The Institute’s 10 Most Popular Articles of 2017

H-1B visas and automation eliminating jobs are among the hot topics

13 December 2017

This year The Institute covered topics such as whether engineers should be required to have a license as well as how to protect the title engineer. That topped our list of most-read stories. Readers also were interested in which fields automation would impact the most, how changes to the U.S. H-1B visa could hurt engineering education, and an explanation of Li-Fi technology from its inventor, Harald Haas.

  1. 1. Does Having a License Make You an Engineer?

    Mats Järlström, a self-employed consultant with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Sweden, calculated that at certain intersections the timing of yellow lights wasn’t long enough. That led drivers, including his wife, to be ticketed for running red lights. When he shared his findings with the news media and the authorities, he was fined by the state of Oregon, where he lived, for engaging in the practice of engineering without a license.

    After paying the fine, he filed a civil rights lawsuit against the licensing board, accusing it of violating his First Amendment rights. He says the Constitution allows him to criticize the camera formula and to call himself—accurately, in his view—an engineer. Nearly 300 Institute readers commented. Most sided with Järlström; others agreed with the state licensing board.

    Järlström updated readers a few weeks later that he had won his lawsuit and that, although the state consented to the preliminary injunction, his fight was far from over. He plans to fight the state law in court. His blog post garnered more than 140 comments.

  2. 2. Will Automation Kill or Create Jobs?

    Automation is proliferating in every aspect of our lives. There are more robots on factory floors, for example, and artificial-intelligence systems driving vehicles for us. With the rise of autonomous systems, the biggest concern for many people is how their job will be affected. This blog post covers the impact of automation on jobs. As reports show, it varies depending on the occupation.

  3. 3. Has the Title Engineer Become Meaningless?

    IEEE members who commented on the Järlström posts pointed out that engineer is being used to describe a variety of positions. They include garbage collectors, mechanics, and locomotive operators. Some readers wondered whether people who write software should be called engineers. And what about circuit designers? Don’t they engineer?

    In response to those comments, editor in chief Kathy Pretz wrote this post. In it she cited the article “Title Dreams: Can a Protected ‘Eng.’ Title Boost the Status of Engineering?” published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The article pointed out that in Canada it is illegal to practice engineering or even to use the title without a license. Brazil, Chile, and Turkey have similar laws. In the article, Tony Gray, a chief engineer in the United Kingdom, suggested that professional associations should develop a strategy to protect the title. What do you think?

  4. 4. How Changes to U.S. Immigration Policy and H-1B Visas Could Impact Engineering Education

    Universities in the United States have long been a mecca for the best and brightest minds from around the world to earn a quality education, especially in technical fields. The current administration’s immigration and work visa policies might impact those students and could have unintended consequences on education and hence innovation and the economy. The Institute interviewed two top engineering school deans to understand how immigration and visa reform could affect engineering education and students in the country.

  5. 5. First Map-Based Car Navigation System Debuted 14 Years Before GPS

    Many drivers now take in-car navigation for granted. But did you know Honda developed the world’s first map-based automotive navigation system 14 years before GPS was fully operational? The company’s Electro Gyrocator, sold as an option for the 1981 Honda Accord and Honda Vigor vehicles, was based on inertial navigation technology using gyro and mileage sensors. The system was named an IEEE Milestone in March.

  6. 6. Is the U.S. Patent Review System Unconstitutional?

    An oilfield services outfit in Houston is contesting the process that allows companies and individuals to challenge patents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, claiming it is unconstitutional. Oil States Energy Services asserts that because the PTO’s inter partes review process does not give patent owners the option of a jury trial it violates Article III of the Constitution’s Seventh Amendment by authorizing an executive branch agency, rather than a judge or jury, to invalidate a previously issued patent. The Supreme Court has said there is a right to a jury trial in disputes in which private property can be revoked. Oil States’ position is that patents are a type of private property. The case is still making its way through the court system. Where do you stand?

  7. 7. Device That Revolutionized Timekeeping Receives an IEEE Milestone

    The invention of the atomic clock fundamentally altered the way that time is measured and kept. The clock helped redefine the duration of a single second, and its groundbreaking accuracy contributed to technologies we rely on today, including cellphones and GPS receivers. In August the atomic clock received an IEEE Milestone.

  8. 8. Jose M.F. Moura is 2018 IEEE President-Elect

    Voters chose IEEE Life Fellow José M.F. Moura, who was nominated by petition as a candidate, as 2018 IEEE president-elect. Moura will begin serving as IEEE president on 1 January 2019. A professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Carnegie Mellon, he holds 14 patents and helped invent a detector found in more than 3 billion hard disk drives.

  9. 9. Learn How Li-Fi Works From Its Inventor, Harald Haas

    Someday the last leg of our communication networks might not depend on a modulated radio signal but on a modulated light signal from an LED bulb in a desk lamp or ceiling fixture. Harald Hass—who recently was elevated to Fellow—has developed a visible light communication system he calls light fidelity, or Li-Fi. It relies on nanometer waves in the infrared and visible-light part of the electromagnetic spectrum to transmit data generated by an LED bulb fitted with a microchip.

  10. 10. Can Amazon’s Echo Device Help Solve Murders?

    When police officers discovered Victor Collins dead in his friend’s hot tub in November in Bentonville, Ark., they issued a warrant to Amazon, telling it to hand over the audio records from the home’s Echo device. The company refused. The Institute interviewed IEEE Member Marc Goodman, founder of the Future Crimes Institute, a group of technical specialists who consult with law enforcement officials, on whether the device could help solve the crime.

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