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American Society for Engineering EducationFEBRUARY 2008Volume 17 | Number 6 2008 Annual Conference PRISM HOMETABLE OF CONTENTSBACK ISSUES
2008 Annual Conference
A CITY OF “FIRSTS” - BY ROBIN TATU - Rising from industrial decay, Pittsburgh draws on a tradition of technological breakthroughs to reinvent itself as a green and livable city.
Main Plenary
Distinguished Lectures
Greet the Stars
2008 ASEE Picnic: A ’Burgh Block Party
Meet the Board Forum
ASEE Annual Awards Reception and Banquet
Exhibit Hours
“Focus on Exhibits” Events
Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session
List of Exhibitors


A CITY OF “FIRSTS” - BY ROBIN TATU - Rising from industrial decay, Pittsburgh draws on a tradition of technological breakthroughs to reinvent itself as a green and livable city.  
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If ever there was an engineering town, Pittsburgh is it. As a city of engineering “firsts,” it has witnessed the birth of the petroleum refinery, commercial aluminum, and long-distance electrical transmission—as well as the first movie theatre, licensed radio station and robotics institute. It was in Pittsburgh that Lewis and Clark’s boats were built and the propeller for Lindbergh’s plane produced. The enormous first Ferris Wheel, unveiled for the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair, was created by hometown Pittsburgh engineer and bridge builder, George W. Ferris. In the 19th and 20th centuries, propelled by machine-age titans like Carnegie, Frick, Mellon, Westinghouse, and Heinz, Pittsburgh became America’s premier industrial center, with a landscape dominated by factories, mills, and ship-building yards.

Once dubbed the Smoky City because of its coal-blackened skies, Pittsburgh boasts cleaner air now that the steel mills are gone. And while the loss of manufacturing caused unemployment and bankruptcy, Pittsburgh is now rising from the ashes of its industrial past. Today, the city is becoming a center of healthcare, robotics and biotechnology, due in part to the universities of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon. In recent years, it has also been topping city lists as cleanest, most livable, and one of Frommers’ choice destinations for 2008. Indeed, the gleaming David L. Lawrence Convention Center, site of this year’s ASEE meeting, is emblematic of the new Pittsburgh. Both functional and attractive, it is also cutting edge, the first “green” convention center and the world’s largest building to employ environmental technologies for lighting, ventilation and water reclamation.

With the arts, museums, sports stadiums, and riverfront bike paths, Pittsburgh is the perfect setting for the 115th annual ASEE conference. Whether your pleasure is Andy Warhol, the Pittsburgh Pirates or dinosaurs; scaling the heights of Mount Washington or gazing at the beauty of 446 remarkable bridges, you will find a great deal to enjoy in this quintessentially American city. This year, as Pittsburgh celebrates its 250th anniversary, we invite you to join us to explore its past and present, as well as its future promise. For information on the ASEE-sponsored activities, check out the conference Web site at As you wander to sightsee on your own, here is a guide to some of the city’s highlights:

The Golden Triangle, birthplace of a city

Defined by its geography at the confluence of the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, Pittsburgh is divided into several distinct neighborhoods, each with its own character. A good place to start exploring is downtown, an area dubbed the “Golden Triangle” to reflect its river-bound configuration. At the tip of the triangle is Point State Park, which commemorates Pittsburgh’s earliest beginnings, when a young George Washington and British troops prevailed over the French in the French and Indian War. It was during the 1758 construction of Fort Pitt that “Pittsborough” gained its name, honoring English statesman William Pitt. Today visitors can view a small museum and enjoy the park’s walkways and cool, gushing fountain.

One Pittsburgh Plate Glass Place (PPG) - PHOTO COURTESY GREATER PITTSBURGH CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU To stand on this spot is to gain a sense of the strategic importance of the three rivers’ juncture—and why the city’s first major industry was boat-building. Across the Ohio river is Mount Washington’s rocky hillside, shot through with a rich bituminous coal seam. By 1830, Pittsburgh would consume more than 400 tons per day, and coal would fuel the many steel and iron mills. Yet the sandy river banks are what gave rise to the town’s second key industry: glass manufacture. By the end of the Civil War, Pittsburgh produced one-third of all U.S. glass, supporting upwards of 70 glass factories by the late 19th century.

Moving inland from the Point, the Cultural District is another notable area. A designated 10-block section of restaurants, shops, and art galleries, as well as theatres and performing arts halls, it reflects civic attempts to revitalize a downtown where streets are often deserted after dark. On one end, Market Square offers a pleasant outdoor area with vendors and a small stage, ringed by local eateries. Nearby, the towering neo-gothic One Pittsburgh Plate Glass Place (PPG), designed by architect Philip Johnson, boasts 1 million square feet of reflective glass panels and 231 spires. The more recently installed jet-stream fountain softens this plaza’s austerity, and visitors can now sit at clusters of tables and chairs to admire the water show. For another architectural wonder, take a side trip out of town to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house, Fallingwater.

PHOTOS COURTESY GREATER PITTSBURGH CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU - Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens - Point State Park - PNC Park baseball stadium - Seventh Street Bridge

A Bridge-lover's Dream

A Bridge-lover's Dream Before you leave Pittsburgh, take time to enjoy the remarkable bridges that give this city its distinctive look. There are 446 spans in the greater Pittsburgh-Allegheny County region and 74 in the immediate area, many of them models of beauty and complexity. The Smithfield Street lenticular truss bridge, designed in 1881 by engineer Gustav Lindenthal, creator of New York's Hell Gate Bridge, was built on the site of the earliest Pittsburgh bridge, a covered wooden span built in 1818. The Fort Pitt Bridge, a double-decker bowstring arch, is known as "the gateway to Pittsburgh." As you come in from the airport and emerge from the other side of the hillside tunnels, you'll be treated to the magnificent view of the city provided from this bridge. The South Tenth Street suspension bridge is another handsome span crossing the Monongahela River, while the graceful Three Sisters stretch over the Allegheny. Built in the 1920's as the country's first self-anchored suspension spans, each of these three honors a notable Pittsburgh figure, namely Roberto Clemente (the Sixth Street Bridge), Andy Warhol (Seventh Street Bridge), and Rachel Carson (Ninth Street Bridge). Almost all Pittsburgh bridges are Aztec Yellow, a color that pays tribute to the home team Steelers.

Good food, music and history

Northeast of downtown, and a comfortable stroll from the convention center, is the Strip District, formerly an area of factories, mills, and foundries—where Andrew Carnegie got his start and ALCOA produced the first aluminum pull-tab drink cans. Today the Strip is a lively section of produce markets, ethnic restaurants, cafes, and boutiques. Come early to watch the morning action on the delivery docks or late to join the nightclub-and-bar scene.

If you see one museum, make it the innovative and engaging John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center. Set in an old icehouse, the seven-story History Center has permanent exhibits on Lewis and Clark, Pennsylvania’s immigrant populations, and Pittsburgh’s industrial past. In the same building, the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum will thrill any sports fan with its inspiring videos and newscasts, a wall of signed baseballs and a plethora of memorabilia, from Satchel Paige’s catcher’s mitt to Billy Conn’s champion boxing gloves and belt.

The Pirates, a submarine, and Pop Art

A more newly-developed section of the city, North Shore is on the other side of the Allegheny river, a short stroll across one of the beautiful, bright yellow Three Sisters bridges, the country’s first self-anchored suspension spans. A few blocks up from the Seventh Street Bridge, the Andy Warhol museum features an extensive collection of works by this native Pittsburgh artist and has a small, appealing café. Head toward the Ohio river to find Pittsburgh’s new sports stadiums, the Steeler’s Heinz Field and PNC Park, where the Pirates will face off with the New York Yankees this June.

Beyond the stadiums, the Carnegie Mellon Science Center is a great place for children and science buffs, with interactive displays, an Omnimax theatre, and a small planetarium and cafeteria. Adults may be particularly interested in the self-guided tour of the USS Requin submarine, docked in the waters outside. Intended as a combat ship during World War II, the Requin arrived in the Pacific too late for deployment, and so was reconfigured to serve as one of the earliest radar picket ships of the Cold War.

Cable cars and a priceless view

From downtown, take a ride on the city’s light rail system across the Monongahela River to reach the South Side. A mile further down the road, is the Duquesne Incline, where you can ride up the hillside in the original 1877 Victorian cable cars and view a charming small museum at the top. Pittsburgh once operated as many as 15 funicular inclines to transport coal and immigrant workers up the steep mount then known as “Coal Hill” and today as Mount Washington. From the vantage of Mount Washington, you can take in the spectacular panoramic sweep of the city and environs across the river. The several hilltop restaurants are a good choice for dinner: Most offer a range of fresh seafood, and all provide fine dining with a priceless view.
Closer to the light rail station, the smaller Monongahela Incline provides a steep ride with equally stunning views from up top. It is also near the popular riverfront Station Square, a collection of shops and reasonably-priced eateries. For sport fans there are two large stores devoted to memorabilia, notably of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins. Also in this complex is the stunning Grand Concourse restaurant, which preserves the stained-glass Edwardian grandeur of the original P & LE train station. Station Square is the place to find live concerts and outdoor events, join a river cruise, or simply watch the activity, boats and summer sun glittering on the water. A notable feature of the outdoor courtyard is the massive 10-ton Bessemer converter, an impressive monument to Pittsburgh’s steel past.

A leafy campus town, rich in heritage

While downtown Pittsburgh is dominated by urban grids and skyscrapers, Oakland, an easy cab or bus ride away, is a diverse neighborhood spotted with churches, green lawns and the campuses of University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. As the tallest educational building in the country, U. Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning dominates the skyscape. Stop in for a cool respite under the vaulted gothic ceilings of the first floor Commons Room. Or tour the 26 Nationality Rooms, functioning classrooms that are decorated to reflect the heritage of Pittsburgh’s myriad ethnic groups, whether German, Armenian, Lithuanian, or African.

A short walk from the Cathedral of Learning, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History offers the beautifully rendered exhibit “Dinosaurs in Their Time.” Pittsburgh’s dino craze began in the late 1890’s, when industrialist Andrew Carnegie got wind of specimens being discovered out West. He commissioned a Wyoming team to find one for his hometown and the result was Diplodocus Carnegii, nicknamed “Dippy” by Pittsburgh wags. In addition to the real thing, a life-sized fiberglass model graces the front of the museum, weighing in at 3,000 pounds, and measuring 84 feet in length. Other exhibits include a paleolab, geology hall, and gem and mineral collection. In the same location, the Carnegie Museum of Art features elegant American and European collections, and will showcase the work of contemporary artists from around the world as part of the 2008 Carnegie Internationale.

Elsewhere in Oakland, one can find a number of small pleasant cafés, bookstores, and shops, as well as the tranquil Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.

PHOTOS COURTESY GREATER PITTSBURGH CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU - View of downtown from the Duquesne Incline, Mount Washington - Andy Warhol museum - Shadyside neighborhood - Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Take the Kids

Pittsburgh is a great place for families, with numerous outdoor recreational activities, spectator sports, parks and museums-all at a reasonable cost. It is also a town that is easy to navigate, whether by car, bus or taxi. Here are a few suggestions for kids of all ages: Close to the convention center, the John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center has an entire floor of interactive displays designed especially for children. In the same building, the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum is filled with inspiring sports displays and offers young visitors a football throw, miniature golf course and simulated powerboat ride. Take the city's light rail to the South Side to reach both the Monongahela and Duquesne inclines, and visit the nearby Station Square complex of shops and eateries fronting the riverside.

On the North Shore, a sure bet is the Carnegie Mellon Science Center, geared for children with hands-on displays, an Omnimax theatre, planetarium, cafeteria, and the USS Requin submarine. Also on the North Shore are the Children's Museum, National Aviary, and, of course, the PNC Park sports stadium. The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium are slightly further out of town. And don't forget the dinosaurs! As the centerpiece of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Oakland, the "Dinosaurs in Their Time" exhibit features imposing dinosaur skeletons and a functional paleolab, where scientists are at work reconstructing a T. Rex. The gleaming gem and mineral collection should also be a draw, as well as small permanent exhibits on polar bears and ancient Egyptians.

Landmarks of America’s progress

Once known as “the workshop of the world,” Pittsburgh is a city that stands at the heart of American development. Not only industrialists, but also engineers, scientists and thinkers like John Roebling, Jonas Salk and Rachel Carson have called this city home, as well as artist Mary Cassatt, dancer Martha Graham, playwright August Wilson, and sports legends Joe Montana and Roberto Clemente—not to mention the inimitable Mr. Rogers. All these people helped to make this city—and this country—what it is today. As historian and Pittsburgh native son David McCullough commented to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “If you could pick a place to put down a lens to see the unfolding of our country, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place than Pittsburgh.”

Robin Tatu is a senior editor at Prism


Chowing Down in Pittsburgh

Traditional Pittsburgh fare runs hearty and starchy, as demonstrated by the Primanti Brothers’ signature sandwich stuffed with French fries and coleslaw. The numerous Italian restaurants, favorite butter-fried pierogi potato dumpling and a wide range of locally brewed beers all attest to the city’s immigrant and working-class traditions. On the North Shore, visit the renovated 19th century Penn Brewery for German beer and rich meals of knackwurst, sauerbraten and meatballs. In nearby Lawrenceville, one of the more interesting pubs is Church Brew Works, housed in an early 20th century Catholic church.

Alongside the original Primanti Brothers’ in the Strip District, try the down-home Delucca’s Restaurant for its massive breakfast plates, La Prima Espresso Company for exquisite coffee and Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor for an authentic soda parlor experience. Also in this district of interesting eats is the hip Caribbean Kaya’s, and Eleven, a stylish restaurant for diners with a hefty budget.

On Mount Washington, you’ll pay for the view, but all of these hilltop restaurants offer a romantic setting for dinner, most with seafood fare. Just down the hill, Station Square has a number of reasonable eateries and chains, including Houlihan’s and the Hard Rock Cafe, while the Grand Concourse Restaurant is a feast for the eyes. Continue a few miles west to the South Side Flats, and you’ll find a vibrant neighborhood of restaurants, pubs, cafes, and shops, including the excellent Mallorca Restaurant, with Spanish fare, and the funky café Beehive.


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