Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2019 Symposium
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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Funding for the activity that led to this publication was provided by The Grainger Foundation, The Boeing Company, National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Defense ASD(R&E) Research Directorate—Laboratories Office, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Microsoft Research, Amazon, Cummins Inc., and individual donors. This material is based on work supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under award number FA9550-19-1-0333. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Air Force. This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EFMA-903556. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
International Standard Book Number13: 978-0-309-49981-1
International Standard Book Number10: 0-309-49981-X
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25620
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Copyright 2020 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Suggestion citation: National Academy of Engineering. 2020. Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2019 Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25620.
The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.
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SYMPOSIUM ORGANIZING COMMITTEE
JENNIFER WEST (Chair), Fitzpatrick Family University Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University
LI CHANG, Technical Fellow, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, The Boeing Company
TARIK DICKENS, Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, Florida A&M University and Florida State University
CHARLES GERSBACH, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University
CHRISTOFFER HECKMAN, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado Boulder
PETR NOVOTNY, Research Staff Member, Enterprise Solutions, Thomas J. Watson Research Center, IBM
HAEJONG SEO, Autonomous Driving R&D, NVIDIA
ELAINE SHI, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, Cornell University
RENEE WEGRZYN, Program Manager, Biological Technologies Office, DARPA
JANET HUNZIKER, Director, Frontiers of Engineering Program
SHERRI HUNTER, Meetings Coordinator
This volume presents papers on the topics covered at the National Academy of Engineering’s 2019 US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. Every year the symposium brings together 100 highly accomplished early-career engineering leaders to share their cuttingedge research and innovations in selected areas. The 2019 symposium was hosted by Boeing in North Charleston, South Carolina, September 25–27. The intent of this book is to convey the excitement of this unique meeting and to highlight innovative developments in engineering research and technical work.
GOALS OF THE FRONTIERS OF ENGINEERING PROGRAM
The practice of engineering is continually changing. Engineers must be able not only to thrive in an environment of rapid technological change and globalization but also to work on interdisciplinary teams. Today’s research is being done at the intersections of engineering disciplines, and successful researchers and practitioners must be aware of developments and challenges in areas that may not be familiar to them.
At the annual 2½day US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, 100 of this country’s best and brightest earlycareer engineers—from academia, industry, and government and a variety of engineering disciplines—learn from their peers about pioneering work in different areas of engineering. The number of participants is limited to 100 to maximize opportunities for interactions and exchanges among the attendees, who are chosen through a competitive nomination and selection process. The symposium is designed to foster contacts and learning among promising individuals who would not meet in the usual round of professional meetings.
This networking may lead to collaborative work, facilitate the transfer of new techniques and approaches, and produce insights and applications that bolster US innovative capacity.
The four topics and the speakers for each year’s meeting are selected by an organizing committee of engineers in the same early-career cohort as the participants. Speakers describe the challenges they face and communicate the excitement of their work to a technically sophisticated but nonspecialist audience. They provide a brief overview of their field of inquiry; define the frontiers of that field; describe experiments, prototypes, and design studies (completed or in progress) as well as new tools and methods, limitations and controversies; and assess the long-term significance of their work.
THE 2019 SYMPOSIUM
The topics covered at the 2019 symposium were (i) advanced manufacturing, (ii) engineering the genome, (iii) self-driving cars: technology and ethics, and (iv) blockchain technology.
Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution in which the industrial and information revolutions have merged, creating systems that are smart, agile, resilient, and customizable. The first speaker in the session, Advanced Manufacturing in the Age of Digital Transformation, focused on applications of data analytics, autonomy, model-based engineering, and machine learning to manufacturing. This was followed by a presentation on computational modeling used in the sequencing of digital manufacturing in the domain of additive manufacturing. The next speaker discussed new directions for legged robots and their future applications in the manufacturing sector. The session concluded with a talk on the impact of the digital twin in boosting efficiency, slashing costs, and revealing problems before production.
The next session, Engineering the Genome, described how the growth of genome engineering tools have the potential to alter any DNA or RNA sequence, leading to an almost limitless range of applications in treating human genetic diseases, developing industrial biotech products, improving crop and livestock productivity, and addressing conservation and invasive species challenges. Talks detailed the application areas available through CRISPR-Cas9, the impact of genome engineering on ecosystems such as mosquito transmission of diseases, industrial scaleup for manufacturing molecules for various applications, and the need for standards and data sharing in this rapidly evolving field.
Although self-driving cars are now on the roads, the ramifications of this trend are complex due to the potential effects on infrastructure, the economy, and society and the ways transportation factors into daily life. The first presentation in the session titled Self-Driving Cars: Technology and Ethics provided an overview of the challenges and opportunities provided by self-driving vehicles. The next speaker described how self-driving cars are being developed at scale.
This was followed by a discussion on the philosophy and ethics surrounding the aggressive development of self-driving cars and the technologies that support them. The session closed with a talk about humans’ interactions with autonomous and intelligent systems, including research on design and learning algorithms that influence humans’ actions for better safety and coordination.
Blockchain—the underlying technology on top of which Bitcoin and other applications are implemented—was the topic of the final session. The presentations introduced the history and key concepts of blockchain and provided an overview of the major platforms and applications including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Hyperledger; discussed the domain of private and permissioned blockchain platforms that are building blocks of networks among groups of enterprises; and delved into the economic and social research that leverages blockchain technologies.
In addition to the plenary sessions, the attendees had many opportunities for informal interaction. On the first afternoon of the meeting, break-out sessions provided an opportunity for attendees to share their research and technical work so that they could get to know more about each other relatively early in the program. On the second afternoon, Boeing arranged a tour of the plant where Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners are manufactured.
Every year a distinguished engineer addresses the participants at dinner on the first evening of the symposium. Ms. Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president and chief engineer for Boeing Global Services, spoke about the breadth of research and engineering—“from freezer to flight”—at Boeing South Carolina. She also issued a call to action for increased diversity in the engineering workforce and encouraged the attendees to be drivers of change by bringing people from outside their communities to the table.
The NAE is deeply grateful to the following for their support of the 2019 US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium:
- The Grainger Foundation
- Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
- Air Force Office of Scientific Research (This material is based on work supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under award number FA9550-19-1-0333. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Air Force.)
- Department of Defense ASD(R&E) Research Directorate–Laboratories Office
- National Science Foundation (This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation [NSF] under grant EFMA-1903556. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.)
- Microsoft Research
- Cummins Inc.
- Individual contributors
We also thank the members of the Symposium Organizing Committee (p. iv), chaired by Dr. Jennifer West, for planning and organizing the event.