PRISM - American Society for Engineering Education - Logo FEBRUARY 2005 - VOLUME 14, NUMBER 6
Special Double Issue: 2005 ASEE Annual Conference - June 12-15 - Portland, Oregon
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President's Letter: The Global Brain

By Sherra E. Kerns


I first watched The Global Brain, a film based on the famous book by Peter Russell, while staying at a quirky one-bedroom bed and breakfast in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1980s. There were crystals on the nightstands and a pyramid in the center of the room, so I expected a "cosmic" message and got one. The film begins with the Gaia Hypothesis—a theory that the Earth is a single, living organism that maintains conditions necessary for its survival. That conclusion is based on the remarkable constancy of global temperature, ocean salinity, atmospheric composition, and more than a dozen other factors—and despite the mucking around of humankind.

The film suggests—by making analogy to the complexity of organisms with nervous systems—that the Earth is on the brink of developing its own consciousness, which will supersede and link the consciousnesses of humans worldwide. That is, we will be neuron equivalents—the communications elements in the Global Brain.

You can relax because we're not there yet. You can still have your individual thoughts. However, during our lifetimes, human society has developed ever increasing levels of synergistic activity. We achieved worldwide commerce, then Internet-enabled, low-cost, and near-instantaneous international communications, and now a willingness to move people and jobs from country to country with the same ease that we used to move them from city to city.

Some of the elements of globally linked human thought are already present. A very real interest in the exchange of ideas and practices across many areas of human endeavor, the sharing of quality standards for education and professional practice, and knowledge and appreciation of the potential economic, political, and cultural contributions of people in other societies are growing rapidly around the world.

I've recently had the honor of representing ASEE at two major international conferences and several in the United States. In Beijing this past September, ASEE held its 3rd International Colloquium on Engineering Education. The attendees included three groups: China, the United States, and other nations. Such a balance has been a formula for the success of our international colloquia. We focus on the pair-wise relationship between two nations or regions and complement it with participation from others in the world. We're now in the phase of exploring deep relationships with these groups.

Also in September, ASEE co-sponsored the IGIP annual symposium, which united the societies and presidents of four major engineering education organizations: ASEE, IEEE Education Society, IGIP, and SEFI. This was the first time in many years that these latter two organizations, representing different regions of Europe, had met together.

Discussions at these international conferences centered on educational reform and best practices, much as they did at ASEE's annual conference and at the recent ASEE co-sponsored Frontiers in Education conference. Conversational horizons have rapidly expanded and the commitment of prestigious foreign institutions and government groups is startling. Many new faces are talking about familiar issues.

Next year, the ASEE International Colloquium will be held in Sydney, Australia. A goal of this meeting is to broadly recognize the need to advance engineering education through meetings of not only conference attendees but also representatives of major multinational corporations and national, regional, and global organizations (including segment-oriented groups, such as continuing undergraduate, graduate, and other education-focused groups), and government and ministerial authorities. In this meeting, we will press forward on ASEE initiatives and forge collaborative relationships between societies devoted to furthering excellence in engineering education worldwide. As the pace of the world accelerates, fostering communication, understanding, and global dialog have become fundamental priorities for ASEE. We will seek to coordinate the founding of a cooperative association or federation of groups worldwide that are devoted to engineering education.

We have learned a lot this year. In China, which educates approximately one-half of all of the world's engineers, engineering education is valued as a preparation for contributions in government, policy, innovation, intellectual property, broad engineering disciplines, and manufacturing—in short, for ensuring the future of the nation. China is clearly interested in moving to outcomes-based education and in engaging even larger numbers of youngsters in engineering education. We also learned of forecasts for the distributions of future engineering jobs around the world, including functional foci, such as manufacturing engineering and computer science, designated as target opportunities for the countries outside the western hemisphere. Clearly, the rate of cultural change is accelerating and increasingly affected by choices made in other nations.

Stepping Back

So, then, what is the present state of planetary humankind and how is ASEE involved? We are deeply interconnected through information exchange. Information is the messenger, sometimes the message, and even the effluent of the Internet age. The rapid growth of exchange via the Internet has compromised the quality, enhanced the quantity, and blurred the boundaries between information and opinion. Innovative information quality standards are needed to realize benefit from this voluminous exchange.

We are already deeply interdependent. Teaming is widely recognized as a skill essential to professional success. In the United States, knowledge of languages and appreciation of cultural distinctions remain frontiers for our parti-cipation in a multicultural citizenry. For all of the power of connectivity we can access, most of the world's people still tend to have a local orientation. Our world's connectivity now extends beyond the reach of our personal perspectives. The Global Brain, in its nonscientific, quasi-rational way, broached this issue by noting, "We've lived as fleas living on an elephant," and suggested that we should jump back and see the whole in order to recognize our circumstance and appreciate our opportunities

Given our vastly different circumstances of health, comfort, education, and religious and societal ethic, is it possible to share our sense of what is real, or meaningful, or profane? Can we, at a minimum, come to respect the value of hearing each other's views, or the recognition that perspectives from different societies may bring value and substance to engineering education and larger multisocietal endeavors? Awareness of local circumstances and solutions can certainly inform and enhance the positive impact of our global actions. Yet extending conversations across values boundaries is difficult because they too frequently insult principles we hold sacred. We often choose to remain comfortable by listening only to those who think and believe as we do.

As members of ASEE, we share the values of science, mathematics, and the belief that transforming theories to reality through innovation and engineering is what makes life interesting, worthy, and exciting. In today's world, technology forms the foundation for economic growth worldwide. Engineers are the innovators and engineering education the fundamental, binding foundation for success. Future successes will not be isolated or contained within just the United States or Europe but must be considered in a truly global context. As an international society of engineers, it is our moral obligation to recognize change and work together to rationally meet the challenges of globalization – for the good of all our people.

As members of ASEE, we hold another position of extreme advantage in at least one respect: engineering and technology offer us a common global language, a rational, shared way of understanding complex systems. This shared language of our profession provides us a basis for forging solutions in support of our common body—the societies respecting the shared ground of our planet. By sharing language, we are inherently empowered and able to engage in moving a dialog forward.

ASEE, through our international colloquia, our global online memberships, and other initiatives, is working to enhance clear communications, to reduce barriers between engineering educators, and to strengthen our beneficial interactions. Within the next year, ASEE intends to catalyze the formation of a strong alliance between organizations throughout the world that teach and speak the language of engineering and technology education. We will link these elements together into a network capable of unprecedented global vision and cooperation. While this will not create an overarching global consciousness, it will strengthen connectivities and help us to better address the common and extraordinary issues that face us. ASEE's international initiatives provide a strong complement to our other endeavors, broadening our communications, understandings, and appreciation of different perspectives, stimulating our ability to "think globally," and expanding the network of shared ideas to improve engineering and technology education.

Engineering Family Festival

The National Building Museum and the National Engineers Week Foundation welcome families, groups, and young guests to the Engineering Family Festival.The National Building Museum and the National Engineers Week Foundation welcome families, groups, and young guests to the Engineering Family Festival to be held Saturday, February 19, 2005, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The festival is the D.C.-area kick-off event for Engineers Week 2005, February 20-26, Attendees will be able to meet cast members of the hit PBS series ZOOM; take part in stimulating, hands-on activities; and witness a US FIRST robotics league demo competition. Two ZOOM cast members will be present to interact with attendees as they try out the engineering activities. The suggested ages for children are 5 to 13. For more information about ZOOM, visit For more information about the festival, contact the National Building Museum at (202) 272-2448 or visit

Call for Papers

Authors are invited to submit papers for review to the Journal of Engineering Technology. Refer to,, or the latest issue for complete manuscript requirements, a style guide for authors, and a list of topics of interest. Submit 11 copies of the printed manuscript with abstract to:  Paul J. Wilder, Manuscript Editor, Indiana Institute of Technology, 1600 East Washington Blvd., Fort Wayne, IN 46803; E-mail:

In Memoriam

Yi-Yuan Yu, former dean of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, died at his home in Essex Falls, N.J., this past May at the age of 81. Yu, an expert on stress analysis and vibrations, was a professor of mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn from 1957 to 1966 and a distinguished professor of aeronautical engineering at Wichita State University in the 1970s. From 1981 to 1985 he was the dean of the Newark College of Engineering, now the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Yu earned degrees at Chiao Tung University and Tienjin University in China, and Western Maryland College. He earned a doctorate in engineering mechanics at Northwestern University in 1951. He is the author of many journal articles and Vibrations of Elastic Plates, published in 1996.

About People

Ron BrittonRon Britton, associate dean of the engineering design program at the University of Manitoba (UM) in Canada, was recently appointed to the Manitoba Immigration Council, a new 12-member council charged with advising the minister of labour and immigration in the province of Manitoba on immigration issues. His appointment grew out of his work in UM's Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification Program, which helps engineers trained abroad to gain academic recognition as they work toward their professional engineers license. Britton earned a B.E. at the University of Saskatchewan in 1962, an M.Sc. from the University of Manitoba in 1969, and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 1973.

About People

The following section meetings have been scheduled for 2005. These meetings are excellent opportunities to network with other engineering educators in your area and discover new engineering technology. All members are encouraged to attend. For updates and additional information, visit


New England Section Meeting
April 8-9
Fairfield University, Fairfield, Conn.
Chair and Program Chair: Vagos Hadjimichael,
(203) 254-4147

St. Lawrence Section Meeting
April 8-9
Binghamton University, Binghamton, N.Y.
Engineering on the Edge: Engineering in the
New Century

Mid-Atlantic Section
Spring 2005 Conference
April 15-16
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, N.J.


Illinois-Indiana Section Meeting
April 1-2
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Ill.
Abdul Azad, (815) 753-0386
Radha Bala, (815) 753-4155

Southeast Section Meeting
April 3-5
University of Tennessee-Chattanooga
Site Chair: Joe Owino (423) 425-4316
Technical Program Chair: Cecelia Wigal
(423) 425-4015

North Central Section Meeting
April 7-8
Ohio Northern University, Ada, Ohio
Bob Ward,


Gulf Southwest Section Meeting
March 23-25
Texas A& M University, Corpus Christi
Achieving Excellence in Engineering Education
Ray Bachnak,

Midwest Section Meeting
September 14-16
University of Arkansas-Fayetteville


Pacific Southwest Section Meeting
April 7-8
Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.
Vision of Engineering in Year 2020
Program Chair: Mel Mendelson,

Rocky Mountain Section
April 15-16
Utah State University, Logan, Utah
Advances in Engineering and Technology Education
Conference Chair: Gary Stewardson,



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SPECIAL DOUBLE ISSUE: 2005 ASEE Annual Conference - June 12-15 - Portland, Oregon
SPECIAL DOUBLE ISSUE: 2005 ASEE Annual Conference - June 12-15 - Portland, Oregon

3rd Nano Training Bootcamp - July 12 - 15, 2005 - Washington D.C.


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