Waste Not, Want Not
Buried in boxes of unused extension cords, misplaced-from-their-partner power adapters, and other miscellaneous electronic supplies in my house are at least four outdated cell phones and two tablets. On a garage shelf sits a desktop computer that has been covered with an increasingly thick layer of dust since we moved in five years ago. Many readers could tell a similar story of ghosts of electronics past. As technology relentlessly marches forward, left behind are the phone that was top of the line six years ago and the four-year-old tablet with a screen half the size of the upgraded model. As Tom Grose reports in our cover story, electronic waste is a growing problem—not just for our own decluttering, but because even when we’re motivated, it’s no easy feat to dispose of the stuff. Just 20 percent of e-waste is recycled, but even that small percentage may be misleading. The issue is especially critical in the countries where our electronic detritus often ends up, with women and children inhaling carcinogens to access the valuable metals within. Grose examines engineers’ recent efforts to stem e-waste’s rising tide.
In her feature, Deputy Editor Mary Lord highlights efforts to address a different kind of waste: the potential contributions of engineering students with learning differences who often are missed in the push for greater diversity and inclusion. One survey, for instance, found that while 34 percent of those on the autism spectrum majored in a STEM-related field, only 5 percent studied engineering. A University of Connecticut initiative aims to build a strengths-based culture and cultivate “the potential of neurodivergent students to contribute to innovations in engineering.”
Finally, award-winning STEM children’s book author Deborah Lee Rose celebrates the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station with a behind-the-scenes look at an engineered addition that almost didn’t launch. For the past decade, the ISS’s cupola has enabled not only iconic photos from space but also a new perspective on Earth and human existence by astronauts and those who get to see our planet through their eyes.
You’ll also find in this issue reactions to the recent White House Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping—including a Letter to the Editor on the personal implications and responses from both ASEE’s Board and its Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. CDEI provides a list of ways to take action.
When you read this, voting in the 2020 election will be behind us. Uncertainty about the future abounds. But no matter the outcome, Prism—and ASEE as a whole—will continue to provide information and resources to enable the critical work you do. As the Society’s vision statement articulates, we’ll keep working toward “excellent and broadly accessible education empowering students and engineering professionals to create a better world.”
With all good thoughts for the future,