With 2014 turning out to be one of the hottest years on record, if not the hottest, Peter Meredith’s cover story is timely. It looks at the impact of climate change from the standpoint of naval engineering. Despite rising sea levels, violent weather, and coastal flooding, the news is not uniformly bad. At the top of the world, a new and important sea lane is opening up as the polar ice cap melts, presenting challenges for ship designers and researchers and opportunities for students. Do we need ice-hardened containerships, more icebreakers? Imaginative Coast Guard Academy seniors are designing an “Arctic multipurpose support vessel,” capable of personnel transport, cruise-ship support, pollution response, towing, and ice management.
As more is learned about the consequences of climate change, it will increasingly become an engineering story. Faced with threats to lives and livelihoods, society will look to engineers for technological solutions and inventive ways to adapt. In a sense, this is familiar territory. Through the centuries, engineers have helped to brace civilization against nature’s extremes, be they storms, drought, or blight. In the process, new industries have emerged and forbidding regions have become habitable.
With a warming Arctic and other effects of climate change creating new options for engineers, this is an appropriate time for a broad look at the careers engineers pursue – and why. A National Academy of Engineering study is doing exactly that, as Beryl Lieff Benderly explains in “Checkered Careers.” The findings may have important implications for engineering educators and employers. So too will rising discontent among millennial engineers, something Jenna Carpenter explores in Last Word. This generation wants careers that let them make a difference, she writes; otherwise, some will bolt to non-engineering jobs.
Elsewhere in Prism, Mary Lord peeks into a Rice University classroom where robots have morphed into teaching tools. James McLurkin, an assistant professor of computer science, has proved that his bagel-size ’bots can be, as Lord writes, “an unabashedly fun way to convey circuits, mechanics, and other core concepts.”
We at ASEE wish Prism readers a happy and safe New Year.