Maynard Herron 2017-04-27 01:50:27
Engineering Change Ever wonder about all the changes in the world around you? I do, and I admit I question if all are positive. But as engineers, we work to effect change—to make improvements to our world, even if the stereotypical image of an engineer is often someone who resists change. The basis for engineering is scientific facts that do not change, and our challenge is to use those principles for solving problems in new ways. The feature articles in this issue are excellent examples of using basic principles to solve issues. I celebrated E-Week, helping judge the Future Cities Competition (http://futurecity.org/), and presented ASABE awards for Most Sustainable Food Production System and Best Use of Renewable Energy. It was inspiring to see the very talented 6th, 7th, and 8th graders’ projects, which creatively applied future technologies to address today’s food, energy, water, and health nexus issues. Recurring themes in their model cities included food production from advanced traditional farms to high-production facilities within urban centers—vertical gardens maximizing sunlight and rainfall, green roof gardens, hydroponics and aeroponics used in conjunction with aquaponic seafood farms, and fruits and vegetables harvested by sensor-equipped agribots ensuring optimum quality and nutrition. Future energy-conserving technologies and renewable energy sources were depicted— solar, tidal, wind, and geothermal, along with futuristic piezoelectric technology applied to walking path surfaces, shoe soles, and bicycle tires. Imagine private vehicle transportation by high-speed hyperbots and autonomous public-use electric cars for in-city transportation. Envision centralized waste collection systems with a vacuum tube network from point of origin to a central facility, collecting wastes for separation and conversion to energy and usable materials. Visualize adequate fresh water for personal use and food production using extensive gray water management by silver thread nanotechnology purification, rainwater harvesting from green roofs and porous media surfaces, and water from energy-efficient desalination in coastal areas combined with surface water where available. Recognizing the importance of public spaces for healthy individuals and social systems in increasingly dense urban settings, attention was given to food producing and energy collecting areas as inviting public spaces. Conceive of public health monitored by chip implants improving diagnosis and delivery of health care. Dream of earthquake-prone buildings with ultra-high-strength graphene reinforcing materials, and carbon fiber wraps for existing structures with seismic invisibility cloaks to virtually eliminate risks. At first glance, some of the proposed applications and their capacity to meet production requirements appear more imaginative than realistic. However, they are the result of brainstorming solutions to issues, making use of potential technologies. These are the first steps in the engineering design process (developing solutions once requirements are known) and the path that virtually all innovations follow. On a somewhat less futuristic track, if you haven’t seen the new IMAX movie “Dream Big,” go see it, and take along one or two engineers of the future. Produced in partnership with ASCE and Bechtel Corporation, the film focuses on ways that engineers have made and are working to make our world a better place. Let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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