responsibility: Who should be held accountable for the impact of the emerging technologies? How far does an engineer’s responsibility extend? When you get to autonomous technology, he says, “it goes up an order of magnitude larger.” Brookings’s Singer lists questions not often included in professional societies’ listings: From whom is it ethical to take research and development money? What attributes should you design into a new technology? What organizations and individuals should be allowed to buy and use the technology? Which shouldn’t? “What kind of training or licensing should they have?” he continues. “When someone is harmed as a result of the technology, who is responsible? How is this determined? Who should own the wealth of information that the technology gathers? Who should not own it?

‘All Too Human’

“We must own up to these challenges, face them, and overcome them. And we had better act soon,” Singer says. “For the threat that runs through all of this is how the fast-moving pace of technology and change is making it harder for our all-too-human institutions, including those of ethics and law, to keep pace.”

Dartmouth’s Moor says the engineering profession should develop a new set of ethics for the emerging technologies gradually, neither rushing to put them into place at the start nor saving the job until “after the damage is done.” At the very least, “we need to try to be both more proactive and less reactive in doing ethics,” he says. “We need to learn about the technology as it is developing and to project and assess possible consequences of its various applications. Only if we see the potential revolutions coming will we be motivated and prepared to decide how to use them.”

Donald Gotterbarn, director of the Software Engineering Ethics Research Institute at East Tennessee State University, says universities don’t need to redesign their entire ethics programs to deal with the emerging technologies; they just need to recognize the ethics questions they pose early in the game and keep up with the challenges as the technology advances. “At the bottom, the ethical questions of engineers haven’t changed,” Gotterbarn says. “The problem is, with every new technology there are surprises, and we need to worry about them early. Convergence adds another layer of complexity and makes it more difficult for us to anticipate the consequences of a particular technology.”

Gotterbarn says engineering schools need to provide students with a broad ethical framework that they can use as those consequences begin to become clear. “We need to keep bringing up the ethics framework with every new development,” he says, “ . . . to ask, ‘Is this the right thing to do?’”

Cornell University:

The school offers a one-semester “icebreaker” course, Ethics in Engineering Practice, for undergraduate juniors. Issues posed by emerging technologies are highlighted. As a follow-up, Prof. Ronald Kline and Lecturer Park Doing help guide ethics discussions in various engineering departments. The pair updates examples and case studies regularly, drawing from news articles, scholarly journals, and court cases. Doing, whose own Ph.D. is in philosophy, says the emerging technologies “really have brought the old principles to the forefront.”

Georgia Institute of Technology:

Undergraduates take a one-semester ethics course focusing on the effects of robotics and related technology on society. Professor Ronald Arkin says the idea is to get students up to speed on developments in the emerging technologies, provide them with a background in traditional ethics and philosophy, guide them through the new ethical dilemmas, and teach them how to write and speak effectively so they’ll be able to communicate their ideas and concerns. Arkin formally revises the course every two years and updates it continually from research papers, scientific articles, and his own observations as a widely known researcher. “This is not a course that remains static,” he says. “New issues are constantly cropping up.”

Texas A&M University:

All engineering students must take Engineering Ethics, a one-semester, large-class course that deals primarily with traditional professional ethics and standards and has recently begun covering “aspirational” ethics — the use of engineering to help improve society through green technology, environmental sustainability, and the like. Professor Ed Harris says the school “frankly has not done that much” to cope with the emerging technologies because “we may not be totally convinced yet that they really do introduce new ethical issues” rather than just “raising them in a new form.”

University of Oklahoma:

Graduate students take a two-day class in how to think about ethical issues, a broad class that includes non-engineers and even art students, and then are pressed to confront specific ethical questions in their regular engineering classes and projects. Professor Michael Mumford, a specialist in industrial and organizational psychology, says the major goal is to teach students how to “think downstream. If you learn to do that, you’re going to have fewer issues” to contend with.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

Undergraduate students take a formal engineering ethics course with an added section on emerging technologies. The new section has meant condensing or replacing some issues that used to be covered. In addition to this course, some standard engineering courses include a one-week component that deals specifically with ethics. Professors Colleen Murphy and Paolo Gardoni are developing a new anthology on engineering ethics that focuses specifically on new technologies.

University of Virginia:

The school has a multiyear ethics requirement for engineering students. During the first year, everyone must take a large-class introductory course that focuses on emerging technologies. In their second or third years, students must take one elective course that touches on ethics along with other engineering-related topics. And finally, in their senior year, they must take two ethics courses and write a thesis on ethical or social policies related to their major discipline. Prof. Deborah Johnson says the first-year course has changed significantly over the past five years, but mostly in the way it’s presented rather than the strategy or the curriculum. There’s more emphasis on teamwork and hands-on learning, with simulation technology, online discussions, and social media.


Art Pine, a Washington, D.C. writer, covered national security affairs for several major newspapers.

Light Fantastic
The potential of photonics and optics is just starting to be tapped.
By Thomas K. Grose

If you ever visit the Florida Atto Science and Technology lab at the University of Central Florida during a laser-pulse investigation, don’t blink. You might miss a few billion of them. A research team there recently set the record for the world’s shortest laser pulses — 67 attoseconds, or quintillionths a second, of extreme ultraviolet light—and devised a blazingly fast camera to capture the flashes. Investigators now will be able literally to photograph the mechanics of quantum mechanics. “We’ll see atomic phenomena in action,” enthuses Bahaa Saleh, dean of UCF’s College of Optics and Photonics. Equally notable: The feat didn’t require a particle accelerator, huge synchrotron, or other specialized equipment.

Efforts to compress laser pulses into unfathomably brief bursts are just one aspect of the pioneering work that engineers are conducting in the emerging field of optics and photonics — the science and manipulation of light. Since ancient times, this frontier of discovery has captivated some of the world’s greatest minds — including physicists David Wineland and Serge Haroche, who earned the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics for their groundbreaking research using light to manipulate, control, and observe subatomic particles without destroying them. Their work could lead to quantum computers and superprecise clocks — “the future basis for a new standard of time,” in the words of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Society already reaps the benefits from photonics and optics engineering. Optical fiber networks literally crisscross the globe, transmitting phone calls, video, and other data along a superhighway of photons. Indeed, the call from Stockholm to Wineland at his home in Boulder, Colo., where he works at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, was carried over optical fibers. Without fiber optics, the Internet would not exist, let alone allow Google to process 4.6 billion searches a day or YouTube to upload an hour’s worth of videos every second. The smartphone is a hand-held testament to optics, from the lithography used to etch its integrated circuits, to its camera’s sensor and lens, to its touch-screen display (backlit by LEDs), to the lasers that carved its shell from ferrous and nonferrous materials. Additionally, CDs, printers, scanners, computers, and many medical imaging devices and therapies are optics based.

“It affects nearly all things in our lives,” says Saleh, who predicts optics will spawn myriad wondrous devices and products, from ultrafast computers to cheaper solar cells and superthin display screens as flexible as paper “that will kill the print industry within the decade.”

Such is the field’s industrial and job-growth potential that a National Academies panel has called for a National Photonics Initiative to develop a coherent, multiagency research-and-development strategy and keep the United States ahead of the curve.

The economic impact of optics has been hard to measure, in part because the technology is “used in devices to facilitate the objective of the end device, rather than being an end device,” explains Xi-Cheng Zhang, director of the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester. But the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has reported that in 2009 and 2010, for instance, some $4.9 billion worth of lasers were sold in the United States; their deployment in the transportation, biomedical, and telecommunications sectors ultimately contributed $7.5 trillion to America’s GDP.

Galiled To Einstein

Optics and photonics are generally interchangeable terms. Technically, optics is the science of generating and propagating light. Photonics is the engineering application of that science, or the detection, transmitting, and processing of light. The field dates back to ancient Egypt and has fascinated many of the greatest names in science, including Galileo, Newton, and Einstein. In the 1940s and ’50s, it was mainly associated with lenses: microscopes, telescopes, cameras. That changed in 1960 with the first laser beam. “Once we had lasers, we had concentrated power,” Saleh says. Since then, the field has grown to include optical fibers and solid state electronics, key to the creation of ever faster, smaller computer chips as well as the long-lasting LED and OLED lights that soon will largely replace the incandescent bulb.

Meanwhile, the concentrated power of lasers was quickly put to use in a variety of ways. Manufacturers initially used lasers to cut metal. Today, some of the 3-D printers used in additive manufacturing are laser based — as are the short pulses of light that zip data through optical fibers. Laser light also is crucial to unlocking the mysteries of the atom. Zenghu Chang, a professor of physics and optics at Central Florida University whose team achieved the world’s shortest laser pulse, created an even faster camera to measure it, allowing scientists to see quantum mechanics in action.

Researchers say that consumer electronics could soon give way to consumer photonics, given ongoing efforts to create optical chips. Today’s microprocessors use electricity to transfer data, which means all information that now flows into computers as pulses of light via optical fibers must be converted to current. But electrons move at only 10 percent the speed of light, creating bottlenecks that slow computations. To speed things up, researchers want to build optical silicon chips that transmit data via lasers, so the entire process operates with photons.

MIT’s Caroline Ross, a professor of materials science and engineering, is at least partway there with a crucial piece of a silicon optical chip: a “diode for light.” The diode ensures that the light from lasers will travel in only one direction. “You need that to protect the laser from having light going back into it,” Ross says. “If there’s a lot of reflection back into the laser, it becomes unstable.” Her team uses garnet, which transmits light differently depending on which direction it comes from. Light coming into a chip the wrong way gets diverted by the thin film of garnet to a loop outside the light transmission channel. Acknowledging that “lasers are at the primitive stages right now,” Ross nevertheless remains optimistic that optical chips are in our future.

Trillion, trillion, trillion’

So are quantum computers, thanks in part to Nobel laureates Wineland and Haroche. Computers today perform calculations using binary sequences of 0s and 1s, represented by electrons. Quantum computers instead manipulate atoms or molecules to take advantage of such quantum mechanical properties as superposition, which means a particle can be in two states at the same time. (Even Einstein found the phenomenon “spooky.”) Superposition means quantum bits, or qubits, can run almost endless calculations simultaneously while an electronic computer runs one, because each additional qubit doubles the amount of possible states. According to Rochester physicist Adam Frank, writing recently in the New York Times, a machine using 300 qubits “would be a million, trillion, trillion, trillion times faster than the most modern supercomputer.”

What’s that got to do with optics? A team at the University of Bristol’s Center for Quantum Photonics in England recently developed a breakthrough quantum chip using photons. “Light is a very good information carrier,” explains Mark Thompson, the center’s deputy director. Because a mere 100 photons could do trillions of calculations simultaneously, a quantum computer could complete in six months a problem that would take a classical supercomputer “the age of the universe,” Thompson says. That’s so fast that a quantum computer just one tenth that size would still be speedy. In fact, Thompson’s team—which has “demonstrated all the key elements” working with three or four photons at a time—expects to have a 10-photon computer that can work at room temperature ready to “challenge” electronic supercomputers within three years. Thompson predicts 30- to 100-photon quantum computers lie just a decade away, though most estimates put the time frame at 25 to 30 years. The next big hurdle: regenerating photons on a single chip. Once built, quantum computers would be powerful tools to simulate molecules, as well as pharmaceuticals and materials that now remain out of reach of today’s supercomputers. They particularly would excel at pattern recognition and database searches.

Medicine already depends heavily on optics: X-rays and CAT scans, for instance. And lasers are quickly becoming the therapy of choice for treating kidney stones. But optics is poised to grow. Paul French, head of the Photonics Group at London’s Imperial College, is working on imaging technologies based on spectrometers that one day could differentiate between cancerous and healthy tissue, a key to targeting treatments. While progress is being made, scattering and absorption of optical radiation by tissue can cause images to degrade. Rochester’s Zhang, who leads his institute’s terahertz (THz) R&D program, sees many potential medical and homeland security uses for THz signals. Researchers believe THz time-domain spectroscopy might also be used to pick out characteristics unique to explosives and narcotics.

To a generation familiar with cartoon characters brandishing ray guns, a weapon under development by the Army might look familiar. It literally shoots bolts of lightning by manipulating ultra-short laser pulses. The Air Force wants to develop drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — that take inspiration from insects, crustaceans, and spiders. Current drones use optical sensors that work like human eyes, which limits their capability. Bug eye-inspired vision systems that take advantage of more of the light spectrum could allow for better detection, recognition, and tracking of targets.

Optics and photonics research is also directed at improving technology that transforms sunlight into electricity and cutting the costs of solar cells. Paul McManamon, technical director of the Ladar and Optical Communications Institute at the University of Dayton, predicts that solar power will cost no more than electricity generated from coal, gas, or oil-fired plants by 2020. “Eventually, we won’t have to subsidize” the industry, he says.

Increasing reliance on optics and photonics technology is not cost free. One problem the nation will soon face is strain on communications networks that depend on optical fibers. “Initially with optical fibers we had almost unlimited bandwidth,” French says, “but now we’re running out.” McManamon says bandwidth capacity must expand by a factor of 100 over the coming decade. “Right now, we don’t know how to do that,” he says, “but I think we’ll manage to keep it going. I’m an optimist.” And why not? When it comes to optics and photonics, the future seems so bright we’ll all need to wear shades.

Thomas K. Grose is Prism’s chief correspondent, based in London.

Risk and Reward
By Mark Matthews

Through some of the darkest days of the Cold War, scientific cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union served as “an important rudder of stability,” a 2004 National Academies report concluded. In the early 1980s, Pentagon hardliners argued that the relationship “made little sense” when the Soviets were trying to gain a military edge. True, the Soviets pilfered technology where they could. But a 1982 panel found that university and scientific exchanges were seldom the source of the leaks and that closing off these channels would slow the advance of science and of U.S. innovation.

Fast-forward 30 years and we hear a similar debate over American research collaboration with China, subject of this month’s cover story. But there are big differences: Where the Soviet Union’s economy was headed toward collapse, China’s is racing forward. Beijing’s leaders are intent on grounding future growth in research-based invention and ideas, long America’s strength. And the scale of collaboration is greater this time around, bolstered by much easier communication and professional relationships forged by the many Chinese graduate students at U.S. institutions. While some officials and trade groups fear China will use these ties to gain strategic advantage, the momentum of cooperation is such that it may be impossible to reverse.

If, as many argue, the globalization of engineering and scientific research leads to faster breakthroughs, we’ll see more stories like Tom Grose’s “Light Fantastic,” about the dazzling potential of optics and photonics. Think of ultrafast computers and super-thin display screens as flexible as paper. But the rapid pace of technological change in various fields, including biotechnology and robotics, has a number of academics worried, as Art Pine describes in “Grave New World.” They say engineering schools need to broaden ethics training so students will approach potentially dangerous new technology responsibly.

On page 45, you’ll notice a new feature – Advances from AEE – an excerpt from ASEE’s online journal, Advances in Engineering Education. It will appear twice a year. In other issues, you will see the familiar JEE Selects. We hope you enjoy this month’s Prism, and we welcome your comments.

Mark Matthews


Movies and Statics

Words cannot express how glad I was when I received the September issue of Prism and it had on the cover “Lights, Camera, Engineering.” For the past two years in my Engineering Mechanics (Statics) class, I have given an extra-credit segment called Screen Engineering, in which students analyze excerpts and clips of movies using the concepts learned from Statics.  Students’ interest in Statics grew,  and the ones who participated performed really well in the class because they understood the practical application of the concepts and also enjoyed the process of analyzing movies.

Screen Engineering sparked an interest not only in my Statics class but in engineering as a whole. Students who participated in Screen Engineering have formed a club called Big Screen Engineering, which I serve as adviser, bridging the gap between concept application and engineering in a very educational and entertaining way.

Chris A. O’Riordan-Adjah, P.E.
Lecturer – Structural Engineering
Dept. of Civil, Environmental and
Construction Engineering
University of Central Florida

Redesign Faulted

Unfortunately, the new design of Prism is inferior to the old design.

In particular, the typeface on the columns is not as professional as the old font. The first page of the Table of Contents is hard to read due to the photos and images obscuring the page numbers.

The photo of columnist Henry Petroski is not flattering at all. The use of three digits (e.g., “023”) for a one- or two-digit page number is strange. I continue to enjoy the content but prefer the old look.

Jeffrey W. Herrmann, Ph.D.
Department of Mechanical Engineering and
Institute for Systems Research
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland

Write to
Submissions may be edited for brevity and clarity.


Space Instrumentation

Heavenly View

In the race for sharper digital images, the Dark Energy Camera (right) wins, hands down. The telephone-booth-size digital camera — the world’s most powerful — has 570 megapixels and took engineers, astronomers, and technicians on three continents eight years to construct. Mounted on the 4-meter Blanco telescope in Chile, it recently captured its first images from galaxies up to 8 billion light-years away. So large is the camera’s field that a single panoramic picture – like the rectangular images here – covers an area of the heavens 20 times as big as the moon, as seen from Earth. An international team’s five-year survey of the southern sky could unlock secrets of the dark matter and dark energy that make up 96 percent of the universe. And it might shed light on why the universe expands at an increasing rate. – Mary Lord


Cheaper Help<

Robots and humans don’t yet mix well in the workplace. But while research continues into ways to allow people to work more closely with their industrial mechanical brethren, Boston’s Rethink Robotics has developed an early solution. In October it began shipping the first generation of Baxter, a robot designed to do menial manufacturing and assembly tasks while in the company of humans. The $22,000 Baxter works more slowly by design than other industrial ’bots, is covered in thick, padded plastic, and crammed with sensors that allow it to recognize when it’s near a human. It then can automatically adjust its movements to avoid collision. Its relatively low price also makes it affordable for many small- to medium-size companies that previously would have found robots too costly. Baxter is trained by demonstration. Physically move its arms to show what you want it to do, press a button, and — voilà! — it’s programmed. Like the 1980s, when PCs dropped in price and became user-friendly, “it feels like a true Macintosh moment for the robot world,” former Apple designer Tony Fadell told the New York Times. Rethink, founded by former MIT robotics guru Rodney Brooks, advertises Baxter as “Astute. Aware. Affordable.” – to which we might add, “Awesome.” – Thomas K. Grose


Stealth Project

Their deliberations cloaked in secrecy, 15 judges are sifting through hundreds of nominations sent from around the world to decide which engineer – or group of up to three engineers – will receive the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. The $1.6 million prize – which aspires to be the Nobel for engineering – will reward a “groundbreaking innovation in engineering that has been of global benefit to humanity.” The winner will be named next March, and a student-designed trophy will be presented by Her Majesty in late spring. Judges include Frances Arnold, a Caltech chemical engineering professor; Stanford President John Hennessy; Calestous Juma, director of Harvard’s Science, Technology and Globalization Project; and Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering. The trophy competition, open to students ages 16 to 24, calls for a design “that represents the wonder of modern engineering.” Applicants must use 3-D online software to create their gong, and the finalists’ designs will be prototyped by a 3-D printer. – TG

3-D Technology

Mysteries Of Sperm

Sperm are among the most important microorganisms there are. But they’ve proved hard to study because they’re as speedy as they are tiny. Aydogan Ozcan, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, has developed a method that for the first time allows researchers to track sperm movements in 3-D. A tiny drop of liquid – one one-hundredth of a milliliter – containing 1,500 human sperm was placed on a silicon sensor chip, not unlike the kind used in smartphones. Ozcan’s team then shone a blue LED and a red LED light, set at a 45-degree angle from one another, on the sample. Each sperm cast two different shadows of different colors. The data were fed into a computer program that reconstructed the sperms’ paths, allowing researchers to see sperm movements in much greater detail than ever before. The technology might one day help improve male fertility testing. But it could also be used to study other microbes, including the one-celled organisms that contaminate drinking water, or to monitor treatments of microbial diseases. Meanwhile, scientists now know that while most sperm swim in the stereotypical squiggly paths they’ve seen before, some 4 to 5 percent swim in helices – and of those, only a mere 10 percent circle to the left instead of to the right. Why? That’s a mystery yet to be solved. – TG


Hand Signals

Some engineers just can’t wait until they graduate to start inventing. Here’s one recent example: After watching a man with a speech impairment struggle to make a supermarket cashier understand him, three Ukrainian computer science students, who call themselves the QuadSquad, designed gloves fitted with 15 sensors that can understand the hand and finger gestures used in sign language. Via a Bluetooth connection, the decoded movements are sent to a software program that translates the data into sound, allowing a synthesizer to voice the translation and broadcast it from a smartphone’s speakers. Earlier this year, QuadSquad beat out 350 students from 75 countries to win Microsoft’s $25,000 prize, the Imagine Cup. The EnableTalk, as the device is called, runs by a battery that can be recharged by a built-in solar cell or a USB port. QuadSquad hopes to sell it for around $75. For millions of people worldwide with speech or hearing impairments, EnableTalk could be a communications bonanza. – TG

Public Policy

Channeling Lincoln

The 1862 Morrill Act provided 17.4 million acres in federal land grants that states could sell to fund the creation of agricultural and technical colleges. Sponsored by Rep. Justin Morrill of Vermont and signed by Abraham Lincoln, the law is widely seen as having transformed American higher education by opening it up to children of the working class and small farmers, women, and African-Americans. Many land-grant schools grew to become major research universities. But as their stature rose, they ceded to urban colleges the task of educating the masses. So argue four engineering deans who trekked to Capitol Hill in early fall to press lawmakers for a 21st-century equivalent of the Morrill Act – this time aimed at colleges serving the poor and underrepresented minorities. Deans Amir Mirmiran of Florida International University; Keith Moo-Young of California State University, Los Angeles; Peter Kilpatrick of Notre Dame; and Richard Schoephoerster of the University of Texas, El Paso say their initiative is aimed at training more minorities in science, technology, engineering, and math – fields the nation needs to expand. Besides a significant federal investment (including a GI Bill for STEM), key parts of the proposal include collaboration between urban schools and research universities, stronger involvement by industry, and improved K-12 preparation that integrates engineering. Just as the law signed 150 years ago helped make post-Civil War America an agricultural and industrial powerhouse, the deans contend that their plan should bring an economic payoff. – Mark Matthews


Watch Your Step

One of the biggest hazards the elderly face is the risk of falling over. In Britain, fully half of hospital admissions for those over 65 result from falls. So researchers at the University of Manchester’s Photon Science Institute have devised a smart carpet that might predict whether someone is becoming more susceptible to dangerous spills. It’s composed of plastic optical fibers laid beneath a real carpet that bend when trod upon. Each fiber has a sensor, and the information from the footfalls is sent to a computer that creates a real-time map of someone’s walking pattern. The images of footprints can be analyzed for gradual changes in gait that might determine if someone is becoming more prone to falling. Physiotherapists could also use smart carpeting to determine how well patients are responding to therapies. The smart carpet uses a tomographic technique that’s similar to scanners, and it maps a 2-D image of footsteps using light propagating beneath the carpet. Researchers say the technology could easily be retrofitted beneath existing carpets in hospital wards and nursing homes, and eventually in people’s houses. Of course, if someone does fall over, the smart carpet immediately signals an alarm. – TG


New Life For Old Phones

As millions rushed to buy the new iPhone 5 this fall, how many considered the fate of their old phone? Americans have at least a billion electronic devices in their homes, many no longer in use. Others get tossed away, so their toxic elements end up in landfills. But for some people, used phones or tablets are all they can afford. And old parts can have value. Now, San Diego start-up ecoATM offers a cool way to stretch the life of mobile devices: a kiosk that uses machine vision, electronic analysis, and artificial intelligence to evaluate no-longer-wanted cellphones and tablets. When users place their device in the kiosk, its algorithms quickly determine what shape it’s in and what it’s worth, based on a list of ready buyers. The accuracy rate is 97.5 percent, ecoATM says. Users can trade in old devices for cash or a store credit, or they can donate the money to a charity. The kiosk spits out the money or credit slip on the spot. EcoATM says 75 percent of devices find a second home and the rest are recycled to remove toxins and rare earth elements. The first kiosks went live in 2011, and ecoATM aims for 300 kiosks in cities nationwide by year-end. A smart end for smartphones. – TG


Brief & Turbulent

Mustafa Abushagur will go down in history as Libya’s first elected prime minister after more than four decades of dictatorship. He’ll most likely also have the dubious honor of having one of the shortest tenures. This former professor of microsystems engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology was elected PM by the General National Council about 11 months after the execution of former Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi. But on October 7, the GNC overwhelmingly voted against his proposed cabinet lineup, a move that served as a no-confidence vote. Abushagur, who received his bachelor’s degree from Tripoli University and advanced degrees in electrical engineering from Caltech, joined RIT in 2002 after a stint at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. In 2008, he was named founding president of RIT Dubai. Returning to Libya after Qadhafi’s death, he served for a year as deputy prime minister in an interim government. He became prime minister at a particularly troubled time. The day before his election, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other State Department employees were killed at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Abushagur’s first official act was to condemn the attack. – TG


Scientists Favor Men

Research shows that subconscious gender bias can wreak havoc on the careers of women. But surely scientists, trained to focus on hard evidence, are an exception? Nope. According to a new Yale study, science professors judge women undergraduates more harshly than their male peers, even when qualifications are exactly the same. Chemistry, biology, and physics professors from six leading research universities were asked to rate the application of a student applying for a laboratory manager job. Thirty percent, or 127 professors, obliged. They all got the same application form, but half of them saw the name John on it, the other half the name Jennifer. On a scale of 1 to 7, John’s application got an average score of 4, and most professors said they would consider hiring or mentoring him. His suggested starting salary averaged $30,328. Jennifer didn’t fare as well. Her application was rated at just 3.3, fewer profs were willing to hire or mentor her, and her suggested salary averaged just $26,508. And women profs were no help to Jennifer. “Female and male faculty were equally likely to exhibit bias against the female student,” according to the study. It suggests special training of science faculty to curb subconscious bias. – TG


No Fish Story

Chalk up another technological innovation thanks to biometrics. Unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) have been around for years, but for some tasks, their movements are still too cumbersome. So researchers at Boston Engineering Corp., charged with building a more fishlike UUV, cast their eyes on the tuna for inspiration. Why the tuna fish? Well, thanks to eons of evolutionary development, it is one of nature’s swiftest and most nimble swimmers. The researcher’s solution is BIOSwimmer, an underwater drone with a swishy tail and fins that can glide through water. The battery-powered robotic fish is much more propulsive and maneuverable than conventional UUVs. Commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security, and loaded with sensors and an onboard computer, BIOSwimmer will not only patrol harbors but investigate the bilge and ballast tanks of tankers and also cargo ships – keeping an eye open for anything that looks fishy. – TG

Auto Engines

Cooler Combustion

Internal combustion engines are marvels of efficiency. But according to Shannon Miller in a recent Technology Review opinion piece, conventional engine designs are “already approaching the theoretical limits of their current architecture.” So Miller, a mechanical engineer armed with three degrees from Stanford University, two years ago cofounded EtaGen, a California start-up that’s aiming to design and build internal combustion engines unlike any that currently exist. Engines that operate at higher compression ratios are more efficient, but they also run very hot. That wastes energy and adds to the amount of friction between a piston and a cylinder. EtaGen’s reworked architecture uses a free-piston design to allow for more compression and 25 percent less fuel than conventional generators. The company initially wants to build diesel and natural-gas generators but thinks the design could work for generators in hybrid electric cars, like the Chevy Volt. This new type of engine still requires “significant development,” Miller writes, “but progress should be faster than it will be for less established new energy technologies.” If Miller’s right, her design could breathe new life into old technology. – TG

Solar Energy

Companies Like It

Corporate America has seen the light, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. In a recent report, the group says the top 20 corporate solar users are generating around $47.3 million worth of electricity a year from their panels – enough juice to power more than 46,500 homes. The entire amount of corporate photovoltaic installations in the United States could power more than 390,000 homes. Led by Walmart, the list also includes Costco, Kohl’s, Ikea, Macy’s, and Walgreens. Other major names are McGraw-Hill, Johnson & Johnson, General Motors and Crayola. Apple, Bloomberg, GE, Google, Merck, and Tiffany & Co. also rely on significant amounts of solar power. What’s the appeal for corporate users? Fast-falling prices for photovoltaic arrays are lowering companies’ operating costs, the group claims. Walmart, whose solar generating capacity is 65,000 kilowatts, says it’s committed to being powered entirely from renewables and will continue to invest in solar power. “We hope to use our scale to drive down prices for all renewable energies,” the company says. Given that Walmart knows a thing or two about driving down prices, that’s good news for green power. – TG


ASEE conducts an annual engineering faculty salary survey. From 2007 to 2012, between 110 and 150 schools participated in the survey each year. Above are box-and-whisker plots that show approximate distributions of faculty salaries for all engineering disciplines for all schools that participated. Salaries are equivalent nine-month salaries for tenured or tenure-track faculty. Longitudinally, shown in the graphic below, engineering faculty salaries increased from 2007 to 2009, decreased slightly from 2009 to 2010, and increased from 2010 to 2012. In general, senior faculty received higher raises than their more junior counterparts.

View printable PDF of infographic illustration.

Anti-Status Quo
By Lucille Craft

An outspoken academic issues a wake-up call to Japanese educators.

For 30 years, the gravelly voice of educator Kiyoshi Kurokawa has been grating on Japan’s establishment. His most recent broadside landed during a parliamentary probe into the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. Besides the familiar culprits of government-industry collusion, lax regulation, and gross corporate mismanagement, Kurokawa fingered his own society. “Our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; and our insularity,” he ticked off. “What must be admitted – very painfully – is that this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan.’”

It was a familiar cri de coeur for the former Tokyo University medical professor and president of Japan’s Science Council—one he’s been leveling for years at Japanese higher education. In 1983, he returned from a distinguished teaching career in the United States to find Japanese universities had stagnated. Since then, Kurokawa has been the status quo’s worst foe. “Students are bright, but not forced to study hard,” he says, calling the typical Japanese college experience a “four-year moratorium” from education. At many of Japan’s 700 colleges and universities, Kurokawa contends, “the teacher is not using his brain and the student is just taking notes. Both are not thinking!”

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology apparently agrees. Statistics it released this summer show that while roughly two thirds of American freshmen spend at least 11 hours a week on homework, most Japanese study five hours or less. The slacker existence of Japanese undergraduates is so widely acknowledged and even accepted that 10 percent of Japanese freshmen surveyed confessed to not studying at all. The findings were consistent across all majors, even disciplines like engineering and science. A ministry document entitled “Why Don’t Japanese Students Study as Hard as Students in the West?” portrays Japanese universities as isolated, rigid, and closed, where performance by both students and their professors seems almost incidental to the larger purpose of awarding diplomas in exchange for tuition.

Sensitive to the power of the sound bite, Kurokawa famously urged schools to take a page from the world of sumo, Japan’s supersize wrestling, which has been forced by scandal and a waning pool of Japanese recruits to globalize its talent search. Mandating quotas of foreign students at Japanese universities, Kurokawa has long argued, would breathe new life into Japanese universities. (At 3.4 percent, Japan’s proportion of international students is growing, but it remains far below the OECD average of 8 percent and America’s 16.6 percent.) “Japanese science and technology is strong,” he says, but of his country’s 10 Nobel science laureates this century, “three of them were [working] in the United States, so our return on investment has been less than effective.”

Humiliated by Japan’s sliding rank among the world’s universities, Japan’s education ministry is in the midst of a campaign to upgrade and internationalize a core group of 13 institutions, an initiative spurred by critics like Kurokawa. And a graduate-level research institute has opened on Okinawa.

But change has been painfully slow, and Corporate Japan is complicit. Recruiters often ignore a student’s GPA in favor of sports or other extracurricular activities to gauge whether the job candidate is a “team player.” Academics further suffer from the custom of job hunting during junior year, which has effectively turned a four-year education into three. A generation after passage of equal opportunity laws, Japanese women still suffer discrimination in hiring.

At 76, Kurokawa says he’s resigned to the glacial pace of change. The iconoclastic academic is focused now on promoting international student exchange programs, although study abroad programs are a tough sell to Japanese students in an era of job insecurity and global economic weakness. “Parents and kids are scared,” he acknowledges. But only by getting more Japanese to study overseas can Japan foster the innovation needed to rescue electronics and other foundering industries. “If you go up the same ladder at the same university with the same peers, you get no stimulation,” he notes. “That is the weakness of Japanese companies and universities.”

Kurokawa believes that educating Japanese to be more global and competitive, to think independently instead of bowing to hierarchy, represents Japan’s best chance to produce new sources of growth – and its best defense against the next Fukushima.

Lucille Craft is a freelance writer based in Tokyo.

Landing on Mars

A triumph less of science than of engineering

Last August, after an eight-month journey through space, the NASA rover Curiosity touched down safely on Mars. There was elation in the control room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory over the flawless landing, which employed a daring new system to let the 1-ton vehicle down gently onto the Martian surface. The feat was widely reported in news media around the world.

Just one month earlier, science and technology news was dominated by an achievement of another kind and scale. At the European Laboratory for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, a team of physicists announced that they had found evidence of the existence of the elusive Higgs boson elementary particle. With its discovery, a key piece of the puzzle surrounding the nature of matter may be in hand.

In response to all the press that the JPL rover team was getting for its interplanetary achievement, the CERN Higgs-boson team initiated some presumably good-natured banter. According to a spokesman, the Mars landing “does not qualify as a significant scientific achievement and should not be getting so much of the public’s attention.”

Of course, the set-down on Mars of the rover was not an achievement of science; it was one of engineering. Landing anything on Mars is at least as difficult as landing it on the moon. The acceleration due to gravity on the red planet is about twice as great, and the rarefied Martian atmosphere provides little help from friction. In combination, these effects make it tough to slow down an object that makes entry at a speed in excess of 13,000 miles per hour.

The soft landing sequence employed with Curiosity is a model of engineering system design. Earlier rovers had effectively been wrapped in air bags and allowed to bounce to a stop after free falling from a safe speed. But the air-bag technique was not viable for use with the considerably larger and heavier Curiosity. Instead, a so-called sky crane operation was employed.

After a parachute and other means slowed the landing module to a target speed, retro rockets allowed the module to descend in a controlled manner toward the landing area. When close to the surface, the module effectively hovered then lowered the rover to the ground and put it down on its wheels. When this had been achieved, the powered module took itself a safe distance away before crash landing.

Ironically, the begrudging scientists at CERN owed at least as much to ingenious systems design for their detection of the Higgs boson. Their instrument of discovery, the Large Hadron Collider, is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, whose guts are contained in a circular tunnel of 17-mile circumference that straddles the Franco-Swiss border.

As are scientific instruments generally, the collider is obviously a product not of science but of engineering. Indeed, it is arguably the case that science depends more on engineering than engineering does on science. In its pursuit of knowledge and understanding, especially of things as elusive as elementary particles and as remote as rocks on the surface of Mars, science has great need for complex engineered systems.

It is thus unfortunate that NASA’s most recent highly visible space mission is named the Mars Science Laboratory and the collection of mobile robotic instruments is referred to as the Mars science rover. The mission was certainly motivated by scientific curiosity and the goal is certainly scientific discovery, but without creative and careful engineering, the rover could have neither gotten off the ground nor journeyed the 350 million miles from Earth to Mars and landed there softly.

Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. His latest books are An Engineer’s Alphabet: Gleanings from the Softer Side of a Profession (2011) and To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure (2012).

Building Professional Teams
By Debbie Chachra

Students need both non-technical and technical training.

The importance of professional skills in the education of engineering students has gained increasing recognition. Chief among these skills is teamwork, which is essential to professional practice or, for that matter, accomplishing anything, whether building a Mars rover, raising children, or producing a novel. True, authors can hammer out the words solo, but they need an editor and publisher to put out the final product.

To give students “authentic” experiences in engineering practice, schools are building team projects and other group learning experiences into their curricula — especially in the first year. Yet the term engineering educators commonly use to describe interpersonal and professional skills – “soft skills” – betrays a somewhat dismissive attitude. So does the structure of most engineering curricula, which scaffolds the technical development of students: Start with the basics, assess, move on to more complex material. Students must master the early prerequisites to move on and gradually become more proficient at difficult tasks.

But we often expect our students to work in teams without much guidance, and don’t scaffold the development of professional skills as we do for technical content. Tolstoy wrote that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It’s easy to treat team projects the same way: Any group that accomplishes the end goal (building a functioning prototype, for example) is a “happy family,” with shared tasks and good communication. But individual members may have experienced something quite different.

Teamwork, particularly early in a student’s education, isn’t just about efficient division of labor. Consider the first-year design team that builds a great prototype. If everyone in the group took on the task he or she already knew how to do well – the computer whiz hitting the keyboard to design the parts, the lifelong builder hitting the university shop, and the strongest writer taking the lead on the report – the exercise is a failure. The point of an engineering course is not what students accomplish; it’s what they learn. If we’re focused on teaching them to act like professionals, it’s easy to lose sight of learning goals.

So what does it mean to help students develop teamwork proficiency the way we now build their technical skills? For a start, we must provide structured opportunities for communication that boost the group’s effectiveness. Research from MIT has shown that a team’s performance depends less on the brilliance of individual members than on how well the group works together. High-performing teams display a willingness to let everyone speak. The research also found that teams with females outperform all-male teams, in part because women tend to have better social skills.

In the first-year design course taught at Olin College, we ask students to decide what skills or knowledge they want to develop during their team project — creating a nature-inspired toy. We then have them share their learning objectives with their teammates and collectively create a project plan that addresses these goals. Partway through their project, students have an opportunity to provide feedback to one another, in a structured way. Both activities are intended to help teams work better together by uncovering and addressing shortcomings, a process students are more likely to encounter as professional engineers than the end-of-course peer assessments commonly used to evaluate each teammate’s contribution and assign grades.

Ultimately, we need to help students develop the interpersonal skills required to be an effective member of the group. Such tools will prove useful throughout their academic careers and beyond.

Debbie Chachra is an associate professor of materials science at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. She does research, speaks, and consults on engineering education and the student experience. She can be reached at or on Twitter as @debcha.

Online in Reverse
By Matthew W. Liberatore, Andrew W. Herring, and Charles R. Vestal

Students generate and solve problems based on videos they select.

YouTube Fridays is a popular program used in introductory engineering thermodynamics classes at the Colorado School of Mines as one effective means of engaging students in active learning using popular new media tools.

Today, most students in higher education have grown up with access to computers, the Internet, and many other daily use electronics. As digital natives, most believe their engineering education should be as personalized as their Facebook page or iPod’s playlist. At the same time, the advent of for-profit, online-only universities, as well as free online resources, is changing the accessibility of higher education. Professors strive to keep up by exploring the uses of online resources, such as screencasts – mini digital lectures that can be posted to a course website to allow students to watch an instructor step through relevant examples. Another way to interact effectively with today’s students is to integrate their habits into the classroom, through texting, wikis, or social media.

While such approaches can be innovative, they are still strongly instructor-centric, with the professor continuing to dictate the “new” content. Larger learning gains have been demonstrated using active-engagement and student-centered pedagogies instead of traditional teacher-centric techniques, such as lecturing. In addition, recent findings show that vision trumps the other senses in creating short- and long-term memory. Therefore, the YouTube Fridays approach, which engages sophomore engineering students in searching for, identifying, watching, and translating YouTube videos, offers a helpful pedagogical model.

In the several pilot studies conducted in the introductory engineering courses employing YouTube Fridays, students were assigned to find, present, and discuss online videos that support important class concepts, such as phase behavior, energy balances, and convective heat transfer. The students also created and solved homework problems based on the activity within the video, giving them the opportunity to engage in problem solving on open-ended, course-related questions. These problem sets were typically “engineering estimates,” requiring students to estimate one or more important values. Example estimates include calculating the amount of energy stored in bacon, which, in the video, is seen being turned into a torch, or determining the heat from combustion of the cream of a Cadbury egg. In one pilot study, both videos and problems were posted online, and student groups, given a set amount of time for the work, posted their solutions to be shared and discussed by the group.

The challenge of determining whether a video is fact or fiction became a popular theme of student-directed YouTube Fridays. The video “Big Water Slide + Jump!” for example, featured an individual going down a slip-n-slide ramp, flying through the air, and landing in a kiddie swimming pool. The student-authors posed the problem of whether this outcome was feasible based on conservation of energy principles – or was the video a fraud? Based on their estimations (mass of the individual, height of the slide, angle of the ramp), team members used a projectile analysis obtained from Wikipedia to calculate the distance the individual would travel and ultimately concluded that the video was a fraud. Several months later, Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters also attempted to experimentally prove or disprove the same YouTube video. A comparable slide was built, tested, and determined to be fake.

The course has proved to be a fun, student-led activity that reinforces concepts. In student evaluations, more than 40 percent of the class thought YouTube Fridays helped them learn the course material, while a majority felt they gained a better understanding of the course topic of thermodynamics. A majority could relate thermodynamics to real-world phenomena and feel confident solving engineering estimate problems. The technique subsequently has been adapted for use in courses in a variety of areas at the School of Mines, including thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer.

Andrew W. Herring and Matthew W. Liberatore are associate professors and Charles R. Vestal is a teaching professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. This is excerpted from “YouTube Fridays: Student-led Development of Engineering Estimate Problems” in the Winter 2012 Advances in Engineering Education Links to the hundreds of student-selected videos are compiled regularly at

Why Education Matters

A humanities scholar builds a persuasive case for learning for the sake of learning.

College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be 
By Andrew Delbanco, Princeton University Press 2012, 229 pages

In this slender volume, author Andrew Delbanco offers an eloquent and persuasive argument for the importance of a liberal arts education. At a time when others are challenging the so-called economic viability of a college diploma – or even, like mega entrepreneur Peter Thiel, offering money to bright kids to drop out – Delbanco seeks to remind us of the enduring existential value of higher education; of its ability to enrich experience, deepen intellectual ability, and enhance one’s own humanity.

To build this seemingly lofty case, Delbanco, a longtime humanities professor at Columbia University, revisits the origins of American higher education. The earliest colleges established in the Colonies, he tells us, were closely connected to the religious principles of their chartering churches or heavily influenced by clergymen, who served as the principal instructors (think: Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, Princeton, and Brown). Puritan belief in the moral uplift of postsecondary education continued to resonate in the 19th century, when Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed that “the whole secret of the teacher’s force lies in the conviction that men are convertible” and awaiting “awakening.”

Yet those few young people fortunate enough to receive such schooling were expected to put their experience into the service of society. And while belief in the “spiritual authority” of college has long since dwindled, Delbanco believes that the transformative potential of education should be recognized – and nurtured.

Although his experience clearly lies more with select schools, such as his alma mater, Harvard, and home institution, Columbia, Delbanco is no snob. Nor is he unrealistic about what higher ed has become, the topic that concerns the second half of this book. He not only examines the current crushing financial burden of college on ordinary families but also digs into hypocrisies of “blind admissions,” university sports programs, and a trending shift toward students who don’t need financial aid. Consider that the majority of students who land at selective colleges based on academic achievement are from well-heeled families who can afford to finance tutors, SAT prep courses, and personal advisers, he writes.

Delbanco addresses myriad troubling realities about education today, including a growing presence of foreign students, who may soon outnumber Americans on campus. The reality is that foreigners provide U.S. institutions with much-needed financial support and skills – but how does their increased number affect American students, and American achievement? While his solutions are few and he does not attempt to be comprehensive in his discussion, Delbanco offers serious exploration of issues. He also floats some intriguing propositions, such as core curriculum seminars – as professors conduct at Columbia – that encourage students to reflect upon their shared academic experience. He staunchly rejects the idea that such engagement is the privilege of an elite few, excoriating a former director of the for-profit University of Phoenix for suggesting that sitting down and thinking is “very expensive… not everyone can do that.”

Engineering is given scant notice in this book, yet science and technology educators should read Delbanco to deliberate upon his conception of what college should be: “an aid to reflection, a place and process whereby young people take stock of their talents and passions and begin to sort out their lives in a way that is true to themselves and responsible to others.” Engineering educators and students alike may recognize in that description the very core of their commitment to the field – the belief that applications of science can help create a better world.

Ultimately for Delbanco, college is important not just because it helps one develop “a well-functioning bull**** meter,” but also because it is a place, in the words of Judith Shapiro, former president of Barnard, where one can work to ensure that “the inside of your head [will be] an interesting place to spend the rest of your life.” An inspiring message, indeed.

Robin Tatu is Prism’s senior editorial consultant.


2013 Nominations for ASEE Board Election

Candidates for the office of President-Elect

Nicholas Altiero

College of Science & Engineering
Tulane University.

Pat Fox

Clinical Assistant Professor, Organizational Leadership and Supervision
Department of Technology Leadership and Communication
Purdue School of Engineering and Technology
Indiana University/Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI)

Candidates for the office of Vice President, External Relations

Grant Crawford

Director, Mechanical Engineering Program
Civil and Mechanical Engineering Department
U.S. Military Academy.

Bevlee Watford

Associate Dean, Academic Affairs
Professor, Engineering Education
Virginia Tech

Candidates for the office of Vice President, Finance

Terri Morse

Engineering Operations & Technology Program Director
External Technical Affilizations
The Boeing Co.

John Mason

Vice President for Research
Auburn University

Candidates for the office of Chair, Professional Interest Council I

Gene Dixon

Associate Professor
Department of Engineering
East Carolina University

Adrienne Minerick

Associate Professor
Chemical Engineering Department
Michigan Technological University

Candidates for the office of Chair, Professional Interest Council IV

Maura Borrego

Associate Professor
Engineering Education
Virginia Tech

Beth Holloway

Director, Women in Engineering Program
Purdue University, West Lafayette

Candidates for the office of Chair, Professional Interest Council V

Linda Krute

Engineering Online Program
North Carolina State University

Lea-Ann Morton

Assistant Vice Chancellor
Missouri University of Science & Technology

Candidates for the office of Chair-Elect, Zone II

Ruby Mawasha

Assistant Dean
College of Engineering & Computer Science
Wright State University

Gary Steffen

Associate Professor and Chair
Computer & Electrical Engineering
Technology and Information Systems & Technology
Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne

Candidates for the office of Chair-Elect, Zone IV

Amelito Enriquez

Professor, Engineering and Mechanics
Science and Technology Division
Canada College

Eric Wang

Associate Professor
Mechanical Engineering Department
University of Nevada, Reno

2012 ASEE Awards

Outstanding Zone Campus Representative Award

This award was initiated by the Campus Liaison Board to honor outstanding ASEE Zone Campus Representatives.

Zone I

Kanti Prasad

University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Zone II

Larry G. Richards

University of Virginia

Zone III

Walter W. Buchanan

Texas A&M University

Zone IV

Agnieszka Miguel

Seattle University

ASEE Council Awards

ASEE Corporate Member Council CMC Excellence in Engineering Education Collaboration Awards

Cal State L.A. College of ECST Professional Practice Program

The Boeing Co.
Northrop Grumman Corp.
The Aerospace Corp.
California State University-Los Angeles,
College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology

ASEE Engineering Research Council

Curtis W. McGraw Research Award

Ali Khademhosseini

Harvard University

ASEE Section Awards

Section Outstanding Teaching Award

This award, given by each ASEE section, recognizes the outstanding teaching performance of an engineering or engineering technology educator. The award consists of a framed certificate and an appropriate honorarium presented by the local section. Following are this year’s award recipients.

Illinois/Indiana Section
Suleiman Ashur
Indiana University/Purdue University, Fort Wayne

Middle Atlantic Section
Yacob Astatke
Morgan State University

Midwest Section
Edgar C. Clausen
University of Arkansas

Northeast Section
Kanti Prasad
University of Massachusetts-Lowell

North Central Section
Karinna M. Vernaza
Gannon University

Pacific Northwest Section
Craig Johnson
Central Washington University

Pacific Southwest Section
California Polytechnic State University

Southeast Section
Tanya Kunberger
Florida Gulf Coast University


ASEE’s Campus Liaison Board initiated this award to recognize those ASEE campus representatives who have demonstrated staunch support for ASEE on their campuses. The award consists of a framed certificate of recognition and is presented at each section’s annual meeting. Following are this year’s award recipients.

Gulf Southwest Section
Walter W. Buchanan
Texas A&M University

Illinois/Indiana Section
R. Thomas Trusty II
Trine University

Midwest Section
Kevin Drees
Oklahoma State University

Northeast Section
Kanti Prasad
University of Massachusetts-Lowell

North Central Section
P. Ruby Mawasha
Wright State University

North Midwest Section
M. Ashgar Bhatte
University of Iowa

Pacific Northwest Section
Agnieszka Miguel
Seattle University

Rocky Mountain Section
Abraham Teng
Utah Valley University

Southeast Section
Larry G. Richards
University of Virginia


Illinois-Indiana Section

Outstanding Service Award

Sharon G. Sauer
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Outstanding Paper Award

G. Scott Duncan, Eric W. Johnson, and Michael J. Hagenberger
Valparaiso University
Paper:A Seminar Course for First-Year Engineering Students

Midwest section

Person, Mile Award

Wichita State University

Outstanding Paper Award

First Place
Sohum Sohoni, David Fritz, and Wira Mulia
Oklahoma State University
Paper: “Transforming a Microprocessors Course Through the Progressive Learning Platform”

Second Place
Edgar Clausen, Roy Penney, and Megan Dunn
University of Arkansas
Paper: “Bernoulli Balance Experiments Using a Venturi”

Third Place
Eric Specking and Edgar Clausen
University of Arkansas
Paper: Engineering Outreach: A Summer Program Approach

Outstanding Service Award

Francis Thomas
University of Kansas


Best Paper Awards

First Place
Margaret Pinnell – University of Dayton
Suzanne Franco – Wright State University
Sandi Preiss – Dayton Regional STEM Center
Rebecca Blust – University of Dayton
Renee Beach – University of Dayton
PaperEngaging K-12 Teachers in Engineering Innovation and Design: Lessons Learned From a Pilot NSF Research Experience for Teachers Program

Second Place
Dick Colbry and Katy Luchini-Colbry
Michigan State University
Paper:CyberGreen: Hands-On Engineering Research in Sustainability and Supercomputing

Third Place
Norb Delatte

Cleveland State University
Paper:A New Course on Engineering History and Heritage

Student Best Paper Awards

First Place
Kevin Petsch and Tolga Kaya
Central Michigan University
Paper: “Design, Fabrication, and Analysis of MEMS Three-Direction Capacitive Accelerometer”

Second Place
Stephen Sherbrook and Tolga Kaya
Central Michigan University
Paper: “Development of a Physiological Activity Monitoring Platform”

Third Place
Paul Miles and Mark Archibald
Central Michigan University
Paper: “A New Course on Engineering History and Heritage”


Best Paper Award

Steven Zemke
Gonzaga University
Paper: “Freshman Engineering Seminar Course at Gonzaga University”


Best Paper Award

Helene Finger, Jane L. Lehr, Beverley Kwang
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Paper: “When, Why, How, Who – Lessons From First-Year Female Engineering Students at Cal Poly for Efforts to Increase Recruitment”

Student of the Year Award

Andrea Ferris
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Outstanding Community College Educator Award

Dominic Dal Bello
Allan Hancock College


Best Presentation Award

Yaneth Correa-Martinez
Colorado State University-Pueblo
Title: “Southern Colorado STEM Community of Practice Pilot Project: Engaging Families to Increase STEM Awareness and Promote Community Interest in the STEM Fields”

Best Paper Award

Ananda Paudel
Colorado State University-Pueblo
Paper: “Fostering Diversity and Educational Learning Among Engineering Students Through Group-Study: A Case Study”


Outstanding New Teacher Award

Amir H. Behzadan
University of Central Florida

New Faculty Research Award

First Place
Prabir Barooah
University of Florida

Second Place
Jason Hayward
University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Outstanding Mid-Career Teaching Award

Philip T. McCreanor
Mercer University

Thomas C. Evans Instructional Paper Award

Mary Katherine Wilson, Caroline Noyes, and Michael
Georgia Institute of Technology

Professional and Technical Division Awards

Electrical Engineering Division

Frederick Emmons Terman Award

Ali Niknejad
Associate Professor
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
University of California, Berkeley

This award is conferred upon an outstanding young electrical engineering educator in recognition of contributions to the profession. The award, established in 1969, is sponsored by the Hewlett-Packard Co. and consists of a $4,000 honorarium, a gold-plated medal, a bronze replica, a presentation scroll, and reimbursement of travel expenses for the awardee to attend the ASEE Frontiers in Education Conference, where the award will be presented.

Mechanical Engineering Division

Ralph Coats Roe Award

Sheri Sheppard
Mechanical Engineering Department
Stanford University

This award honors an outstanding mechanical engineering teacher who has made notable contributions to the engineering profession. Financed from an endowment established by Kenneth A. Roe of Burns and Roe Inc. in honor of his father, Ralph Coats Roe, the award consists of a $10,000 honorarium, a plaque, and reimbursement of travel expenses to attend the ASEE Annual Conference.

Other Division Awards

Biological and Agricultural Engineering Division

Best Paper Award

Kumar Mallikarjunan
Virginia Tech
Paper: “Development of Learning Modules to Teach Instrumentation to Biological Systems Engineering Students Using MATLAB”

Biomedical Engineering Division

Theo C. Pilkington Outstanding Educator Award

Arthur Johnson
University of Maryland, College Park

Biomedical Engineering Teaching Award

Eric Kennedy
Bucknell University

Best Paper Award

Steve R. Marek, William Liechty, and James W. Tunnell University of Texas, Austin
Paper: “Controlled Drug Delivery From Alginate Spheres in Design-Based Learning Course”

Chemical Engineering Division


Stanley Sandler
University of Delaware

William H. Corcoran Award

Authors: Margot Vigeant, Michael Prince, and Katharyn Nottis– Bucknell University
Paper: “Fundamental Research in Engineering Education Development of Concept Questions and Inquiry-Based Activities in Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer: An Example for Equilibrium vs. Steady-State”

Chemstations Chemical Engineering Lectureship Award

John Ekerdt
University of Texas-Austin

Ray W. Fahien Award

Keisha Walters
Mississippi State University

Award for Lifetime Achievement in Chemical Engineering Pedagogical Scholarship

John Prausnitz
University of California, Berkeley

Joseph J. Martin Award

Erick Nefcy, Philip Harding, and Mio Koretsky
Oregon State University

Civil Engineering Division

George K. Wadlin Distinguished Service Award

Wilfrid A. Nixon
University of Iowa

Glen L. Martin Best Paper Award

Harry G. Cooke
Rochester Institute of Technology
Paper: “Use of Soil Behavior Demonstrations to Increase Student Engagement in Elementary Soil Mechanics”

Gerald R. Seeley Award

Michelle R. Oswald
Bucknell University
Paper: “Integrating the Charrette Process into Engineering Education: A Case Study on a Civil Engineering Captstone”

College/Industry Partnerships Division

CIEC Best Session Award

“Marketing the University/Corporate Relations”
Presenters: Linda Thurman and William Heybruck
University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Moderator: Cath Polito
University of Texas at Austin

CIEC Best Presenter Award

Joy Greig
“Leadership Training: What Companies Really Think, Part 1”

CIEC Best Moderator Award

Nelson Baker
Georgia Institute of Technology
“Leadership Training: What Companies Really Think, Part 1”

Computers in Education Division

John A. Curtis Lecture Award

Marcial Lapp, Jeff Ringenberg, Kyle J. Summers, Ari S. Chivukula, and Jeff Fleszar
University of Michigan
Paper: “The Mobile Participation System: Not Just Another Clicker”

Woody Everett Best Poster Award

Oscar Antonio Perez, Virgilio Gonzalez, Michael Thomas Pitcher, and Peter Golding
University of Texas, El Paso
Paper: Work in Progress: Analysis of Mobile Technology Impact on STEM-Based Courses, Specifically Introductions to Engineering in the Era of the iPad

Continuing Professional Development Division

CIEC Best Session Award

Comparing Online and Blended Programs
Candace House – University of Southern California
George Wright – Georgia Institute of Technology
Marty Ronning – University of Maryland
Scott Mahler – University of Michigan
Wayne Pferdehirt – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ellen J. Elliott – Johns Hopkins University

CIEC Best Conference Presenter Award

Pamela Dickrell
University of Florida
Using University Distance Learning Programs in Professional Education Across Multiple Generations of Engineers

CIEC Best Moderator Award

Frank E. Burris
Continuing Professional Development Programs: Best Practices From Around the Globe

Cooperative and Experiential Education Division

Lou Takacs Award

Dan Parker
Trane (an Ingersoll Rand company)

Alvah K. Borman Award

Susan Matney
North Carolina State University

CIEC – Best Presenter Awards

Karen Kelly and Lorraine Mountain – Northeastern University
Enhancing Development of Career Portfolios Using E-Tools

CIEC – Best Moderator Award

Moderator: George F. Kent
Northeastern University
Session: Best Practices in Co-op: Something Old and Something New

CIEC – Best Session Award

Effective Use of Co-op Evaluations and Feedback/Program Assessment and New Co-op Student Preparation
Paul Plotkowski – Grand Valley State University
Alison Nogueira – Northeastern University

Co-op Student of the Year Award

Melissa McPartland
Clemson University

CEED Intern of the Year Award

Kody Ensley
Salish Kootenai College

Division of Experimentation and Laboratory Oriented Studies (DELOS)

Best Paper Awards

Jean Jiang and Li Tan
Purdue University, North Central
Paper: Teaching Adaptive Filters and Applications in Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology Programs

Jeremy John Worm, John E. Beard, Wayne Weaver, and Carl L. Anderson – Michigan Technological University
Paper: A Mobile Laboratory as a Venue for Education and Outreach Emphasizing Sustainable Transportation

Sushil K. Chaturvedi, Jaewon Yoon, Rick McKenzie, Petros J. Katsioloudis, Hector M. Garcia, and Shuo Ren – Old Dominion University
Paper: Implementation and Assessment of a Virtual Reality Experiment in the Undergraduate Thermo-Fluids Laboratory

Per Henrik Borgstrom, William J. Kaiser, Gregory Chung, Manda Paul, Stoytcho Marinov Styochev, Jackson Tek Kon Ding – University of California, Los Angeles, and Zachary Nelson – National Instruments
Paper: Science and Engineering Active Learning (SEAL) System: A Novel Approach to Controls Laboratories

Educational Research and Methods Division

Distinguished Service Award

Jennifer Karlin – South Dakota School of Mines
Matthew Ohland – Purdue University

Helen L. Plants Award

Senay Purzer – Purdue University, West Lafayette
Jonathan C. Hilpert – Indiana University/Purdue University, Fort Wayne

Ronald J. Schmitz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Frontiers in Education Conference

Susan Lord
University of San Diego

Benjamin Dasher Award

Kristi J. Shryock, Arun R. Srinivasa, and Jeffrey E. Froyd
Texas A&M University

Best Paper Award

David Knight
Pennsylvania State University
Paper: In Search of the Engineers of 2020: An Outcome-Based Typology of Engineering Undergraduates

Apprentice Faculty Grant

Maria-Isabel Carnasciali – University of New Haven
Morgan Hynes – Tufts University
Alejandra Magana – Purdue University,West Lafayette
James Pembridge – Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Electrical and Computer Engineering Division

Meritorious Service Award

Stephen Goodnickv
Arizona State University

Distinguished Educator Award

Patricia D. Daniels
Seattle University

Energy Conversion and Conservation Division

Best Paper Awards

Teodora R. Shuman and Gregory Mason
Seattle University
Paper: Novel Approach to Conducting Labs in an Introduction to Thermodynamics Course

Jose Colucci, Miriam del Rosario Fontalvo, and Effrain OíNeill-Carillo – University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez
Paper: UPRM CHEM E Sustainable Energy Demos, Workshops, Town Hall Meetings, Etc., Working the Pipeline
Lawrence Holloway – University of Kentucky
Paper: Addressing the Broader Impacts of Engineering Through a General Education Course on Global Energy Issues

Kenan Baltaci – University of Northern Iowa,
Ulan Dakeev – University of Northern Iowa,
Reg Recayi Pecen – University of Northern Iowa,
Faruk Yildiz – Sam Houston State University,
and Bekir Yuksek – University of Northern Iowa
Paper: Design and Implementation of a 10 kW Wind-Solar Distributed Power and Instrumentation System

Jonathan M.S. Mattson, Bryan Anthony Streckert, and Nick J. Surface – University of Kansas
Paper: Small-Scale Smart Grid Construction and Analysis

Distinguished Lecturer Award

Patrick Tebbe
Minnesota State University

Engineering Design Graphics Division

Oppenheimer Award

Kevin Devine
Illinois State University
Presentation: Ã¬Dimensional Tolerances: Back to the Basicsî

Chairís Award

Diarmaid Lane and Niall Seery
University of Limerick
Session: Examining the Development of Sketch Thinking and Behaviour

Editorís Award

Andrew C. Kellie – Murray State University
Article: Hard Copy to Digital Transfer: 3D Models that Match 2D Maps

Media Showcase Award

M. Kelly, M. Campbell, A. Stauble, J. OíDonnell, and Nicholas Bertozzi – Daniel Webster College
Ted J. Branoff – North Carolina State University
A. Varricchio – Pratt and Whitney
Timothy Sexton – Ohio University
Presentation: Development of an Inverted Classroom Module for Multiview Drawing

Payne Award

Marie Planchard
Dassault SystËmes

Engineering Economy Division

Eugene L. Grant Award

Kati Brunson – Rockwell Collins, Betsy DeLee – Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co.,
Joshua Nachtigal – Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co.,
Bradley Hill – Kennedy Space Center,
and Joseph C. Hartman – The Engineering Economist
Paper: Case Study: Transport Carrier Replacement Analysis (The Engineering Economist, Volume 56, 4, Pages 354-384)

Best Paper Award

Ted Eschenbach – University of Alaska, Anchorage,
Neal A. Lewis – University of Bridgeport,
Yiran Zhang – University of Bridgeport,
Paper: When to Start Collecting Social Security: Designing a Case Study

Engineering Libraries Division

Homer I. Bernhardt Distinguished Service Award

Maliaca Oxnam
University of Arizona

Best Publication Award

Jacob Carlson, Michael Fosmire, C. C. Miller, and Megan Sapp Nelson – Purdue University
Paper: Determining Data Information Literacy Needs: A Study of Students and Research Faculty

Engineering Management Division

Bernard R. Sarchet Award

Gary Teng
University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Merl Baker Award

Gene Dixon
East Carolina University

Best Paper Award

Maxwell Reid
Auckland University of Technology
Paper: Engineering Management Within an Undergraduate Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) Programme

Best Presentation Award

Craig Downing
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Paper: Ã¬Using Design for Six Sigma Practices to Develop a ëRoseí Belt Courseî

Engineering Technology Division

CIEC – Best Presenter Award

Anand Gramopadhye
Clemson University
Integrating Visualization and Simulation Technology to Support Electronic Learning: The Aviation Inspection Case Study

CIEC – Best Session Award

Session: Technical InnovationñWhat Should Technology & Engineering Departments Be Doing With It?
Moderator: Michael Dyrenfurth – Purdue University
Presenters: H. Fred Walker – Rochester Institute of Technology,
Lueny Morell – Hewlett Packard,
Michael Dyrenfurth – Purdue University

Environmental Engineering Division

Best Paper Award

Major Andrew Pfluger, Major David-Michael P. Roux, and Michael Butkus – U.S. Military Academy
Paper: A Hands-on Experience in Air Pollution Engineering Courses: Implementing an Effective Indoor Air Pollution Project

Best Student Paper Award

Sarah Bauer
Rowan University
Paper: Weaving Sustainability into Undergraduate Engineering Education Through Innovative Pedagogical Methods: A Studentís Perspective

Early Career Grant

Sudarshan Kurwadkar
Tarleton State University
Paper: Undergraduate Environmental Engineering Research Experiences in a Predominantly Undergraduate Teaching Institute

Industrial Engineering Division

Best Paper Award

Ana Vila-Parrish – North Carolina State University
Dianne Raubenheimer – Meredith College
Paper: Integrating Project Management and Lean-Six Sigma Methodologies in an Industrial Engineering Capstone Course

Distinguished Service Award

Kim LaScola Needy
University of Arkansas

New IE Educator Outstanding Paper Award

Ivan Guardiola, Elizabeth Cudney, and Susan L. Murray – Missouri University of Science and Technology
Paper: Using Social Networking Games to Teach Operations Research and Management Science Fundamental Concepts

Heidi A. Taboada and Jose F. Espiritu – University of Texas at El Paso
Paper: Experiences While Incorporating Sustainability Engineering into the Industrial Engineering Curricula

Graduate Studies Division

Donald Keating Award

Duane D. Dunlap
Purdue University

International Division

Global Engineering & Engineering Technology Educator Award

Robert Parker
University of Michigan and Shanghai Jiao Tong University

K-12 Division

Best Paper Award

Malinda S. Zarske, Janet L. Yowell, Jacquelyn F. Sullivan, Angela R. Bielefeldt, and Daniel W. Knight
University of Colorado, Boulder
Travis OíHair
Skyline High School
Paper: K-12 Engineering for Service: Do Project-Based Service-Learning Design Experiences Impact Attitudes in High School Engineering Students?

Liberal Education Division

Sterling Olmstead Award

Donna Riley
Smith College

Mathematics Division

Distinguished Educator and Service Award

Anton J. Pintar
Michigan Technological University

Best Paper Award

Amelito Enriquez
Canada College
Paper: Improving the Participation and Retention of Minority Students in Science and Engineering Through Summer Enrichment Programs

Mechanical Engineering Division

Outstanding New Mechanical Engineering Educator Award

Brent Houtchens
Rice University

Mechanics Division

Archie Higdon Distinguished Educator Award

Jwo Pan
University of Michigan

Ferdinand P. Beer and E. Russell Johnston Jr. Outstanding New Mechanics Educator Award

Julie Stahmer Linsey
Texas A&M University

Best Paper Award

Brianno D. Coller
Northern Illinois University
Paper: Preliminary Results on Using a Video Game in Teaching Dynamics

Overall Best Presentation Award

Brianno D. Coller
Northern Illinois University
Paper: First Look at a Video Game for Teaching Dynamics

Physics Division

Distinguished Educator and Service Award

Bahaeddin Jassemnejad
University of Central Oklahoma

Systems Engineering Division

Best Paper Award

Robert Reid Bailey – University of Virginia,
Joanne Bechta Dugan – University of Virginia,
Alexandra E. Coso – Georgia Institute of Technology,
and Matthew E. McFarland – University of Virginia
Paper: ECE/SYS Integration: A Strategy for Evaluating Graduates from a Multiyear Curriculum Focused on Technology Systems Integration

Women in Engineering Division

Mara H. Wasburn Apprentice Educator Grant

Katerina Bagiati – Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Rachel Louis – Virginia Tech

The ASEE Code of Ethics

Approved this summer by the Board of Directors, the ASEE Code of Ethics delineates ethical responsibilities and obligations for ASEE individual and institutional members, both academic and corporate. The code is intended to help formalize expectations of engineering educatorsí academic and professional behavior and aligns ASEE with common practice in other professional organizations.

Developing the code was an 18-month process spearheaded by then Engineering Ethics Division chair, Doug Tougaw of Valparaiso University. Committee members included Joseph Herkert, Arizona State University; George Catalano, SUNY, Binghamton; Dennis Fallon, The Citadel; Marilyn Dyrud, Oregon Institute of Technology; Bill Jordan, Baylor University; Rebecca Bates, Minnesota State University, Mankato; and Claire McCullough, University of Tennessee. All committee members are active in the ethics division.

The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) is a nonprofit organization committed to furthering education in engineering and engineering technology. ASEE members, including educators and the industry partners who work with them, occupy positions of significant authority, and that authority is accompanied by significant ethical responsibilities. Those members who perform professional work in a technical discipline are bound by the code of ethics of their professional society, including the requirement to hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public. In addition, all ASEE members shall:

  1. Ensure all graduates have an understanding of their professional and ethical responsibility.
  2. Encourage students to use their knowledge and skills for the enhancement of human welfare.
  3. Encourage students to be aware of the environmental and social impact of their solutions.
  4. Maintain and improve their expertise by continuing professional development and provide opportunities for colleagues to do the same.
  5. Undertake professional responsibilities only in the areas of their competence.
  6. Be honest and impartial, with no tolerance for bribery, fraud, corruption, and academic dishonesty, and instill those same principles in their students.
  7. Respect the intellectual property of others by properly attributing previous works and sharing appropriate credit with coauthors, including students.
  8. Avoid actual or apparent conflicts of interest.
  9. Build their professional reputations on the merit of their own work and the professional partnerships they form.
  10. Treat all persons fairly regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, or national origin.
  11. Demonstrate respect for students and professional colleagues, never tolerating harassment.
  12. Protect confidential information concerning students and professional colleagues.
  13. Provide fair evaluations of students and professional colleagues that reflect the true merit of their work.
  14. Support other professional colleagues in following this code of ethics.
It Doesn’t Add Up
By Nicole Mendoza

High schools and universities must work together to narrow the preparation gap.

Retaining incoming engineering students through graduation continues to be an important issue. Doing so benefits the lives and careers of young professionals, the strength of the American workforce, technology development and innovation, and national competitiveness and security.

There are many reasons students leave engineering as a first major, but in my experience, two resound clearly: the difficult social aspects of being a first-year engineer, including the lack of a support structure and a sense of not “being an engineer,” and the huge disparity among students in precollege math education. At many institutions, both problems affect students most prominently in the first two years. Data from my alma mater, Texas A&M, show that some 90 percent who leave engineering do so as freshmen or sophomores.

Universities across the nation are making impressive progress in addressing the social aspects. Support networks have been catalyzed by clustering classes by subject and major, and through group tutoring sessions, improved mentoring and advising, and engineering living-learning communities. To help students identify themselves as engineers, programs offer early hands-on design projects, undergraduate research, and discipline-specific team projects.

Gaps in math education remain a problem, however, and one that I have witnessed in Texas. I graduated in 2003 from DeBakey High School for Health Professions, a magnet school in Houston. DeBakey offered a variety of pre-AP and AP courses, including Trigonometry, non-calculus-based Physics, Calculus AB (I) and BC (II), and Statistics. With these opportunities, I completed high school with Calculus I and II AP credits. Yet in my first year at college, I discovered that most of my peers had not taken Trigonometry and a few hadn’t taken Algebra II. That means that coming out of high school, these students experienced an up-to-four-year gap in math education, compared with students from DeBakey. This completely took me by surprise! I also discovered that other Texas high schools, particularly those in small rural towns, didn’t offer advanced math courses, much less AP or dual-credit versions.

Up until 2006, Texas required three years of math credits and mandated only Algebra I and Geometry for high school graduation. Since then, the state government has increased the level of math required for a high school diploma to four years, with Algebra II prescribed for students entering high school in the 2007-2008 school year. This still-low requirement ensures that many students enter college engineering with inadequate preparation.

The Texas “Top 10 Percent Rule” – guaranteeing admission to state institutions to students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class – only exacerbates the problem. This rule was implemented to encourage equal access to higher education. It evaluates all students – whether from small rural, large city, or magnet high schools – based on rank. This results in students with different levels of math education being placed in the same pool. At Texas A&M, first-year calculus-based physics courses require Calculus I and II as corequisites. This combination flummoxed the majority of my peers in 2003, directly resulting in lower grades or having to repeat one or both subjects. It also lowered morale, delayed graduation, and encouraged them to switch majors. At Texas A&M, the grade students earn in their first math course is a significant indicator of whether they will continue to study engineering.

Time and again I watched friends struggle through repeat math courses and then abandon engineering in despair. Even professors in upper-level courses had to walk students through basic math concepts before addressing the course material. Together with the Department of Mathematics (DoM), the College of Engineering has taken steps to mitigate the problem: Incoming freshmen must now take a math placement exam, and the DoM offers online math prep the summer prior to the freshman year, as well as help sessions and recitations. But is it enough?

My goal is not to cast blame on high schools, but instead to increase awareness of the significant disparities that exist in math preparation for prospective engineering students. A huge gap exists, one that high schools and universities must work together to bridge.

Nicole Mendoza is a doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant in aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University. This past summer she participated in the National Science Foundation Engineering Innovation Fellowship Program, interning at Boeing.