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Frank Huband


Michigan – and Detroit specifically – is synonymous with the American automobile, and the news from Michigan hasn’t been good lately. Suffering from the strictures of the economic crisis, the state has experienced the nation’s highest rate of unemployment, and its automakers have veered toward bankruptcy. But one should never count Michigan out. The state, with help from its university research engineers, has undertaken ambitious plans to retool its flagging economy. Our cover story, “A Place in the Sun,” reports how Michigan aims to become a major player in green energy. Even before President Obama’s stimulus bill passed with a reservation of $80 billion for energy efficiency and renewables, Michigan had set up Centers of Energy Excellence, which will fund innovation collaborations between universities and promising companies. That three of the six designated companies are in liquid fuel and two are in car batteries would seem to indicate that Michigan’s green industry will still be driven by the automobile.

Speaking of cars — or, at least, vehicles — Prism’s summer photo spread offers a look at fun future transport. Most aren’t speed demons, but they use little if any fuel as we know it and are strong on the cute factor. There’s the Peapod, dubbed a transportation “appliance” by its designer, which can cruise the neighborhood at 25 mph. The three-wheeled Airpod, debuting in Paris, runs on compressed air – zero pollution. The Aptera is all-electric, with a 120-mile range and a recharge time of eight hours. Boasting a sleek aerodynamic shape, it will be available in California first — of course.

Meanwhile, in “Shadowed by the Past,” we read of the potential of a gasoline-powered car in Hungary, one that offers excellent fuel efficiency and low emissions. Unfortunately, this promising technology can’t get to market, stymied by a general lack of support for entrepreneurial efforts and absence of venture capital. The article explores the struggle of Eastern Europe’s engineering schools to shake the legacy of communism’s state-run mode of production. Many universities have yet to catch up to the project-based, hands-on teaching methods favored by U.S. schools. Innovation has been slow to take root.

If Detroit is synonymous with the automobile, Austin is known for its music and as the hip capital of the Lone Star State. ASEE’s annual conference dates there are June 14-17. We expect this one to be an outstanding meeting, and I look forward to seeing ASEE members and their families there.


Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher




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