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Taking a Crack at Predicting Quakes
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Innovative Cleanup

I hope you enjoyed reading ASEE's new K-12 publication, “Engineering, Go For It!” enclosed with your October issue of Prism magazine. I am pleased to report that response to the publication has been overwhelmingly positive. The guidebook, aimed at high school students, was the result of two years of planning and effort and made possible by the sponsorship of 75 of our member institutions that supported the concept. We hope the publication will encourage more young people to learn about engineering and consider it as a career.

As “Engineering, Go For It!” points out, engineers are engaged in exciting and rewarding work—endeavors that can save the environment and save lives. This month's cover story concerns saving both. In “Munching on Hazardous Waste,” we examine how engineering researchers are working to address the huge problem of hazardous wastes in the United States. What has traditionally been required is digging up the contaminated soil and carting it away, at great expense. Our story reports on new methods such as bioremediation. At Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 31 years of atom-bomb production resulted in a collection of underground poisons that have seeped into the earth and contaminated groundwater. Environmental engineering may have the solution—using tiny microorganisms to feed on the waste, rendering it more stable and less likely to leach into water.

As also noted in “Engineering, Go For It!” a chemical engineer fresh out of college can make a starting salary of over $50,000—more than graduates in any other engineering field. Why then is the number of chemical engineering graduates dropping? In “Pursuing New Paths,” several reasons are examined and the future of chemical engineering contemplated. (The writer reassures us chemical engineering is not down for the count.)

Recently, Hurricane Isabel cut a devastating swath from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., managing to shut down the federal government in the process. The good news was that we got some warning. Predicting the weather has gotten more accurate as it has become possible to use and process more data. In another data-intensive challenge, researchers are trying to figure out what it would take to accurately predict when and where earthquakes will occur. “Taking a Crack at Predicting Quakes” reports that with technology, gigabits of data, and supercomputing power, it may eventually be possible to pinpoint when and where an earthquake will happen.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher


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