Putting the Focus on Engineers

A roundup of EWeek activities

5 March 2012

Despite the fact that we rely on so many of their developments, engineers often don’t get the public recognition they deserve. One annual program that celebrates their accomplishments is National Engineers Week. Held this year from 19 to 25 February, EWeek also aims to inspire students to go into the field. Each year, the National Engineers Week Foundation organizes a variety of EWeek events, including competitions and awards. In addition, hundreds of local events are held at engineering schools. IEEE-USA heads IEEE’s EWeek activities.

One of the main events is the Future City Competition. The contest has students working in teams to design and build a “city of tomorrow,” under the guidance of a teacher and an engineering volunteer. This year, teams of students from 37 middle schools—winners of regional competitions held in January—participated in the Future City National Finals at the Hyatt Regency, in Crystal City, Va. The theme was “Fuel Your Future: Imagine New Ways To Meet Our Energy Needs and Maintain a Healthy Planet.” The students had to design a method of providing electricity for a futuristic city using an energy source that does not deplete natural resources and has a limited impact on the environment. They used SimCity 4 Deluxe software to build three-dimensional, tabletop models to scale using a variety of recycled materials. The winning team [shown above] from St. Mary Parish School, in Hales Corners, Wis., earned a trip to the U.S. Space Camp, in Huntsville, Ala.

Another feature is the New Faces of Engineering program, which recognizes young engineers for their breakthrough work. They included IEEE Member Jacquelyn K. S. Nagel, nominated by IEEE-USA. The 29-year old, who is an assistant professor in the College of Engineering at James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Va., was recognized for her “pioneering work in using biological systems as models for sensors, instrumentation and processes.” Also, for the first time, the program recognized university students. Among them is IEEE Student Member Jeremy Blum, from Cornell University, who was nominated by IEEE-USA. Blum’s work on SudoGlove, a special glove that can act as a simpler, more natural remote control for a variety of devices, has been widely reported on in the media recently. He also leads Cornell University Sustainable Design, a 150-member team that pursues local and international design and build projects. Look for a feature on Blum in our students section in May.

In addition to the activities sponsored by the National Engineers Week Foundation, engineering colleges around the United States held their own events. At the University of Texas at Arlington, the engineering department celebrated its first EWeek with presentations of their research, robotic demonstrations, a free lunch, and even the crowning of two engineering students as Mr. and Ms. Engineer. The Next Generation Systems Group demonstrated its robot Zeno, which uses human machine interface to mimic a person’s movements. The researchers hope to use it to help children with autism.

Over at Temple University, in Philadelphia, the events included demonstrations of various projects that students at the university’s College of Engineering are working on. They included a voice and video-enabled robot that can be remotely controlled via the Internet, a small-scale hovercraft piloted by an iPad and flown across the room, and a bicycle that generates electricity. To garner some publicity the students demonstrated the projects outside the city’s main train station. “We are very excited to be part of National Engineers Week and to be here at Amtrak’s 30th Street Station, showing the city of Philadelphia how important the College of Engineering is and all of the great things going on in engineering at Temple,” said IEEE Senior Member Joseph Picone, professor and chair of the electrical and computer engineering department, in an article on the university’s website. “It’s very important in this country that we train more engineers,” he added. “It’s a really integral part of our economy and the future of this country. We’re here doing our part to try to encourage students from all walks of life to pursue engineering careers.”

The university also held a variety of other events, like a 3-mile run to “promote engineering’s impact on world health,” a keynote speech by Science Magazine editor-in-chief Bruce Alberts, a competition that had students facing off against faculty to answer engineering trivia questions, and an alumni/student social networking event.

Did you participate in EWeek this year? If so, share your activities below. And, do you think engineers receive the recognition they deserve in your country?

Photo: National Engineers Week Foundation

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