At this time in 2012, Prism ran a cover story on the long-simmering argument over whether to require a master’s as the first professional degree for engineers. While that dispute continues, a new controversy is brewing among engineering educators about proposed changes in accreditation criteria. This isn’t some quibble over words. Indeed, the stakes are high, since a seal of approval by ABET, formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, is widely considered essential for most U.S. engineering programs as well as for many overseas. And the previous overhaul of curricula and outcomes by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) occurred 20 years ago. In an essay concluding our March-April issue, EAC Vice Chair John Orr described the rationale behind the changes. Our coverage continues in this issue with Beryl Benderly’s feature, “Standards of Practice,” reporting on the pros and cons, and another essay, this time by Mary Besterfield-Sacre and Larry Shuman. We call such essays Last Word, but in this case, that’s unlikely. ABET criteria promise to be a prime topic at ASEE’s annual conference.
Cuba may not become a tourist destination for Americans anytime soon due to the ongoing economic embargo, but the recent thaw in relations between Washington and Havana makes travel there easier for educators and students. While most programs to date have had a cultural focus, engineers are welcome. A small group of University of Alabama students, for example, is due to spend a month between spring and summer terms at Cuba’s leading engineering school, the José Antonio Echeverría Higher Polytechnic Institute. Our cover story, “Back to the Future,” explores projects past and potentially to come. While our image of Cuban engineering is one of keeping 1950s Chevrolets on the road, the country offers a range of joint research prospects in such fields as environmental engineering and brain science.
“The first time a drone hurts or kills a human, it will be a big deal,” Michael Toscano, an Arizona consultant on unmanned vehicles, tells Tom Grose in “Flight Risk.” Already, some 325,000 unmanned aerial system (UAS) vehicles are registered. If and when they’re allowed to make commercial deliveries, Amazon alone could have 130,000 drone flights a day. To head off tragic mishaps, NASA is enlisting a large team of industrial and academic investigators to design a mostly autonomous, cloud-based UAS traffic management system by 2019.
Elsewhere in Prism, read ASEE President Joe Rencis’s final letter to members in ASEE Today, and check out the highlights of the Society’s upcoming annual conference in New Orleans. If you plan to attend, please stop by our publications table near the registration desk.