special issue of Prism, which focuses on terrorism, reflects the increased
attention that the entire nation is paying to security. This heightened
concern about the infiltration of foreign terrorists into our country
has not yet affected the engineering curriculum but, in my opinion,
it should. After all, the very nature of engineering is the application
of science to find new solutions to problems. Moreover, many of those
solutions already exist in the lab, although they haven't been
put to use yet. Unlike academicians and researchers in other disciplines,
engineers are in the best position to understand and apply new technologies.
At a bare minimum, the engineering curriculum has got to begin addressing
number of people in the engineering field have recently explored the
relationship between engineering and security. In a lecture given by
Ruth David, president and CEO of Anser, prior to September 11, she had
some ominous predictions that later became all too real. In her presentation,
entitled Homeland Defense and the Global Village, David,
who holds an electrical engineering degree from Wichita State University,
talked mostly about cyberweapons and biochemical attacks. She said,
technological advances driven by commercial interestsand
readily available through the global villagehave armed individuals
and small organizations with the ability to hold American homeland at
risk and to disrupt our way of life. Prior to the devastating
attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the response to
that statement might have been, If it's so easy, then why
hasn't it happened? But no one would make that response today.
recently in Engineering Times, associate editor Rachael Davis discussed
airport security problems. Davis focused on ways to prevent damage from
explosions, detection of hazardous items in baggage and in cargo, and
biometric technology, which matches images of faces with scanned photos
in a computer database. A short article discussing security of water
systems in the United States also appeared in that same issue of Engineering
Times. In the December 10 issue of the Engineering News Record, Tom
Ichniowski, a Washington journalist who covers government agencies,
including the Corps of Engineers, provides a summary of concerns involving
infrastructure, including dams, building codes, electric power generation
and distribution, water treatment, and transportation. He described
actions being taken by engineering firms to increase security measures
in many of these facilities.
articles indicate that many in engineering practice are seriously concerned
about security and are taking steps to include it in design and retrofit
projects. But unfortunately at the present time, engineering education
is paying little attention to security issues. One exception is in the
area of cyber-terrorism. A faculty member in electrical engineering
and computer science at the University of Kansas has developed two courses
on Internet security. These graduate level courses have proved extremely
popular, and enrollment was capped at about 100 students. I am sure
many other institutions have similar courses; however, it is my perception
that there are few other engineering disciplines that have developed
I was an undergraduate in the mid-50s, neither environmental impact
nor serious safety was an important factor in engineering design. Today,
it is routine and absolutely necessary that both of those factors play
a major part in design specification. I think that security must now
be added to that mix.
necessity of including the environmental impact and safety considerations
in design courses and laboratory work is reinforced by ABET, which requires
a working knowledge of such aspects. This requirements are
relatively recent to engineering education criteria, added after the
engineering profession, along with the rest of society, became aware
of and sensitive to those issues. I now think we should build concerns
about security into the design process.
examples of doing just that come to mind. Aircraft design courses could
include such items as cockpit security, limitation of damage to fuselages
from bullet puncture holes, and detection of explosive cargo, for example.
Chemical plant design courses have in the past focused on sizing of
equipment, minimization of waste, consideration of safety concerns,
and costs. Security of chemical plants has emerged as a serious worry
and could become one of the factors considered in design courses. Building
structural design courses could include the development of new codes
that would minimize damage from terrorist attacks.
is incumbent upon us as educators to prepare our students for problems
in the real world. While I think engineering education has done an outstanding
job of preparing and sensitizing graduates to environmental and safety
problems, we need to broaden our approach to include items related to
security. Security issues cut across all engineering disciplines, and
throughout their careers, engineering graduates will be confronted with
this new challenge. The engineers we turn out must understand the importance
of security as they do their engineering work. It is a daunting task,
but one that I think engineering educators are more than up to accomplishing.
E. Locke, Jr. is the dean of engineering at the University of Kansas
and chairman of the ASEE Engineering Dean's Council.
He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.