ASEE Prism Magazine - September 2003
The Winning Edge
The Phoenix Man
Clean Machines
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Looking Back, Looking AheadFrank Huband

Here in Washington, it's been a long wet summer—but ASEE's 2003 annual conference in Nashville was, for me, a highlight. I am pleased to say it was a very successful meeting that drew over 3,200 attendees. At this year's annual awards banquet, members saw the inauguration of Duane Abata as ASEE president and Sherra Kerns as president-elect.

With the advent of September, of course, the climate is back to school, and this month's Prism takes a look at a new televised competition among engineering students called "Robot Rivals." While engineering competitions like Battle Bots have become increasingly standard TV fare, this new cable television show takes a different slant. Under tight time constraints, teams of college engineering students compete to build robots that must complete a complex task such as breaking down a wall while salvaging a delicate object. The creativity and enthusiasm of the student teams is both entertaining and educational.

The applicability of such skills, however, resonates as one reads about what engineers faced during the cleanup at Ground Zero after September 11. Peter Rinaldi, an engineer with the Port Authority of New York, was appointed lead engineer to oversee the job at the devastated site of the twin towers. In "The Phoenix Man," Rinaldi describes tunneling beneath smoldering collapsed basement floors and floating through flooded train tunnels, and of the rubble that resembled a giant game of pickup sticks. Nine months later, after 108,342 truckloads of debris had been removed, Rinaldi, a civil engineer, was able to focus on solidifying foundations that will allow new buildings to rise from the ashes.

This month's cover story, "The Winning Edge," examines the different technologies developed by engineers that helped the U.S. defeat Iraq on the battlefield. Prism interviewed Arthur Cebrowski, director of the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation, who outlines the areas of research that he hopes scientists and engineers at America's research universities will undertake. Cebrowski sees the coming years as a golden age for military research, believing that engineering researchers will play a crucial role in the new military.

President Bush calls them Freedom Cars and has announced plans to commit $1.7 billion toward research. The administration hopes to have automobiles powered by hydrogen, a clean renewable resource, zipping along America's highways in significant numbers within the next decade. The article, "Clean Machines," looks at some of the hurdles fuel cell technology must overcome—the greatest being the lack of a hydrogen distribution infrastructure, which will take plenty of time and money to build.

I hope you enjoy the variety of articles in this month's Prism. As always, I appreciate your comments and thoughts.

 

Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher
f.huband@asee.org

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