Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Michigan Engineer in a Digital Format?

We’ve always thought that Michigan Engineer would evolve into an electronic publication -- not too soon, but someday. Now it appears that the transition in the larger publications world is happening faster than we had anticipated.

Major newspapers and magazines have been migrating slowly to digital editions, but the current economic crisis has accelerated that move. Aside from the cost of printing and paper, there’s an increasing environmental concern – print publications are consuming trees and creating waste (although recycling has had a positive impact).

Moving from a print to a digital format is something that folks at Michigan Engineer have talked about a good deal, but we’ve received only a handful of letters about dispensing with a print Michigan Engineer. Now we're thinking about it more than before. What do you think? Would you like to read Michigan Engineer in a digital format – on the web or as a PDF? We’d like to know.
If you care to do some reading on the topic, Ziming Liu, a professor of library and information studies at San José State University has an excellent book, “Paper to Digital,” and a slew of journal papers. His bottom line is no surprise: An increasing amount of time is spent reading electronic documents, and “a screen-based reading behavior is emerging.” But it’s been gradual. Generally speaking, he concludes that younger people like to read digital publications; older people prefer print. Interestingly, those in-between like to receive things in a digital format, but they print everything out and read it that way.

Michigan Engineer in a Digital Format?

We’ve always thought that Michigan Engineer would evolve into an electronic publication -- not too soon, but someday. Now it appears that the transition in the larger publications world is happening faster than we had anticipated.

Major newspapers and magazines have been migrating slowly to digital editions, but the current economic crisis has accelerated that move. Aside from the cost of printing and paper, there’s an increasing environmental concern – print publications are consuming trees and creating waste (although recycling has had a positive impact).

Moving from a print to a digital format is something that folks at Michigan Engineer have talked about a good deal, but we’ve received only a handful of letters about dispensing with a print Michigan Engineer. Now we're thinking about it more than before. What do you think? Would you like to read Michigan Engineer in a digital format – on the web or as a PDF? We’d like to know.
If you care to do some reading on the topic, Ziming Liu, a professor of library and information studies at San José State University has an excellent book, “Paper to Digital,” and a slew of journal papers. His bottom line is no surprise: An increasing amount of time is spent reading electronic documents, and “a screen-based reading behavior is emerging.” But it’s been gradual. Generally speaking, he concludes that younger people like to read digital publications; older people prefer print. Interestingly, those in-between like to receive things in a digital format, but they print everything out and read it that way.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Engineering Change

People have to deal with change – some of it by necessity, some of it by choice. Post 9/11 travelers wait in long lines at airports to undergo examination. Adults, forced by a faltering economy to move from one job to another, accustom themselves to new management styles. Their kids, who transfer from one school to another, have to make an entirely new set of friends. Shopping at macys.com rather than a bricks-and-mortar Macy’s is radically different but, more and more, the only way to purchase certain items. Using an ATM for cash is easier than stopping at a bank but requires people to trust the accuracy of a machine. Communicating by email is more efficient that using snail mail. Cellphones have become more of a necessity but make people available for constant contact – private time seems to be vanishing.

It’s clear that today’s constant is change. And a quick look shows that technology is a prime mover in many of those changes – for better or worse, engineers often make life difficult in the short run, but better over the long haul. In either case, they’re at the leading edge of progress.

Engineers change the world.

Engineering Change

People have to deal with change – some of it by necessity, some of it by choice. Post 9/11 travelers wait in long lines at airports to undergo examination. Adults, forced by a faltering economy to move from one job to another, accustom themselves to new management styles. Their kids, who transfer from one school to another, have to make an entirely new set of friends. Shopping at macys.com rather than a bricks-and-mortar Macy’s is radically different but, more and more, the only way to purchase certain items. Using an ATM for cash is easier than stopping at a bank but requires people to trust the accuracy of a machine. Communicating by email is more efficient that using snail mail. Cellphones have become more of a necessity but make people available for constant contact – private time seems to be vanishing.

It’s clear that today’s constant is change. And a quick look shows that technology is a prime mover in many of those changes – for better or worse, engineers often make life difficult in the short run, but better over the long haul. In either case, they’re at the leading edge of progress.

Engineers change the world.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Engineering Challenges of the 21st Century

About a year ago the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) asked 18 of the world’s finest minds to assemble a list of the 14 Grand Engineering Challenges of the 21st Century. In essence, a list of technical hills that engineers will likely have to climb at some point in their careers.

The list covers a lot of ground. It’s obvious that Michigan Engineering has been thinking about a number of these items.

• Making solar energy affordable: Convert and store the power of sunshine at a cost that competes with the cost of fossil fuels.
• Providing energy from fusion: Sustain a controlled fusion reaction to generate commercial power.
• Developing methods for carbon sequestration: Capture the carbon dioxide generated from the burning of fossil-fuels, then confine that excess carbon underground.
• Managing the nitrogen cycle: Develop ways to counteract the pollution created by fertilizer, internal combustion and other activities.
• Providing access to clean water: Deliver water for personal use and irrigation in areas of the world where it’s in short supplu.
• Restoring and improving urban infrastructure: Heal the world’s aging infrastructure, and do it in an ecologically sound manner.
• Advancing health informatics: Identify the factors that underlie wellness and illness, and use that information to deliver personalized medicine for all.
• Engineering better medicines: Create treatments for long-standing and newly-emerging diseases.
• Reverse-engineering the brain: Unravel the mysteries of brain function and, in the process, cure disease and advance the field of artificial intelligence.
• Preventing nuclear terror: The industrialized world faces threats from those who have access to nuclear materials and are intent on using them.
• Securing cyberspace: Protect the world’s information infrastructure – stop identity theft, viruses and other threats – but don’t interrupt the flow of data?
• Enhancing virtual reality: Manage computer technology to create imaginative environments for education and entertainment.
• Advancing personalized learning: Transform education – use computer technology to personalize learning and make it irresistible.
• Engineering the tools for scientific discovery: Improve the means of technological exploration.

Take a look at the NAE’s final report (PDF). Then decide if you can identify some challenges that haven’t been mentioned.

Engineering Challenges of the 21st Century

About a year ago the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) asked 18 of the world’s finest minds to assemble a list of the 14 Grand Engineering Challenges of the 21st Century. In essence, a list of technical hills that engineers will likely have to climb at some point in their careers.

The list covers a lot of ground. It’s obvious that Michigan Engineering has been thinking about a number of these items.

• Making solar energy affordable: Convert and store the power of sunshine at a cost that competes with the cost of fossil fuels.
• Providing energy from fusion: Sustain a controlled fusion reaction to generate commercial power.
• Developing methods for carbon sequestration: Capture the carbon dioxide generated from the burning of fossil-fuels, then confine that excess carbon underground.
• Managing the nitrogen cycle: Develop ways to counteract the pollution created by fertilizer, internal combustion and other activities.
• Providing access to clean water: Deliver water for personal use and irrigation in areas of the world where it’s in short supplu.
• Restoring and improving urban infrastructure: Heal the world’s aging infrastructure, and do it in an ecologically sound manner.
• Advancing health informatics: Identify the factors that underlie wellness and illness, and use that information to deliver personalized medicine for all.
• Engineering better medicines: Create treatments for long-standing and newly-emerging diseases.
• Reverse-engineering the brain: Unravel the mysteries of brain function and, in the process, cure disease and advance the field of artificial intelligence.
• Preventing nuclear terror: The industrialized world faces threats from those who have access to nuclear materials and are intent on using them.
• Securing cyberspace: Protect the world’s information infrastructure – stop identity theft, viruses and other threats – but don’t interrupt the flow of data?
• Enhancing virtual reality: Manage computer technology to create imaginative environments for education and entertainment.
• Advancing personalized learning: Transform education – use computer technology to personalize learning and make it irresistible.
• Engineering the tools for scientific discovery: Improve the means of technological exploration.

Take a look at the NAE’s final report (PDF). Then decide if you can identify some challenges that haven’t been mentioned.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Engineering and art go hand-in-hand

Among famous conundrums, the "chicken or the egg" might get the most attention. But there are others just as puzzling, such as "engineering and art -- what does one have to do with the other?" Folks will agree on an answer... when the chicken crosses the road. But here's my response: In every engineer there’s an artist; in every artist there’s an engineer.

That said, I don't mean every engineer is a van Gogh, or every artist can whip up wireless integrated microsystems. But each shares some instincts and talents.

Leonardo da Vinci was an example of the artist-engineer. He created masterworks with underlying scientific principles (optics, in the Mona Lisa, for example; mathematics in The Last Supper, as another example) and plans for eerily prescient inventions.

Today's "artgineers," nowhere near as well known, are everywhere.

Michigan Engineering grad Fred Gibbons (BSE SE ’72, MSE CI CE ’72) is a highly successful engineer and an accomplished painter with a huge body of work (For significant contributions to academia and business, Gibbons received a 2000 EECS Alumni Society Merit Award from the College.) Engineering definitely influenced the experimental art of Michigan Engineering’s Wen-Ying Tsai (BSE ME '53), an engineer whose kinetic sculptures hang in the world’s finest galleries. (Wen-Ying Tsai received the 2001 Mechanical Engineering Alumni Society Merit Award.)

All around the world, traditional art is feeling its way into the digital age. Photography is the most noticeable example. Animation, gaming and music are tied into engineering. Even a medium such as sculpture is taking advantage of technology.

The CoE curricula reflect an understanding of the symbiotic relationship between engineering and art – MSE 493/Art and Design 303, Energy, Light, Visualization, is an upper-division class that brings together engineers, artists, architects and designers who learn to make images (graphs, illustrations, photos) part of the communications mix.

The Lurie Engineering Center is itself a gallery with an impressive collection of art on its walls, something one might not expect on a campus dominated by technology.

The disciplines of engineering and art have lived and worked together for ages. There’s a good case to be made that they were born together and became two branches of one family tree. History -- far past and recent -- seems to bear that out.

Responding to this post? Please include email address. Michigan Engineering will not share it.

Engineering and art go hand-in-hand

Among famous conundrums, the "chicken or the egg" might get the most attention. But there are others just as puzzling, such as "engineering and art -- what does one have to do with the other?" Folks will agree on an answer... when the chicken crosses the road. But here's my response: In every engineer there’s an artist; in every artist there’s an engineer.

That said, I don't mean every engineer is a van Gogh, or every artist can whip up wireless integrated microsystems. But each shares some instincts and talents.

Leonardo da Vinci was an example of the artist-engineer. He created masterworks with underlying scientific principles (optics, in the Mona Lisa, for example; mathematics in The Last Supper, as another example) and plans for eerily prescient inventions.

Today's "artgineers," nowhere near as well known, are everywhere.

Michigan Engineering grad Fred Gibbons (BSE SE ’72, MSE CI CE ’72) is a highly successful engineer and an accomplished painter with a huge body of work (For significant contributions to academia and business, Gibbons received a 2000 EECS Alumni Society Merit Award from the College.) Engineering definitely influenced the experimental art of Michigan Engineering’s Wen-Ying Tsai (BSE ME '53), an engineer whose kinetic sculptures hang in the world’s finest galleries. (Wen-Ying Tsai received the 2001 Mechanical Engineering Alumni Society Merit Award.)

All around the world, traditional art is feeling its way into the digital age. Photography is the most noticeable example. Animation, gaming and music are tied into engineering. Even a medium such as sculpture is taking advantage of technology.

The CoE curricula reflect an understanding of the symbiotic relationship between engineering and art – MSE 493/Art and Design 303, Energy, Light, Visualization, is an upper-division class that brings together engineers, artists, architects and designers who learn to make images (graphs, illustrations, photos) part of the communications mix.

The Lurie Engineering Center is itself a gallery with an impressive collection of art on its walls, something one might not expect on a campus dominated by technology.

The disciplines of engineering and art have lived and worked together for ages. There’s a good case to be made that they were born together and became two branches of one family tree. History -- far past and recent -- seems to bear that out.

Responding to this post? Please include email address. Michigan Engineering will not share it.