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FROM THE PUBLISHER
Frank Huband

MULTI-TASKING ROBOTS


Until a few decades ago, Godzilla was Japan’s hallmark monster. Today, all manner of celluloid, computer-game, and mechanized creatures fill the island nation. Japan’s amazing robots dance, swim, climb, and, of course, perform skillfully on auto assembly lines. Now meet 11-foot T-53 Enryu, wielding gigantic, multi-jointed arms and growling like a tractor. As we learn in “Help! I Need Some ’Bot-y,” this 21st-century “monster” is designed not to devastate but to rescue, freeing trapped victims from debris and disaster. The country that has dominated industrial robotics hopes that robots can be put to the task of caring for its senior citizens. The question is whether researchers’ innovations can keep up with a burgeoning population of elderly and its complex needs.

Teaming With Ideas” reports on a creative international student engineering competition that UNESCO and the German automaker Daimler joined forces to produce. For the Mondialogo Engineering Award, student teams from developed countries such as the United States, Britain, Germany, and Singapore join with groups from developing countries, mostly in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, via the Internet. The combined teams work together to compete for prizes by designing a project that would solve a real-life problem experienced in a poor community. Diverse international student match-ups occur, and the contest has fostered strong cross-cultural collaboration.

Diversity has also been given a big boost by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). The program was launched in response to the National Academies’ 2005 report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, which urged vast improvements in U.S. math and science education. “Flight to Achievement” examines how this public-private partnership, backed with significant corporate funding, has produced a remarkable 122 percent surge of African-American and Hispanic student participation in AP classes. Lauded for its successful teaching and coaching strategies, NMSI employs the controversial tactic of providing cash incentives for both students and teachers. With ambitious expansion plans, the Initiative’s leaders hope for federal aid. Given President Obama’s pledge to support education in his recent address to Congress, supporters may have reason to be encouraged.

I hope you enjoy the variety of this month’s Prism articles. I would welcome hearing any thoughts or comments you care to share.

 

Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher
f.huband@asee.org

 

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