Prism Magazine - February 2002
Waging War
25 ways to Fight Terrorism
Where is OTA when you need it?
Cool Under Fire
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Engineers Join the Ranks

The events of September 11 and the subsequent mailing of anthrax-infused letters have alerted Americans to the vulnerability of our open society. To protect our people, our structures, and our institutions, engineering educators—and the profession as a whole—are well suited to respond. One approach is the use of technology to develop systems that will give us the ability to respond quickly and effectively to threats and attacks. By using engineering creativity, we can increase our security without having armed troops and tanks on every corner of the country.

Scientists and engineers, as well as the nation's university laboratories, are already turning their attention to ways to protect the country against future attacks. In Prism this month, we've devoted the entire issue to the fight that engineers have launched against terrorism. In “Waging War” we examine some of the challenges in developing the affordable technology related to our security vulnerabilities. The kinds of research being conducted at engineering schools across the country will advance our technological capabilities and reduce the cost of these capabilities.

In “Twenty-five Ways to Fight Terrorism,” we report on some of the most exciting innovations in the works—an overview that illustrates both the intensity of effort and the diversity of engineering solutions to threats against our society. These fascinating innovations include a wide range of ideas—from picking the face of a terrorist out of a crowd to the development of a super-bandage of emulsion polymerized gel to apply to wounds.

Almost seven years ago, Congress closed the doors of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). Now in light of the importance of technology in many of the issues facing Congress, there is growing interest in resurrecting OTA in some form. “Where Is OTA When You Need It?” suggests that an OTA-like organization can be an important resource as the level of scientific content that confronts Congress continues to grow.

September 11 has presented us with new challenges—challenges that we as engineers can and will address. As always, I welcome hearing your thoughts and comments.

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

 

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