June 2004

Welcome to the June issue of Connections, the American Society for Engineering Education's free e-newsletter.


Spotlight On Our Sponsors:


National Instruments


National Instruments is excited to announce special academic product bundles, complete packages containing software, measurement or control hardware, interfacing cable, and connector accessory. Typical bundle pricing reflects a 50 % savings compared to individually purchased components. There are no quantity limits on special academic bundles and you may order the bundle for instructional or research use. The bundles are sold as a complete package and there are no additional discounts if you already have LabVIEW or any other component. Click here to learn more.


Autodesk logo

NEW! Autodesk's AutoCAD® 2005

Once they've got the great idea, what's next?

When your students go digital with AutoCAD® 2005, anything can happen. A single drawing or a complete, coordinated set of drawings. AutoCAD® 2005 is the latest version of the collaboration-driven AutoCAD general design platform. This is the 2D drafting and design and basic 3D visualization software that professionals use worldwide. And for good reason: All the new features enable them to work faster, with fewer mistakes. Your students can too. Plus they can share their work more quickly and more easily. That means a lot to a team of inspired, and usually impatient, students. Get them started on AutoCAD 2005 today.

For information and pricing, contact your local Authorized Autodesk Education Reseller by calling 800-964-6432 or going to www.autodesk.com/aer.


NCEES logo

NCEES Fundamentals of
Engineering Exam

As engineering educators refine their outcomes assessment programs, effective tools are always in demand. One measurement tool that continues to surface in program assessment plans is the NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination. This examination, used as the first step in professional licensing for engineers, is the only nationally normed examination addressing specific engineering topics. The detailed reports of performance by subject area provide comparative information for currently enrolled students than can be related to the program's success. To receive additional information on applying the results of the FE as an outcomes assessment tool, visit http://www.ncees.org or call 1-800-250-3196.


Engineering Education in the Age of Globalization

The Seventh Annual Colloquium on International Engineering Education will be held at the Westin Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, September 30 - October 3, 2004. The colloquium focuses on the internationalization of engineering education. The theme of this year's conference is GLOBALIZATION and its implications for engineering education. Hosted by the University of Rhode Island International Engineering Program and organized by a national committee, the meeting will be partially sponsored by Siemens Corporation, ZF Industries, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and others. For further details, registration materials, and the conference (pdf) brochure, visit www.uri.edu/iep.


Post Jobs to 20,000 Engineering Faculty

Engineering schools now have the opportunity to post job openings in the CONNECTIONS e-newsletter sent to 20,000 engineering and engineering technology faculty monthly. If your school would like to advertise a job opening in CONNECTIONS, contact Paula Whitley at (202) 331-3528 or p.whitley@asee.org.


Connections is brought to you by the American Society for Engineering Education.

Over 12,000 engineering and engineering technology faculty members and administrators enjoy the many benefits and services that ASEE offers. The Society's award-winning magazine ASEE Prism and academic publications (Journal of Engineering Education and Profiles of Engineering Colleges) keep members up to date with the best and latest in engineering education, engineering research trends, and academic issues, while 47 professional interest groups and a varied selection of meetings provide professional development and networking opportunities that no other society can offer within the engineering education community. Members also receive reduced rates at local and national conferences, discounts on ASEE products, money-saving members-only discounts on financial, insurance, and travel programs, plus an ever growing variety of online services. Our goal is to focus on issues that matter the most to you in our publications, meetings, and on-line services, and to enable you to interact with others who share your specific engineering and educational interests. To join online, just go to www.asee.org/members, or contact our member services department at 202-331-3520 for further information.


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In this Issue:

I. Science and Technology Briefs

  • Mass Producing One of a Kinds - Engineering researchers are helping a Welsh craftsman mass produce his unique harps.
  • Not Just for Bones Anymore - Researchers have developed a technique that uses X-rays to provide images of soft tissue.

II. Congressional Hotline

  • Engineering Mentors Receive Presidential Award
  • FY 2006 Budget to Include Domestic Program Cuts

III. Teaching Toolbox

  • Crash Course in Safety - George Washington University's automotive crash test center will be the first full-scale one based at a university.
  • Where the Men Aren't - There are significantly more women in Australian
    universities than men.

IV. Feature Articles

  • Toy Story - An engineer has made a career out of creating hot-selling toys such as FurReal, a lifelike cat that can hiss and flex its back when provoked.
  • Pursuing New Paths - The number of chemical engineering graduates is declining as bioengineering departments lure students away.


I. Science and Technology Briefs

Mass Producing One of a Kinds
Allan Shiers is a craftsman of a rare sort. At his studio in Llandysul, Wales, he hand makes Celtic and concert harps. So slow and intricate are the traditional woodworking techniques he employs-he makes each piece by hand-Shiers can produce only one of each type of harp a year. Now the Manufacturing Engineering Centre at Cardiff University is helping him revolutionize his craft by ushering in mass production. The result is a new company, Telynau Teifi, which can churn out 125 Celtic harps and 15 concert harps a year, at reduced cost, and without losing the precision quality that comes from handcrafting. According to MEC, senior research associate Andrew Thomas, Celtic harps are smaller and lighter than concert harps and are composed of just 250 parts. Concert harps, which are about 5 feet tall, have more strings, require foot pedals connected to a series of levers to control string pitch, and have about 2,000 parts. The MEC engineers devised computer-controlled routers and lathes that can accurately and quickly manufacture intricately shaped parts. Moreover, they changed some of the woods used and redesigned some structural elements so that they are thinner and less bulky. "This means that we have a clearer, more responsive sound since many of the sound-deadening issues have been removed," Thomas says. "We did not want to change the traditional feel of the harp. We just wanted to re-engineer it to make it lighter and more responsive." Shiers's handmade Celtic harps retailed for around $5,000, his concert harps, for around $20,000. The new versions will sell for around $2,800 and $14,000, respectively. And Thomas says ongoing manufacturing refinements will bring those costs down even further. That should strike a heavenly chord with the world's harpists.

Not Just for Bones Anymore
X-rays are particularly helpful in giving physicians pictures of diseased or damaged bones. But they're of less use for problems of the flesh. Because their beams pass so easily through soft tissue, the resulting images are vague. But researchers at the Brookhaven National Laboratory-home of the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), a powerful particle accelerator-and Chicago's Rush Medical College, have teamed to develop a new technique called Diffraction Enhanced Imaging (DEI). It's an X-ray that provides images of soft tissue as detailed as those produced by ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging. The technique makes use of intense X-ray beams generated by the NSLS. Those rays are thousands of times brighter than the ones created by conventional X-ray tubes. Although the beams are more intense, they're of a much lower dose than conventional X-rays.

Here's how the technique works: The powerful beams are shot through the specimen being analyzed. As they exit, they bend and scatter to varying degrees, depending on the composition of the tissue they're passing through. But before refracted rays hit the image detector, they're bounced off a silicon crystal, which allows the detector to measure the differing intensities of the bent beams. The result is very detailed images of not only bone, but tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, fat, and skin. And it takes only a few seconds to achieve those pictures.

Of course, synchrotron light sources are not readily available. But Zhong Zhong, a Brookhaven physicist, says the technique's "principle applies, no matter what source you use"-including a conventional X-ray tube. But using a conventional X-ray tube, at a lower dose, means it would take hours, rather than seconds, to get a detailed image. There are, however, ways to upgrade standard machines and make them more powerful, Zhong says, and developers are working to produce a portable prototype. He estimates that clinical application of DEI technology is perhaps 10 years off. But, eventually, it could prove particularly useful in the detection of breast cancer, lung cancer, and osteoarthritis.

Back to the index.


II. Congressional Hotline

Engineering Mentors Receive Presidential Award
Last month President Bush named nine individuals and eight institutions winners of the 2003 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). The award, which includes a $10,000 grant for continued mentoring work, is administered by the National Science Foundation on behalf of the White House.

The press release announcing the winners says the award recognizes "people and institutions that have provided broad opportunities for participation by women, minorities, and people with disabilities in science, mathematics, and engineering in elementary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate education." Among the winners for engineering, individuals were highlighted for their approaches to encouraging females and minorities to pursue engineering careers and for creating a supportive environment for these students. A University of South Florida professor, for example, was presented the award because of his efforts in a program called "YES-We Care," which interests, influences, and prepares minority pre-college students for success as engineering students. The institutional winners-such as the National Society of Black Engineers and the Women in Engineering program at Pennsylvania State University-all had in common a commitment to promoting science, mathematics, and engineering education for under-represented minorities of all ages.

To learn more about the awards and winners, visit: www.ehr.nsf.gov/EHR/HRD/paesmem.asp.

FY 2006 Budget to Include Domestic Program Cuts
The White House issued a memo last week with guidelines on the FY 2006 federal budget, saying that the administration's budget request, should George W. Bush win a second term, will likely include spending cuts for virtually all agencies in charge of domestic programs, including education, homeland security, and others that the president has supported during his re-election campaign. Departments slated for cuts, according to the memo that was obtained by the Washington Post, include the Education Department, Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Science Foundation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The memo warns agencies to prepare to make cuts for most domestic programs when they prepare their initial FY 2006 proposals and notes that if agencies want additional funding for a particular program, they must find the money internally by cutting their budget elsewhere.

Democrats criticized the proposed funding cuts. "Despite [administration] denials, this memorandum confirms what we suspected all along," said Thomas S. Kahn, minority staff director on the House Budget Committee. "Next February, the administration plans to propose spending cuts in key government services to pay for oversized tax cuts."

To read the Washington Post article about the memo, visit: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58762-2004May26.html.


III. Teaching Toolbox

Crash Course in Safety
A new, state-of-the-art automotive crash-test facility is expected to open in 2005 at the George Washington University's (GW) Ashburn, Va., campus. The $16 million center will be the world's first university-based full-scale indoor crash test lab. It will also be part of an 80,000-square-foot Transportation Research Institute at the university's Virginia campus, operated by the National Crash Analysis Center (NCAC). "The new facility will allow us to run the high-quality tests with sophisticated instrumentation that is required for advanced safety research but without enormous costs," says Nabih E. Bedewi, a professor of engineering and applied science at GW, and the director of NCAC. The new facility will rely heavily on computer simulations. The center conducts engineering research in three main areas: vehicle safety and biomechanics; highway and infrastructure safety; and advanced computer modeling and simulation. It pioneered research that led to the phasing out of two-point seat belts, which were found to leave wearers prone to liver lacerations even in minor crashes. The center has also designed improved highway safety barriers that have cut injury and fatality rates in auto wrecks. Currently, it's working with several government agencies to improve the design of security barriers outside important buildings.

Where the Men Aren't
AUSTRALIA - As in the United States, there are more women in college in Australia than men. Overall, there are 75,000 more females among the 829,571 students enrolled in the nation's 41 universities-11 of which now have female vice-chancellors (the equivalent of college presidents in this country). Moreover, there are 80,000 more women than men with university degrees in the 25-34 age group. Of 145,000 students awarded degrees last year, 6 in 10 were female.

Women became a student majority 16 years ago. Now, female students dominate in almost every field except in engineering and information technology, where 70 percent of the students are males. Young women have been particularly attracted to medicine and law, along with agriculture, architecture, and business. The number of women in engineering has increased slightly.

Educators believe that programs aimed at girls espousing the benefits of a college education in grade school and high school are at least partly responsible for the increase. Now, says, Bob Birrell, a researcher at the Melbourne-based Monash University Center for Population and Urban Research, there's a need for similar programs directed at boys. But he admits that educators don't really know if efforts to persuade boys to aim higher than part-time courses and service industry jobs will actually work. Educators agree that it's just as important to have a male presence on campus as it was earlier to have a substantial female population.

Back to the index.


IV. Feature Articles

Toy Story
By Pierre Home-Douglas

Leif Askeland remembers enjoying the movie Big, in which Tom Hanks plays a 13-year-old kid reborn in the body of an adult and becomes a major creative talent at Macmillan Toys. Still, he found the 1988 hit a little far-fetched-and not just because he doesn't believe in reincarnation. "The toy industry is a lot different than what most people think," says the soft-spoken 45-year-old. "We don't sit around and play with toys all day. Actually, we take them very seriously."

Visit www.prism-magazine.org/nov03/toy_story.cfm to read the rest of this story.

Pursuing New Paths
By Bethany Halford

Chemical Engineering has a PR problem. When it comes to attracting new students, enrollment in chemical engineering lags behind the other three disciplines-civil, electrical, and mechanical-in engineering's "big four." This is odd because with just a bachelor's degree, an inexperienced chemical engineer fresh out of college can earn over $50,000 annually, more than B.S. graduates in any other engineering field. And chemical engineers have played integral roles in shaping the technology of the modern world-developing products from plastics to penicillin to polyester. But in the minds of bright engineering students eager to make their mark on the world, the word "chemical" tends to conjure images of massive, smoke-belching factories and oil refineries rather than the robust field. When it comes to attracting new students, chemical engineering programs lag behind the other three disciplines-civil, electrical, and mechanical-in engineering's "big four."

Visit www.prism-magazine.org/nov03/pursuing_paths.cfm to read the rest of this story.

Back to the index.

Editor-In-Chief
Jo Ann Tooley

Senior Editors
Robert Gardner

Josh Douglas

Production Manager
Jennifer Johnson
Advertising Manager
Mike Sanoff
m.sanoff@asee.org