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Frank Huband


In this historic election year, there are key issues voters want addressed. One such concern is health care — both the rapidly rising costs and the fact that millions of Americans are without health insurance. Everyone agrees reform is needed, but there has been little agreement on what the reform should entail. In 2005, the National Academy of Engineering issued a report that drew depressing conclusions: Americans spend more on health care than any other industrial nation, yet the system is riddled with inefficiency and error. Each year, there’s an unnecessary $500 billion loss, and, even more staggering, 100,000 preventable deaths. As the problem continues to grow, experts from other fields are being consulted — including engineers. Our cover story, “Life Support Systems,” looks at what engineers, with their problem-solving skills and technologies, are doing to help make U.S. health care more efficient and affordable.

“Untapped Potential” revisits the need to encourage more underrepresented minorities to study engineering. We’re running short of engineers, and the retirement of baby boomers will exacerbate the problem. African-Americans make up 13 percent of the US population, but account for fewer than 5 percent of engineers. Most African-American students aren’t exposed to engineering as a career option and don’t get the necessary preparation to study it. Of those who do, more than half drop out. The article looks at factors that play into this scenario, and reports the views of prominent black engineering leaders about what can be done.

To some, the phrase “some assembly required” is a deal breaker, though probably not to the engineer, and certainly not to today’s engineering students engaged in “reverse engineering.” Prism’s article, “Some Disassembly Required,” looks at a practice engineering professors have been bringing into the classroom, that of having students disassemble machines — bikes, kitchen appliances, toys or even a car. Taking products apart (and putting them back together) to learn how they work can be valuable in measuring performance and product design.

With the election just weeks away, “Who’s Got it Right?” is a timely review of how Barack Obama and John McCain stack up on issues of concern to engineering educators, including K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, energy, sustainability and university research.

I welcome your comments.

Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher




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