A Problem in Plain Sight
In an October 2014 cover story on the Grand Challenge Scholars program, Prism described how a growing number of idealistic engineering students were taking their problem-solving skills to impoverished communities in the developing world, designing and building pedestrian bridges, treating wastewater, and developing sustainable energy sources, among other projects. More recently, Associate Editor Jennifer Pocock decided to explore what U.S. engineering schools were doing to alleviate pressing domestic problems. She was particularly struck by the large number of homeless people in downtown Washington, D.C., and examples of engineering—like benches in bus shelters that prevent anyone from lying down—that, rather than help, actually make their lives more difficult. In fact, the plight of the nation’s homeless lends itself to imaginative engineering, as a few schools have discovered. An engineering club at New Mexico State University helped design a self-policed tent city on what was formerly a squatters’ camp and is now developing mini-homes for homeless veterans. Kevin Passino, an electrical engineering professor who directs the Humanitarian Engineering Center at Ohio State, sees a worthwhile challenge in helping the homeless stay on schedule with their medications. Pocock describes these and many more ideas—some offered by people who have experienced homelessness themselves, in this month’s cover story.
The world of aerospace is a limitless source of fascinating stories. Our November issue featured Charles Q. Choi’s look at research and development on hypersonic aircraft, now experiencing a renaissance after decades of stops and starts. They could cut the Miami-Seattle flight time to an hour. This month, Tom Grose’s “Sustainable Skies” explores slower-moving but no less intriguing electric planes, which may be coming our way as early as 2020.
Anyone who counsels students about their future goals will want to read Margaret Loftus’s Real World 101 on professional development initiatives cropping up at several engineering schools across the country. “These programs, which range from workshops to credit-bearing coursework on everything from résumé writing to decision making to financial planning, provide guidance to ease the transition from campus to workplace,” she writes.
Also this month, we welcome Kenneth Burbank to our roster of columnists. His twice-a-year column, Another Angle, will bring us up to date on thinking in the world of engineering technology.
All of us at ASEE wish our readers a festive and safe holiday season.