Darwin said it is not the strongest of the species that survives, but the one most responsive to change. Today, it appears that it is often the engineering profession that can help facilitate societal change. Prism’s cover story, “Earth, Wind and Science,” is about the Green change that is catching on at engineering schools across the nation. The same fervor that was prevalent on campus in the ’60s is again being felt. Students are vocal about reducing pollution, conserving energy and saving the world; and college campuses are perfect centers for environmental activism. Green is the new passion with students and professors, and schools are responding by offering courses, programs, and degrees in sustainable engineering.
Change has wrought both good and bad in South Africa, so that the country now finds itself in a double bind. A severe shortage of engineers threatens the country’s nine-year run of economic growth, and the government is pressing universities to nearly double the number of engineering graduates. The big problem is the dearth of students adequately prepared in math and science – in part a legacy of apartheid. The demand for engineering talent has been rising and has been exacerbated by the departure of experienced, mainly white engineers. Departure is a response to rising crime, affirmative-action hiring policies intended to correct past racial discrimination, and increased opportunities abroad. Furthermore, universities increasingly find themselves in competition with industry, which is hiring faculty away.
In sync with the upcoming summer travel season, Prism this month is offering an entertaining photo spread. The layout depicts the coming era of space tourism. It’s not as far fetched as one might think. We learn that 250 travelers have booked on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, due to launch by 2010. Of course, right now, it’s mostly the very wealthy who have lined up for the out-of-this-world adventures that can range in price from $100,000 to $100 million.
To close on a green note, I’ll say I hope to see you at ASEE’s Annual Conference, June 22-25, 2008, in Pittsburgh, PA. In recent years, Pittsburgh has reinvented itself as a green community, and now regularly tops lists of livable cities. Their convention center, where our meeting will be held, is the world’s largest building to employ environmental technologies for lighting, ventilation and water reclamation.
Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher