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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium Breakout Sessions On the first afternoon of the symposium, breakout sessions gave participants an opportunity to talk in smaller groups about public policy-oriented engineering issues. Some of the issues were discussed by more than one group. The discussions in each group are summarized below. The opinions and recommendations expressed are those of the participants and not necessarily those of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). TOPIC 1: WHAT DOES SUSTAINABILITY MEAN TO/FOR THE ENGINEERING COMMUNITY? Group 1 The early part of the discussion was largely concerned with the meaning of the word “sustainability.” In general, it was agreed that sustainability relates to preservation of ecological systems with a particular emphasis on global issues such as climate change and oil depletion. Sustainability also implies a “relative” measure. For instance, the gasoline produced today is said to be more sustainable compared to 10 years ago because of improved efficiencies and decreased energy consumption during the whole production cycle. Also, energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs might be considered more sustainable than incandescent ones. One of the more common definitions of sustainability is that created by
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium the Brundtland Commission, led by the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. The Commission defined sustainable development as development that, “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” While there may be few regulations governing sustainability, it was agreed that clear quantitative definitions and means to measure and compare are important. This will allow corporations and individuals to set sustainability goals and measure progress against them. Life cycle analysis (LCA), which can provide a composite measure of sustainability, measures the environmental performance of products and services through all phases of their life cycle, starting from the extraction and processing of raw materials to manufacturing, transportation, use, recycling, and final disposal. LCA may refer to the impact of a product or service on specific measures such as greenhouse gas emissions (global warming), ozone layer depletion, and land use. Various examples of sustainable practices at corporations represented by the breakout session participants were discussed, including water conservation during aluminum refining and the use of bio-based and biodegradable plastics. Conclusions/Recommendations Sustainability through the preservation of natural resources for future generations should be an important consideration for all engineers and consequently for NAE. A rigorous definition of sustainability and its various facets is important and necessary. Standardized means to quantify and report sustainability are extremely important to encourage good practices and minimize fraudulent claims. This is an area on which NAE can exert a considerable influence, possibly through the commissioning of a task force composed of engineers, scientists, environmentalists, and policy makers. This task force may also explore ways to introduce regulations to encourage sustainable practices/processes by commercial enterprises. Awareness and education at the grassroots level are important in order for society to enjoy the benefits of sustainable practices for generations to come. Formal introduction to sustainability concepts in high school and college curricula will go a long way to achieving this. This is also an area where NAE can exert a strong influence through concerted efforts such as the preparation and distribution of appropriate literature, short course offerings, and teacher-training programs. Group 2 This group spent the first part of its discussion trying to define sustainability. It was quickly discovered that this term means different things depending on the perspective and background of the individual. Sustainability can be examined in
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium terms of energy, water, air, materials, and other environmental resources as well as financial resources. In general, many people think of environmental sustainability as the key issue that we are facing, but the problem of addressing sustainability is much larger than this. There are social, political, and economic pressures that place constraints on the solutions that engineers develop. From the technological perspective, engineers can define the problem and develop solutions over a period of time; however, the broader questions that include society are: How can people live in a densely populated metro area yet maintain sustainability in terms of water, energy, air, and the environment? Is it possible to support large, dense population centers without much impact on the natural ecosystem? Is there a density limitation that we should consider? What role should governmental policy play in supporting or promoting sustainability in the broader society? How do engineers influence public policy, and are we appropriately trained to do so? This area is governed much more by public perception, economics, and law, which are outside of the typical training of engineers. Where do we invest our money for sustainability? Considering the questions above, a portion must go into developing policy and lobbying as well as R&D. Economic pressures will dictate changes in how we address sustainability. Is there sufficient communication between engineers and others to truly understand these pressures when developing technical solutions for sustainable systems? CO2 production and the carbon footprint are now being touted as the metric for sustainability. Is this the best metric to use? While technical solutions to promote sustainability in a specific area can be developed, we must also consider life cycle analysis of products and devices. This includes everything in the production cycle from gathering the raw materials used in the device to methods of disposal. The questions raised go far beyond technical solutions such as developing energy-efficient devices or renewable energy sources. Often there is little consideration of energy and environmental sustainability in developing countries or in domestic markets fueled by small businesses since the goal is to develop financial sustainability. Governmental policies in other countries adhere to different definitions of sustainability. This has influenced some shifts in how goods are produced and sold through globalization. While we need to address sustainability in all areas, the issue of economic growth and financial sustainability is difficult to deal with. This must be taken into account when developing solutions. Businesses must buy into sustainability as being good for them from the early stages of inception and growth. Sustainability should not be seen as needless regulation coming from environmentalists.
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium In addition to having business and industry buy into sustainability, we must also address the public’s perception of sustainability. If the public does not understand the issues and challenges, it will be hard to get them to buy into sustainability concepts. A key example can be found in low-cost incandescent light bulbs vs. energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. For those who do not fully understand sustainability, the choice between the two is clear—the cheap incandescent bulb. The savings that consumers will see over a long period of time are not clear to them; most are interested in savings at the cash register. Thus, public education and awareness are keys to promoting the sustainable solutions that engineers develop, and they must learn how to articulate the challenges and solutions to the general public. Finally, the role of politics and regulation should be to increase the pressures that lead us to sustainable solutions while keeping the public informed and providing an environment for financial sustainability of businesses and industries. On the technical side, there are many challenges that engineers must still address. They must develop uniform metrics that provide fair and accurate comparisons of the impacts of various solutions to sustainability. Using the carbon footprint as a metric may not be the most appropriate method. Issues such as cogeneration and energy harvesting from the environment (e.g., waste heat, mechanical motions, etc.) must be considered to meet the needs of our growing society. Recycling should also be promoted more aggressively, although herein is a hidden issue of economics. In many areas of the United States, PET plastic bottles used for drinks are simply dumped instead of being recycled because it is cheaper for the PET industry to make a new bottle from hydrocarbon feedstock than to recycle the PET. This problem should be addressed technically. Can we develop either a biodegradable plastic bottle or develop a bottle that can be easily recycled in order to reduce our impact on the environment? Some cities and regions are addressing this through public policy, for example, San Francisco’s ban on plastic drinking bottles. We may need a combination of technical, societal, and policy pressures to resolve this issue. There are issues in energy storage and energy production that will require engineers to develop creative solutions. While we have looked at energy efficiency and energy production through the years, energy storage solutions have lagged behind these other areas. The best device we have is the battery. Are there other solutions that improve the energy density of current battery technology? This is key since it would allow us to produce and store energy when it is cheap to do so (e.g., wind energy to electrical energy conversion during a storm) and discharge it when demands for energy are high. We must also revisit the issue of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy production has a smaller environmental footprint than other forms of energy production. Yet, nuclear energy has a bad public image in the United States because no one wants a power plant or a nuclear waste repository near his home. To address future energy
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium production needs, we may need to go to a decentralized form of energy production and develop a smart grid system for delivering power to local communities. This will also allow adoption of specific technologies that are best suited for a given region of the country to maximize energy production. TOPIC 2: BALANCING CAREER AND FAMILY Most of the group participants have families with children ranging in age from 3 months to 18 years old. Only one participant has one stay-at-home parent, while for the rest of the group both parents work full time in academia or in industry. Issues discussed Timing: The first issue that came up is whether the best time to have children is early or later in your career. Opinions were split. Some felt you should try to have children as soon as possible, even during graduate school. Others felt that having children later when one’s career is well established provides more flexibility when it is needed and removes some of the pressure on proving yourself, which is more intense at the early stages of your career. Academia vs. industry: The tenure-track process came up while discussing timing and led to comparisons between working in academia or in industry while having a family. The group agreed that academia provides significantly more flexibility. It was noted that the generation of women at the Frontiers of Engineering meeting is probably the first that had children before establishing tenure security and that more senior faculty members are adjusting to this new situation. Standards are only recently changing in industry as well. Some participants were the first to maintain their industry jobs after having children. Their example seems to be helping the next generation of engineers. Productivity: The women in the group were in agreement that their productivity actually increased while expecting and after delivering their babies. This was attributed to: (1) strict deadlines that had to be met as imposed by the pregnancy and post-partum schedule; and (2) self- and work environment-imposed pressures of new parents proving to their peers that they are as productive as they were prior to having children. Day care: Day care centers or in-house babysitting was used equally among the families with two parents working outside the home. All emphasized that good coordination between parents is necessary whether or not both have full-time jobs outside the home. Dropping off and picking up the children can be coordinated with other parents and in some cases between co-workers who live in close proximity. In a few cases, grandparents and extended family members who live nearby assist in day care. Dealing with school schedules, after-school activities, and illness: Addi-
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium tional support is needed for the many holidays and days off in the school schedule that exceed the number of available vacation days. Suggestions for dealing with this included combining care with other parents to reduce the number of days off and being able to work from home as much as possible. The same applied to after-school activities. Number of children: Some of the attendees have one child and asked the group how many children they think would be optimum. There was no consensus except for the realization that the amount of work required with more than one child increases exponentially rather than linearly! Everyone agreed that when children enter school this effort decreases somewhat. Conclusions/Recommendations The session was very informative and fun. Everyone was relieved to know that other professionals go through more or less the same problems, and generally all of us feel we are not always able to perform our best as both parents and as professionals with demanding careers. Everyone agreed on these issues and on recommendations regarding balancing family and career: Outsource as much as possible by hiring help for day care and time-consuming housework such as housecleaning and yard maintenance. It really improves quality of life and reduces stress levels. On-site day care is already available in some universities and corporate environments but with very long waiting lists. As a first step, employees can request on-site day care that would not necessarily impose a financial burden on the employer, i.e., organization of an onsite space that would minimize commute time and maximize employee efficiency. Flexibility to work from home is possible, especially after being established (or tenured) and if precedents were set by other colleagues. A supportive spouse is the key to making career and family work. Parents need to collaborate and take turns depending on their daily workload vs. family needs. TOPIC 3: THE ROLE OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES IN ENGINEERING Each member raised one or more topics for discussion. These included: Computational modeling of the human role in engineered systems, specifically to explain and predict human performance in complex systems. The importance of human performance modeling for the armed services, where human physical and cognitive abilities are often stretched to the limit. Computational modeling of social psychology and systems for immersive training.
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium The engineer as a social person, and also the untapped possibilities for collecting data on the Internet. The impact of technology on people and human needs going forward into the next century. The sociology of security technologies and issues of technology transfer from laboratory to products. Effects-based operations and human-computer interaction (HCI) issues. The role of education in technology transfer and especially the educational difference between people developing a technology and those who use it. Collaborative social environments and, in particular, HCI techniques to inform engineering processes and products. The difficulties of valuing social aspects of engineering, including economic barriers. Issues of teams and individuals in space, including modeling of distributed and individual expertise and training people in multiple disciplines. How different fields think about the same concepts, e.g., how statisticians think about data. Different fields bring very different perspectives and methods to the same goals. In particular, there is a basic mismatch between engineering and the social sciences in expectations of precision. One participant drew an analogy between the current state of the social sciences and the early stages (the 1700s) of the physical sciences, e.g., it took 200 years to define a formal concept of “temperature.” It was noted that social scientists are getting better at predicting, at least at aggregate levels. Engineers need to be able to quantify something, which can be part of the challenge of interacting with social scientists. There is a tendency in some fields, e.g., optimization or economics, to develop well-behaved mathematical models for the sake of abstraction and tractability that do not reflect reality. Conversely, it can be challenging to implement theories from social sciences because the process of translating verbal and conceptual theories into computer code is unclear. Simulations of social theories reveal a mismatch of levels of analysis between aggregate and individual behavior. There is a poor understanding of variations in social sciences, partly reflecting the impact of publication constraints, and an accompanying emphasis on small, reproducible effects over larger but more variable effects. How do we get a sufficiently representative sample for theorizing about social and cognitive phenomena? A participant emphasized the importance of the Internet as a platform for social sciences research and modeling. Another mentioned a recent article in The Economist about the important role that online gaming can play as a research platform. In particular, massive online multiplayer games promise large and quantified sets of data. However, both the shortcoming and the advantage of field studies over laboratory studies is lack of control. It is particularly challenging to get data about human performance, decision making,
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium and social interaction in extreme situations. One group member discussed using tragedy scenarios in his research, and another once did a study at Everest base camp. Although these examples have good face validity in the context of studying human performance under stress, even here it remains an open issue how much stress the participants in the studies really were under. A broadening array of measures, including skin conductance, EEG, and fMRI, are being used to improve our fundamental understanding of the nature of emotional and physical stressors and their relationship with human performance. What is the relationship between believability and validity in social sciences research? Is believability of characters similar to tolerance in engineering? It was noted that people adapt over time. This is a challenge to the prospects for persistent predictive models in the social sciences. There is a tension between modeling expert knowledge, which is more predictable, vs. modeling human adaptation, which is more useful, and an accompanying tendency to throw out interesting data, e.g., training data. How do we train people across traditional boundaries, such as between social sciences and engineering? Should formal education/training in social sciences be part of the process of developing engineers? Should exposure to physical, artificial, and engineering sciences be part of the process of developing social scientists? Some effort is being made at Princeton University at the undergraduate level to encourage engineering students to investigate educational opportunities in other domains in order to broaden their perspectives. The session closed with this provocative question: What are the limits to the argument that we need to study the human as part of socio-technical systems, rather than investing in technologies that allow us to remove people from those systems? TOPIC 4: BALANCING RIGOR AND CREATIVITY IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, AND DESIGN Group 1 The group discussed whether rigor and creativity are always in conflict or only in some circumstances. Some alternatives to the “balance of rigor and creativity” dimension were suggested, such as low-risk vs. high-risk or incremental vs. creative. Two examples motivated the discussion of alternative dimensions. One was developing a particular sports car design where rigor is a necessary constant and creativity encouraged. The other was in a programming project where there was low creativity to begin with and rigor fell off rapidly. Both examples suggested that there isn’t necessarily a conflict between rigor and creativity. Discussion of a suggested tradeoff or conflict between creativity and rigor led to the question of whether there could be a synergistic relationship between rigor and creativity. One participant noted that opportunities to exercise creativity moti-
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium vate increased rigor, possibly through increased enthusiasm by allowing engineers to buy into the process. Some participants thought that any synergy between rigor and creativity was conditioned on domain and task constraints. Several participants noted that they felt that tasks with constraints might allow for this synergy (e.g., the sports car design case); in contrast, in tasks with few constraints (e.g., brainstorming) one might see a conflict between creativity and rigor. What are the impediments to creativity? In education: There was a general consensus among the academics in the group that U.S. college students are behind in math and science compared to students from many other industrial countries. The sentiment seemed to be that this reflected a deficiency of rigor among U.S. students’ education as a whole. Some academics expressed dismay that engineering was not considered by prospective students to involve much creativity, despite the constructive and creative nature of the engineering enterprise. There was a related sentiment expressed among faculty that engineering-declared students might actually be driven away from engineering and science, in part from the lack of preparation that was expected at the college level and also as a result of “bait and switch.” For example, playing video games and seeing the results of a creative process without the requisite rigor made explicit can lead to faulty expectations for those without suitable preparation. Statements such as “we are teaching rigor, not creativity” and “students turn to clubs to exercise creativity” suggest that the educational system does not reward creativity. Reward systems, more generally, are addressed below. In research: Participants noted that journals and conferences reward incremental advances and perhaps large creative endeavors that paid off. There was some sentiment that tenure criteria penalize dead ends and wrong turns, which are a necessary part of creative exploration. There were distinctions raised between funding from industry and funding from government agencies. These differences focused on time scale: Was the funding source expecting results in 2, 3, 5, or 10 years, and does the time scale influence the creativity of the ideas? After some initial disagreement, there was agreement that industrial funding might be very short-term, inviting little creativity, or very long-term. It was generally agreed that lack of resources, including time, was a major impediment to creativity. In industry: A controversial assertion was made—that we have lost the culture of innovation. The group generally agreed that the lack of a culture of innovation was conditioned on such factors as the industry, so that the aerospace industry, according to one participant, had lost a culture of innovation, while the computing
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium industry, according to other participants, had not. This led to speculation that the life-stage of an industry or company influences its balance of creativity and rigor. This assertion came with the caveat that this is probably not a conflict per se but may be a function of an early entrepreneurial phase versus a later steady-state phase of a project or organization. Finally, high levels of comfort, or perhaps fears of greater discomfort (or perceived relative comfort) mediated a balance of creativity and rigor. Do lack of resources (discomfort) fuel rigor and/or fuel creativity? Does comfort diminish one or both? In general, it seemed that lack of resources, insufficient rewards for taking risks, and agent comfort were impediments to creativity and possibly rigor as well. Again, it is possible that both fall and rise together in many circumstances. Encouraging and facilitating creativity Participants suggested several strategies for encouraging creativity and rigor. Extend time horizons and resources: An industry participant indicated that grants were given for long-range efforts, and that these long-range efforts had to be innovative to justify the funds. An educator described a strategy for advising graduate students that gave students short-term goals to work on and a problem that required long-term thought, not to be confused with long-term number crunching. Extended time horizons are one way of extending resources. Practiced risk taking: One participant described the practice in his lab of holding weekly brainstorming meetings—“half-baked lunches”—where expression of half-baked ideas was encouraged and critiqued. The participant reported growing more comfortable with the process in time; to paraphrase the participant, “It was neat to see senior people having their ideas picked apart.” Presumably there are many variations on this theme, but an essential idea is that brainstorming is practiced to a point of comfort, at least within an accepting community. Another participant told of having graduate students prepare as their final class project a National Science Foundation (NSF)-style proposal that is reviewed by the instructor according to NSF criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts, rather than turning in a finished project. Another participant described an “idea tracker” that allowed employees to post ideas within their own or other departments that went before department committees for possible action. The participant reported comfort with having their “wacko ideas” discussed. One participant summarized well—focusing on mechanisms that increase comfort with creative exploration and risk-taking are more important than focusing on creative end products per se. There are no shortcuts.
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium Reducing compartmentalization: Various participants gave examples of reducing compartmentalization in various forms—between disciplines, people, and technical and societal issues—to encourage creativity. NSF’s broader impacts criteria was given as one example of reducing compartmentalization between research and its societal, environmental, and other-science impacts. Broader impact considerations can attract traditionally underrepresented groups (e.g., women) to engineering, which can increase diversity. This in turn nourishes engineering with new perspectives that further support discipline-based integration as well as integration between engineering and its broader impacts. It was noted that the symposium talks on computer and data security and privacy wove together technical discussion and societal implications in a very fluid manner. Participants mentioned examples of reducing various forms of compartmentalization, such as interdisciplinary, cross-functional teams for class projects; contextualizing computing with business or law to make it more appealing to students; and special courses on technology and innovation or computation and society. Expanding the diversity of first-class stakeholders leads to more comprehensive utility functions for assessing system-development success, which can promote both increased rigor and increased creativity. In summary, the group concluded that: Creativity and rigor can be synergistic. Lack of resources, including time, is a major impediment to creativity. Tailor reward systems to a desired weighted balance of creativity and rigor and apply rewards consistently. Reduce compartmentalization to encourage creativity or at least prevent stagnation. Group 2 It was noted that entering the terms “rigor and creativity” in Google generates 587,000 hits. Also, both terms commonly occur in promotion and tenure documents. Questions posed included: What are examples of conflict and synergy between rigor and creativity? How do these issues play into specific areas of engineering, computer science, and design? How do these issues play into careers? Do publication-driven positions reward rigor? Do innovation-driven positions reward creativity?
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium Why is this topic of interest to you? From the teaching perspective, it helps with understanding students who come from different backgrounds. The issue isn’t about balance. There are scientific methods that a true scientist should adhere to (rigor). Creativity cannot be taught. Most people are not creative; the rare individual possesses it. Rigor needs to be taught but the environment should support creativity. There could be creativity flowing constantly; however, looking at problems in depth with rigor requires an extended period of time. Can/How do rigor and creativity co-exist? Creativity may require a higher-level approach. The interaction between rigor and creativity is complex. There are many ideas of varying quality, therefore, there’s a wide spectrum of creativity. However, some ideas are inherently limited due to the approach that’s being taken, which constrains the research to incremental advances rather than being disruptive in nature. The way to excite people about a scientific idea is through creativity. Creativity can be seen as at odds with rigor. For instance, interdisciplinary research is generally perceived as not very rigorous. Rigor is required to understand and manage creativity. Creativity can be aligned with rigor. Creativity can flow out of rigor, but cannot be necessarily taught. There is a synergy between creativity and rigor if arranged properly. Creativity without rigor may not lead to usable ideas and products. However, you cannot let rigor get in the way of creativity. Are there differences in reward and utility functions in academia with respect to creativity? Earlier career academics get their recognition through rigor as demonstrated by number of publications, etc. In Google, some pages contrast creativity with rigor. The typical marketing approach is to claim something is both rigorous and creative. In defining rigor and creativity, engineering and basic science approaches are different because engineers commonly work on a product. What does “balancing” mean? Both creativity and rigor are necessary for success. Creativity is still first. No matter how rigorously you approach a problem you will not necessarily have a good idea/solution.
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium Rigor is not necessarily valued in industry unless it helps with a problem or it leads to some improvement. How does innovation intersect with creativity and rigor? Innovation can be based on either creativity or rigor or both. Innovation can arise from rigor by defining a problem thoroughly and understanding the fundamental issues. There is a process that cycles between creativity and rigor, and this is probably necessary to create realistic products/developments. Education may favor rigor over creativity. Intuition is necessary for creativity, but learning the fundamentals is important to becoming creative. Rigor allows you to extend your creativity and to be creative in other fields. You can be creative without being rigorous. The Ph.D. process inherently requires both rigor and creativity. If creativity and rigor were separated there could be more creative ideas. Creative work may be high risk, but the potential payoff may also be very high. There is a theory of inventive processes developed in Russia. They looked at the patent literature and asked what is required to come up with patents. One can develop a checklist that helps people be more creative but if it becomes a prescription for creativity, people will react negatively to it. At the initial stage, ideas can be checked with back-of-the-envelope calculations to eliminate fundamentally flawed ideas. Individual personalities and strengths Different cultures place different values on creativity and rigor. In the U.S., there seems to be more of a balance between creativity and rigor. Give people the environment to be creative. Pushing them one way or the other may not be very effective. Those focused on rigor should have the patience to listen to creative people. High-level vision requires balance in creativity and rigor. The educational system is also influenced by rigor and creativity. In the United States, the education system is less rigorous but more creative. Developing teams with both creative and rigorous people is important. Personality types tests may be used (Belban test). Interpersonal skills are important within a team. People come from many different backgrounds, and it is important to understand this for a well-functioning team.
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium Summary observations In terms of relative risk between rigor and creativity, creativity is more risky. risk) ideas, there is a higher probability of success even for a riskier idea if the idea is presented in terms of a hypothesis that is based on previous knowledge. In creating a portfolio that balances creative (high-risk) and rigorous (low-There is ample creativity in ideas within the paradigm even though we tend to acknowledge paradigm-shifting creativity more. The latter only comes once in a while, such as Einstein’s vs. Newton’s theories about physics. Downtime may be necessary to come up with a creative idea. Determining what the questions are rather than what the solutions are, is very critical to being creative. This is especially important across different fields. Group 3 Is there a tension (need for balance) between rigor and creativity? In industry where the product design process has a tight schedule and product testing is required, rigor is necessary. In the academic environment/engineering education, the body of knowledge and tools is growing fast. What constitutes a well-rounded engineering education? With tools like Matlab, does the student still need to learn inversion of a 3-by-3 matrix by hand? Freshman design classes that let students go through a creative process where they can fail enhance creativity and promote rigor. Later, more tools will be taught. In senior design class the students can balance creativity and rigor (risk) more conscientiously. The balance between rigor and creativity is industry specific. In typical civil engineering projects such as bridge building, a premium is put on eliminating risk, which demands rigor. In software and high-tech industries, a premium is often put on new feature sets, which demands more creativity. In the natural progression of any industry from high-margin unsaturated capacity to a low-margin mature market with saturated production capacity, there is a continuous change in the emphasis on risk vs. creativity. Practices in the automotive industry may have been highly creative in the 1910s, but may be less so at present. (Reuse is strongly encouraged to save cost and time in product validation, which often takes 5-10 years.) In space and other risk-averse industries, there is often a 15-year lag between commercial technologies that are used now and state-of-the-art. Market pull defines what kind of engineer is in demand. Changes in market conditions and industry maturity make the requirements a moving target. In engineering education, students will be trained to have many skill sets but soft skills such as the ability to communicate well are also important. One current problem in education is the hesitation to give negative feedback, i.e., As are given
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium too readily and participation counts more than results. This may have a negative impact on rigor. Corporate research (AT&T Bell Labs, Xerox PARC) has been very successful in producing new knowledge and high returns on investment (ROI), but these returns are often very long term such that the historical ROI for a company has not been as impressive. Most large corporations now seek short-term performance, quarter to quarter or at most a few years, and buy successful technologies instead of developing them. Is there a future for corporate research, especially fundamental research? Should there be separation in roles so that creativity is the domain of universities and venture capital companies, and less creativity and more rigor is the purview of large corporations? This could have fundamental importance to the engineering students we train. In terms of the U.S. role in the world, can we maintain a creative edge over the rest of the world while still imparting sufficient skills to our students? The value of multidisciplinary research is that sometimes creativity comes by just bringing the right people together, for example business development people with engineers, where there is no such thing as a stupid question. Solving the energy problem is an example of this because it demands effort from many disciplines. TOPIC 5: HOW CAN WE BETTER PREPARE PH.D. ENGINEERS FOR THE COMPETITIVE GLOBAL MARKETPLACE? Seventy percent or more of Ph.D. engineers in the United States were born and educated (B.S. level) outside the United States. As a result, they are already exposed to foreign culture and are more globally savvy than domestic students. Overseas experience is important and typically missing at the B.S. level; therefore, international experience should be mandatory for B.S. students and incorporated into the engineering curriculum. Domestic students at the B.S. level should be encouraged to do a semester of international work or a project with an international component for which they receive course credit. B.S. and graduate students in engineering should obtain experience in business management to be better prepared for global markets. Many companies such as Dow have education programs to expose their new Ph.D. engineers to business management. At the University of Illinois some undergraduate students are involved with organization such as Engineers Without Borders that conduct international engineering projects in developing countries. At Carnegie Mellon University an engineering course called Tech Bridge is taught simultaneously to students in the United States, Greece, and Portugal, and students are encouraged to cross-exchange for a couple of weeks among these countries. One way to give students international experience is through post-doctoral fellowships in foreign countries. Federal grants should require domestic graduate students to spend some time conducting research overseas.
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium Most domestic students have good hands-on experience but are not as driven as international students. There is a need to have students involved in engineering and science through outreach programs at high school and middle school. Faculty members also should have international experience. Some universities organize immersion trips for early- or mid-career faculty members to understand global issues related to bioenergy, bioproducts, agriculture, and climate change. Frequently, domestic undergraduate students in engineering do graduate work in business management, medicine, or law, and exposing students earlier to contextual issues in engineering may help retain them in the engineering profession. Innovative skills are required to be globally competitive. If curiosity can be developed in students, innovation usually follows. Developing and teaching courses in entrepreneurship and innovation to engineering students is needed because interdisciplinary programs enhance innovation. The current process of education does not allow cross-pollination of students from different disciplines. Graduate students from different engineering and science disciplines should be encouraged to work together on interdisciplinary problems. In engineering schools throughout the United States, there is discussion about reducing the number of credit hours required for graduation, yet we need to add more courses to give students international exposure and teach innovation. There is a mismatch between these two strategies. Companies prefer to hire students trained in core disciplines and do not want students trained in less-focused interdisciplinary themes. Companies foster interdisciplinary skills in their employees by forming teams of experts from different fields. They emphasize communication skills so their employees can function well in these teams. Companies are expanding globally in terms of both markets and talent. What role can government play in preparing engineers for the global market? What policies can be put in place for federal funding to encourage global competitiveness of engineering students? Development of other skills (e.g., communication and confidence) is important for engineers to be globally competitive. TOPIC 6: RESPONSIBILITIES OF ENGINEERS AS MEMBERS OF SOCIETY—WHAT ARE THEY? HOW DO WE FULFILL THEM? Responsibilities To innovate—create/improve/develop engineering artifacts. Competitiveness—ensure the country can compete and advance in the global economy and maintain and improve the standard of living. Responsible creation—safe, sustainable engineering, conservation, minimal impact. Inform the public debate, provide engineering facts and point of view.
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium Provide society with engineering expertise to organize complex, large projects. Educate engineering professionals. Educate the general public on the virtues of engineering. Provide policy guidance and advice. Adhere to a code of conduct (ethics, standards, licensing, etc.). Observations Engineering enrollment is down at colleges. Engineering public relations should be improved. People routinely rely on devices created by engineers but don’t understand the connection between engineering and the devices they use. Massachusetts Institute of Technology enrolls students who can also communicate and interact well socially. Supply chain management (SCM) is largely viewed as management innovation, but engineers solve SCM problems. The National Academy of Sciences does a decadal survey of physics, and perhaps this should be done for engineering. The Engineering Marvels series is a good example of public relations. Intel Inside is a good example of advertising intrinsic capabilities. Engineers tend to communicate poorly to the general populace because their terminology is very domain specific. Recommendations NAE should select an Engineering Grand Challenge, such as: Self-sustaining energy across a spectrum of production, transport, and conservation. This includes energy production, such as artificial photosynthesis, biomass fuel, solar photovoltaic, geothermal, tidal, nuclear (fission, fusion, decay); energy transport, such as room temperature superconductors, energy dense materials (gallium/aluminum, synthetic fuels), fuel cells, new batteries (better lithium, organic, etc.), microwave, laser; and energy conservation, such as passive solar architecture, improved electric motors, heating, cooling, lighting, and computing, networks. Ubiquitous information access: networked information, significant content, and advanced organization of information to all locales. Space exploration, including solar system bodies (analysis, protection, utilization, colonization, asteroids, comets, moons, planets); robotic exploration; and search for life (terrestrial planet finder, extra-solar missions and surveys).
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2007 Symposium NAE should improve public relations by Promoting engineering in commercials and through other materials similar to Intel Inside, where the origin of significant advancements is made clear through advertising, and individual engineers or teams and their background are emphasized. Products or areas were this could be utilized are: the integrated circuit, ARPANet, computer graphics, moon missions, personal computers, nuclear fission power, powered flight, and medical scanning. Helping shape public policy on engineering education and other initiatives through interactions with presidential candidates and Congress and facilitating improvements to national engineering capabilities through education incentives, policy, and regulations. For example, help establish engineering education curricula that include engineering public relations beyond the usual engineering communications classes where engineers learn how to write a technical paper.