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Lyle Feisel

Trimming Costs,
Not Quality

Educational institutions, government agencies, businesses, and individuals are all experiencing financial challenges as the world economy struggles to recover from recession. ASEE is no different. We need to balance the books, and Prism is doing its part. To reduce our printing and distribution costs, we are combining the March and April issues. The quality, however, remains undiminished.

Our cover story, “The Interdisciplinarian,” profiles former MIT engineering Dean Subra Suresh, who, as director of the National Science Foundation, will have a major influence over the direction of the country’s basic research in coming years. He is intent on breaking down barriers and fostering cooperation among researchers in a variety of fields. NSF is exactly the place for such collaborations, he believes; its portfolio is the most diverse of all federal granting agencies, and today’s complex problems demand new modes of attack. Another priority: encouraging diversity in the science and engineering workforce by training – and keeping – more women and underrepresented minorities. Suresh worries that foreign-born graduate students, such as he once was, will find inviting opportunities in their home countries and not stay here, putting at risk America’s position as an innovation leader.

One test of U.S. innovation is well underway, as our feature “Moore or Less?” explains. Back in 1965, Intel cofounder Gordon Moore made an observation that became an article of faith: Computer chip performance doubles approximately every one to two years. But now, industry and university researchers wonder if this pace can be sustained. One problem is the amount of power required to achieve ever faster speeds. Another is that the number of transistors that can be crammed onto tiny chips is nearing its supposed limit. Several areas of research hold promise, but none has yet produced a silver bullet.

America’s technological needs require that we not only encourage more students to enter engineering but retain them. That’s where an NSF-backed project called ENGAGE comes in. As described in our feature “Whet Their Appetite,” it’s about adopting instructional techniques proven to boost understanding: Use everyday examples to explain engineering concepts; strive to improve students’ spatial visualization skills; and increase faculty-student interaction. Such methods help students succeed and, because of that, stay in engineering. They may sound simple, but to make an impact they must be widely practiced. So far, 10 engineering schools have signed on, with another 10 participants to be announced next year.

Lyle Feisel
Interim Executive Director and Publisher




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