Summertime. And the livin’ is easy. Well, maybe not. Life goes on for faculty and students, and for the Prism staff, although the pace may change a bit. We hope you will enjoy this edition as part of your summer activity.
For our cover story, we set out to learn what gets students excited about engineering. To do this, we asked deans to forward information about their most popular and innovative courses. Many responded, and the varied entries show the abundant creativity among our engineering faculties. For instance, Tom Lee, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, offers Things About Stuff, a course that teaches important scientific and engineering principles through the history of disruptive technologies and their inventors. Faculty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison engage undergraduates by introducing them to society’s Engineering Grand Challenges. As Pete Hylton of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis explains, a common feature of these courses is that they “capture the interests of students and what they want to be.” Our story gives just a sampling, but the courses not mentioned provide ideas for a number of future articles. Stay tuned.
In 1971, mechanical engineer Shigeo Hirose walked into a Tokyo restaurant and left with a box of wriggling snakes, hoping to develop robots with the same movements. Four decades later, the effort to replicate real snakes in robot form continues. But researchers are getting closer, as our second feature explains. Snakebots can now be used in surgical explorations of the human heart, as well as the inside of pipes and turbines. But the holy grail is search and rescue, where snakebots are sent into earthquake-damaged buildings to locate trapped victims and let them know that help is on the way.
As is Prism’s summer custom, our final feature explores the various technological advances that enable athletes with disabilities to become world-class competitors.
Before this issue goes to press, I will have ended my brief career as interim executive director of ASEE and publisher of Prism. It has been an honor and (usually) a pleasure for me to serve in this capacity. I believe we have moved the Society forward during these six months, and I want to recognize the hardworking and dedicated staff and volunteers who made it happen. And finally, I want to express my very best wishes to Norman Fortenberry, our new executive director, who is profiled in the ASEE Today section. He will, I am confident, help lead ASEE forward to even greater heights.
Interim Executive Director and Publisher